The three county commissioners met in a regular meeting on November 9, 2020. The commissioners heard comments from elected officials and conducted general business.
Treasurer Tricia Poulsen mailed tax notices and commented a new outdoor dropbox allows deliveries without entering the courthouse. The Treasurer and Assessor are pursuing online access to information and expect a proof within a week so it can be fine-tuned before going live.
Assessor Heber Dunford explained the online motor vehicle system has proven difficult across the state. Consequently, title transfers will not be processed by the Assessor after 4:30 to facilitate reporting before closing time.
Sheriff Bart Heslington referenced his monthly report and advised that the marine program is winding down but diver equipment and training is being pursued. The sport motorcycles for difficult terrain access are slowly arriving. Resolution of damage to county and BLM property created by a neighbor’s unauthorized road construction remains outstanding. County Attorney Adam McKenzie requested reminders of projects that can be completed before transition to the new county attorney occurs. A 4 County meeting is scheduled November 18th between 10 and 2 and will be available via Zoom with at least one commissioner present at the courthouse. Claims were ratified and the October 13, 2020, minutes were approved. Kevin Matthews and Lynn Olsen were reappointed to the Fair Board and Gary Griffin was appointed as an ex-officio member of the Hospital Board. With regard to surplus property in the old courthouse, plus the Extension Service vehicle, the commissioners decided the items will be advertised in the newspaper and on Bear Lake Classifieds. The commissioners unanimously approved the election canvass resolution.
Because a good turnout is desired and the virus may interfere with the hearing regarding mapping county roads, the commissioners elected to delay that hearing until the first quarter of 2021.
Chairman Rasmussen introduced the contract for a $22,780 Homeland Security Grant Award to help with public health issues. Mr. McKenzie cautioned that effort must be made to properly administer the grant and the commissioners unanimously approved it. The Probation Office’s lease agreement was reviewed by Mr. McKenzie and the agreement was unanimously approved. Chairman Rasmussen received confirmation that $3.50 is the amount charged in neighboring counties for the assessor’s administration fee and the commissioners unanimously approved the fee. Subject to county attorney review, unanimous approval was given the 911 mapping contract presented by Sheriff Heslington. The Sheriff and Assessor will discuss their needs to determine whether mapping can be consolidated to eliminate overlapping costs.
Chairman Rasmussen requested input concerning exposure to and actual cases of Covid-19 among employees so that the county’s response is uniform. He emphasized that the immediate problem is reducing hospitalizations because facilities across the state are nearing or have exceeded capacity in both space and staff. Several options, such as sharing employees to cover departments, were offered.
Going forward, an exposed or positive-tested employee will contact the department head who will report to the commissioner assigned, then advice from a physician will be sought to address the specific situation. A decision was made if an employee requests to stay home they will need to use sick leave. If the County requests the employee to quarantine, the Covid leave will be used. Chairman Rasmussen encouraged departments to emphasize the need for masks, frequently washing hands and social distancing. A motion was made and passed unanimously to retain Chairman Rasmussen as an ICRMP Board member.
DEQ representative Bruce Olenick offered to work with the county on development matters such as lot infill where a new development is sandwiched between two previously developed parcels, creating a dramatic impact on surroundings. Bear Lake’s west side has been a concern as a result of infill and Mr. Olenick is preparing an educational program showing potential problems and how to address them.
Wayne Davidson, County Building Inspector, continues to field calls regarding new construction and, even though material prices have risen sharply, forty permits were issued for new homes this year.
Paris City requested Mr. Davidson oversee its building permits and it was agreed having Mr. Davidson conduct those inspections enhances the county’s ability to monitor construction and provides continuity. A neighbor’s complaint concerning cars and junk in the Dingle area was referred to the county attorney.
County Planning and Zoning Administrator Mitch Poulsen discussed Janelle Crockett’s application for rezone to Rural Community followed by a lot split for the purpose of building a home in the Georgetown area. The rezone was unanimously approved.
