The once-regal, now rotting Kootenai Inn won’t be auctioned off after all. Unless it already has been. And in that case, it’ll go for $11 million.
Confused? So is the county. If the price it was auctioned for is paid, the shambly hotel that couldn’t muster an $80,000 bid in May is now worth millions. And if the bid was bogus, the county will just sell the place outright, tossing aside the auctioneer’s mike for good.
An excited crowd gathered around the sunbaked steps of the Benewah County Courthouse on Monday in anticipation of the bidding for the hotel.
Two bidders - Vanessa Edwards of St. Maries and Peter Cooper of Hayden Lake - battled it out with promises of ever-increasing bucks. And although what happened next is a little sketchy, “it turned into a big war,” County Commissioner Bud McCall said.
The bidders kept one-upping one another. Cooper brought it up to a ludicrous $11 million. So Edwards upped the ante by $10,000. According to County Auditor Kay Sather, Edwards later withdrew her bid. But as of Monday afternoon, the county still hadn’t heard back from Cooper.
Edwards complained that Cooper’s bid was bogus anyway. At one point, she stormed inside the county commissioners’ offices while they were meeting on other business. Edwards cursed and complained that the whole thing was a set-up.
Edwards claimed that the other bidder, whom the county identified as Cooper, had bid $11 million just as a ploy to keep her from getting the 1909 landmark.
The commissioners, who didn’t know about the financial mutually-assured-destruction contest outside, just stared back at her.
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Commissioner Jack Buell said.
“I’m sorry,” Edwards managed.
Edwards told the confused commissioners that Cooper approached her earlier and asked if she would go in on a bid with him. She said she declined, and claimed Cooper told her he would “really make her pay for it.”
“No, I don’t have $11 million!” she hollered at the commissioners and about a dozen locals. “I was going to make a fair bid of $70,000!”
Edwards wouldn’t comment on the outburst, but said she still wants the inn. “We do have a drawing for a 36-unit Best Western,” she said. “We have a project we’re very proud of and we’d like to see it happen. Lodging is fairly limited in St. Maries.”
Cooper couldn’t be reached for comment. And as of Monday afternoon, nothing was settled.
“Vanessa Edwards won the bid and she withdrew it, and so it’s up to the second bidder,” McCall said. “We haven’t heard from him, so we think he’ll withdraw too.”
Edwards and her family own North Idaho Co.’s, a St. Maries business center housed in a former Safeway store. The family also runs several St. Maries businesses, including an eatery called The Grub Box; a sporting goods store with archery range; and a snowmobile tour outfitting company.
Cooper owns rental property in Coeur d’Alene.
McCall thinks the county probably will just sell the aging inn now, since the wacky auction actually was the county’s second. During the first one in May, no one made the minimum bid of $80,000.
The Kootenai Inn once was the seat of high-class hospitality along the St. Joe. Woodrow Wilson even stayed there, legend has it. But the place fell into disrepair over the years, and now is full of garbage and broken liquor bottles. All its fancy furnishings, including a Civil-War-era piano, have been hauled away.
The property has belonged to the county since 1991, when it was seized because of unpaid taxes.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: LANDMARK Kootenai Inn was build in 1909.<
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