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Public forum tonight on fuel depot

Compiled from staff reports The Spokesman-Review

Fuel leaks at BNSF Railway’s refueling depot near Rathdrum, Idaho, will be the focus of a community forum tonight in Coeur d’Alene at North Idaho College.

Local residents are invited to make comments and suggestions about the depot, as well as hear from experts and government officials, including County Planning Director Rand Wichman, Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin, Spokane City Councilwoman Cheri Rodgers, Spokane Regional Health District’s Mike LaScoula and former Panhandle Health District environmental director Ken Lustig.

The event will be at 7 p.m. in the Coeur d’Alene Room in the Edminster Student Union.

Governor signs measure on medical bills

Boise Legislation making it harder for poor people to qualify as indigent and get their medical bills paid by the county and state was signed into law by Gov. Dirk Kempthorne on Tuesday.

Under current law, people aren’t considered indigent if they can pay off the medical bill within three years. HB 282 ups that to five years.

Idaho hospitals had objected to the bill, saying it would treat them as lending institutions, forcing them to carry paper for years on patients who can’t pay. They also complained that they weren’t consulted on the bill. Counties backed the measure, however. It’ll save the state and counties together an estimated $2 million a year, as they jointly fund indigent medical care. But if poor patients who sought and were denied indigent medical coverage don’t pay up in that five-year time period, hospitals and other patients will bear the cost.

All of North Idaho’s senators, and all but one of North Idaho’s representatives, voted for the bill, with Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, the only dissenter. It passed 28-5 in the Senate and 61-8 in the House. The governor endorsed the bill without comment.

Military in combat catch a tax break

Boise Members of the military deployed to Iraq or other designated combat zones will be able to keep their Idaho homeowner’s exemption from the property tax – even if they lease their homes to someone else while they’re gone.

Idaho law already had an exemption for deployed military members, but not if they leased the homes. Then, the homes could be considered rental property, so the exemption would be lost. Under HB 299, which Gov. Dirk Kempthorne signed into law Tuesday, those who lease their homes also would keep the exemption.

The bill applies only to those on active military service in a designated combat zone. It passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously. The bill has an emergency clause, so it takes effect retroactively, as of Jan. 1, 2005 – which means it applies to the current tax year.

Post Falls meeting tonight on downtown

Post Falls will have an open house tonight about plans for creating a downtown.

The City Center Steering Committee has identified tentative projects for creating a downtown area and wants the public’s input, said Pat Raffee, Post Falls Urban Renewal Agency executive director.

Post Falls currently has no identifiable city center. The committee’s goals are to create a downtown area that gives Post Falls a distinct identity and capitalizes on the area’s natural beauty, such as the Spokane River and Q’emiln Park.

Proposals include improvements to streets and sidewalks, the Centennial Trail and parking. The committee also wants to encourage mixed uses in the downtown area that would offer residences, offices and retail shops.

Sample designs will be presented at the open house, which will be at Post Falls City Hall from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information, call Raffee at (208) 777-2744.

Rural mini-storage request postponed

A request to build a mini-storage unit in the rural Mica Flats area has been postponed so the developer can gather more information.

That’s not stopping neighbors from continuing their fight to keep out any commercial development in the area south of Coeur d’Alene near U.S. Highway 95 and Carnie Road.

Coeur d’Alene resident Timothy Lenarz is asking Kootenai County for a conditional-use permit to build nine buildings, a mixture of mini-storage units and warehouse storage buildings, on his 15.5 acres. Lenarz asked the county to postpone Thursday’s public hearing. A new date has not been scheduled.

Neighbors gathered signatures of 219 people who oppose the Mica Meadows Storage proposal, of which 141 live in the immediate area. The group also had an opposition rally and informational meeting Tuesday night. Spokeswoman Nancy King said she expects Lenarz will continue with his proposal and if he doesn’t, somebody else will try to put a commercial business in the area. King said neighbors don’t want to set a precedent of commercial sprawl.

For more information, call the Kootenai County Planning Department at (208) 446-1070.

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