July 19, 2013 in City

In brief: Group OKs funds for new NIC center


A new sports and event center for North Idaho College is a step closer to reality after Coeur d’Alene’s urban renewal leaders voted this week to approve $10 million for the project.

The funds are contingent on several conditions, including NIC first raising $5 million for the project and a community advisory board consulting on how the center is to be managed.

NIC envisions building the 5,000-seat event center in the Riverstone development about two miles north of the NIC campus. It would replace the college’s 64-year-old gymnasium and be used for basketball and volleyball games, commencement ceremonies and other college events, as well as trade shows, youth sports and community gatherings.

The Lake City Development Corporation board, which oversees the city’s two urban renewal districts, voted unanimously Wednesday to grant preliminary approval for the $10 million contribution. The agency would borrow the money and repay it from property tax revenue arising from its river district between Interstate 90 and the Spokane River.

Unemployment rate increases in Idaho

The unemployment rate rose to 7.8 percent in Kootenai County last month, an increase of four-tenths of a percentage point over May, the Idaho Department of Labor said Thursday.

The jobless rate in Coeur d’Alene was 7.5 percent, up from 7 percent the month prior.

Statewide unemployment rose two-tenths of a point to 6.4 percent in June, despite strong growth in nonfarm jobs. It was the second straight month unemployment was up, after 21 months during which the rate fell more than two full points.

The jobless rate was up sharply elsewhere in North Idaho last month: 10.8 percent in Benewah County, up from 9 percent in May; 9 percent in Bonner County, from 8.4 percent; 7.7 percent in Boundary County, from 6.6 percent; and 11.7 percent in Shoshone County, from 10.6 percent.

The surge in unemployment in part reflected an increase of more than 1,400 people entering the labor force in June and looking for jobs, the state said.

Civic Theatre asks public for support

The Spokane Civic Theatre’s board is asking the public for support after its controversial firing of executive artistic director Yvonne A.K. Johnson.

The theater terminated Johnson’s employment last week and has not explained why. Many board members earlier this week said that the firing had not been explained or justified.

In a statement posted to the theater’s Facebook page, the board criticized Johnson for going public with her concerns about how the board fired her.

“The Board is thoughtful in its review of Theatre matters,” the statement said. “We ask that you trust that our decisions are made with our mission in mind and in furtherance of continuing to improve our organization.”

Meanwhile, two board members, Lynn Yost and Jennifer Ferch, have resigned in protest of the board’s handling of Johnson’s firing.

City to get loans for sewer projects

Spokane will receive almost $21 million in low-interest loans from the state Department of Ecology to construct two combined sewer overflow projects.

The projects, in Underhill Park and near 21st Avenue and Ray Street, will separate the combined sewer and stormwater system, helping to prevent raw sewage from pouring into the Spokane River on rainy days.

The city is mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency to stop virtually all sewage from entering the river by 2017.

Marlene Feist, a spokeswoman with the city, said the loans should almost cover the cost of both projects.

The city also received a $2 million grant from the state in this year’s capital budget that will go toward environmental and planning work for the Cochran Basin, which dumps about 500 million gallons of stormwater and the pollutants that come with it into the river every year.

Attorney faces felony DUI charges

A Spokane attorney faces felony charges of driving under the influence after he was arrested last week.

Bruce A. Kaiser, a personal injury lawyer, was pulled over July 10 at 2 p.m. on U.S. Highway 2 when a Spokane police officer noticed his seat belt wasn’t being used correctly, according to an affidavit. When the officer turned his emergency lights on, Kaiser’s vehicle nearly hit the center barrier, the document said.

Kaiser, who appeared intoxicated, told the officer he’d had two shots of whiskey after leaving work, according to the affidavit.

Kaiser told the officer he had four prior DUI arrests, according to the affidavit.

154 DUI suspects cited in 17-day span

Spokane County law enforcement agencies caught 154 DUI suspects in 17 days during an emphasis patrol this summer.

From June 21 to July 7, extra officers looked for impaired drivers to enhance safety for other drivers, according to a news release from the Spokane County Target Zero Task Force. This year’s DUI total is about a 50 percent increase over last year’s summer emphasis patrol.

Participating agencies included the Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol and police in Spokane, Spokane Valley, Airway Heights, Eastern Washington University and Liberty Lake.

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