Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bayview Town Meeting

Tonight, County Commissioners Currie, Tondee and Piazza attended a town meeting in Bayview. It is my view that while many worthwhile questions were raised, and some good answers given, most of the more than 140 attendees went away without help for their personal causes. The reason being, being in the county, the commissioners can't make an ordinance for just one part of the County, without it affecting equally all other parts. The solution? Either incorporate, or realize the limitations the County has. Apparently, restricting boat trailer parking is a function of Lakes Highway District. One they haven't exercised.

Many spoke to lost views if high rise condos were to be built in front of them. Most apparently were not aware, that as a legal issue, views are not a property right. Other major issues addressed were Planning, Zoning and building regulation enforcement. Apparently, the Sheriff Department is unable/unwilling to serve criminal summonses on behalf of the County Building department, and the Commissioners are unable/unwilling to provide necessary funds for the rules to be enforced.

What it all boiled down to, is that the County cannot make rules for us that a city enjoys. For that to happen, they encouraged the area to incorporate. Issues of expense, water and sewer regulations for cities, expenses for outsourcing law enforcement, revenue, fire and many other government functions are the negatives. The lone positive? Local control. We met a former mayor of Hayden Lake tonight, not to be confused with the city of Hayden. He had more information at the tip of his tongue than most at that meeting tonight. Generalities won't cut it. We either have to seriously investigate incorporation, or sit back and wait for the inevitable growth, regulated only by the weak County laws, and subject to State regulations.

I applaud the three Commissioners for their appearance, though after Currie, chairing the meeting, and Tondee providing much of the technical assistance, one wondered why Piazza bothered to attend. His body language showed boredom, which undoubtedly was shared by some in the audience, but death to a politician. He didn't appear interested, nor did he contribute much to the discussion. One can only hope that behind those closed doors, he does something other than snooze.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Linebacker Sacks Bayview Residents

A limited liability corporation formed by real estate developer, Brian Main and former WSU football player, James Darling, called KDB Investments, LLC recently purchased the Bayview Trailer Park. Purchased by Waterford Park Homes, LLC, then resold to the new group under the new name of “View of the Bay Mobile Home Park.” Eviction notices were sent out several months ago by Waterford Park, reiterated by the new purchasers, giving tenants just until the end of September to vacate, move the mobile homes and all other property.

As Sheryl Puckett, long time resident put it, “these people are gutting Bayview. It appears that another round of developers are coming here to exploit Bayview, with no concern for the human cost. It may be legal, but certainly not moral.” Darling, most likely fronting much of the money, is a former linebacker for WSU. He was drafted into the NFL nine years ago, and currently is with the Arizona Cardinals.

Many residents are either in poor health or financial straights. Most have lived in the well established trailer park for many years, and have nowhere else to go. While verbal statements attributed to the new owners, suggest that part of the existing park, fronting Corbin Street may stay as mobile homes, nothing has been offered to the residents. Since most, (two claim they were never previously served) current residents received the eviction notice, it is believed that this may be either mis-information, or a change of plan. The recent eviction deadline letter was undated, but was accompanied by a return receipt and received by all affected people Tuesday, August 21 and effective the last day of September. Two residents claim that they never were served the first time by either Bob Holland, or the corporation he heads.

Jack and Charlene Soppit have lived in their home, which has been built onto and is unmovable for 30 years. Jack has a serious heart condition that is life threatening. He has had a triple by-pass and has about 12% of his heart function left. The move will have the effect of killing this man. Due to the tremendous medical bills this couple has had to deal with, there are no relocation funds available to them. When daughter Nan was asked what would happen, she replied,”they will be on the street.”

We have subsequently learned that James Darling last played for Arizona in 2003 and is retired now from the NFL. He now tackles only trailer park residents. ...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Sun Sets on the Real Estate Market

As many of you know, I was part of the real estate industry from about 1967 through 1995, both as an agent, then later, a mortgage banker/broker. I went through the rapidly inflating market of 77-78 in the Seattle Area, and also the depression of 80-82. Back then, with fixed 30 year mortgage rates reaching above 20%, two things happened that were significant. One, loans were extremely tough to acquire and two, values plummeted. Homes that were located on golf course fairways, dropped to half their previous value, most of which had accrued in just the prior two or three years. Two, spec building was on fire. large developers had tracts with in some cases, more than one hundred starts all going at once, and all unsold.

