The County Commissioners met on October 13, 2020, with all members in attendance and assisted by Clerk Cindy Garner.
During general business, claims were ratified, minutes of four meetings were approved, Resolution 2021-01 regarding liquor licensing fees was passed and a public hearing on a roads ordinance was set for November 19. The Computer Arts license was adopted after deleting the Sheriff’s Office costs handled by the company used by Montpelier’s Police Department. Georgetown’s polling place became the LDS Church Gymnasium, and the Hospital Board’s recommendations to sell the Rich Building and purchase a residence across the street from the hospital were adopted. Following Sheriff Heslington’s explanation regarding costs for generator loads and testing, an agreement with Western States was approved contingent upon counsel’s review. Landfill charges to the Bear Lake Fire District were waived, and a letter written by Sheriff Heslington thanking the Idaho Transportation Department for assistance at North Beach Road was signed. One agenda item regarding the assessor’s administration fee was modified to an action item, but additional information was requested from Caribou County and the recommended increase was tabled pending receipt of the data requested.
Among miscellaneous matters, reappointment of two Fair Board members will be addressed in November, push-button door openers for courthouse entry are being pursued, grooming the county’s storage facility parking was addressed, a new magistrate judge appointment will be considered via a Zoom meeting, and the County is insured through the Gem Plan which has provided good coverage and additional counties may join, further reducing costs.
Chairman Rasmussen announced that the Assessor’s Office is currently closed due to an outbreak of Covid-19 impacting all six individuals in that office. The closure is expected to continue for 10 to 14 days, but vehicle titles may be processed online during that period. Another two employees are ill with Covid, bringing the County’s employee total to eight. Rasmussen recommended social distancing, masks, and precautions to keep the hospital’s critical care capacity open inasmuch as surrounding counties are at or near maximum patient load.
The Sheriff’s Office remains active and, even though county population has eased somewhat, many people remain by working remotely. Pricing for an uninterrupted power supply will be dependent upon the system chosen, but effort is underway to maintain necessary levels without purchasing greatly excessive capacity. The Sheriff is exploring diver certification for deputies inasmuch as water-related incidents occur annually. Additionally, the new Caribou County Sheriff is coordinating with Sheriff Heslington on prisoner housing.
Building Inspector Wayne Davidson repeated September meeting comments that building is proceeding at a “boom” rate. Mr. Davidson and Mitch Poulsen routinely receive “weird” calls regarding tent cities, metal box construction, tiny houses, and sites in remote locations.
Due to confusion regarding the Rich building sale notice, Clerk Garner will re-publish the notification for two weeks.
Scott Esquibel (Road Superintendent) said that progress is being made to survey the landfill in preparation for transfer to the landfill district while setting aside area for the Bear River Rifleman. A survey bid exceeding $36,000 was received but another, much lower bid is expected. The Sheriff is awaiting the BLM’s action regarding the adjacent property owner who unilaterally cut a road through the county landfill and BLM property.
Toni Burnell at the Smith-Hill Subdivision advised that properties in the vicinity experience significant safety and use issues with the county road there due to the narrowness of Bear Lake West’s roads, which puts most traffic on the Smith-Hill road. This results in significantly increased traffic for access, construction, deliveries, and recreational use. Agreeing to apply sealant if budget allows and add speed limit signage, the Commissioners explained the road cannot be closed at Bear Lake West nor does the County pave the road and has not done so for approximately 18 years. Mr. Esquibel reminded the commissioners that a decision is needed regarding the number of homes that converts a road to one where county winter maintenance is provided. He added that most county roads where sealant was applied this year have been so worn that the normal two-year life span of the application has eroded enough that roads need to be resealed now.
During the public comment period, David Cottle inquired if meetings could be conducted electronically to increase attendance while reducing health concerns. Mr. Cottle proposed the county consider additional coordination with the Transportation Department for more road improvements if the state has funds. He also proposed amending Idaho Code 67-6539 regarding short-term or vacation rentals because Rich County has received $700,000 to $800,000 from rentals. The commissioners had differing views, commenting that personal property rights are involved, other counties with heavy recreational use may support a change, and the necessity of careful modification to solve rather than increase problems. Mr. Esquibel added that such rentals are the main reason for excess tons at the landfill and other impacts to the county faces. Mr. Esquibel is following the Jericho Loop project, continues to clear beaver dams, replace culverts and received approval of the airport’s asphalt mix. It was agreed a public meeting with a landfill district representative present to allay rumors would be beneficial. Dead animal removal was again raised.
It was announced that the commissioners would break for lunch while waiting for Mr. McKenzie before an executive session. Ryan Parker was to discuss an easement change on Mountain Way but he did not appear and the issue remained unaddressed.
Deputy County Clerk Amy Bishop itemized areas where Covid funding has been or is expected to be used and requested direction on further distribution. The commissioners gave Chairman Rasmussen authority to work with Ms. Bishop to prudently allocate the grant and to routinely report expenditures, keeping in mind that the funds may have to be repaid.
Three representatives from the Forest Service described Obama-era regulatory change authorizing federal funding for use outside Forest Service boundaries, agreeing to continue partnering for quick response on road improvement. The commissioners will consider areas where funds might be applied. The Forest Service already lists Fish Haven and Bloomington canyons as potential targets, possibly during this fiscal year.
Earlier interviews of two public defender candidates, Criss James and Jared Coburn, culminated in a decision to hire Mr. James. Contracts were extended to assure each attorney assuming a position has time to transition with the prior office holder.
Chairman Rasmussen inquired about Georgetown Canyon snowmobile parking.
The question was will there be a new snowmobile parking and if so, will the road to the parking lot be plowed. Nothing is expected to happen on this project until next year.
A member of the Senior Citizens’ board wondered if the county were aware of double-taxation involved in Montpelier’s decision not to assist the Senior Citizen Center financially. Chairman Rasmussen remarked the county helps maintain the Center’s building but would be pleased if Montpelier contributed also.
After closing a public hearing wherein an email comment was read but no other input was received, amendment to Ordinance 78-01 passed unanimously. The ordinance refines previous regulation with a proviso requiring anyone living on county roads which are not maintained by the county at any time during the year to do so themselves, but only upon first obtaining a permit from the County.
Following presentations by David Amitt and Julia Oxarango-Ingram from Preservation Utah and Idaho, respectively, strongly recommending retention of the old courthouse for cultural, historical, and economic reasons, a unanimously passed motion directed preparation of language to let bids for the demolition and removal of the structure with immediate publication. Chairman Rasmussen stated that the bids received may result in the commissioners considering alternatives.