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Year of giving

by Brian Walker
| December 22, 2010 8:00 PM

POST FALLS - Mayor Clay Larkin used his 10th State of the City address on Tuesday to honor hometown heroes of the past year.

The Post Falls Food Bank received his Community Service award while local National Guard and their families were recognized for their dedication to the current deployment in Iraq.

The food bank, established in 1988, offers food, vouchers, school supplies, coats for kids and blankets for seniors in need. It has distributed about 130,000 pounds of food during recent months to those who meet federal poverty guidelines.

"As I look over the community and see all the agencies that give back, I couldn't think of a better agency to give the Community Service award to," Larkin said during his luncheon speech to the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce at Red Lion Templin's Hotel before 120 people.

Sherry Wallis, who took over as food bank director earlier this year, was teary-eyed as she received the award.

"The food bank has been an extremely humbling experience," she said. "The generosity of this community is overwhelming. We're serving a population that we've never had. The economy has hit a lot of people in different ways."

Patsy Barten, who works at Windermere Realty on Seltice Way and attended the luncheon, said Larkin's speech was a reminder to her of how nice of a place Post Falls remains.

"We're still progressing, and I think the city tries to go outside the box to look at ways to cut the budget," she said. "We're blessed to live in a community that has open hearts to give. I believe we're better off here than a lot of other places in our nation. It's a great place to be."

Post Falls' population is 26,909, according to preliminary Census data.

Larkin said the city is using its recent citizen survey to respond to concerns of the community. It spent $645,000 on street maintenance this year and added another code enforcement position to address nuisance complaints.

Members of the National Guard's 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, including about 150 based out of the Post Falls armory, recently arrived in Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn. They'll be in the country about 10 months.

Larkin was among those who wished the soldiers well when they left for training in September. He will help raise funds starting in February to buy personally engraved Buck knives for the soldiers when they return.

"We wish them godspeed and a safe journey," Larkin said.

Larkin said he hopes construction on two Interstate 90 projects - at Beck and Greensferry roads - will start in 2011.

He said that, while a full interchange at Greensferry is the most popular proposal, the city may have to settle on just an overpass initially that would be funded with urban renewal dollars.

"Maybe in the next 10 or 15 years on- and off-ramps can be added and, if so, hopefully it will be on the state's nickel and not ours," Larkin said, adding that federal red tape has slowed the project.

Larkin said he would be surprised if construction doesn't start on the full interchange at Beck Road in the next year.

"That would open a gate to the businesses on the west side," Larkin said.

While development continued to crawl in 2010, there were some signs of life.

"There have been several positive happenings this past year with three groundbreakings and 14 new businesses opening, so it hasn't all been downhill," Larkin said.

The Idaho Department of Labor moved from Coeur d'Alene to Post Falls last month after just seven months of construction. The chamber also moved into its new office next to City Hall.

Some other highlights of 2010 included:

* 165 youth honored in May during the Mayor's Youth Awards;

* a beam from the World Trade Center was on display while en route to a memorial in Washington;

* St. Vincent de Paul opened a warming shelter in Post Falls;

* community events including the River City Rod Run, Julyamsh pow wow, Idaho 200 car race, Post Falls Days and Winterfest;

* Buck Knives producing its one-millionth knife of the year in October; and

* the passing of long-time legislator, city board member and business owner Hilde Kellogg.

Hailey Smith, Post Falls' Lady of Distinction (formerly Junior Miss), said that, despite tough times, she said she believes the city, chamber, school district and other agencies are doing their part to make Post Falls a vibrant place for the next generation.

"(The agencies) are dedicated to providing opportunities to thrive, and youth are no exception," Smith said.

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