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Contentious meeting affirms replat request

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | March 15, 2023 1:00 AM

In a meeting that was by turns contentious and combative, a vote to pull back from a decision to fund a replat of the Bonner County Fairgrounds ended with the same result.

In the end, the motion to reconsider the re-plat failed in a 2-1 vote. Commissioners Steve Bradshaw and Luke Omodt both voted against the move. Commissioner Asia Williams voted in support.

Williams sharply criticized the move — and fellow commissioners — saying neither the Bonner County Fair Board nor Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler wanted a proposed RV park on the disputed parcel between the fairgrounds and the Bonner County Jail.

"This is a board and they are a board," she said. "They are in charge of what they need from us. And they're supposed to come here and request those items. They have not done that. So why would we write a check for $25,000 unnecessarily when we don't have that bandwidth in the county, and it's not recommended and it creates a negative interaction between two departments that function properly."

Bradshaw said a replat of both properties was necessary because the fairgrounds had never been properly platted. For anything to be done with either property, platting of both was necessary.

"It would bring the pieces of property where they need to be," the commission chairman said. "So it's not about taking away from the sheriff. It's not about taking away from you. It's about replatting the survey so that it's on the record properly, and it's recorded properly."

However, Williams said the move amounted to a personal agenda by her fellow commissioners and had nothing to do with what may or may not benefit the county's residents. The District 2 commissioner had earlier invited Wheeler to address the board, prompting an initial denial by Bradshaw, the board chairman, causing a sharp retort by Williams.

"You don't have more power than me as a commissioner on this board," she said with an edge to her voice. "This is my report and I asked him to report his complaint to the [Attorney General's] office and that's what going to happen."

Wheeler told the board he had filed a complaint over a March 2 special meeting with the AG's office, contending the meeting had been misagendized and asking for the decision to replat the properties be declared null and void.

"I think it's a shame that we have to postpone and possibly lose this project because of somebody's independent actions on that instead of listening to the legal representation and the vote from the Fair Board, who have that authority," Wheeler said.

If that is the case, Bradshaw said, then his view was that the proper thing to do would be to wait to hear from the AG's office. But, he told the sheriff, his research showed no titles to the land in the name of the sheriff's office, a justice center or anything indicating the property has been earmarked for such.

"They all fall under the jurisdiction of the Bonner County commissioners and the Bonner County commissioners only," Bradshaw said. "And for somebody to produce a false narrative when somebody says something that is not true or is intentionally misrepresenting something, they have a word for that person that is being untruthful. And any one of y'all are welcome to inform the sheriff what that word is. So we should do truth and honor — something you've been lacking somewhat."

Williams attempted to comment, but Bradshaw interjected, saying he was talking and that it was his meeting and he would run it.

"Stay in your lane. I will stay in my lane," he told Wheeler.

The comments prompted Williams to say there was a problem on the board and that the constant bickering is not how business should function.

"So with respect to this piece of property, there's been nothing dishonest about stating that," she said. "One of the things this board is supposed to do is pay attention to our future needs. And that particular piece of land has always been identified in this county as an expansion opportunity for sheriff."

"Where?" Bradshaw promptly retorted, with Omodt echoing the comment almost simultaneously.

When it came to his turn to talk, Omodt cited code that said the management of county property lay with the commissioners. He then noted that, while he supported a justice center in general, he had problems with letting a piece of land lay fallow as the county attempted to find the funds needed to fund such a project.

"I support the idea of a new justice complex however, we are $50 to $100 million short of being able to get that accomplished and when and if the voters approve it, we can adjust that," Omodt said. "Until that time. I stand by our decision to be fiscally responsible in supporting the county fair."

When the meeting devolved into bickering between Williams and Bradshaw, Omodt interjected to remind the pair the board had an executive session scheduled at 11 a.m. and asked the board to return to the order of the agenda.

A representative of the Bonner County Republican Central Committee, speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting, presented the board with a proposed ballot measure for the May election. That measure calls for a vote on whether voters support the use of the land for a campground or a justice center facility.

No action was taken and the proposal was accepted with no comment.