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County armory decision pushed to last second

by MADISON HARDY
Staff Writer | August 25, 2020 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — With the start date deadline closing in, Kootenai County commissioners tentatively began the process of turning the vacant National Guard Armory at Coeur d’Alene Airport-Pappy Boyington Field into an Emergency Operations Center.

In Monday’s meeting, Commissioners Leslie Duncan and Bill Brooks held their second discussion about using $650,000 of CARES Act funding to renovate the armory into the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management’s new location.

With a firm completion deadline of Dec. 15, the board and participating parties will have to decide to support or deny the project next Monday. Due to the ticking timeline, Duncan and Brooks voted to have Longwell Trapp Architects begin preparing the plan.

The Office of Emergency Management is based in the basement of KCSO’s Government Way facility but is often displaced because of a lack of spacing. According to OEM’s Tiffany Westbrook, moving the office into the armory would give the entity a designated location to offer around-the-clock emergency operations center, additional training for first responders, housing for Kootenai County Sheriff’s K-9 units, and offices for Hayden-based deputies.

Kootenai County owns the 9,400-square-foot armory. However, the land is the property of the airport. Initially estimated at 2.4 acres, a new look shows the area is part of an 8-acre parcel. According to Commissioner Duncan, that increases the property’s appraisal from $294,000 to $937,000.

At the first discussion, the commissioners were hesitant to begin the project when Westbrook said KCSO had no definite source of funding for the purchase or lease of the property. KSCO Undersheriff Dan Mattos noted Monday that while the department is willing to finance the bulk of the costs, it is unsure if the entity will be able to make ends meet.

“Obviously, it is a great opportunity that we got $650,000 to renovate the building, and we don’t want to let that fall through,” Mattos said. “We wouldn’t oppose that money coming out of whatever would be left of our budget at the end of our year. However, we would be concerned if the money wasn’t there.”

After a series of budget cuts in most county entities, Mattos asked the board if there were options for county assistance if KSCO could not cover the costs in full.

“Our budget has already been cut pretty deep for the fiscal year 2021,” Mattos said. “We’ll do the best we can, but if we come up short, we would just ask the board to take that into consideration and help us out.”

One option county resource management office director Jody Bieze posed was to receive grant funding from the Federal Transit Administration. According to a conversation between Bieze and Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization executive director Glenn Miles, there are possible funding options to aid purchasing the land if the county enters into a joint development option.

In addition to funding concerns, the property is positioned within Hayden’s Area of City Impact agreement. Therefore to split the property into a smaller, more affordable option, the county would have to work with Hayden and the Department of Community Development.

Duncan said the final vote would depend on the county’s ability to split the property, funding from the Federal Transit Administration, KCSO plans for funding, and what these factors entail for the county.

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Brooks