By Zach Hagadone
Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad had strong words at the Sept. 7 regular meeting of the Sandpoint City Council, related to a number of “things happening out there in the public sphere and the media that have been heavy on my heart.”
First off, during the announcements portion of the meeting, Rognstad addressed the resignation, effective Saturday, Sept. 10, of Boundary County Library Director Kimber Glidden, who left her position following a sustained campaign of protest by some members of the community over alleged inappropriate materials in the library’s collection.
While Glidden and Boundary County library trustees have repeated that none of the materials cited by concerned citizens are even within the catalog — much less being “promoted” to harm patrons, whether they be children or adults — the pressure campaign has drawn national attention, with recent reports by CNN, NBC and NPR covering restive library board meetings and officials confronting personal attacks.
“I’m disheartened to see Ms. Glidden resign as a result of bullying,” Rognstad said, going on to commend her and the board for upholding intellectual freedom in the face of “intimidation and harassment.”
Glidden announced she would step down Aug. 16, amid a recall effort mounted against library board members characterized by “an increase in harassing behavior, derogative accusations and a purported threat of violence,” district officials stated in July.
“[N]othing in my background could have prepared me for the political atmosphere of extremism, militant Christian fundamentalism, intimidation tactics and threatening behavior currently being employed in the community,” Glidden wrote in her own statement.
“This is the latest example of how extremism, like a cancer, can affect our communities,” Rognstad said Sept. 7, describing the agitation against the Boundary County library as a broader problem, representing “evil deeds” that “proliferate in the darkness” and pose “real threats to our way of life.”
Not only the Boundary County library, but all libraries, Rognstad said, are “committed to the project of protecting freedom and information from those who would take it from us.”
He also addressed a recent flap over the appearance of City Council President Kate McAlister in an advertising campaign by Ting Internet that appeared in recent editions of the Sandpoint Reader and Bonner County Daily Bee, with some claiming in letters in the editor that it was inappropriate for McAlister to be featured endorsing an individual business.
McAlister is the longtime president and CEO of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, and addressed those concerns in a letter to the editor in the Sept. 1 edition of the Reader.
Emphasizing that she was not an elected member of the council at the time she agreed to be photographed and appear in the ad, McAlister wrote:
“As president of the Chamber of Commerce it is my job to support local businesses and, yes, once my tenure is over on City Council, I would support other chamber members with a photo, if that is what they would like. I support chamber members now, in person and verbally.
“Ting happened to ask for a photo and I agreed to be part of their marketing campaign. I had no idea Ting was going to publish this photo now as part of their current campaign. I would have asked them not to if I had known about it.”
Former-Sandpoint City Clerk and Councilor Helen Newton touched off the criticism of McAlister’s ad appearance, writing a letter to the editor in the Aug. 25 edition of the Reader that McAlister “overstepped her bounds and absolutely does not speak for either the city or the chamber in promoting a singular business.”
Rognstad called “vilify[ing] her in the paper for doing so is shameless.”
He said serving the community as an elected official is performed out of care, “and you take the heat for it.”
However, “I would expect that the public, and especially former public servants themselves, would understand that,” Rognstad added, later saying, “I don’t know if we’ve had a stronger council than we have today.”
Surveys, workshops and other events
Much of the substance of the Sept. 7 meeting came during announcements, including a raft of upcoming surveys and workshops, for which city residents were asked to save the date:
Surveys will be floated by the city related to parks usage — and specifically for the new James Russell Sports Complex. Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said to watch for that survey being made available in the next week. Meanwhile, a survey on snow removal policies and operations is forthcoming, along with a survey on a proposed dog park at Lakeview Park behind War Memorial Field.
Stapleton said designs are underway for the dog park, which last time the issue came before the public garnered more than 800 responses — making it one of the most heavily engaged surveys for the city.
Sandpoint Parks Planning and Development Manager Maeve Nevins-Lavtar said there will be a dog park kick-off meeting Monday, Sept. 19 at 5:30 p.m., with attendees gathering at the picnic shelter at Lakeview Park by the boat launch.
“Lots of great things are going to happen there,” she said.
Meanwhile, residents along Ruth Avenue should expect to receive door-hangers and other notices of an upcoming water main project that is expected to be completed at the end of October. During phases of the construction, which is scheduled to take place between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. each day, neighbors will be advised to boil their water as a precaution — however, Sandpoint Infrastructure and Development Director Amanda Wilson emphasized that, “Not until you’re notified do you need to boil your water.”
Finally, Nevins-Lavtar said, a fundraiser will take place Saturday, Sept. 17 at 9 a.m. at Sandpoint Strength and Conditioning — 215 S. Olive St. — intended to benefit the all-wheel skate park at Traver’s Park.
Stapleton underscored that residents can keep up to date on city surveys, workshops and events by downloading the Engage Sandpoint app from Google Play or the Apple store, which enables users to receive notifications and access surveys from their mobile phones. Information will also be posted on the city of Sandpoint’s Facebook page and website (sandpointidaho.gov).
Streets, arts and historic preservation
City councilors voted unanimously to accept a $250,000 grant from the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council for pedestrian safety improvements on Division Avenue — a project that has been in the works for years, but which finally secured funding in a second round of state grant making in July.
Wilson reacquainted the council with some of the specifics of the project, which aims to make Division safer from Superior Street south to just before the Division/Highway 2 intersection. That stretch of roadway, immediately adjacent to Sandpoint High and Middle schools, would see widened sidewalks and bike lanes, as well as treed buffers, providing for greater multi-use access.
“This grant really focuses on kids … and improving safety of existing systems,” Wilson said, emphasizing that while there are 6,600 vehicle trips per day on Division, more than 2,000 children also go to school along the corridor, which will take about 10 years and $10 million to bring up to standard.
“This Phase I is the first step in moving the project forward. It’s far from solving all the problems on this corridor,” Wilson said.
The work is expected to be complete by Dec. 9, 2023.
Heather Upton, the city’s first Arts and Historic Preservation director, provided her first briefing to the council, with a request that Sandpoint authorize seeking grants ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 to benefit local nonprofit arts organizations through the National Endowment for the Arts and American Rescue Plan. Council members voted unanimously in favor.
A total of $100,000 from the program can be tapped for pass-through funds to support nonprofits’ staffing, artists fees and stipends, facilities, day-to-day operations and more.
“The things that really help those nonprofits move forward,” Upton said.
The application period will open Sept. 15 with a Sept. 30 deadline. Awards will be granted Oct. 24.
More information will be available in the coming weeks, but, as McAlister said, “It’s already abuzz.”
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