By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
With a pair of split votes, Bonner County commissioners at the board’s April 25 meeting appointed several new members to two volunteer boards: the Bonner County Fair Board and Bonner County Natural Resource Committee.
The first of those votes, which occurred at the BOCC’s regular Tuesday business meeting, pertained to the Fair Board, which has seen its share of contention with the BOCC as both parties, as well as the sheriff’s office, have undergone a months-long debate about the potential location of an extension to the fairgrounds’ RV campground. While Commissioners Steve Bradshaw and Luke Omodt have shown support for having the park on land between the existing fairgrounds and sheriff’s department, Sheriff Daryl Wheeler and his supporters allege that past boards intended that area as the location for a future justice facility.
Commissioner Asia Williams has come out opposed to the location as well, and advocated for community and Fair Board input on a potential location. The Fair Board has most recently advocated for keeping the RV park extension on already established fairgrounds land.
On April 25, the BOCC considered appointing Ben Wood, Tawnya Johnson and Tim Mahan to the Fair Board. Prior to the vote, members of the public questioned the process used to select the candidates.
“There was a recruitment process and then interviews,” Omodt said. “After the interviews, we deliberated and now we’re presenting it to the public as a resolution in an open meeting.”
Wood, Johnson and Mahan are not previous members of the Fair Board. Asked whether members with expiring terms had applied, Omodt said, “They did.”
Williams said she had “issues with” the process used to select the new Fair Board members, noting that not all who applied were interviewed, and that she’d have liked to have seen more consultation with the public and the existing Fair Board members during the recruitment process.
Samuels resident Dan Rose alleged an “appearance of impropriety.”
“To me, this looks like a restacking of the board to get your RV camp onto the sheriff’s property,” he said, which prompted a brief rebuttal from Bradshaw, who said he only knew one of the candidates up for appointment and hadn’t spoken to that person in more than a decade.
“This process was open, it was transparent and it was in accordance, from start to finish, with Idaho Code,” Omodt said.
While some members of the public made comments in line with Rose, others thanked the commissioners for bringing the Fair Board into compliance with seven current members. Omodt and Bradshaw voted to approve Wood, Johnson and Mahan for four-year terms while Williams voted against the motion, arguing the county failed to do its “due diligence” in the selection process.
Next, commissioners considered the appointment and reappointment of several members of the Bonner County Natural Resource Committee. Among those up for a three-year reappointment were Cornel Rasor, Alton Howell, Jim McReynolds and Luke Hixson. New appointees, up for two-year terms, were Richard Clark, Wayne Martin and Clay Nichols.
Williams said the recruitment and recommendation process for the BCNRC and Fair Board were “inconsistent,” stating that while those wishing to retain their seat on the Fair Board had to reapply, those on the BCNRC who wanted to be reinstated were simply reinstated.
There was also debate about the committee’s purpose.
“This is a specific committee that was designed with a specific purpose in mind,” Omodt said.
“It’s not [about] all of the birds and the bees and all the lakes and the wetlands and all the trees,” he added, calling the BCNRC an “interface between federal, state and the county” entities regarding natural resource-related relationships.
Williams said that the BCNRC could actually be whatever the BOCC needed it to be, whether that was a consultant on the Comp Plan or a committee capable of revisiting county wetland code.
“There’s nothing that prevents that,” she said. “That’s why, with this topic, it’s one where you want educated people that understand that ecosystem.”
Omodt and Bradshaw voted to confirm all seven members of the BCNRC, while Williams voted in opposition on the grounds of recruitment process concerns.
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