The regular meeting of the Bear Lake County Commissioners was held on December 14, with all members in attendance. The meeting was available via Zoom to allow remote attendance. Two informational agenda items were added to the published agenda regarding Montpelier City’s land trade proposal and the hospital’s disposition of the Rich Building.
The Commissioners authorized sale of a landlocked, tax-deeded property for $1,013, waiving interest and penalties. Trish Poulsen, County Treasurer, reported tax payments are flowing in steadily, including via electronic check. Sheriff Heslington indicated Caribou County has a good understanding of his jail concerns and that progress continues on a communications system backup. Snowmobile registration is an on-going issue because if registrations are not issued by the county or are issued elsewhere without designating this county, a portion of the revenue will not pass to the county for the trail program.
Assessor Heber Dunford completed the new building roll, subject to any appeals, and he has received positive feedback on the website addition which assists on-line property research. Mr. Dunford and the State Tax Commission are considering whether the county should index up or remain “as is”. The Motor Vehicle Division is swamped with the state’s new on-line program.
County Road Superintendent Scott Esquibel noted that an environmental study for the entire East Shore North Beach Road Project is now required and the county’s cost for the project will be $37,406 of more than $375,000 total.
Chairman Rasmussen has been meeting regularly with the Ambulance Service officers regarding rates. A question arose concerning agreement length and a UCC filing with respect to an ambulance power gurney. Adam McKenzie, County Attorney, will research the matter and the commissioners authorized the agreement be signed with Mr. McKenzie’s input. There was brief commentary concerning Judge Brown’s preference the commissioners appoint a prosecutor in cases where Mr. Hayes has a conflict after he takes office as county attorney. Mr. McKenzie was appointed conflict prosecutor for such matters.
Due to the short timeline, Chairman Rasmussen previously executed the EMPG agreement for $12,172.86 and the commissioners ratified that action.
Snow removal for parking and sidewalk at the new courthouse and surroundings had not been contracted and solutions were posed such as contracting with a local provider, leasing or purchasing a skid steer for use at the courthouse and other locations. Sheriff Heslington and Mr. McKenzie were instructed to give a recommendation at the next meeting. The AA Hudson survey for the landfill has
been completed and Mr. Esquibel reviewed the mapping which excludes the gun range area and commented on easements, road vacations and the possibility of cutting another road. Reiterating the arrangements acceptable to the hospital, it was stated the hospital bought a house across from its location and is now prepared to dispose of the Rich Building. Taxes owing on it were discussed with Treasurer Poulsen. Montpelier City proposed trading land of approximately the same size with the county. The County would receive a parcel near the fairgrounds and the City would take possession of the former Behavioral Health Building which would be razed for parking. Subsequent to two auctions on the Rich Building without any bids, a verbal offer was received and the hospital is reported to be in favor of the sale. These matters will be discussed during the next meeting.
As discussed at the prior meeting, Paris City requested Building Inspector Wayne Davidson be engaged to oversee that jurisdiction’s building permits and the commissioners agreed it would be beneficial. The commissioners authorized the arrangement to proceed and Davidson suggested some of the funds be set aside for a new vehicle. . Davidson commented that more than 200 permits total have been issued this year. Davidson presented a resolution adopting the 2018 code and requested it be reviewed for action in January. This code version includes an Appendix Q which regulates tiny homes of 400 s.f. or less. Some tiny home difficulties concerning ladders versus stairs and skylights versus egress windows were mentioned and Davidson was directed to determine what Bannock County has done regarding tiny homes then report during the next meeting.
The State requested the county fix a steep road to improve repeater site access. The Senior Citizens Center upgrade is nearing completion and costs of $77,846 were a bit higher than bid. During a later agenda item, the commissioners expressed appreciation on a job well done, especially inasmuch as additional funds were obtained to complete the project.
The landfill location for courthouse debris has been designated and it is understood the landfill district will employ the present employees as well as provide improved health insurance for them. Due to problems encountered, the airport survey must be redone in the spring. The District Health Department continues to meet every two weeks. Each county decides its designation level and Bear Lake County is currently orange. Additionally, the State School Board limited those who can attend events such as basketball. Masks are still recommended. Vaccine doses of approximately 975 are available to our Health District but, because there are approximately 3,000 health workers in the district, most will not have it during the first wave. Under the Gem Plan, it is anticipated some funds will be returning to the counties as a result of Covid-19 funding.
