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County prepares for summer expenses

by ANNISA KEITH
Staff Writer | April 17, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Commissioners allocated $656,148.65 for various summer events and expenditures, the majority going toward watercraft inspections and gravel road treatments.

Commissioners began by approving the consent agenda containing three minor land divisions, and the minutes from last week’s meeting.

Justice Services brought an action item seeking the commission’s approval to spend $6,415.25 on heating and air conditioning repairs for the department. Commissioners approved the request.

Emergency Management brought three items before the commission, the first of which was a resolution terminating the local emergency regarding the Arrowhead Ranch Water District in Cocolalla.

The local disaster was declared by the commission at the district’s request in January in order for the district to pursue opportunities to receive funding from state agencies. The district, serving 27 residents in Cocolalla, has been experiencing a water shortage since March 2020.

Arrowhead Ranch Water Association Inc. is not to be confused with the well known Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water brand based in California.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality awarded a $15,000 drinking water planning grant to the district in June 2021.

Despite multiple failed attempts to gather comment from district representatives, Emergency Service representatives informed the commission that there was “no longer a threat of life and property regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It should be noted that there was no mention of the pandemic when the disaster was declared in January. It is unknown if the district was able to secure funding from state agencies, or if the district is still experiencing a water shortage.

“Whenever you do a declaration, when it gets to the end you have to terminate [the emergency,]” said Commissioner Chair Dan McDonald.

Commissioners approved terminating the emergency declaration.

The remaining two items sought the commission's signatures for an agreement with the Idaho Department of Lands’ BONfire program.

Howard described hazardous materials as “anything six-inches and under that would be a fire risk, so fire doesn’t climb trees or ignite fuels on the ground.”

“The BONfire program is a hazardous fuel treatment program so private landowners can apply for hazardous fuel treatment on their property — to help protect their property from wildfire and make it more sustainable,” said Bob Howard, director of Emergency Services. “This is all funded by grants from the Department of Lands.”

“The private landowner comes to us,” Howard continued. “We do an evaluation on the property. Properties within the grant area, and if the land fits the guidelines, we put together a project and all the contractors will review the project and give us bids. And then we will choose the right bidder for the project.”

The agreements are between the county and Cobalt Land Management, and Echo Construction LLC for hazardous wildland fuels. Funding for the projects are covered by grant funds from the state agency.

In total, grant funding will not exceed $100,000 for the two projects. The county does not have to contribute any funding for the projects.

“I want to thank [staff] for working hard to do more of these projects and get more work done on the ground,” said Commissioner Jeff Connolly. “I’d say we are one of the most sufficient [counties] in the state for doing work on grounds. It’s a good thing.”

Connolly provided examples for those who have participated in the project, including the fairgrounds and private landowners in District 2 — the district he represents.

“The BONfire program is always out there, and they do public outreach.” Connolly said. “If [a landowner] has issues, then we can come look at it and work with [the landowners] in order to get things done.”

Commissioners unanimously approved both items.

Road & Bridge brought one action item to award a nearly half-million dollar bid to EnviroTech Services for a contract which would provide 3,720 tons of magnesium chloride to the county.

Magnesium is an element on the periodic table that is abundant in nature. Magnesium is commonly used in a salt form, called magnesium chloride, and is commonly used for treating gravel roads.

“This is something we get every year,” said Matt Mulder, for Road & Bridge on March 8. “We use magnesium chloride to put down on our gravel roads to stabilize the material to prevent material loss and help control the dust.”

The funding for this project will come from the department, which was specifically allocated for this expense. Commissioners approved awarding the contract.

The Airport brought two items before the commission.

The first was a grant application amendment with the Federal Aviation Administration. The request will ask for an additional $8,079, for an additional taxiway, and apron design at the Priest River Airport, bringing the total grant request to $105,977.

Airport Director Dave Schuck explained that the additional funds are due to unexpected expenses for the project.

The county will need to contribute an additional $400 to comply with grant matching requirements, bringing the county’s total to $7,675.

The second item brought before the commission was a work order for the before mentioned project.

“What we have is a master engineering contract with the engineering consultants for both airports,” Schuck explained.

The contracts will last for five years.

“Anytime we have a project that comes up in that five-year period, there is a specific scope of work and work order for that specific project.” Schuck said. “This defines what they are going to do and what it will likely cost. … It will be primarily funded by the FAA Airport Improvement Program.”

The project is expected to cost $100,000, project engineers are to submit specific estimates to the county in due time.

Commissioners approved both items, therefore allowing the improvement project to progress.

The Recreation Department sought approval from the commission to relocate the Timber Days event to West Bonner Park Boat Launch, on Railroad Avenue in Priest River.

Commissioners approved the request. The closure will be on July 30 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The final item on the public agenda came from the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office requesting a memorandum of understanding to inspect watercraft for invasive species.

“The Sheriff’s Office will provide all necessary personnel, equipment, and supplies in order to provide law enforcement services related to the Idaho Invasive Species Inspection Protocol,” said Undersheriff Ror Lakewold.

$154,779 will be allocated from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture for inspections.

According to information provided by Lakewold, those inspecting watercraft will be paid $50 per hour beginning on April 15 through Sept 30 at the three Bonner County checkpoints.

“Fifty dollars is a base-rate that they pay all the counties for the services. Our actual cost for the deputies is time-and-a-half, which is definitely less than the $50 per hour. The remainder is for administrative costs,” Lakewold said.

Commissioners approved the memorandum of understanding.

Shortly after, McDonald recessed the meeting before reconvening for executive session where four items were addressed.

Two items came from the Human Resources department, one regarding hiring, and another regarding personnel. The Planning Department brought one item regarding software. And finally, the Prosecutor’s Office brought one item regarding pending litigation that the county is involved in.

The Board of County Commissioners hold public meetings every Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the administrative building located at 1500 U.S. 2. Those interested in virtually attending can do so via Zoom. A livestream of the meeting can be watched on the Bonner County YouTube page, where an archive of previous meetings can be viewed.