The Bear Lake County Commissioners held their regular monthly meeting on November 12, which began with Chairman Vaughn Rasmussen explaining changes in the format of the posted agenda. He said it was an effort to let the public know which items the board could specifically take action on, in case anyone wanted to be present for that subject. He further stated they were trying this format to see if it works.

Treasurer Tricia Poulsen reported that the county tax bills had been mailed the Friday prior. Assessor Heber Dunford relayed that advertisements were posted to hire a new employee in his office. County Clerk Cindy Garner brought up the county vehicle policy in regards to the University of Idaho Extension Educational Programs. Their current vehicle is in need of repairs, which may not be worth the funds to do. The board discussed options, including the possibility of purchasing a different used vehicle, or paying mileage for the use of personal vehicles.

Commissioner Rex Payne mentioned the signs along Paris Canyon Road which need to be removed. Commissioner Brad Jensen added that when the county placed t-posts to mark the culverts for the City of Paris when they were installing the water line there, someone also put up t-posts in the canyon to the right, and then painted all of them bright “no trespassing” orange, including the county’s. Rasmussen asked Payne to accompany the effort to remove the signs discussed, and to ensure no properly posted private property signage is removed.

Sheriff Bart Heslington began his report by updating the board on dispatch center, saying the equipment is here and they are doing installation and training. He also stated that 2 cadets will graduate from the academy on November 27. The board also reviewed and signed the annual agreement with the USDA/Forest Service for the snow grooming program. The Interoperability Plan for Communications, an MOU with other counties to provide redundancies and backups for emergency systems, was also briefly discussed and approved, pending legal review by County Attorney Adam McKenzie.

Under General Action Items, claims were ratified, with Payne being tasked to ensure they weren’t double-paying the power bill at the new courthouse. Resolution 2020-01, to adopt the fee schedule for beer, wine, and liquor licenses was approved, and the results of the November 5th election were accepted. Jensen reported that an item discussed at the Southeast Idaho Council of Governments meeting was how all the senior centers are suffering. Rasmussen shared that Farm Bureau sent a letter expressing concerns about the National Heritage Area issue, and read a portion of another letter which opposed it. A tax hardship application was reviewed and discussed. The board voted to waive approximately $720 in penalties and interest on taxes for 2016, provided the actual tax amount is paid.

Kerry Hong, Trial Court Administrator for the 6th Judicial District, presented Judge Robert C. Naftz as the new Administrative District Judge. This position was previously held by Judge Mitchell Brown. Hong stated the position is an important part of the judge leadership system, and that the partnership with counties is vital. Rasmussen added that the commissioners always had good and open communication with Judge Brown, and hoped for the same. Judge Naftz agreed. They further discussed the issues with getting votes for new buildings, the possibility of further state funding for technology in the courthouse, law clerks’ pay, state budget issues, and Crisis Center funding. It was noted that Judge Brown is still the presiding judge for Bear Lake County.

A rezoning lot-split request by Heather Kodak of Dingle, previously recommended for approval by the Planning and Zoning Board, was approved. The Bear Lake Regional Commission also recognized Vaughn Rasmussen for his years of service. Jensen inquired on the issue of building one residence on two lots. The current ordinance does not allow building on the property line. McKenzie replied that if a landowner wished to do so, they would have to apply for a variance, or to combine two lots into one.

Wayne Davidson delivered the Building Inspector’s Report. There have been a total of 43 new residences built in BLC this year. Correctional Services will send bids on making furniture for the new courthouse, and bids are in from two companies for locks. Payne mentioned delays in the laying of asphalt, due to the early freeze, was causing further parking issues. Options for winter were discussed, and Payne will work on a proposal. Chief Deputy Clerk Amy Bishop gave a financial update on the new courthouse, including projected costs, stating that they are “still on target”, and that they could hold off on some landscaping to save some money. The non-bid costs are at about $287,000, with $383,000 budgeted.

During Public Comment, Bloomington Mayor Ted McGhee asked the board for advice on dealing with a beaver problem. Rasmussen recommended working with the Fish and Game Department. County Superintendent Scott Esquibel added that he hires a trapper. McGhee also mentioned a lack of parking for snowmobiling, and asked if the county could spare some fill dirt. Rasmussen stated they can plan for it and look into helping out, as well as pass it on to the snowmobile groups.

Esquibel shared his department updates with the board. The county will receive $310,738.23 in reimbursement from FEMA for the 2017 flooding of BL East Shore Road.

Grant money in the amount of $110,000 has been received for the 8 Mile Bridge project. The Department of Environmental Quality and the State Safety Department selected the BLC landfill for an in-depth site inspection and audit, which was completed with no issues noted.

Esquibel also reported that most compensation time in his department comes from snow plowing school bus routes. Therefore, he proposed keeping road and bridge employees on 4 10-hour shifts, to match the school schedule. Rasmussen agreed, and suggested trying it for a year, or even month by month. Jensen brought up an area in the Paris Bottoms, where Paris Creek crosses the main county road. There are two culverts there, and it is becoming quite narrow. Jensen asked if there were any opportunities for grants to improve it or build a new bridge there. Esquibel said he would look into it.

The board went into executive session at 12:11, and returned to the open meeting at 1:25. An indigent medical claim was denied. A county right of way issue on Fossil Canyon Road, which had been on the agenda during a previous meeting, was briefly discussed. Rasmussen stated that McKenzie will send a letter in response to the letter received from the land owner, which will invite them to talk about options and hopefully work out a solution to preserve public access. Meanwhile, the county right of way sign nearest the land owner’s gate will be removed, while the one near Highway 30 will remain.

B.J. Helterbrand and Tim Marks gave an update on the GEM (Government Employees Medical) Plan. They reviewed the highlights of the financial statement, and said that the pooling concept is working. Marks reported that 23 of Idaho’s 44 counties participate in the program, and Rasmussen added that more are showing interest. Marks stated this is likely due to the competitively low rates; though loss ratios fluctuate, rate increases remain low thanks to the pool. Garner added that county employees seem very pleased with it. The meeting was then adjourned at 1:51 PM. for more information, please visit www.bearlakecounty.info or call the County Clerk’s Office at (208) 945-2212, ext. 5.

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