Proposed tax is an investment in Memorial Field

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It’s time to consider saving Barlow Stadium at War Memorial Field.

The real question is how do we do it?

As most people know, the grandstands are on the their last legs. There is no debating that a recent structural engineering report stated that the grandstands don’t meet structural or safety code requirements.

The report said the facility won’t be safe for anyone in five years and will have to come down.

If nothing is done, that wooden structure that is home to graduations, the Festival at Sandpoint, Sandpoint High School football and soccer games and much more, will be replaced with several metal bleachers without a roof.

So time is of the essence.

There has been a group of five folks — myself included — who know that not having suitable grandstands in what is the prettiest sporting and musical venue in North Idaho is unacceptable.

Visiting teams rave about the opportunity to play at Memorial Field. Who can imagine the Festival at Sandpoint in another location? Memorial Field is Sandpoint.

For several years this group has worked with the city of Sandpoint, the school district and private businesses and individuals to forge a partnership to raise the $1.5 million to renovate the stadium.

There has been some success. The new lights are a testament that the city and school district saw the importance of replacing the inefficient and dangerous lights that had been there since the 1950s.

Festival at Sandpoint patrons have kicked in $1 a ticket to help for past two years. This has raised more than $10,000 — and more is coming each year.

Since we first announced the fundraising need, the committee has been overwhelmed in support from the public. There have been donations, brick purchases, memoriums and in kind promises that have constantly reminded the group that Memorial Field is special and needs protecting.

The committee also realized that we were going to have a nearly impossible task to raising the money in the five-year deadline with a soft economy hitting local business donors.

So, along comes the idea we now see on the November ballot. To be clear — the committee didn’t seek this local option tax measure out and frankly some members of the group have a hard time endorsing it.

Nobody likes higher taxes and no matter how you slice it, this 0.05-percent local option tax will increase to cost of living in Sandpoint.

The math is this:

A $10 purchase would cost people shopping in Sandpoint an additional 5 cents.

A $100 purchase would cost an additional 50 cents and a $1,000 purchase will cost $5 more.

While some local merchants have told me they don’t like the 0.05-percent tax proposal, a majority have stated they see the benefit of visitors helping to pay for Memorial Field along with local residents.

That’s an important point and probably the main reason the Bee is endorsing this proposal.

• Memorial Field is a vital part of our community.

• The money being raised by private individuals and the city and school district will not come in time to save the Memorial Field grandstands.

• Something will have to be done to save the grandstands sooner — within five years while we still have the old grandstands — or later, when the current grandstands are demolished and the city of Sandpoint would find another way to fund construction that wouldn’t involve having tourists help pay.

We think that the fact that all money raised in this local option tax only goes to War Memorial Field and that every other funding option has been researched and exhausted, makes this the way to go.

Nobody likes a tax increase but a five-year investment by citizens and visitors is a better avenue than watching a wrecking ball take down the grandstands in five years and not being much closer than we are now to replacing what is a gem in our community.

David Keyes is publisher of the Daily Bee.

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