MULLAN — Anyone who pulls into Mullan from Exit 68 almost always drives past the back side of the iconic Mullan Pavilion.
Unfortunately, there is almost always one glaring issue as they cruise on by, a massive puddle of water that has collected against the south side of the popular edifice.
This issue has graduated into a potential crisis, as the water is now pouring into the boiler room of the pavilion, where it is able to slowly drain out through a drain in the floor.
Mullan mayor and high school principal Don Kotschevar is worried that the flooding could cost the school district, and is disappointed that, despite an awareness of the issue, the powers that be have done nothing to remedy the problem.
“Damage from flooding could lead to the loss of two expensive heating boilers, as well as the dangers of having the pavilion’s electrical system exposed to water as it drains into the basement of the building,” Kotschevar said. “It could cost the Mullan School District a couple hundred thousand dollars.”
Kotschevar believes that project should be paid for by the Coeur d’Alene Trust, and handled through combined efforts from the EPA and IDEQ — who have handled remediation, drainage and other environmental impact projects throughout the Silver Valley.
Mayor Kotschevar said that the Coeur d’Alene Trust identified the location as a place where flooding is possible, but neglected to address the issue as they made their way through Mullan during the past road remediation project.
Kotschevar also sees the Coeur d’Alene Trust as an entity that serves the community, but doesn’t allow the community to have a say in how they operate.
“All of these resources and monies that should be available have no local control,” Kotschevar said. “Five years ago when they came in with the road remediation program everybody was so happy and anxious to jump on the bandwagon to get new roads, but in Mullan there were two roads that got missed and they need work.”
Those roads specifically are Pine Street (which has no bearing on this situation) and Fourth Street as it runs adjacent to the west end of the Pavilion and wraps around the south end of the building on Fisher Street.
According to Kotschevar, those streets were missed by previous administrations in Mullan when they were tasked with giving the Coeur d’Alene Trust a roads map of the city.
Facing the large project, Kotschevar wonders “why can’t we add them to the remediation project?”
In his opinion, addressing these missed areas of roadway will directly fix the issue at hand.
Unfortunately for him, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality says that isn’t necessarily the way things can be handled in this situation.
According to IDEQ’s John Harwood, the situation is one that the city may have to handle on their own.
In 2013, when engineers put together the list of roads throughout the county that needed work or met the requirements to be replaced, neither Pine Street, nor the areas of Fourth and Fisher were on it.
“As far as Mullan is concerned, they got every single roadway segment done that was on that list,” Harwood said. “There might be roadways up there that meet the criteria now, but they didn’t when the list was put together.”
Harwood stressed the importance of completing the roads that were on that initial list, due to the finite amount of funding available for the entire project, but also maintained there are a few ways that Mullan might be able to get the funding without using the Coeur d’Alene Trust.
“Do I think that there is going to be any funding to go back and pick a few of these missed areas up? No, I don’t think so,” Harwood said. “You have to remember that the streets are the responsibility of the county or the city and one way to do it is to set your tax base up so that you have the money to take care of them.”
Despite Coeur d’Alene Trust funding not being readily available, Kotschevar has secured $50,000 through the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council (LHTAC), which should help with some of the costs, but it won’t cover everything.
LHTAC connects Local Highway Jurisdictions in Idaho with available resources for maintenance and construction of Idaho’s Local Highway System in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
Kotschevar maintains that due to existing and completed project bids coming in lower than expected and the monies being saved, there should be funds available to use so the cost does not fall completely on his constituency.
“Here’s a project that absolutely needs addressed,” Kotschevar said, “but it’s being thrown on the back of the city, when there’s funds available that could take care of this.”