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The monthly meeting of the Bear Lake County Commissioners was held April 12, 2021. The three commissioners were assisted by County Clerk, Cindy Garner, and County Prosecutor, Joe Hayes. The published agenda was approved with a comment that presenters may be substituted.

A Sheriff’s Deputy will transition from school resource to the marine program, and the Sheriff met with the Forest Service to maximize patrols while complementing each other’s assets. Applications for the reserve program are being accepted, and the Sheriff is working on Search and Rescue equipment and training. With respect to the Caribou County jail, he will keep the commissioners advised on progress.

Assessor Heber Dunford announced that County home valuations are “officially” out of compliance and real estate must undergo re-appraisal. Due to increased real property sales, there remain mapping challenges, but there are possible solutions being considered.

Commissioner Jensen mentioned access to and coordinating mapping of County and BLM roads. Commissioner Payne met with contractors regarding stumps, hydrant, and water lines at the old courthouse site. Chairman Rasmussen noted there have been no new COVID cases in the County in the last five days. He expressed concerns about legislation which may mean significant changes in funding for health departments and hospitals. In the case of small counties, there will be deficits while larger counties will have excess funds available. The Gem Plan’s audit is nearing completion. He also reported that he met regarding a question posed by the News-Examiner but had not been able to speak with all involved.

In general business matters, unanimous approval was given claims ratification, March 8 and 15 meeting minutes, certificate of residency, four-county mutual aid agreement after modifications, and May election polling places.

An open road near Bear Hollow was tabled to investigate how similar matters are handled in other jurisdictions. A boat safety grant has been entered into annually for a number of years. It was previously executed and the matter was presented for ratification and was unanimously approved after-the-fact. Similarly, an agreement with TJ Burbank from Franklin County regarding the County’s backup server was executed prior to the April meeting then presented for ratification. The approval motion passed unanimously. A budget hearing was set on August 30, 2021.

The Sheriff explained a Forest Service agreement contained an error in the amount, so it was returned for re-execution. Though not an agenda item, the document was resigned.

With respect to the courthouse southern lawn, a decision had been made not to install sprinklers at this time. After site leveling, an individual volunteered to seed the area. Chairman Rasmussen opted to form a committee to discuss how to best utilize the space, and Treasurer Poulsen volunteered, becoming chair at Rasmussen’s appointment and her consent. It was noted Paris requested representation on that committee. The next commission agenda will include the committee as a topic with Commissioner Payne as a member, fund raising as a goal, and perhaps a 10’x20’ flag with night lighting and a time capsule marker to be opened on a future designated date.

Building Inspector Wayne Davidson’s report was distributed, and his letter alerted the commissioners St. Charles is considering the same inspection arrangement as Paris and Montpelier. The topic will be added to May’s agenda.

Quinn Pope requested a May 22 catering permit at the Fairgrounds for a fundraiser sponsored by Maley Fanatic Foundation. The Fair Board had approved the event which involved beer, wine, and liquor by the drink. The Foundation was raising funds for deer-friendly fencing, among other projects. A motion was unanimously approved giving the chair authority to sign the permit after Montpelier’s mayor did so.

One bid was received for a new ambulance and automatic lift totaling $262,072. After a careful reading by Chairman Rasmussen and subject to a review by Prosecutor Hayes, a motion was unanimously adopted accepting the bid.

County Planning and Zoning Administrator Mitch Poulsen recounted the history of a rezone of 70 acres with an administrative fee of $450 plus an additional $1,350 paid. Because the applicants, Douglas and Tamara Armstrong, rescinded the rezone application, they requested a refund of a portion of the fee. The commissioners unanimously approved a refund of $1,350.

It was emphasized that the County has no new COVID-19 money, and guidelines to receive such funds have not yet been provided making it difficult to know whether accepting such funds would be advisable. Following a brief exchange, the commissioners opted on a non-agenda item to have the defender’s office invoice the County for his assistant’s hours and then pay her from those proceeds rather than designating her a County employee.