A point is reached, and was, where neither the banks nor the builders could stop. Once the point of no return is reached, it is better to finish than to walk away. Finally, condominiums were starting to be the rage, and huge projects were built, usually with adjustable rate mortgages, some of which were negatively amortized. Banks foreclosed on thousands of new homes, both free standing and condos. I had a couple that obtained a mortgage from me on a home, having lived in a fairly new condo. They asked me if I wanted it free. I thought about the leverage aspect, then passed, as the value was less than half of the then existing loan balance. They, like many others, let the bank have it.

The banks, not wanting to keep the properties on the books, sold them for even less, thence depressing the market even more. That was then, this is now.

Here in North Idaho, we have several of the same ingredients, excepting that lenders, having a corporate memory of those other times, don't let builders have that much rope ... Or do they. Today, we see over building, coupled with a lack of demand caused mostly by rates at a 30 year low for an extended period of time. Fixed 30 year interest rates hadn't been below 6% since the fifties or early sixties. The demand caused a boom market, since families could finally afford to either move up in size, relocate, or move down, depending on their individual needs. That need having been fulfilled, there are very few buyers that have yet to buy. Add to this example, the hysterical competition that Banks and Mortgage lenders engaged in, offering adjustable rates when nobody in their right mind would want one, except they could then afford more house for the same payment. Kind of like buying stock on margin. Sooner or later, it catches up with you.

Lenders,, believing in the tooth fairy, thought that values would continue indefinitely, leaving their equity positions either intact, or enhanced. Buyers have disappeared, builders are stuck with unsold units, and lenders are eating smoke. One of the nation's most respected, and largest mortgage companies, just borrowed billions to stay afloat. That would be Countrywide. More are also in the same shape. A severe downturn in construction is inevitable, turning hundreds of construction workers out of work. We have most of the elements for a severe down turn in values due to some of the same factors from my previous example. It seems that history IS doomed to repeat itself.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Last Weekend Pictures

Last weekend, I wrote four stories in and around Athol. One didn't publish, that being the fire at Conoco. The rest published, but without pictures. Space restrictions were the culprit. So that some of you will have access to these I am publishing them here. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Last week-end just about did me in. First, starting at 9:30 am I bounced up to Athol to M/C their parade. Thence over to the City Park for the games and other activities. I watched with amazement at the 4 or 5 year old young lady that walked away with the pie eating contest. Walking around with a donation can can clear a path real fast, but I managed to find several people that actually came toward me to donate. After about 2:00 pm, I decided to head down the road a piece to see if I could catch the camel lady at home. I did, as exhibited by my fearless ride into the sunset.

On my way down to the camel, using old hwy 95, I noticed heavy traffic coming toward me from the south. That always is a sign that the main highway is blocked. Sure enough it was, what with one fatality at the scene, two Medstar helicopter rescues, and the involvement of 5 ambulances, from every department in North Idaho. Northern Lakes, Coeur d'Alene, Rathdrum, Spirit Lake and of course, Timberlake were involved in the action.

After returning to the park, photographing many events, I decided it was time to slake my thirst, so I headed for the Legion, where the Old Timers Jam was scheduled at around four.
That was a real treat, what with the Cunningham brothers, Chuck and Norma Bell, and just about everyone that is anyone in local music performed. Looking up, a black ugly column of smoke was rising nearby. I grabbed the camera, and scooted down the street where a van on fire had been drove right up to the Crossroads Conoco and parked. The occupants bailed, leaving it to burn. Luckily, the gas tank burned, opposed to exploding, which limited the damage mostly to the vehicle itself. Back to the jam, then down to the Captain's Wheel where the Bells were playing. Chuck and Norma, who are retired, were convinced to make an appearance, highlighting three and one half generations on the stage. (The half generation represented by the twin girls who are both expecting.)

