BOCC votes to cease Zoom attendance at meeting
| February 8, 2023 1:00 AM
A full house, a full agenda and a multitude of public opinions and board disagreements dominated Tuesday’s county commissioner's meeting. Although most regular county business was dispatched without dissent, there were some issues that created discord between officials and the public in attendance, both in person and on Zoom.
And it started with Zoom. An executive session agenda item stated that the board would discuss and decide if they would continue the ability for county employees and the public to attend the meetings online. This service, which was critical during the pandemic, was utilized by over 25 participants at this meeting.
Commissioner Asia Williams questioned whether having this discussion was appropriately put under Executive Session. She was interrupted by a fellow board member as she read the statute regarding open meetings. Chairman Steve Bradshaw called “point of order” to silence Williams.
Legal counsel, Bill Wilson, said that it was discretionary, they could choose either way -- to keep it on executive session or move it to the regular agenda. Commissioner Luke Omodt stated that there was a motion on the floor to accept the agenda and it passed with William’s vote to the negative.
The matter of whether or not to keep Zoom came up with just about every speaker during the public comment period which lasted over an hour, with everyone including a county employee, who was home sick, in favor of continuing it.
Although not explained in detail at the meeting, it was inferred that keeping Zoom could possibly put the county in jeopardy of litigation if there were technological issues. After the board resumed the meeting following executive session, Omodt made the motion to “cease utilizing Zoom as a function of county meetings to protect us from liabilities as has been suggested by members of the public.”
Williams said she had asked legal counsel if there was a possibility of putting a disclaimer on the Zoom site explaining that the county wasn’t responsible if the technology was insufficient or didn’t work as expected, and that legal had said it was a possibility.
Bradshaw said, “There is a process that has to be followed in order for us to entertain other options. At the end of the day, we have to make decisions that our attorney can defend.” The motion passed with Williams voting no.
John Elsbury, a surveyor from Latah County was invited by Omodt to speak during the public comment period to urge support of changing a portion of Bonner County’s eastern boundary. This six-county line proposal would adjust boundaries to public land survey monuments. It would only affect about 160 acres of land that is Forest Service property on both sides.
There was no discussion about Elsbury’s proposal, but a remark was made that it would have been more appropriate for his presentation to have been put on the agenda as opposed to him speaking during public comments.
Besides the Zoom issue, there were two other subjects that dominated the public comment period. Attendees were concerned about a proposal to change the code regarding RV parks and campsites within the county. All of the speakers were against the proposed code change siting the need to keep rural areas rural.
The third prominent subject that attendees spoke to was in reference to the planning and zoning commissions. Several were in favor of combining the two as they had been in the past. Two attendees told officials that they had applied for positions on the planning commission but had not been offered an interview.
As the meeting progressed it came up again when Planning Director, Jake Gabell, asked for approval to appoint a new member to fill one of the two vacancies on the planning commission. He proposed a former member of the zoning commission, Matt Linscott, to fill one of the open positions. This will leave the department with one opening on each board.
Gabell said that although they would like representation from all districts, there isn’t a requirement that applicants live in one or the other. Williams asked if Gabell knew what districts current members live in because “even though there isn’t a requirement there is an expectation in the code that we make sure we’re representing the different areas in Bonner County.” He did not.
The public comment, although positive about Linscott as a person, included questions about the seeming preference for filling these positions with Realtors and builders. It was suggested to table the appointment until after a decision was made about uniting planning and zoning, but Omodt made a motion to accept and Bradshaw stepped down from the chair to second.
Williams made her case for reuniting planning and zoning, but it was no surprise, based on the two-vote passing of the Linscott appointment, the motion was not seconded and therefore died.
The County Commissioners meet every Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. at the Bonner County Administration Office at 1500 Highway 2 in Sandpoint. For more information go to bonnercountyid.gov.