Representatives of the Caribou Forest Initiative explained they work with a number of collaborative groups who have diverse interests. One benefit was that the Forest Service will pay a county to do work on roads and it was suggested that cattle or grazing associations may like to participate, as well as all three commissioners. Though County financial assistance might be considered, the commissioners favorably viewed providing in-kind clerical assistance.

An executive session was held pursuant to Idaho Code 74-206(1)(f) to discuss the legal ramifications of pending litigation, and comment was made that action would be taken during the afternoon.

Representatives from the Paris/Bloomington Cattle Association discussed moving a cattleguard and installing fence to prevent cattle roaming into Bloomington. Viewing photography of the area then discussing the situation, Commissioner Payne commented on the proposal and a motion was made to approve and it was passed with Commissioner Payne abstaining.

Administrator Poulsen relayed the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation that the Knolls’ preliminary plat be approved. He explained there are 15 townhomes proposed on 16 acres, that roads are private and are built to county standards or better. The recommendation was unanimously approved.

Treasurer Poulsen started with 188 properties that were three or more years delinquent, the last of which was collected recently so the County now has no tax delinquencies except minerals. She proposed to Dale Thornock that the market value on minerals be reduced to $24/acre and Thornock agreed. Comments were made concerning interests splitting among subsequent heirs and reattaching mining interests to underlying property. Poulsen will return to the commissioners with this issue in June.

Chris Franklin appeared to request permission to serve liquor by the drink at Cody’s and he presented a letter showing Paris City’s approval. Following comment among the commissioners, a motion was made and passed approving the permit, if available, with Commissioner Jensen abstaining.

A motion was passed unanimously to authorize Attorney Adam McKenzie to pursue a collection which was discussed during the earlier executive session.

Assessor Dunford commented that the legislature is pondering a circuit breaker bill which may cause anyone whose home is valued higher than a county’s median value to lose circuit breaker exemption, regardless of income. Throughout Idaho, an estimate is the legislation may cause 1/3 of circuit breaker recipients to lose their eligibility.

Kathy Ray of 4 CASI gave a thorough recitation of her office’s work from July 1 through June 30, including assistance to the Oregon Trail Center, Montpelier [sic] High School, projects with several communities, Montpelier Chamber of Commerce, and a wide range of beneficial endeavors that buttress the County economically and support its future. She requested assistance in the form of $6,000 if funds are available at the conclusion of the County’s budget process, and office space valued at $4,800 through the Montpelier Chamber of Commerce. The proposal was unanimously approved.

The Sheriff, Fire Chief, and Prosecutor proposed to regulate short-term rentals in the County based on the premise that 90 percent of such rentals manage themselves but 10 percent cause the majority of fines and an ordinance provides tools to manage those situations. As examples, an ordinance would require a parking plan, handle increased landfill debris, detail emergency contact information, and could provide revocation after three violations. Exceptions to permitting were identified, such as family members and properties held by trusts or corporations whose members visit on a rotating basis. The method of enforcement and the amount of fees or licensing were questioned. It was concluded that more investigation is needed to establish specifics that may work for Bear Lake.

Representatives from county departments gathered with the commissioners to discuss coordination. The commissioners would like to visit with each office to meet personnel but did not wish to create disturbances or “step on toes,” and they were encouraged to pursue such visits. The commissioners are open to discuss problems, but they have areas of expertise and channel topics among themselves to address questions expeditiously. They cautioned there may be a “push back” and, though agreement may not always be the end result, it was conceded better understanding is always a positive and the public is paying for the best product the County’s interdependent personnel can provide. Funding continues to be tight, and there are instances where solutions cost more.

Commissioner Payne would like an inventory of each office’s property completed within two months. He requested input concerning additional sound-proofing in the building. Preliminarily, the jury room is considered an essential space for sound-proofing and consideration will be given additional areas.

An executive session was not on the agenda but announced to discuss personnel issues under Idaho Code 74-206(1)(b). It was not anticipated that action would be taken at the conclusion of the session.

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