Thus Saturday was in the books. I slept well. Sunday, I had to write three columns, representing around 1500 words, for my Idaho Voice section of the Spokesman-Review, which I write for and publishes on Thursdays. I have never tried to produce that much in one day, which was mentally exhausting to say the Least. Well, I'm back to normal or as close to normal as I get. Now for next weeks news ...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Busy Saturday, Indeed

I hardly know where to start. I guess at the beginning. I popped into Athol for my appointment as Master of Ceremonies at the Athol Daze Parade. That accomplished, I saunter over to the Athol Park, where all kinds of fun stuff was going on. I circulated with a donation can, which was intended along with many other fund raising venues, until people were hissing at me. I took a time out to drive down to the home of a lonely Bactrian Camel, pastured in south Athol. This time, I managed to catch the property owner at home.

As I interviewed the lady, who was a camel trainer, I asked her if I could take a picture of her on the camel. She said no, but how about me? OK, I did it. Catch the entire story in my column that is published Thursdays. Oh, and did I tell you I chased down another fire?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Bells

I would like to clarify some issues. Many rumors were being passed around, at the speed of light, as happens in small towns. One such rumor which was repeated to me, concerned a fine family. I'm talking about the Bells. The rumor suggested that Chuck Bell was ill. Well it turns out that he is in fine fettle and will appear along side his bride of many years, Norma, at the Captain's Wheel, Saturday night with the whole family. Chuck and Norma, always favorites, have been missed these many months.It is hoped that the right word is spread around this time. I sent two or three e-mails to people that I felt were close to the situation, and was wrong in doing so.

I hope all of you will join me at the Athol Daze Parade Saturday, at 10:00 am. God, I wish I cudda got that camel for the parade. We are going to have a great time with the parade, a fund raising auction, kids games, (how old can we still be considered kids?) There will be music in the park following all of these other activities. Following the music in the park, we understand that the Legion has opened their facilities for those old timers that go WAY back in Athol history. They will partake in a monster jam following the activities in the park. George Bruner will officiate at the jam, which is only proper, since he is getting kind of long in the tooth hisself.

Returning to Roots

I have decided that I can either be a player, or I can be a reporter. I can't think of a single instance that both can coexist. I still have opinions, and they will from time to time be heard.

What I really want to do is collect information from various sources, both for my blog, and print column. Where my print efforts are non-confrontational and attempt to be objective, still I think that there is a carry over, with some not understanding the difference. I will, for instance, not attempt to find out from the various venues, what upcoming entertainment will be. Everyone knows, here in Bayview, or in Athol, who I am, what I do, and how to reach me. If there is a happening going on, I will print it in the paper, if it is newsworthy. This generally appplies to entertainment, but is not limited to that alone.

Hereafter, if entertainment is to be offered, and the sponsors want me to publish same, I will require them to seek me out, not the opposite. I haven't enough time to beg business owners to supply me with information. You got it? you want free publicity? you call or e-mail me.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Lakes Highway District Election

I don't normally write about these kinds of elections, but there is some very misleading information going around, in an attempt to vote out two of the three incumbents. I live in Bayview, where Summer and Winter sees great service from the highway district. This Summer, our local roads have been freshly chip sealed. Last Winter, the snow plows were right on the spot, so that commuters would not slip and slide on their way to work.

I'm afraid there is some demagoguery going on here that is political, rather than functional. When a voter receives a letter denouncing the incumbents for paying their help too much, like wages are too high in North Idaho? Another remark refers to the present commissioners having experience in the road maintenance business. Like that is a disadvantage? Perhaps our elected officials in the past have been elected without any qualifications, but I wouldn't count that as a plus. Suggesting that this equates a corrupted buddy system is a reach that doesn't hold water.

We all have received a letter from Larry Spencer urging us to vote against the incumbents. Larry is a good guy, but he is against virtually everything that is government. He has vociferously campaigned against the Kroc Center, Coeur d'Alene's local improvement district, is fighting with Kootenai County over planning & Zoning issues. He jumps into campaigns in districts that he doesn't live in to lend support to those that are like minded, politically, which is waaay to the right.