A public hearing was held regarding budget appropriations with Amy Bishop explaining the various adjustments. With no public comment on the matter, the commissioners unanimously adopted the $113,011 department-specific modifications.
A resolution governing use of county equipment created debate over continuing snow removal for some long-established areas such as the stockyards. A unanimous compromise modified wording to continue plowing areas where snow removal has been previously established but if the ownership changes or the current owner passes away, the service will cease.
Chairman Rasmussen introduced the executive session, stating it will address Idaho Code 74-206(1)(d) and (f). Reconvening in the afternoon, Chairman Rasmussen explained the executive session addressed Paris Canyon where the commissioners are working with the county attorney, three indigent claims releases because the individuals are deceased and the addition of a subparagraph (b) matter regarding a personnel evaluation plan which had not been included or specified as an emergency.
Jim Shelton requested a hardship waiver of penalty and interest on 2017 property taxes. Chairman Rasmussen encouraged him to apply for small business funding to assist in bringing taxes current. Upon the commissioners’ waiver of 2017 penalty and interest, Mr. Shelton indicated he would attempt to pay more taxes quickly and, if so, will again appear before the commissioners to request a waiver of penalty and interest for those years.
Probation Officer Ron Harper reported the number of individuals on probation, the community service hours provided and other annual activities. With respect to misdemeanors, this year is the lowest during his six years as probation officer but there were 43 probation violations.
David Garside, who resides full-time near Geneva Cemetery Road, requested snow removal as given other county residents. The commissioners and Mr. Esquibel referred to restrictions on private roads and stated some county-owned roads, including Geneva Cemetery Road, are posted “no winter maintenance”. At the conclusion of the discussion, it was decided additional investigation will be made of snow removal arrangements made by the Planning Commission and Mr. Garside may revisit the matter with that information.
Mitch Poulsen, County Planning and Zoning Administrator, described the Planning Commission’s three public hearings and recommendation on a zone change from recreation to commercial for Kitty Louden’s two-acre property immediately north of Bear Lake West’s entrance on Highway 89. The Planning Commission recommended approval but with conditions. Ms. Louden was present and stated this includes her real estate office. The commissioners adopted the Planning Commission recommendations including a development agreement.
Three bids were received for demolition of the old courthouse: Adam Johnson at $232,650, Bear Lake Construction at $342,187 and LeGrand Johnson Construction at $189,455. Each bid described work to be done, which varied in several particulars. Commissioner Jensen commented that the county is obligated to take the lowest bid but additional information is needed regarding start and completion. County Clerk Garner later advised that the commissioners have the bids under review and have the right to accept or reject any or all bids.
The commissioners proceeded to open a number of bids for the old courthouse’s surplus property. Several items were not in the courthouse but were issued the same numbers, some items that were not given any number had a bid submitted or an item which is not to be sold was bid upon and several items received no bid. Ms. Garner and Commissioner Payne were assigned to review the bids and make a recommendation during the January meeting.
David Cottle, Bear Lake Watch, stated the organization desires the Water Resource Board make early application for approximately 400,000 acre feet of water. He described options by competing water users, the Bear River Compact impact and keeping a level playing field under adjudication, with the commissioners opting to consider support at a future meeting.
Introducing a matter involving final approval of a plat prior to installation of all utilities, specifically fiber optic cable, Mitch Poulsen requested the commissioners’ comments on an ordinance exception to installation. After considering an ordinance amendment, Chairman Rasmussen read an ordinance provision allowing a guarantee or bond to be substituted for completed utility installation. On that basis, the commissioners contemplate approving the final plat upon receipt of a financial guarantee or bond, or completed utility installation, as required under the ordinance.
Representatives for Friends United for Bear Lake presented ideas for use of the old court house, possibilities for funding, parking in close proximity, a 221 signature petition, contemplated beneficial uses, restoration and other methods to preserve the building in comparison to costs of demolition, removal of asbestos, insurance costs, and the potentially negative results of demolition. Comments were offered regarding background on the commissioners’ decisions and letters by Kathy Webb and Weldon Sleight were read by Sherman Grandy which he felt added new perspectives and options that would keep the building available for its historical and practical benefit to the county’s citizens without impacting tax dollars. The presenters were thanked for their time and effort.