Mitchell leading Pierce to retain judge’s seat

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By BRIAN WALKER

Staff Writer

First District Court Judge John Mitchell was holding off challenger Douglas Pierce during Tuesday's primary election after absentee ballots and 18 of 70 precincts were counted as of 11:45 p.m.

Mitchell had 4,937 votes while Pierce had 2,517.

Meanwhile, of the three revenue questions to voters in specific areas of Kootenai County during Tuesday's primary election, two were on pace to be approved and the third faced an uphill battle as of presstime.

• Spirit Lake voters considered a $1.8 million bond levy proposal for wastewater treatment improvements.

After absentee ballots were counted, 18 voters (72 percent) were in support while seven (28 percent) were against. A vote of at least 51 percent approval was needed for the proposal to pass

The bond proposed to add a 25 million-gallon lagoon, increase efficiencies to the land application irrigation system and enhance the biological treatment process.

The city last year imposed a growth moratorium that still is in effect due to sewer capacity issues.

The 40-year bond would increase the monthly sewer bill $2 per month to repay the construction loan.

The city also plans this summer to increase the sewer rate $3 per month for maintenance and operation of the system. That will be implemented even if the bond fails. A specific date has not been determined. The two increases would increase the monthly sewer bills a total of $5 from $26 to $31.

Communities in North Idaho with similar systems have rates of $45 to $50 per month.

Since the last improvement to the city's wastewater treatment facility in 2002, there has been a 57 percent increase in population growth, according to city officials. As a result, the facility is at capacity, which forced the city to issue a sewer moratorium on new growth.

The wastewater facility is a land-based system in which, after treatment, the effluent is irrigated onto agriculture fields and forest crops.

• Voters in the Northern Lake Fire District, which covers Hayden, Rathdrum and Hayden Lake, considered a $1.2 million permanent override levy.

After absentee votes and 18 of 70 precincts were counted, 964 (57.9 percent) were in support of the proposal while 702 (42.1 percent) were against).

A two-thirds approval vote is needed for the proposal to pass.

The proposal would allow the department to hire nine new firefighter paramedics and to keep an on-duty crew ready to roll at Station 3 on East Hudlow Road in the northeast portion of the district. At present, the station has no on-duty firefighters. The proposal would not pay for buildings or equipment.

A 28 percent increase in population over the past decade spurred an increase in calls for medical assistance and firefighting and the need for the funding, according to district officials.

The district last floated the idea of a permanent override levy in 2012, when in May and November of that year voters soundly rejected a $1.6 million ballot question.

• Nearly 400 homeowners south of Post Falls on the Spokane River were asked whether the Greenferry Water and Sewer District should issue and sell its water revenue bonds of up to $1.8 million to replace undersized and aging waterlines, improve fire protection and allow additional hookups.

After absentee votes were counted, 15 (79 percent) were in support and four (21 percent) against.

The measure required a simple majority vote (50 percent, plus one).

The cost per household in the Greenferry Water and Sewer District east of Spokane Street along Riverview is $15 per month, which has already been assessed on each household since 2016 for capital repairs and replacement.

With the proposal, there will be no increase in current rates, but the ballot item will allow the district to make major improvements all at once, rather than piecemeal.

If approved, the bids will go out immediately and construction would occur this summer.

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