POST FALLS, Idaho — Optimism is the name of the game as Post Falls heads into 2022. The River City has seen unrivaled growth this year and city officials expect the changes to keep coming, according to KREM's media partner, the Coeur d'Alene Press.
The Post Falls City Council will swear in three new members on January 4. Councilwoman Kerri Thoreson has served the community for the past fourteen years and during her tenure, she has never seen half the council seats change hands in one election, she said.
“I’m optimistic,” Mayor Ron Jacobson said Tuesday. “I don’t know what to expect, but I have high hopes. We have business to do as a city and that business will continue.”
Kenny Shove will take outgoing Councilwoman Linda Wilhelm’s seat. Josh Walker will take outgoing Councilman Alan Wolfe’s seat and Nathan Zeigler will take outgoing Councilman Steve Anthony’s seat. All three have attended procedural training provided by the city. Ziegler and Shove attended additional training with the Association of Idaho Cities to prepare for council functions.
“When I was newly elected it was a little daunting, I thought I had to know everything about municipal function,” Thoreson said. “But for the most part, you learn by doing.”
New people bring a different lens and a new perspective, she said.
“Although I have to say how much I’ll miss Alan, Linda, and Steve,” Thoreson said. “We didn’t always agree but there’s always been a mutual respect that is absolutely vital.”
Despite the contentiousness seen during the last election, Thoreson is excited to move forward and hopes for increased public participation in the council process next year.
“Any time that room is full, it’s a good day no matter what the agenda item is,” Thoreson said. “We have a lot coming up next year and this past election should tell us that community engagement is important.”
Unprecedented population growth means construction continues to boom.
Residents can expect the long-awaited completion of the Highway 41 project. Following its completion, the Idaho Transportation Department is planning work on the junction at Seltice Way and Highway 41, Thoreson said. Though it will temporarily cause disruption, the change is badly needed, she said.
“I’m excited. If it wasn’t for all of the snow we’d be celebrating the new park at the Landings,” Thoreson said of the new park being constructed along the Spokane River. “It will be such an asset and will be well enjoyed by everyone.”
Other major developments include upgrades to the wastewater treatment systems; a city center parking lot and pocket park along Spokane Street; an eagle statue on Spokane Street;
the Prairie Crossing Shopping Center at Prairie and Highway 41; a tech park on Highway 41 and many commercial and residential developments.
The Post Falls School District is facing population growth management as well.
“We are still experiencing staffing shortages,” Superintendent Dena Naccarato said. “The growth in our community poses some challenges and we will need to begin discussing a second high school as well as other building needs.”
School Board Trustee Michelle Lippert has served on the board for 20 years.
“A second high school is necessary,” Lippert said. “In looking at the long-range plan we should’ve already gone down that road but didn’t need to until now.”
With student numbers increasing in Post Falls, the district needs to start working on it, she said. A bond must first be approved and it takes at least two years to build a high school. Eventually, another middle and elementary school will be needed too, Lippert said.
“People could just drive around Post Falls to realize the need,” Lippert said.
The school board will welcome three incoming members in January: Zone 1 Trustee Guy McAninch, Trustee Logan Creighton for Zone 4, and Trustee Jake Dawson for Zone 5. Training has been scheduled for them, with the Idaho School Boards Association, Lippert said.
“I hope it gets the new members up to speed on duties, our responsibilities, and what our powers are and aren’t,” Lippert said. “We’re all on board and hope for a successful session.”
Lippert has met McAninch and Creighton and has known Dawson since he was a boy, she said.
Concern exists about the levies and bonds required to support the growth of the school district as the last levy passed had to run twice and was only passed by 53%, Lippert said. Usually, levies pass by about 74% and bonds need 66.6 % to pass.
Lippert said the district needs to communicate better with citizens about what it’s doing as a school board, and what it needs.
Overall, Post Falls leaders are optimistic about 2022.
“I love where I live, I love this community and I believe that Post Falls will continue to be a community that people love to live in,” Thoreson said.
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