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Getting creative with less

by David Cole
| December 20, 2010 8:00 PM

Editor's note: You can't put a price tag on quality of life in any given city, but you can do some simple math and figure out about what each city spends on its residents.

The Press offers an informal but, we hope, interesting series that looks at the budgets of Kootenai County cities and determines how those budgets translate into per-resident spending. We also offer perspectives from people who live in these communities about how much bang they believe they get for their municipal-targeted buck.

HAYDEN LAKE - Residents of Hayden Lake say they appreciate the efforts made by city officials to do what they can with what little money they have to work with.

The general fund budget for 2011 is nearly $493,000 and just more than $189,000 for the water utility budget, said Lynn Hagman, Hayden Lake city clerk-treasurer. Its largest source of revenue is property taxes.

With an estimated population of 500, the city is spending about $1,364 per resident.

"Our primary budgeting issue is not having enough funds for our street department," Hagman said. "Our focus is, and has been, on our streets and trying to keep up with the maintenance in a timely manner."

William Bentz, a resident of Hayden Lake and past city council candidate, said, "Our city officials are very cautious about how funds are spent on road maintenance and projecting future projects."

Bentz, 39, has lived in the city nearly six years.

"The city is trying to be innovative with limited resources," said Jim English, 66, who has lived in Hayden Lake for 24 years. "They do everything they can with what little they have. I've never had any issue with the budget."

Vince Rossi, who lives right on the Hayden Lake-Hayden line on Strahorn Road at Dakota Avenue, said he appreciates the way city officials are transparent in their handling of city business and their conservative approach to spending.

"I don't think there's any fluff," said Rossi, 68. "The city doesn't have a very big budget. They do what they can, and try hard."

Next year's general fund budget is larger than this year's by about $10,000, and the water fund budget is down a similar amount, Hagman said.

People in Hayden Lake - with its police force of one full-time officer - love the small-city, village-like atmosphere. They love having the century-plus-old Hayden Lake Country Club within the city, and having access to nearby Avondale Golf Club, in Hayden. The club's members are a guiding force in the community. McCall Park, across from City Hall, is becoming a popular spot for locals, and residents take pride in it.

The city was incorporated in the late 1940s. The country club has been in place since 1907.

Mayor Nancy Morris said, "There's a lot of history here."

The rural nature does have its inherent problems.

"There are too many damn deer here," English said. "They eat all the flowers and bushes. It's a dysfunctional herd. I had 26 deer in my back yard at one time. They were nesting back there. What we need is a good cougar."

While cougars have been slow to strike, the weak economy has struck.

Hagman said the city has seen foreclosures and hard times like everybody else during the recession and afterward. She said the city's state revenues have slipped some.

While the budget is limited in its size, city officials don't plan to let it limit their efforts.

Leaders for the city of Hayden Lake say they are planning to rebuild Miles Avenue between Lakeview Drive and Strahorn Road in 2012, a project that will cost about $400,000.

Morris said, "We've been looking at that for years."

The road has been a constant source of complaint because of its poor condition, she said.

Also, city leaders hope to meet the demand expressed by city residents who say they want pedestrian and bike pathways to get around.

The city, though, doesn't have the size of budget that would be required to tackle such projects. It has only two full-time and two part-time employees.

So, leaders have had to acquire grant funding to pay for the Miles Avenue project and will have to get creative to provide for improved pedestrian access in the city, Morris said.

Morris said Miles will be a joint project with the Lakes Highway District and will be mostly paid for with federal grant funding. She said the project will likely be started in 2012, if not earlier.

Per-citizen

spending

• Coeur d'Alene, $1,618

• Post Falls, $1,096

• Hayden, $268

• Rathdrum, $800

• Dalton Gardens, $226

• Spirit Lake, $2,057

• Athol, $697

• Hauser, $172

• Hayden Lake, $1,344

Residents' take

Rossi said Strahorn needs work, it's too narrow and is in poor condition. Widening Strahorn would present a lot of problems because there isn't much space. He agreed that Miles also needs attention.

"The main thing the city is trying to do is make Strahorn and other roads as safe as possible, for bicyclists, walkers and strollers," Rossi said. "We're seeing more and more people get out there on a daily basis walking or riding."

Bentz said: "The city has been looking for solutions to move bikes and pedestrians safely within city proper but there are no funds and most plans are unpopular with the country club."

He said making Strahorn into a one-way road is very controversial with the surrounding communities. Within the city of Hayden Lake, he said, most residents applaud the change.

Having Strahorn be a one-way road makes it more pedestrian friendly. Strahorn is southbound only from Miles to Hayden Avenue. Critics of the decision claim that changing it to a one-way road ends up creating more traffic on other roads.

Bentz likes the concept of pedestrian-friendly community, but making streets wider or adding walking paths might require nibbling at the edges of the country club's boundaries, something the club could object to.

"Many residents believe it's time the country club work for a solution that would enable safe travel for pedestrians around Hayden Lake city proper," Bentz said.

A lot of people walk on Lakeview Drive but it's not safe, he said. There's a path along Lakeview, on the west side of the road, which is used by club members.

It's frustrating how little there is for people out looking to get exercise or get from one place to another in the city on foot, he said.

English said, "I think Strahorn is a mess. I think what the city is doing makes sense."

As a regular pedestrian himself, he likes what the city has done so far, including speed bumps. It's a test, too, and if it works, all the better. He'd like to see more pathways around the city.

Roads in the city are generally narrow, as it's an older community.

But he knows that wider streets and adding pathways might mean trees need to be cut down along the side of roads, something that will definitely have opposition.

While the city and country club have a positive relationship, he said, there will be some competitions between the two in terms of land use.

But, he said, "They're both working well together."

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