A new roundabout and widened freeway are among new infrastructure projects in the Idaho city.
RATHDRUM, Idaho — The goal of becoming “a self-reliant city” is realistic, Mayor Vic Holmes said during Thursday’s state of the community address, as reported by our media partners, the Coeur d’Alene. Press.
Lakeland Joint School District Superintendent Dr. Becky Meyer and Idaho Department of Transportation Engineering Director Marvin Fenn also addressed the Chamber of Commerce crowd of more than 100. by Rathdrum.
Rathdrum has ranked in the top 10 safest cities in Idaho for several years in a row, and this year was no exception, Holmes said.
“This year we are the safest city in Idaho,” he said.
Rathdrum has several road construction projects underway. New streetlights are planned for Meyer Road and Highway 53. Due to a supply shortage, the streetlights are expected to arrive for installation in April, Holmes said.
A roundabout is planned at the intersection of Boekel and Meyer roads. Highway 53 will be widened to three lanes. The intersection of Lancaster and Meyer Road will become a four-way stop because it is one of the most dangerous junctions in the city, Holmes said.
“I kept hearing, ‘Oh my God, ITD is doing this just to cram more people into Rathdrum,'” he said. “The truth is, I’ve been begging for 15 years. I finally became president of the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization. That year, our study was on Highway 41. That’s not a bad thing — it is going to be a fabulous thing.
City officials are working hard to “create a self-sustaining city,” Holmes said.
“Anything I need, I should be able to buy in town,” Holmes said. “I think it’s an ideal situation for a city.”
Rathdrum has just completed its five-year comprehensive plan. The city has increased its staff, which now includes a full-time in-house attorney.
Kootenai Electric Co-Op moves its headquarters from Hayden to Rathdrum. A grand opening is scheduled for March 31, Holmes said.
Two “big” companies are planning to build facilities in Rathdrum, and one has already purchased land, the mayor said, although he was not yet free to give further details.
“The state of the city is financially stable, growing and vibrant,” Holmes said. “We are virtually debt free, which is a good thing to say for a city.”
The Lakeland Joint School District is showing extremely high performance, Superintendent Meyer said.
“I can tell you now that we are achieving your goals, those goals for you and our community,” she said. “Every student matters.”
As of Friday, the district had 4,692 students enrolled and employed 670 staff and teachers as well as 150 substitute teachers, Meyer said.
“Lakeland is known for its academic rigor. It’s simply the best in the state,” Meyer said. “And a safe and supportive environment. And we are fiscally conservative.
At the height of the COVID pandemic, the district was the only one in northern Idaho to maintain in-person learning, five days a week, for the entire school year, Meyer said.
“It’s best for the students,” she added.
Schools in the district have been recognized for excellence multiple times, Meyer said. Garwood Elementary has been designated a “Blue Ribbon” school by the US Department of Education. Betty Kiefer Elementary is the first school in Idaho to be recognized as a character school.
Heather Hamilton, counselor for Athol Elementary School, was named counselor of the year. She is the third Lakeland District councilor to be chosen for the honor since Meyer took over as superintendent six years ago.
Eighty-five percent of students in the district participate in extracurricular activities, Meyer said.
“It keeps kids out of trouble and involved, and helps with their self-efficacy,” Meyer said. “They feel connected to a bigger picture.”
Creating a safe and secure learning environment is one of the district’s top priorities, Meyer said. They are the first and only district in Idaho to have an armed guard program.
The district has also partnered with Heritage Health to create a mental health and wellness support system for students and families, providing the opportunity to meet with a therapist on a regular basis.
“We’re the first district to have all of our schools involved in this,” Meyer said.
Lakeland District’s most recent graduation rate was 93.1%, far exceeding the state average of 82%, Meyer said.
The district circulated a parent feedback survey, and 55 percent of survey respondents said the feature of the district they were most satisfied with was teachers and staff.
“They really care deeply about the kids in our district,” Meyer said. “That really sets us apart.”
Marvin Fenn of the Idaho Department of Transportation discussed the many projects underway in the community. With an emphasis on maintaining transparency with the public, all new projects can be viewed on ITDprojects.org.
“The focus right now is on Post Falls in Coeur d’Alene,” Fenn said. “In terms of data, that’s where the most traffic and congestion is.”
The biggest challenges for the transportation department continue to be rapid growth, aging infrastructure and managing high traffic.
The Transportation and Congestion Mitigation Fund and the Leading Idaho Bill were recently passed and signed into law by Governor Brad Little. He made about $80 million available for ITD to improve transportation in Kootenai County, Fenn said.
The Coeur d’Alene Press is a partner of KREM 2 News. To learn more about our news partner, Click here.