By Lyndsie Kiebert
Bonner County Commissioners took steps to mitigate COVID-19 transmission among county employees Nov. 17, when the board unanimously approved a revised human resources policy outlining protocols for working from home and limiting staff contact with the public at the Bonner County Administration Building through the end of the month.
“This is similar to what we did back in the spring, and it’s really done out of an abundance of caution to protect our employees,” said Commissioner Dan McDonald. “We’ve had some cases in the building now and we’re concerned — we don’t want to see it spread quickly so we think it’s best if we just … reduce staffing for a couple of weeks.”
The current policy to limit in-house staffing is written to last Nov. 17-Dec. 1. Services will still be available in the county building, but with modifications. McDonald said commissioner meetings will likely become closed to the public, but will be available to live stream on the Bonner County YouTube channel.
“We’ve got quite a bit of public interaction and we just don’t want to see our employees end up going home sick and having it spread throughout the entire building,” McDonald said, adding later, “We’ve gotta throw the brakes on for a minute here, regardless of how you feel about it.”
Most departments, including the assessor’s office, will require appointments, so it is best to call or email ahead of time. The recorder’s office will only be open Tuesday-Thursday, 1-4:30 p.m., and require an appointment.
Bonner County Treasurer Cheryl Piehl is encouraging tax payments be made online or by mail. She shared in a press release that 2020 property tax notices will be sent by Monday, Nov. 23, and due to COVID-19 precautions, she’ll be limiting the number of people in her office.
The deadline to pay the first half of 2020 property taxes is Dec. 20. Piehl said that because Dec. 20 falls on a Sunday this year, her office is giving taxpayers until Dec. 21 to postmark their payment.
“To avoid late charges and interest, it is very important that the envelope is postmarked by the 21st,” Piehl said. “In some rural areas, you may need to take your envelope into the post office.”
“Taxpayers will notice a few changes on their tax bill this year — the previous year’s tax amount and value is listed, barcoding, and the Treasurer’s website address,” she continued. “If you find yourself in difficulty and are three years delinquent, disabled, widowed, 65 or older, or have filed for bankruptcy, please contact our office regarding existing programs for assistance with your tax bill.”
Contact the Bonner County Treasurer’s Office at 208-265-1433. Online payments can be made at bonnercountyid.gov/treasurer.
All department contact information is available at bonnercountyid.gov. If you are having difficulty reaching a department, call the commissioner’s office at 208-265-1438 and a clerk will work to assist you.
The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office and Justice Services are not affected by the operation changes.
Facilitating for county personnel to work from home falls in line with Gov. Brad Little’s announcement Nov. 13 that Idaho would move back to Stage 2 of the state’s reopening plan, under which, “all Idahoans are encouraged to telework whenever possible and feasible with business operations.”
“We learned a lot from the first go-around, and we are a lot better prepared to work from home,” said Commissioner Jeff Connolly at the Nov. 17 meeting, noting the steps the county has taken to secure more laptops for employees and to improve remote access to county networks.
“We feel that there are a lot of people who can actually work from home and be just as effective as they can be in the office,” he said. “It only makes sense to use that as a precautionary measure to reduce the chances for spread.”
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