A golden opportunity — if we take it

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Westgate

The former National Guard building on Ramsey Road belongs to Kootenai County at no cost to citizens. County commissioners can choose a long-term benefit or short-term gain with this opportunity.

They are leaning to the short-term gain that misses this golden opportunity. The property sale is about $1.4 million; a minor bump to the county’s 2018 $100 million budget.

A long-term beneficial use will combine 12 museums plus two new ones.

The Byrd Aviation and Invention museum plans to relocate. Byrd’s inventions saved thousands of lives of babies and aviators. He received two presidential awards. He offered hands-on programs to kids each summer that steered kids to become medical professionals, inventors, and engineers.

Burt Rutan offered to promote an Aerospace Learning Center and museum.

Byrd and Rutan are engineering giants recognized worldwide for their achievements. The legacies of both offer a golden opportunity to offer superb learning and motivation to our young persons.

This will be wasted if it is sold for a one-time windfall. Whereas; a world-class museum will become priceless.

Our county is growing. Growth will bless or curse us depending on this commissioners’ decision.

Evaluating the Return On Investment demands one decision: The museum to serve us financially, culturally, and to attract visitors.

Tourism brought 2.2 million visitors and $228 million to Kootenai County and is projected to grow 9 percent this year.

Kootenai County budgets a paltry $15K on history (to one museum); the lowest funding of all northern counties by the most prosperous northern county!

Area history is interesting to residents and visitors alike. To that add enhanced learning; attract new businesses, and good jobs. Museums attract visitors as valuable attractions that create long-term memories and return visits.

This is our golden opportunity to develop a world-class museum that presents past, present, and future history while also adding leading-edge education programs for our young.

Long-term thinking brought The Resort, Riverstone, McEuen Park, Independence Point, NIC, the Innovation Collective, Arts, and other enhancements.

I challenge county commissioners to focus their decision on long-term thinking. Decide for the greater good of all Kootenai County. Use the former National Guard building to add to our growing legacy. Decide for development that adds long-term benefits to the residents of our county.

•••

Vern Westgate is a Coeur d’Alene resident.

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