Boundary line adjustment proves controversial
Staff Writer | March 8, 2023 1:00 AM
SANDPOINT — An agenda item on a boundary line adjustment at the Bonner County Fairgrounds proved controversial at Tuesday's Bonner County commissioners' meeting.
The controversy was prompted by a request to have Sewell and Associates, already contracted to assist the county with construction and permitting of a campground at the fairgrounds, assist the county with a lot line adjustment connected to that proposal.
Despite criticism by Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler and Commissioner Asia Williams, the board approved a motion in a 2-1 to contract with Sewell and Associates in an amount not to exceed $25,000.
"Due to a previously unforeseen circumstance, Bonner County requires additional work on the site, specifically the planting of the entire fairgrounds property itself, as well as the county-owned property to the south," Commissioner Luke Omodt said, emphasizing the word county. "This work is required before the county can execute a boundary line adjustment, expanding the fairgrounds property to encapsulate the site of the campground was currently straddles the boundary line between the fairgrounds and a vacant parcel to the south."
Even before the item, noticed at the end of a lengthy meeting, made it up for discussion, it was the subject of debate with Sheriff Daryl Wheeler and Commissioner Asia Williams questioning the true nature of the matter and whether it had been properly noticed.
Wheeler, who addressed the commission during the meeting's public comment portion, questioned why "land deal" was on the agenda and why no one with the sheriff's or prosecutor's offices or local judges, had been invited to discuss the issue.
"Just like the other land deals of the past, this one is not supported by the people in general or the people it will most affect," Wheeler said. "Despite being promoted as a smart use of taxpayer resources, it fails to meet this goal both in the short-term and long-term."
Wheeler sharply criticized the plans for an RV campsite, saying the 34 spots sit on sheriff's office complex lands. Once that land is given to the fair board, that transfer is permanent and the land is no longer available to the sheriff's office for a future justice center.
The sheriff said failure to allow for public comment or the county commissioners' efforts to clean up the property lines took place outside the public's purview.
He pointedly said the land belongs to the sheriff's office and has always been part of the sheriff's office complex. Wheeler has previously said contended that property was earmarked for a future justice center and jail.
Williams questioned the transparency and ethics of including the boundary line item on the agenda, contending her fellow commissioners were pushing it forward unnecessarily. She said the item, ostensibly connected to a $473,315 grant from the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation to create an RV park at the fairgrounds, actually dealt with moving ownership of the land away from the sheriff's office.
"This is exactly a review of what happened with the ice rink," Williams said. "We cannot revisit that and as we look to caring about litigation costs and attorneys, transparency, [and] community involvement. This is not appropriate for us to be making a decision."
She said she was concerned the board would not invite Wheeler to discuss the issue, knowing the matter has been a point of contention for years.
"If this moves forward because of a majority vote, it is clear that we are accepting risks instead of mitigating risk," she added. "And that responsibility will lie with the two commissioners that push this forward because I guarantee you, sheriff isn't going to walk away from this [and will] go straight to the attorney general."
The comments prompted Omodt to turn to Commission Chairman Steve Bradshaw and note that county attorney Bill Wilson, who serves as legal counsel to the commission, was at the meeting which discussed the need for the boundary line adjustment.
Despite a few comments rumbling through the crowd, Omodt said he was prepared to make a motion to approve the additional survey work.
When Williams declined to second the motion, Bradshaw stepped down as board chair to do so. Both Bradshaw and Omodt voted in favor of the work while Williams voted no, saying the matter "was not in line with the way in which Bonner County conducts business."