OpenCDA

October 16, 2011

LCDC owns the Library!

Filed under: The City's Pulse — mary @ 8:30 am

As I stood to begin my part of our public presentation last Tuesday, I was surprised by the intensity of the audience’s focus; it was like a wave of positive energy coming up over the stage.  Everyone was riveted to the information Sharon Culbreth, had just delivered in the first part of the program, and their concentration did not abate until we were all done.

The room was full, with folks standing across the back.  Mayor Bloem, Wendy Gabriel, the City Administrator, Councilwoman Deanna Goodlander and other city officials were in attendance.  The audience was a nice mix of new faces and long time supporters.  City Council candidates Steve Adams, Amber Copeland, Dan Gookin, and Adam Graves were are also present, but none of the incumbents were there.

So let me give you some of the highlights.  There were several “Oh My” moments:

1. The LCDC owns the Library.  It’s true.  We showed the recorded Deeds, with the signatures and seals and dates, showing that LCDC owns the property.  Under Idaho law, unless there is a legal contract or binding agreement, any buildings on a property belong to the property owner.  

When City Finance Director Troy Tymesen was asked if there is a signed legal agreement or contract between the City and LCDC as to the use, liability, maintenance, future transfer of property, etc. of the Library, his answer was:  “Not that I know of”.

What’s wrong with LCDC owning the library?  We showed a copy of the Ballot that we all voted on during the Bond election of Feb.2005,  The Ballot said “Shall the City of Coeur d’Alene…”, not shall the LCDC…

The LCDC and the City are separate legal entities.  The Idaho Supreme Court made that very clear with their decision two years ago, stating Urban Renewal Agencies, like LCDC, are independent entities not accountable to the cities that appointed them.

The two most egregious parts of this whole Library fiasco, in my opinion, are first, that if the City truly does not have a binding legal agreement with LCDC for use, etc., it is a management error of grand proportions.  And secondly, why was this ownership not made known to the public?  We, after all, are the folks who voted to tax ourselves for what we thought would be a city owned facility.

ADDENDUM 10-18-2011:  I am adding links to some of the documentation.

County Information, page 1          County Information, page 2          2001 Warranty Deed          2001 Quitclaim Deed          2007 Warranty Deed

2. Riverstone’s theater building and the long buildings on either side of it, are in default and have reverted back to a Seattle based bank in lieu of forclosure.  $14 million plus interest is owed.  Here’s some history:

–In 2000, Riverstone was approved for 1.5 million by LCDC
–In 2006, Riverstone West was approved for 6.6 million
–In 2009, Riverstone West defaulted on the Condos
–In 2011 Riverstone West defaulted on the theater and nearby buildings.
…And now LCDC has a pending approval for an additional $900,000 for Riverstone West.

3. In my part of the program, I focused on City spending, especially salaries.  First let’s establish some Idaho city facts from the 2010 census:

Boise is the largest city, with 205,000 people. That is 4.5 times bigger than Coeur d’Alene.

Twin Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Caldwell are numbers 6,7,8 in size, with all three cities right around 44,000 people.

4. How many jobs paying $100,000 or more do these cities have?
Coeur d’Alene has 19

Twin Falls has 4
Caldwell has 0

5. How much do Street Superintendents make in these cities?
Coeur d’ Alene pays $100,012
Twin Falls pays $65,353 (35k less)
Caldwell pays $50,507 (half as much)

6. What about Fire Chief? How much do they make?
Coeur d’Alene pays $112,005
Caldwell pays $82,999  (30k less)
Twin Falls pays $91,395  (20k less)
What about in Boise? $116,087…in a city 4.5 times larger than CdA.

7. Finance Director:
Coeur d’Alene:  $112,005
Caldwell: $94,889  (17k less)
Twin Falls: $83,605 (28k less)
Boise: $101,549 (10.5k less in a city 4.5 times larger than CdA)

8. City Attorney:
Coeur d’Alene: $125,459
Caldwell: contracts out per job
Twin Falls: $101,067  (25k less)
Boise:  $115,748 (10k less in a city 4.5 times larger than CdA)

All of the above city pay information came from Wendy Gabriel, our CdA City Administrator ($123,024) and from www.ouridaho.com, which is a web site offered by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.  Thank goodness for them!

9. State Rep. Kathy Sims wrapped up our program with comments about the need for legislation to reign in Urban Renewal.  She told of 5 such bills that passed the House last year but were stopped cold in the Senate by a committee chairman who just happens to be an attorney connected to an Urban Renewal Board.  Kathy pledged they will try again this year.

She admonished the city government for wasteful spending when unemployment is high, and suggested they suspend the Art Fund project to beautify the wastewater treatment plant, and instead donate that $50,000 to the Food Bank to help this winter.

Kathy’s applause line of the night, which drew a huge response from all except the Mayor’s posse, was “In these tough economic times, why does the city want to spend $39 Million dollars to make a park out of a park? The crowd went wild.

Well, dear Readers, we have a great deal more to talk about, with the campaign season fast and furiously upon us.  There’s new drama every day on the election scene, so you’ll be hearing from me again soon.
Have a great weekend!  –Mary

*************************
Mary Souza is a 24 year resident of CdA, local small business owner and former P&Z Commissioner.   Her opinions are her own.  To sign up for the free weekly newsletter, or access a free archive of past columns, visit www.marysouzacda.com  Comments can be sent to marysouzacda@gmail.com.  Please visit the local issues web site www.OpenCdA.com for more discussion.