I urge those that are in our district to vote based on the service we get, not the results of a misleading letter sent at the last minute before election. One remark was made to me that a citizen is pissed because Bob Holland and customers take up all of the parking. Duh, Road Districts do not enforce parking laws, nor do they create them. The County Commissioners do that. Complain to the Sheriff if a vehicle is not moved for 24 hours, not the road maintenance people.

If anyone has evidence of corruption, they should take all the FACTS to the Kootenai County Prosecutor. Innuendos are not evidence, only shoddy campaigning.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Camels in Athol?

Recently spotted Bactrian Camel in Athol Area. You'll have to read my column in the Spokesman Review August 9 for the story ...

Friday, August 03, 2007

ATV Starts Fire Near Athol, Idaho

The fire that burned over 80 acres and threatened several homes and a church was most likely caused by an ATV, or four wheeler as they are known in these parts. Fire officials have confirmed to me that it is better than a 90% chance that riders off road paralleling highway 95 near Athol, Idaho, sparked the fire. Several witnesses observed this activity just moments before the fire broke out. The pink circle above is the ignition point. It lies a few feet from highway 95 in a swale that ATV riders commonly use.

As of Noon today, level two fire restrictions are in place which prohibits such off road activities among many others. No smoking outdoors, no off road activities by ANY motor vehicle.Devices such as chain saws between 1:00 pm and 1:00 am are prohibited. All outdoor burning is prohibited. Thoughtless persons caused the large property loss from the last fire by not using common sense. The lack thereof tends to force authorities into severe measures to protect the rest of us. Our fields and forest are tinder dry just waiting for any small spark to set off a firestorm.

Later Friday afternoon, a local swore that a cigarette caused the above fire. He said it was in the Coeur d'Alene Guess, so it must be true. Oh how nice it must be to be so solid in ones opinions. At first glance, with the fire starting along side of the road, it would appear to a reporter that wasn't interested in spending much time on the story, that a cigarette caused it. Brad Wagner, Incident Commander on the fire, and employee of BLM, said empahatically that is was not a cigarette. Later, Timberlake Fire District confirmed several reports that an ATV had been seen just minutes before the blaze broke out riding through the dry grass.

Bottom line, is that if we expect the newspapers to lead us with accuracy, we had better hire more accurate people. Oh, and the fire burned in excess of 100 acres, the 40 referred to in the Press being the part south of Remington Road. The fire hopped over Remington Road and burned to the driveway leading into the Baptist Church. BLM firefighters from the Tongass Nat'l Forest in Alaska held the line there.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Athol Daze

Athol Daze are upon us. Get out the car, drive to Athol, Idaho for an old fashioned parade and street fair, Saturday, August 11. The town will be teaming with floats, old cars, all kinds of parade entries. Citizen of the Year will be announced following the parade, along with the ever popular “Money in the Straw” game. In the City Park, to which this year’s fund raising is for, will be an auction, music by” Doug Reed and the In betweens,” arts and crafts, food booths. For those early risers, the Saddle-Up across the street from the activities, claim they make the best breakfast anywhere. You might want to find out.

Proceeds from the fund raising events at Athol Daze will be used to develop the new addition to City Park. Donations are very welcome. Athol Daze will last at least until 4:00 pm. Questions regarding the park or the parade should be addressed to Charlotte Hooper, Athol City Clerk. 208-683-2101.

Post #149 of the Athol American Legion will provide the color guard for the parade which starts at 10:00 am. Those that want to participate in that parade, must line up behind the Athol Elementary School by 9:00 am. The Legion Juniors have been selling raffle tickets since spring for the drawing to be held after the Jr’s dinner at the legion. Dinner at 6:00 pm, drawing around 7:30 pm. Cash prizes are 1st $300, 2nd $150 and 3rd $75.00 Proceeds to be used for needy Vets and their children. Party in the Park will include a beer wagon sponsored by the Sons of the Legion.

