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Officials in unfamiliar territory

by Alecia Warren
| November 30, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - The Kootenai County commissioners don't know the next step.

The officials have been tasked with reviewing three controversial Local Improvement Districts recently approved by East Side Highway District.

They just don't know how.

"This is new for everybody," said Commissioner Rick Currie. "We can't find where it has ever been done before, as far as by a county in the state."

The county's legal department has confirmed that Idaho statute requires the commissioners to review an LID if it has been protested by either 60 percent resident owners or the owners of two-thirds of the LID lots.

But they don't know what the review process is, Currie said - like whether a public hearing is necessary, or even allowed.

"We're trying to find out what the procedures would be," he said. "Maybe we're making it more complicated than it needs to be."

A workshop on the LIDs planned this week was canceled at the last minute, Currie added, because there was concern it would be ex parte communication, or off-the-record communication regarding the outcome of a proceeding.

John Cafferty, civil deputy prosecuting attorney for the county, said the legal staff is looking into the matter.

"I am as taken aback as anyone else," Cafferty said. "It's kind of unique. We haven't been faced with it before, and the statute doesn't clearly spell it out."

According to the Local Improvement District statute, the commissioners acting as a review board "shall review the record of the proposal, including conformance with procedural provisions of law," while evaluating its financial impact and the health, safety and welfare of the residents.

"Can you figure it out?" Cafferty said of whether a hearing should happen. "Neither can I. That's the problem. It doesn't really say."

He'll find an answer eventually, he assured.

East Side Highway District has told the county it will provide a letter with its own recommendation, Cafferty added.

The highway district was closed on Friday.

Hundreds of residents served by East Side Highway District balked at the district commissioners' recent decision to approve three LIDs worth half a million dollars to fund road overlays in Coeur d'Alene and Harrison. Affected property owners would have to contribute to the LIDs, and some have said they would have to kick in thousands of dollars.

So far, the county commissioners have only received preliminary information about the LIDs, Currie said.

"Emphasis on preliminary," he said. "We're in uncharted grounds here, and we don't want to screw it up. If we do, all that happens is it ends up in the courts."

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