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Liberty Lake grants economic COVID relief money to Ridgeline band boosters

The Ridgeline High School Band Boosters received $100,000 in federal COVID relief to buy a band trailer. The nonprofit booster group serves the band at Ridgeline High School in Liberty Lake, photographed on Aug 10, 2021.  (kathy plonka)
The Ridgeline High School Band Boosters received $100,000 in federal COVID relief to buy a band trailer. The nonprofit booster group serves the band at Ridgeline High School in Liberty Lake, photographed on Aug 10, 2021. (kathy plonka)
By Molly Wisor The Spokesman-Review

Earlier this month, students in the new Ridgeline High School band program asked the Liberty Lake City Council for money to buy a new trailer.

Grace Sheppard, a Ridgeline sophomore and saxophonist, was among the students involved in making a presentation to the council Aug. 2.

“It was a little nerve-wracking, because there was a lot of pressure,” she said. “I knew there was a lot on the line.”

The band trailer will be used to transport and store equipment during travel competitions. Last year, Ridgeline shared such a trailer with Central Valley High School. But Emmylou Newell, co-president of the Ridgeline High School Band Boosters, emphasized the importance of having one exclusively for Ridgeline.

“Everything happens around the trailer,” she said. “It’s high cost, but it’s for a high-value item that will last for a long time.”

The presentation apparently worked.

The Liberty Lake City Council awarded the school’s band boosters $100,000 in federal COVID relief dollars to help fund two-thirds of the cost of the new trailer. That allocation is about 4% of what the city of Liberty Lake received in federal COVID-19 relief. The Ridgeline High School Band Boosters is a nonprofit group, and although they aren’t directly connected to the school, all of their fundraising goes to the Ridgeline band department.

Through what Newell described as “the power of connection,” she met with her friend Cris Kaminskas, Liberty Lake’s mayor, who encouraged her to bring her request in front of the City Council.

“She and I met, she went through the plan for the trailer, so I invited her to the meeting,” Kaminskas said.

The city, which received more than $3 million in recovery funds, has until the end of 2024 to allocate the money, Kaminskas said. Funding local nonprofits has been a priority for the city under Kaminskas’ leadership.

The city plans to allocate 87% of their federal funding to infrastructure improvements around the city, including a new HVAC system for City Hall. Of the remaining 13% of funding, 94% has gone to non-profits.

While Liberty Lake has spent a significant portion of their relief funding on local nonprofits, they haven’t seen much need in the for-profit sector.

“I don’t know of a large number of our businesses that were impacted,” Kaminskas said. “Almost nobody from the actual businesses has reached out.”

Kaminskas suspects that the lack of damage from the pandemic was thanks to Liberty Lake’s small population.

“At the city level, 2021 and 2022 were record years for us,” she said. “Our revenues were not down. I heard that from a lot of similar-sized cities.”

Around three dozen students and supporters came to the Aug. 2 meeting to show their support for the Ridgeline band in what Liberty Lake’s Communication Specialist David Goehner described as “overflow numbers.”

City Councilman Tom Salzburg said that the band’s presentation was one of the best he’d ever seen.

“They didn’t use any real pressure, they just spoke the truth, and it was refreshing,” he said.

Councilwoman Wendy Van Horman was compelled by the presentation.

“I’m not sure that any of us were prepared to go ahead with that,” she said. “It was a big ask.”

Ridgeline Band Director Eric Parker said he was pleasantly surprised with the council’s decision. While working with the band boosters, his initial goal was to garner some support from the city in the hopes of connecting to local businesses.

“The fact that we got on their books for them to even think about helping us was like, ‘Wow, we’re making ins with the people and the leadership that we need to help us get this project completed,’ ” he said.

The band boosters are still hoping to get $50,000 from local businesses that would advertise on the back of their trailer. In the meantime, the band boosters and musicians are glad to see that Liberty Lake’s City Council has values that align with theirs.

“We’re in a community that supports kids and the purpose of belonging,” Newell said. “They were excited because some of them were band nerds like we are.”

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