Council OKs trail purchase

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SANDPOINT — The second phase of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail is moving forward.

At the regular City Council meeting Wednesday night, members voted to purchase the second section of lakefront property, a parcel about four acres in size. The purchase will be financed through $275,000 in impact fees and $125,000 loaned from the water reserve fund, which will be repaid with interest from incoming parks impact fees. The majority of the council approved the payment plan with Councilman Justin Schuck dissenting.

As was the case in other council meetings related to the trail, several supporters turned out to voice their approval of the purchase. Others sent messages of support to be read into the record. Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail member Susan Drumheller told council members that the purchase was more than a chance to acquire new park lands — it also could influence the relationship between Sandpoint and Ponderay.

“This is a critical link in connecting the hearts of our communities through the lakefront,” she said.

Nevertheless, the decision didn’t receive unanimous approval among city officials. For one thing, council members received a 255-page environmental report the previous evening that some hadn’t had time to fully absorb. Another point of contention was the use of water reserve funds. While park impact fees can only be used for capital improvements like property purchases, the remaining funds represent a loan that must be repaid. In light of that, Schuck said he couldn’t support the action.

“This is a vote of conscience, but I don’t think we can afford it at this time,” he said, later adding, “It would be my preference to wait until we have money in our pockets to spend.”

Sandpoint Mayor Marsha Ogilvie also advised a cautious approach. Since an official decision wasn’t necessary until October, she suggested tabling the matter to pursue other funding mechanisms.

“The city has no obligation to purchase this property at this time or any other,” she said.

However, other council members said that the city might not get this chance again if they voted to pass on the opportunity. They pointed to the city’s comprehensive plan, which features improved public access to the lake as a priority.

“Although it would be nice to have the money in our pocket, borrowing from the water bond is a pretty inexpensive way to go about this,” Councilwoman Jamie Brunner said.

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