What Do you Mean Ponderay Took Our Ice Rink?
by Shari Dovale
The citizen’s of Bonner County and their neighbors should be enjoying a new ice rink in Ponderay by winter of 2022.
After months of negotiation with the Bonner County Commissioners (BOCC) to locate an ice rink behind the Sheriff’s Department, allowing it to be maintained by the Fairboard, it has finally been settled that the Sandpoint Community Center Corporation (SCCC) will be working to support North Idaho Ice Corp. (NIICE) a non-profit that has been steadfast in bringing skating and winter recreation to North Idaho at the Field of Dreams.
I am not quite sure why there was so much drama involved in reaching this point. The long, drawn-out saga was thought to have begun in October 2021 with a little noticed line item on a regular BOCC business meeting agenda. (It really began months prior, as we all know nothing springs up over night.)
It seemed to come out of the blue, but that little line item quickly became a unanimous vote to approve a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the SCCC to construct an ice rink between the fairgrounds and the sheriff’s office. But it still was not quite clear to the public.
The plan would have greatly benefited the fairgrounds, as they would have been given a large parcel of several acres at a measly $1.00 per year for 99 years. You would think that it should have been enough for those penny pinching foes, but no, there were a few too many dissenters in the ranks.
It was a bit annoying to see officials unable to come to any compromise with citizens over the minor details of taxpayers being deprived of the value of that land, as well as the proposed future Justice Center that was considered for that property, and yada yada yada. There are some folks that cannot just be happy, aren’t there?
I certainly have to give kudos to the Chairman for impressing upon the people that a Justice Center should absolutely take a back seat to a part-time ice rink up next to the jail. It seems perfectly logical to many that the children that will be using the part time ice rink will benefit greatly by having to look upon the juvenile detention facility every time they walk past. It should be a great deterrent, shouldn’t it?
Many citizens, as well as current and former elected officials, weighed in on the expected adverse effects to the county. Sheriff Daryl Wheeler held a community meeting with a presentation that I personally think may have unnecessarily confused regular people. It included details of the history of the jail and way too many actual facts on meetings with past and present commissioners concerning future expansion of the Sheriff’s Complex. After all these years as an elected official, you would think someone would have explained to Sheriff Wheeler that you should not confuse the public with facts! I think he should take a meeting with our BOCC Chairman to discuss this.
You can watch that meeting here:
Former Bonner County Commissioners Mike Nielson, Todd Sudick and Cary Kelly have all weighed in on the negative affects of giving away this particular parcel of land, as if government officials didn’t have a right to their own agendas on occasion. Prosecutor Louis Marshall whined about his disappointment in an email dated October 27, 2021, as if he should have been given special notice.
While these negotiations were continuing, the fairboard promoted an additional idea of an RV campground that was also adjacent to the Sheriff’s complex and this new ice rink. This idea brought with it a number of new controversial issues. I really don’t understand what could be a problem with having tall RVs up next to an evidence lot. Doesn’t it have a fence around it, after all?
However, before everything could be set in stone, the Idaho State Attorney General had to stick his nose into the fray and declare the entire deal to be “Null and Void” as it stood. Doesn’t he have enough things to do down in Boise? He has never concerned himself with the goings-on up here in North Idaho before, what caught his eye this time?
It seemed that the BOCC violated the Open Meeting Laws (OML) in their furtive posting in the original agenda.
It was probably some type of “Technical difficulties.” It must have been, or some sort of computer glitch, possibly due to badly needed upgrades to their software program, as the BOCC has repeatedly reassured us that they are always completely transparent and aboveboard.
Be that as it may, the violations happened, the cry babies won the day, and the BOCC was directed to correct the issues. It is too bad, but beginning from scratch does not seem to be a viable option since a major portion of the community has already dragged our poor BOCC down their multiple rabbit holes. It is no wonder they have thrown in the towel.
The SCCC is now turning to support the efforts by North Idaho Ice to build a facility at the city’s Field of Dreams. This actually works out for many folks because they would hate to split their time between facilities just down the road from each other.
This has turned out to be a ‘Win-Win’ for everyone involved!
/ Turning Off Sarcasm