Council split on Kaniksu agreement revisions

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

The Sandpoint City Council was divided Wednesday night over proposed revisions to its agreement on the Kaniksu Health Services planned downtown expansion.

According to Richard Villelli of Villelli Enterprises, Kaniksu officials have shifted their plans to from constructing a new building to refurbishing 15,000 square feet of an existing structure located on 200 Main St., currently occupied by Tomlinson Sotheby’s. However, council members were split over whether this significantly changed the terms of its existing agreement, which is to lease 60 city parking spaces to the business.

“I think it’s a totally new agreement,” said Councilman Stephen Snedden.

With Mayor Shelby Rognstad absent and unable to break the tied 3-3 council vote, the amendments failed. According to City Attorney Scot Campbell, that means the original agreement adopted last month stands.

Villelli argued that the revised plan didn’t substantially alter the agreement, which was approved by council members in November with some revisions in December. He said the expansion would still bring 85 medical jobs, $3 million in annual payroll and 35,000 annual patient visits to downtown Sandpoint. What would change is that any potential new construction would likely be smaller than the initially proposed  26,000 square feet.

“This gives us the flexibility to use the existing building, which we think is beneficial to everyone,” Villelli said.

According to Villelli, planners re-examined their construction plans after it became apparent that  designing, bidding, funding and constructing the new building would not be possible by the target date of June 2018. However, he felt the new arrangement brought its own advantages, including the fact that ultimately, more downtown space would be utilized. He also said the business would likely require only half of the city’s agreed-upon 60 parking space leases.

“We think everyone wins,” he said.

Snedden led the opposition to the changes, saying the shift from four-and-a-half spaces per 1,000 square feet of new construction to four-and-a-half spaces per 1,000 square feet of existing construction fundamentally changed the agreement terms.

Councilwoman Shannon Williamson, meanwhile, argued in favor of Kaniksu Health Service’s request, saying it was in the city’s best interest to support the expansion.

“I don’t really think it makes a huge impact in what we were anticipating in economic growth,” she said.

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