Housing was the dominant topic at last week's Timber Plus meeting.

One of the main presentations was given by Aaron Nelson, who works with Troy Lozano. Nelson gave a presentation on the proposed Apartment complex for First Street and Jefferson Avenue.

He also spoke about a plan for a fourplex on Seventh and Center and also talked about the ongoing Ragan's Addition housing development.

Nelson's presentation was also given at the October 12, St. Maries City Council meeting.

Similar to what he noted at the City Council meeting, Nelson said there are 75 open positions at some of the largest employers in St. Maries including PotlatchDeltic, Benewah Community Hospital and the St. Maries School District. He said it is reported that a large amount of employees are also commuting to jobs in St. Maries.

“We have people commuting on the narrow roads in and out of town causing congestion. We need those people to be living here in the city,” Nelson said. “Those people, when they are living in town, they will also be supporting their local businesses.”

“People spend money where they live,” he added.

Nelson was asked what the timeline was for the development and replied it would be irresponsible to give an exact date on when the project would start or end.

In other housing news Benewah County Building Inspector Tina Thomson handed out a 17-page report on the housing crisis in the area.

“Tina was kind enough to get this report ready for us, she did a really good job of summing up the work we've done in the past and lays the groundwork for our future,” Timber Plus Chairman Alex Barta said.

Thomson said since the report was large she wanted those at the meeting to review the report to be discussed at the next Timber Plus meeting.

Barta also reported that LEAP Housing will be visiting St. Maries Wednesday, October 20. LEAP has eyed a First Street lot for building an apartment complex of it's own.

“They want to meet as many people at possible to get a feel for the community,” Barta said. “So far we are in the process of writing an Idaho Gem Grant with the county. That grant will pay for surveying and measuring to really figure out what we have on that First Street property.”

“We will be able to scope it out to see if the project is viable for them (LEAP),” he added.

Lastly, Barta gave an update on the telemedicine broadband project Timber Plus has been discussing over the last few months.

The telemedicine project is intended to create ways for rural citizens in Benewah and surrounding counties a way to access their doctor or medical care from a remote location in their community.

“There will be a room in these communities where you could meet with your doctor in St. Maries and wouldn't have to drive to St. Maries,” Barta said. “The project has grown to six communities in our area including Fernwood, Santa and Tensed in Benewah County and Harrison, Calder and Avery across the border.”

Barta said the project has caught the attention of a group called Imagine Idaho which is a non-profit with a goal to provide broadband access to every citizen in Benewah County.

“They see our project as a really good vehicle to help that,” he said. “Because if we bring telemedicine to the community that also brings broadband internet and that helps everyone.”

“It's a domino effect of positive things,” Barta added.

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