By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Bonner County commissioners wasted no time at their March 14 meeting making allegiances known regarding an issue that first reared its head in July 2022: the expansion of the Bonner County Fairgrounds’ RV campground, and, more specifically, where that expansion should take place.
Commissioners Steve Bradshaw and Luke Omodt voted March 7 to contract with Sewell and Associates to conduct work related to adjusting the boundary line at the fairgrounds to fully encompass and bring into compliance a parcel for the new campground, located southwest of where the project was originally proposed in 2022.
Omodt said the reason for the relocation would be to continue accommodating overflow truck and trailer parking in the northern area during the fair and other events. The work, which is not to exceed $25,000, would be paid for with funds from an Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation grant secured last year.
Omodt and Bradshaw originally proposed the replatting and boundary line adjustment during a special meeting March 2 (Commissioner Asia Williams was not present due to a scheduling conflict), but, after a warning from legal counsel that the item might not have been properly noticed, waited to vote on the matter until the following week’s BOCC business meeting.
Williams voted against the measure on March 7, alleging it was improperly noticed and had not taken into consideration the input of Sheriff Daryl Wheeler, who has previously come out as opposed to developments on the land between the fairgrounds and sheriff’s complex in the interest of saving that space for the future construction of a new justice facility.
Williams brought the issue back onto the agenda March 14, seeking a review of the decision. When it came time to adopt the order of agenda, Omodt made a motion to strike the item, and Bradshaw stepped down from the chair to second the motion. The two voted to remove Williams’ request for review, but the commissioner still used her designated District 2 Commissioner Report time to address the issue.
“This causes unnecessary hardship between the Fair Board and the sheriff,” she said, later adding: “This is [the Fair Board’s] decision to make.”
She yielded her report time to Wheeler, despite objections from Bradshaw. Wheeler shared that he had filed a complaint with the Idaho Attorney General’s Office alleging the BOCC had violated Idaho’s Open Meeting Law by improperly noticing the March 2 special meeting as a “Discussion/Decision Regarding IDPR Grant Award — Fairgrounds,” and not mentioning the boundary line adjustment. As a result, Wheeler contested, the subsequent business meeting discussion and vote to engage with Sewell should be considered null and void.
Wheeler’s comments prompted an impassioned response from Bradshaw, who said that all county land “falls under the jurisdiction of the Bonner County commissioners and the Bonner County commissioners only.”
“When somebody says something that is not true, or intentionally misrepresents, they have a word for that person that is being untruthful,” he continued. “Any one of y’all are welcome to inform the sheriff what that word is. We should do truth and honor — something you’ve been lacking somewhat.”
When Wheeler attempted to interject, Bradshaw advised him to “stay in [his] lane” and accused the sheriff of waiting for moments in front of the “public media” to “come forward and be our great constitutional sheriff,” meanwhile misrepresenting the facts.
“The only thing honorable about this man is that uniform he’s wearing,” Bradshaw concluded.
Omodt used his District 3 Commissioner Report time to state that he was not opposed to the future construction of a justice facility on the property.
“In the instance where we could actually fund the $50 [million]-$100 million necessary to build a justice complex, I am absolutely in support of that,” he said. “An RV park is something that is very simple to change. … When and if the voters approve it, we can adjust that. Until that time, I stand by our decision to be fiscally responsible and support our county fair.”
Still, the “either-or” theme surrounding the issue persisted throughout public comment, which included an advisory ballot measure proposal brought by Bonner County Republican Central Committee Clark Fork Precinct Committeeman Dimitry Borisov, which would ask voters to share their preferred use of the land in question: an expanded RV campground or a justice facility.
Borisov’s proposal was submitted into the record without comment from the board.
At the advice of Deputy Prosecutor Bill Wilson, Williams’ request to review the Sewell contract decision appeared back on the agenda after the attorney — who arrived late to the meeting and therefore missed the order of agenda amendment and vote — said the most appropriate course of action would be to respect a commissioners’ right to agendize items and then vote on them, rather than striking them altogether.
When Williams brought her motion to disengage with Sewell to the floor, Omodt voted “no.” Williams implored him to explain why, to which Omodt responded with stories of his experiences as a participant in the Bonner County Fair and as a member of the Idaho National Guard utilizing the fairgrounds-adjacent property known as the Bonner County Readiness Center. He noted his family’s generational connection to the area and how the fairgrounds are a part of the county’s agricultural heritage.
“I am 100% opposed to having a resource of Bonner County lie fallow,” he said. “We are not giving up anything — we are trying to be fiscally responsible.”
“Appeal to emotion is not enough for you to reach into my pocket and do this,” Williams said in her rebuttal.
Public comment on the item urged the board to disengage with Sewell and collaborate with the sheriff and Fair Board before making further decisions about the RV campground.
“There is a huge amount of angst over this property, and I think the counsel of just waiting — just giving it time so that everything can be looked at — would be the best advice I can give,” said Bonner County Clerk Mike Rosedale.
Williams’ motion to disengage with the surveyors ultimately failed 2-1, with Omodt and Bradshaw voting “no.”
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