13 Comments

  1. 1. The LCDC owns the Library. It’s true. We showed the recorded Deeds, with the signatures and seals and dates, showing that LCDC owns the property. Under Idaho law, unless there is a legal contract or binding agreement, any buildings on a property belong to the property owner.

    When City Finance Director Troy Tymesen was asked if there is a signed legal agreement or contract between the City and LCDC as to the use, liability, maintenance, future transfer of property, etc. of the Library, his answer was: “Not that I know of”.

    Where’s City Attorney Mike Gridley when you need him?

    “8. City Attorney:
    Coeur d’Alene: $125,459
    Caldwell: contracts out per job
    Twin Falls: $101,067 (25k less)
    Boise: $115,748 (10k less in a city 4.5 times larger than CdA)”

    Comment by Ancientemplar — October 16, 2011 @ 8:58 am

  2. Regarding the LCDC owning the library. Is there any debt owing on the property? If so was it encumbered by the LCDC? Has the LCDC used the library asset as leverage for any sort of loan? If the city carries a debt on the property do the taxpayers service that debt for the good of the LCDC? In other words the LCDC being in title on a piece of CdA city property is essentially comingling of assets. Then the LCDC may be able to obtain loans on the land/building. If any debt does exist and the taxpayers service that debt then we are enriching a nongovernmental agency, the LCDC.

    Comment by Wallypog — October 16, 2011 @ 10:51 am

  3. Who is responsible for paying the property tax, the taxpayers of CdA or the LCDC?

    Comment by concerned citizen — October 16, 2011 @ 11:03 am

  4. Wallypog,

    The Idaho Supreme Court has held that urban renewal agencies such as the LCDC are an arm of state government and are entirely separate and distinct from the municipalities which activate them.

    That certainly doesn’t in any way diminish the validity of the questions you asked. If there is no formal agreement between the LCDC and the City regarding the use, operation, and maintenance of the Library, then under what authority does the City use public money to pay the staff’s salaries as well as the maintenance and operations costs? Who gets sued and is liable if grandma trips on the carpet and is injured doing a Slinky down the stairs?

    Comment by Bill — October 16, 2011 @ 11:10 am

  5. There’s no property tax paid on the $6.5 Million dollar Library. It’s government owned. LCDC is still a government entity, it just has no supervisors, even though it’s an unelected board that controls Millions in taxpayer money.

    Does that make any kind of common sense?

    Bill–“doing a slinky”? thanks for the chuckle!

    Comment by mary — October 16, 2011 @ 11:16 am

  6. The Mayor, the City Administrator, and Councilman Goodlander were in the audience at the Tuesday presentation. After the three formal presentations had concluded, the presenters (Sharon Culbreth, Mary Souza, and Representative Kathy Sims) were onstage together and took comments and questions from the audience.

    Although the Mayor, the City Administrator, and Councilman Goodlander had the opportunity to ask questions, elaborate on the topics discussed, and refute any statements with which they might have disagreed, they sat stoically.

    Comment by Bill — October 16, 2011 @ 11:38 am

  7. Random thoughts.

    The City Attorney has shown time and again a level of competence so low as to border on misfeasance or malfeasance in office. Had he been an attorney in my pay, he would have been fired.

    If I recall correctly, the OLD Library building was to be sold to help pay for the new building, or is my memory in error?

    Wendy Gabriel is a 6 figure employee married to another 6 figure employee, right? Is that not prima facie nepotism in action? More, isn’t part of Wendy’s pay supervisory in nature? How can she be expected to have effective oversight of her husband?

    I wonder, did the local press report any of the facts presented at the meeting?

    Comment by justinian — October 16, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

  8. Maybe the Mayor will call for a top down review and a management audit and clean house?

    Comment by Pariah — October 16, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

  9. Pariah, I just about spilled my tea!

    Comment by mary — October 16, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

  10. Justinian,

    Concerning the old library, the City bought it from itself and ended up leasing it dirt-cheap to a significant voting constituency. Here is a link to the minutes of the May 5, 2009, Coeur d’Alene City Council minutes. Scroll down and read under the major heading “LEASE OF OLD LIBRARY BUILDING AT 201 HARRISON.” Councilman John Bruning was installed as a City Councilman to replace Dixie Reid on January 2, 2008. Bruning is on the Board of St. Vincent de Paul and declared a conflict of interest.

    I don’t know if the Gabriel+Gabriel employment would be nepotism under Idaho’s law, but then, this is Idaho and many laws are pretty regularly enforced selectively. It would be absolutely inappropriate for her to supervise her husband, but fortunately the City eliminated that possibility by sliding Fire Chief Gabriel’s supervisory responsibility to Deputy City Administrator Jon Ingalls. So now apparently City Administrator Gabriel supervises Deputy City Administrator Ingalls who supervises Fire Chief Gabriel. No, there’s no problem there…

    Comment by Bill — October 16, 2011 @ 3:33 pm

  11. Does the City of CDA pay rent or lease to LCDC for use of the building ?
    I still don’t know why the city did not just use the old Ospry building for the library. Would have save tax payers or LCDC tons of money and made a beautiful library.

    Comment by Jullee — October 18, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

  12. Jullee,

    We were told that there is no agreement like you described.

    Comment by Bill — October 18, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

  13. My thanks to Bill who navigated the technical hurdles to post the recorded deeds and documents proving that LCDC owns the CdA Library. You can find that info under point #1 in my newletter above.

    Comment by mary — October 18, 2011 @ 7:37 pm

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