Chairman Rasmussen interjected that he will attend a Board of Health meeting on Thursday. in the areas where masks are more strictly enforced, counties’ positive testing has dropped markedly. Bear Lake’s highest daily numbers are 23 cases and 3 probable cases (Covid symptoms are present, but the individual tests negative) with two hospitalizations. Bear Lake has been designated “moderate” while surrounding counties were “high”. Mr. Rasmussen expects Bear Lake will move to high during the Thursday meeting which limits gatherings to 50 people and adds other restrictions.
Mr. Rasmussen met with Ambulance Service representatives with a follow-up to occur next month. He stressed that retaining volunteers is difficult and, as an example, the Rotary Club’s membership was once 30 members but is now five or six, so he appreciates volunteers.
Commissioner Jensen questioned landfill charges from the old courthouse removal and how those costs would be reflected in the demolition bids. At the commissioners’ instruction, Mr. McKenzie revised bid language to specify landfill costs would be waived, with an expectation brick and concrete will be separated to be crushed for roads or similar uses.
Scott Esquibel, County Superintendent, continues to remove beaver dams in culverts or replace culverts where necessary to prevent spring flooding. Road and Bridge made good progress on Mountain Way, he stated, so that runoff is redirected. There are several building in Montpelier that will be demolished, waste is expected from these buildings. As a result, he expects an extra tonnage fine will be assessed. The new garbage truck is undergoing hydraulic repairs while an older truck covers temporarily. The surveyor has been onsite to delineate the gun range area to be excluded from the regional landfill deed and equipment assistance was given to the gun range.
In a matter added to the executive session,with no explanation as to the emergency status, communications regarding Paris Canyon road were discussed. Evaluation of an employee was also considered in executive session.
Sandra Thoen and Gena Clarkwood proposed several counties combine to organize a board of guardians. Chairman Rasmussen fully supported the concept and this possibility will be on the 4 County meeting agenda.
Pat and John McKnight from Sharon asked snow removal on Copenhagen Road be extended to the top of the hill where a turnaround would be installed. Commissioner Jensen explained the county is limited in how much can be done while equitably treating similar properties. Additional help has been provided whenever possible, Mr. Esquibel said, when McKnights are in trouble.
A Zoom connection was established with Keller & Associates regarding St. Charles’ Jericho Loop Bridge. A new bridge complying with current standards is proposed at a cost between $1.2 and $1.3 million. Federal funding may be available, leaving approximately $95,000 as the county’s portion.
Design should be completed by August 2021 then construction through the summer of 2022. A two mile road closure will be instated. Questions were posed concerning tying to the existing road, improved creek flow, continued accessibility and velocity for irrigation and eliminating water backup on the upstream side.
There were no bidders for the structure identified as “Rich Clinic Building” so the Hospital Board will consider the matter and provide input.
Julia Oxarango-Ingram from Preservation Idaho referred to two prior meetings when she discussed restoring and repurposing the old courthouse. A letter to the commissioners will ask for records indicating demolition or removal was discussed, parking requirements, harm resulting from further inquiry into retention and preservation, delay of the interior furnishings sale, demolition and landfill costs, and similar issues. Laurie Rich from Friends United for Bear Lake read a statement explaining the old courthouse has not outlived its usefulness for alternate purposes. Cheryl Searle followed to read into the record a letter dated November 6, 2020, by architect Jerry Myers which details continued use of the historic courthouse and addresses accessibility, space limitations, utility inadequacies, structural issues and interior finishes. Sherman Grandy of Montpelier made a plea for involvement of an inclusive segment of the community in courthouse decision-making and he provided letters supporting its preservation. He read Mr. Schmidt’s letter summarizing the perspective of permanent and summer home residents. In response to Mr. Grandy’s comment regarding the new courthouse access is difficult as there is no automatic door button for those using a cane or wheelchair, he was advised access for physically challenged patrons is in the works after being removed from the original construction due to budgetary constraints.