Anyone ever hear one thing from one person and a completely different one from another, even though those two people were working on the same thing?
Well that’s how I feel about our schools and fire districts when they communicate with our cities!
Ask anyone in Kootenai county or surrounding areas, and they’ll tell you local schools are full, the fire stations are struggling to meet standards, and the roads are becoming so over crowded that serious traffic accidents are a daily occurrence. Yet, when I attended my very first Planning and Zoning meeting for the city of Rathdrum, I heard none of that! Why?
Sure the schools said they were struggling, but there was no factual breakdown (i.e. the school classroom capacity is X students per teacher. We are at Y, meaning we can only take Z amount of students more before increasing classroom size or running out of space etc.). Same goes for the fire districts! On May 15th, 2021 every fire district and department sent a letter to every city in Kootenai county, including the county itself, asking to form an intergovernmental agency to figure out how to collect fire impact fees to offset the rapid cost of growth; however, when providing input on annexation requests, they simply reply that it is up to code instead of addressing their concerns.
Hearing feedback of others that have spoken directly to local fire chiefs, the situation is dire with many departments and districts in danger of not meeting fire standards and response times. Yet, when it comes to providing feedback to the city on particular annexations, the local school and fire districts provide the most tame feedback available. For the Lakeland Landing Annexation you can read the letters here (pages 26 & 28).
The school district was far more direct and forthcoming, but personally I feel that it needs to be stronger and factually based. Abstract warnings do not resonate with people, but telling citizens that there will be an extra 3 or 5 students per class next year will! The response from the fire district was very bland, dealt with only the fire code and no word on how an additional 67 dwelling development will affect readiness and response times for the city of Rathdrum. Why not tell the Planning and Zone commission that, “Statistically with this many more people, we expect an extra X amount of calls, which requires Y amount of people and resources, and we will need extra Z amount of money to make it happen. Otherwise the response time will go up by so much etc.”
None of the information I am requesting is hard to find. In fact, all of it is publicly available upon request! Why then are the local education and safety providers hesitant to break down the facts behind growth?
Although I do not have an answer for you there, I do have an answer of how we can bring light to these facts. Stay active, stay engaged and stay informed.