By Mayor Shelby Rognstad
There have been a lot of changes at City Hall over the past year. Most notably, the city completed a remodel of the administration offices. Since the city’s 2018 strategic plan, a top priority of City Council has been to implement the “one-stop-shop” customer service experience called for in the plan. Now when customers come to City Hall to pay a utility bill, apply for a building permit or special event, there is no confusion about where to go and there is always someone at the front desk to help you. The improvements were primarily funded with a combination of CARES Act, ARPA and general fund dollars. The city also received a clean third-party audit, which focused testing on ARPA funds, ensuring the city’s responsible use of those federal dollars.
The feedback from the public has been 100% positive for these improvements. The remodeled Council Chambers have also been well received and have enabled better public participation with improved technology and sound dynamics so citizens can see and hear better in the room.
The Memorial Field project reached completion in 2021. Having seen the community’s priorities implemented at the new facility for a full season has been rewarding. The new field met its promise of increased play extended throughout the year. The improved parking and boat launch saw heavy use through the summer and the Festival at Sandpoint was a great success. New bathrooms, a kayak boat launch, new landscaping all contribute to a better experience for city residents and visitors at Memorial Field.
The city has continued to make progress on its master planning initiative, completing its capital improvement plans and is in the process of updating its Strategic Plan. Other significant tasks underway include the Utility Rate Study, the Comprehensive Land Use Plan update, an updated parking study for downtown, a Land Use Study and a recreation plan for the Little Sand Creek Watershed.
All of these efforts require significant staff time and resources. I’m incredibly proud of our team, which has demonstrated professionalism and resilience to stay focused on our strategic priorities while managing day-to-day operations and the unexpected challenges that have arisen with COVID and other unforeseen circumstances.
We’ve hired four leadership positions over the past year that are great additions to our team. Amy Tweeten is the new city planner, Gavin Gilcrease is our fire chief. Maeve Nevins-Lavtar is our new Parks Planning and Development manager, and Greg Lanning is our new director of utilities. These good people are great additions to our leadership team and I know they will continue to serve our city well.
We have seen unprecedented growth over the past year, some of it built and some of it in process. This has our infrastructure and development teams working extra hard to meet the demand. Another indication of the level of growth and the city’s commitment to support arts and culture is the number of special event permits that we have received already this year. The number of event applications is up three to four times what it has been in the past. This is a positive reflection on the city’s investment over recent years to improve parks and public spaces to enhance Sandpoint’s arts and culture.
Lastly, in March the city received the largest private donation that has ever been granted to a city in the state of Idaho. James and Ginny Russel graciously donated $7.5 million to the city of Sandpoint for the construction of an enclosed athletic courts facility to be constructed at Traver’s Park. This facility is in alignment with the vision of the recently completed Parks and Recreation Master Plan and demonstrates the power of a community driven master plan to marshal resources and bring together community partners to achieve a common vision.
Also this month the city received a donation of two bronze statues donated by Ann Hargis and Denny Liggitt for the Gateway Plaza, also at Traver’s Park. These statues are collectively valued at $300,000.
These exceptional gifts collectively are also a demonstration of the professionalism and effectiveness of city staff who have consistently delivered the high level of performance and integrity necessary to build the public trust that could attract such a donation. We are incredibly fortunate to have such quality people working for the city of Sandpoint.
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