County employees barred from Bonner Regional Team

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Bonner County Commissioners were divided on a vote Tuesday that ultimately led to the end of any county employee involvement with the Bonner Regional Team.

A resolution brought forth by the Bonner County Republican Central Committee proposed barring employees from representing the county at BRT meetings so as not to involve the county in any “regionalization” efforts, or what they see as centralization of government.

The BRT is a group of local officials who gather regularly to create a mixture of representation from across the governing bodies of the county including elected officials and city planners, as well as the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce and Bonner Community Housing Agency. 

According to Dover councilwoman Diane Brockway, the BRT discusses local issues like housing affordability, water quality and fire prevention. She emphasized that the group has no official authority to change anything, but is instead focused on finding collaborative solutions.

“It’s a forum for sharing information, for focusing on issues that impact our community, for learning from one another, and when action might be needed, to take that action to the appropriate entity for their consideration and decision making,” Brockway said.

Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad and Sandpoint Planning Director Aaron Qualls also gave reasons Tuesday as to why they opposed the resolution.

Tom Cleveland — who authored the resolution — spoke in favor Tuesday, citing a need for “personal and fiscal responsibility” among individual municipalities.

“It’s brought in as a charade and then one day you wake up and you’ve got the shackles and chains around you,” Cleveland said in reference to the county getting involved.

Commissioner Dan McDonald cited Idaho code which dictates a Planning and Zoning Commission handle all county planning. He argued involvement of county employees with the BRT without the P&Z board’s approval would violate that code.

Commissioner Jeff Connolly said he regularly attends BRT meetings and hasn’t heard anyone suggest a regionalization of government, which he opposes. Connolly said if the word regionalization has come up, it’s been in reference to things like roads or sewer systems — concepts he said he’s not “fearful of.”

“What I am fearful of is people that twist the facts to scare people that are uninvolved in these things,” he said. “I’ve lived here my whole life. We’ve always found a way to work together to accomplish common good for the people. That’s what we’re elected to do. We’re not here to try to further our political agenda.”

When it came time for a vote, Commissioner Steve Bradshaw and McDonald voted in favor of the resolution while Connolly opposed. 

Because Connolly is an elected official and not a Bonner County employee, he will not be barred from attending BRT meetings.

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