Fund raising for the City Park is the theme this year. About 3/4 of an acre has been purchased for addition to the existing 1 acre. What exists now is a flat bare lot. Some goals are a skateboard park, benches, trees and other uses to be determined. Generous donations have already been made or pledged by area businesses. Huckleberry Nursery is donating a Red Sunrise Maple tree, Kootenai Electric with $2500. Merritt Brothers Lumber $1000. Coeur d’Alene Paving with $500, Edgewood Log Homes is building two log benches and Avista is expected to chip in, too. In kind donations have been great, too. Kootenai Electric is donating the light standards and floods, Reed Enterprises, Inc. 12 yards of screened top soil, Interstate Concrete with 10 yards of concrete, Bob Rickel donated well over 30 hours with his earth moving equipment and many others from individuals. Liz Hasbrouck and Bob Pekar donated a substantial amount for playground equipment, which is already on order.

Not all activities are fun ones. The recent fire South of Athol outlined some of the dangers inherent with sloppy safety practices. Idaho Department of Lands has issued stage two fire restrictions that exclude the following practices. NO outside burning of any kind, nor any flame or combustion allowed including smoking outside a building. Propane cookers are permitted. No vehicles are permitted off road during this fire emergency. That includes dirt bikes and four wheelers. A probable cause for the recent Athol fire, since it started in the grassy swale next to highway 95, is ATV activity that was observed before the fire ignited. A discarded cigarette was discounted as the cause by Bureau of Land Management Incident Commander, Brad Wagner. The public is urged to take immediate action to report any violations to the nearest Fire Department.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Silverwood Celebrates 20 Years

Number 7 rollin' with Corky & Chet driving. Walt, William and Tom off duty.

Your reporter was fortunate to meet the one of the original General Managers of Silverwood Theme Park recently. He had great stories to tell about the early days. Silverwood opened in 1987, when the park consisted of the Train, Main Street and Lindy’s Restaurant. Starting more as a hobby than a business it soon got out of control. After the Country Carnival was built, then the Log Flume and Thunder Canyon, it became a different park altogether. In the beginning, the sole entertainment was the train, with the Monarch Mountain Boys, plus Jack the conductor. Later, the High Moon Saloon featured stage acts. With the Main Street Theater hosting stage shows, they featured puppets, jugglers and other great family acts. Stories that could be told. The great talent that came, performed their jobs, then moved on to other things.

Your reporter was one such person. Upon retirement, I was interviewed by a delightful young lady, Paula Andrews. My career had spanned forty years in sales and marketing. Paula wanted me to be a front gate ticket cashier. We found out soon after the reason. Paula was Area Manager for the gate. About half way through the season, The train conductor quit, leaving the position open. Gary Norton liked banjo players. I had a new job. Entertaining took hold like no other effort in my career. Later, like many Cast members, learning more skills, I became a ride operator, went back to the train, worked in human resources and other jobs.

Silverwood today is nothing like it was in the beginning. Only the 1915 train, built by the H.K. Porter Company remained the same. ‘Ol number seven as she is referred to has been a staple for many years with up to two hundred thirty passengers each run during the height of the season, with little seven hauling 5 passenger cars around a course that exceeds three miles. Number seven originally was a coal burning engine operated by the Eureka & Palisades RR. They hauled miners to and from town to the mines in Northern Nevada. After several years in storage, it was sold to Bill Harrah of Harrah’s Club Reno fame. Harrah collected everything he could get his hands on if it were old. Cars, boats antique aircraft and old trains. Finally Bill got old himself and passed on. His family sold off the collection in 1986.

A curious fellow named Gary Norton had recently purchased the old Henley Aerodrome. An ardent flyer and owner of several antique aircraft, he wandered on down to Reno to see what was going on. Falling in love with a lady that was 71 years old he outbid Disneyland for the train. He had one problem. He didn’t have any tracks, maintenance facility or train station. He went home and built all of those. Converting the Engine to burn fuel oil he opened the park in 1987 to give train rides and sell snacks and cold drinks. After all, building a theme park in the middle of nowhere would be folly, right?

Today, tens of thousands visitors flock to a modern Theme Park exists with over 65 rides, a huge water park, with Two wave pools numerous slides two wooden roller coasters and brand new this year, an almost doubling of the water park with new attractions such as Avalanche Mountain, a second wave pool and lazy river and toddler springs where the, ah, Toddlers splash and play in safety. Of course this is just an illusion. After all, who in their right mind would build this in the middle of nowhere.