Officials address state of the cities

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Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad talks about the city’s new Engage Sandpoint app during Thursday’s State of the Cities address at the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Ponderay Mayor Steve Geiger and Dover’s council president Bill Strand also spoke about the state of their cities during the luncheon. (Photo by MARY MALONE)

SANDPOINT — Apps, streets, events and little winged mammals were just some of the topics touched on by city officials from Dover, Ponderay and Sandpoint during the State of the Cities address on Thursday.

"It has been a very busy year for the city of Dover," said Bill Strand, Dover's council president, who kicked off the State of the Cities address during the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

The "biggest" thing the city accomplished, Strand said, was a comprehensive plan for the future of Dover.

"This is basically a view of where we want the city to go," he said. "That's a fairly large thing for a fairly inexperienced staff."

To accomplish this, city officials brought in Idaho Smart Growth out of Boise. In addition, between 15 and 20 percent of the residents in Dover participated in the comprehensive plan in "some way, shape or form," he said. A lot of what the residents participated in was planning and zoning, Strand said, as well as what the gateway for the city should look like. Dover is a mixture of neighborhoods, including Cedar Ridge, Rocky Point, Panorama Ridge, West Pine, Dover Bay and the historic district, he said. Residents wanted the gateway to reflect Dover's identity and the mixture of neighborhoods within.

The city also created a water facilities plan, which Strand said was "incredibly helpful" for city officials in looking forward in regards to Dover's utilities. Dover is "blessed" with a well-developed water and sewer system, he said, but needed a plan to look forward 25 years. It took about three years of discussion with Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to finalize the plan. In addition to the long-term plans, Strand outlined some of the day-to-day occurrences that kept the city busy.

One of the more well-known issues, he said, was during the spring of 2017 when flooding on Ontario Street caused a culvert collapse. Because of the position of the culvert, next to the slough, the city had to wait until winter when the water was at its lowest level to fix it. Other occurrences included a sewer system problem at Cedar Ridge, and a bat infestation at Dover City Hall. The bats were "encouraged" to leave, the mess cleaned up and the holes plugged up. The bats left with encouragement, he said, but have since returned, though in smaller numbers. Bats are "not exactly" what Strand said he expected to deal with as council president.

"But these are the sort of things that we get into," Strand said. "I have to say that through all this stuff, we have a great staff, a great council, and I can't say enough good things about Mayor Shaha and the work that she has done."

Ponderay Mayor Steve Geiger followed Strand, noting that he has been on the job for a little over two-and-a-half years.

"It's actually been a really rewarding experience being able to help guide and manage our city's future," Geiger said, adding that the city has 10 employees, and without them, his job would be "impossible."

Geiger highlighted some of the events the city hosts each year with the help of the community, including an Easter parade in the spring, a city cleanup weekend in June, the Santa Sack program during the holidays and, coming up on Sept. 29, the city will host its second Ponderay Neighbor Day event. The event will be held from 1-6 p.m. in the field behind the Hoot Owl Cafe, and will feature food, a beer garden, a climbing wall, pony rides, a petting zoo, live music by the Miah Kohal Band and more.

During the event, Geiger said the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the city's Field of Dreams and what they would like to see there. Geiger said city officials hope that, eventually, there will be some sort of recreational opportunity for youth and the community on the property.

Geiger said while not a lot is happening with the streets, McNearney Road will be a focus as Kootenai Cutoff is "extremely" congested as the only east to west access road in the town. There are several new businesses moving up McNearney Road, he said. The city received a grant for crosswalks on Kootenai Cutoff Road, which will likely go in next year.

Other recent projects included getting power to the city's gateway sign, and a new parking garage at the Ponderay Police Department was recently completed as well, Geiger said. The city is also working to gain public access to the waterfront because, while there is two miles of waterfront in Ponderay, there is no legal access to any of that area.

"I've just got to say after being here two-and-a-half years, that we have a great community — a community that works together," Geiger said before parting the stage. "... I just think we are very blessed to live in such an awesome community."

Sandpoint officials focused on the city's new app, Engage Sandpoint, which launched publicly on Wednesday.

"This is really, in my view, kind of the capstone on the public engagement work that really we have been doing since I have been in office ... and arguably even before that," said Mayor Shelby Rognstad.

The city recently finalized a strategic plan which outlines five broad priorities, including responsive government, a resilient economy, sustainable environment, a vibrant culture, a livable community. Citizen engagement is at the forefront of those priorities, Rognstad said.  

Powered by SeeClickFix, the free app is available for iPhone and Android users, and is also accessible through the city's website. The new platform allows the public to report issues, pay utility bills, sign up for recreation programs, access GIS maps, register bicycles and more. It includes direct links to the city's website, as well as the city's OpenGov finances website and for construction information and updates. Notifications and newsletters will be available later this month.

"It really changes the way we can interact with our public, and it's about getting you engaged in your local government and what we are doing on a day-to-day basis at the city," said City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton.

Android users can download the app through Google Play by searching for Engage Sandpoint. For iPhone users, go to the app store and download SeeClickFix, then open the app and search for Sandpoint.

In addition to the app, Rognstad noted that Cedar Street has been paved, a charging station for electric cars and a bus station have been installed at Jeff Jones Town Square, and it is the 100th anniversary of the Little Sand Creek Watershed.

"(The watershed) I think is really significant," Rognstad said. "... City Council in 1918 had incredible vision to start investing public resources in buying land up there in the little watershed, knowing that is the primary source, back then was the only source, of our public drinking water. And what a vision ... Here we are now, 100 years later. Over that period of time, the city of Sandpoint has invested in over 4,000 acres of essentially wilderness up there. So what an incredible gift that we have that."

Mary Malone can be reached by email at and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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