June 18, 1996 in Nation/World

Post Falls Digs In Heels On Trail Funds City Rejects County Offer Of Land In Exchange For $70,000 Needed To Complete Project

By The Spokesman-Review

Post Falls and Kootenai County are embroiled in a political fracas over who should fork over $70,000 to complete the Centennial Trail.

The money is needed to secure an already approved $1.1 million federal grant that would cover most of the cost of finishing the 3.5-mile stretch between Atlas Road and state Highway 41.

Without the grant, the section may never be finished. But with less than a month to go before the money disappears - possibly forever - officials are no closer to resolving their dispute.

The county last week offered Post Falls several pieces of county land in exchange for the cash. City leaders rejected them all.

“All the property they gave us to look at were little scraps - triangles of land a couple hundred square feet long,” Mayor Jim Hammond said Monday. “It was all junk like that.”

The feud started earlier this month when trail supporters discovered the Idaho Transportation Department, which administers the grant, needed $274,000 in matching funds by mid-July.

The Centennial Trail Foundation - a committee of community leaders - and the county each planned to chip in 25 percent, with the remaining money split between Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene.

While the grant was awarded more than two years ago, neither city had budgeted its share.

Coeur d’Alene may fix that problem tonight.

Council members are expected to approve a recommendation from a city parks commission to use $70,000 from a capital improvement fund to cover its share.

“They (the commission) rearranged their priorities,” said Doug Eastwood, Coeur d’Alene parks superintendent. “They determined finishing the trail was high on the list.”

Other projects - adding lights to a ball field and building a new park along Shadduck Lane - will be pushed back a few years.

But Post Falls officials, who argue their city already has paid its share, are digging in their heels.

“I feel our position is not being heard,” Hammond said. “It’s been really frustrating.”

Years ago, Post Falls spent $120,000 buying land for a section of trail through the city. City leaders believed the county would defray the cost by giving Post Falls some other land to sell.

County Commissioner Bob Macdonald said the city bought the land before the arrangements were secured.

“As the main beneficiary of the trail, I don’t think Post Falls can just decide not to pay,” said County Administrator Tom Taggart.

Post Falls wants a commercial building lot along Seltice Way beside the county’s satellite automobile licensing office. But that land is too valuable, Taggart said, and the county isn’t prepared to sell it anyway.

“We’re not going to give them $120,000 worth of property to get $70,000,” Taggart said.

If Post Falls doesn’t pay up, it’s not clear anyone else will.

Taggart said commissioners would be reluctant to pony up an additional $70,000. Macdonald is even seeking private donors.

Coeur d’Alene Mayor Al Hassell said his city probably would pull the project’s plug before paying more.

In the face of losing the grant - and jettisoning a project under way for 10 years - is Post Falls willing to stand its ground?

“That is the question that really needs to be answered,” Hammond said. “I just don’t know.”

City and county leaders will meet again Wednesday to discuss the matter.

, DataTimes

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