March 17, 2008 in City

Slow funding sidetracks Rathdrum’s new crossing

The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photo

Ray Verbrugge, of Coeur d’Alene, waits at the Mill Street crossing in Rathdrum recently, just one of two railroad crossings in town.
(Full-size photo)

Coming up in Voices

Thursday

“ North: Knox Presbyterian Church is considering a low-income housing project on adjacent land

“ Prairie: A look at code enforcement in Post Falls

“ South: East Central children screened for lead in their blood

“ Valley: East Valley School District changes retention policy

Saturday

“ Handle Extra: Glass recycling – and the lack of it – in Coeur d’Alene

“ Valley: Church volunteers making a difference at Broadway Elementary

RATHDRUM – Early timelines had an extension of Rathdrum’s Main Street and new railroad crossing being built in 2007, but difficulties finding the money to finance the project have left the Bridging the Valley project stalled on the tracks.

While transportation officials are still working to secure $5 million in federal money to design the project and purchase right of way, it remains unclear how Rathdrum would come up with its $350,000 share in matching dollars for the project.

“Obviously, the city doesn’t have that kind of money,” said City Administrator Brett Boyer.

The city’s annual streets budget is $300,000, explained Public Works Director Chet Anderson.

“There’s been no date because there’s been no funding,” Boyer said. “They’ve been talking about it since 2002.”

Rathdrum has just one crossing where vehicles travel above the BNSF Railway Co. tracks and don’t have to wait for trains. That connection between Highway 41 and Highway 53 can get busy at times, so many drivers seeking an alternative will use the only other crossing in town, the Mill Street at-grade crossing that takes vehicles directly over the tracks.

Such at-grade crossings can be dangerous. A 19-year-old woman was killed in 2004 at that Rathdrum crossing. Moving traffic to an underpass below the tracks would eliminate the chance a vehicle could collide with one of the 30 to 50 trains that use the tracks each day.

The Main Street project was included on a list of 19 Bridging the Valley projects to improve and construct new railroad overpasses and underpasses between Athol and Spokane.

The Rathdrum project was intended to be one of the first completed. Over the years, however, funding has been slow to materialize even as costs to complete the projects have risen.

Amy Cannata

Audit finds financial mistakes

Spokane Valley misstated its assets, debts and expenditures in 2006 and failed to catch the error, according to a state audit.

The audit says the city also mistakenly stated that all its tax revenue came from the property tax, although some of the $22.9 million came from the sales tax and other taxes.

No money was lost or misappropriated, but the errors meant state and federal officials and bondholders couldn’t rely on Spokane Valley’s financial reports. Also, state auditors said, the city’s inability to catch the mistakes made it “reasonably possible” more mistakes would occur.

The inaccurate numbers have been corrected, and city officials say they have taken steps to ensure the problem doesn’t happen again.

The faulty municipal reports were prepared by the LeMaster Daniels accounting office in Yakima, but city Finance Director Ken Thompson said the firm wasn’t responsible.

“Those were errors we made,” Thompson said. “The CPA firm was just using our records to put some of the financial statements together.”

Thompson and City Manager David Mercier said they have responded to the problem by assigning people to be responsible for the accuracy of reports.

John Craig

Boosting tourism promotions

POST FALLS – Post Falls may never have the tourist cachet of Coeur d’Alene, but civic leaders and businesses are doing their best to attract visitors and their dollars to the River City.

The Post Falls Chamber of Commerce is purchasing advertising touting itself as a driving trip destination in an Idaho tourism publication that will be distributed in newspapers throughout the Northwest. The group also soon will open a visitors center near Cabela’s. Meanwhile, Post Falls hotels market themselves as a less expensive and more family-friendly alternative to staying in Coeur d’Alene.

Information on tourism’s economic impact in Post Falls is unavailable, but in 2004 the average Kootenai County visitor spent $287.60, contributing to almost $174 million in tourism spending, according to a study commissioned by the Idaho Division of Tourism Development.

Post Falls has its share of tourist destinations and activities, including parks, Cabela’s, Stateline Speedway, Greyhound Event Center, riverboat rides on the Spokane River and Buck Knives.

“There’s definitely attractions on its own in Post Falls,” said Carrie Cook, who heads up the chamber’s tourism committee.

The city plans to better promote itself with a revamped visitors Web site, Cook said, adding that the target visitor is someone less than a day’s drive away, such as the Tri-Cities or Seattle.

And Post Falls is conveniently located near Coeur d’Alene, Spokane Valley and the Silverwood Theme Park.

Amy Cannata


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