County solicits bids for controversial fairgrounds RV park expansion

Board continues split votes to move forward with project as it awaits IDPR grant extension request decision

By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Reader Staff

The board of Bonner County commissioners voted May 30 to move forward with soliciting bids for construction of an RV campground on a parcel between the fairgrounds and sheriff’s office, voting along lines that have become familiar as the debate over the property has dominated county business in recent months — Commissioners Steve Bradshaw and Luke Omodt in favor of advertising for bids, and Commissioner Asia Williams against.

Despite having an hour set aside at the top of its Tuesday business meeting to hear public comment, that time was cut short May 30 by a pair of chairman-called recesses — the first being in response to accusations of “lying” by Bonner County Republican Central Committee Treasurer Spencer Hutchings, who consistently presses Omodt and Bradshaw with questions about what he calls their “obsession” with the contested property. 

Hutchings questioned why the agenda featured an item to solicit bids for the RV park when the Bonner County Fair Board sent letters earlier in the month stating that it had no interest in moving forward with the project.

The existing RV park and campground at the Bonner Co. Fairgrounds. Courtesy photo.

Following the first recess, Bradshaw reiterated comments he made in previous meetings about the RV park expansion — made possible by an Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation grant — being a way to generate more revenue for the fairgrounds and fund major facility improvements.

The second recess occurred soon after Bradshaw’s comments, when Williams pushed back by seeking a specific answer as to why the expanded campground needed to be built on the land between the fairgrounds and sheriff’s office, which many see as the natural future location of a new justice complex.

Bradshaw said the area was the “only feasible, logical place for it” due to parking difficulties at the fairgrounds. During Williams’ attempt to rebut, Bradshaw interrupted to accuse her of “hijacking the meeting.”

“The chair is not recognizing you at this moment,” he said, just before recessing the meeting until the 10 a.m. start time for agendized items. 

“Thank this lady right here,” he said to the audience, in reference to Williams.

The RV park issue came up again during the meeting when Omodt used his District 3 Commissioner Report to outline the multi-year history of the project, and later made a motion to advertise for bids, setting a deadline of Wednesday, June 21 at 2 p.m. 

“Why does it make sense for us to continue to put out money for a project based on a grant that we may not receive an extension [for], especially given the events of the current Fair Board voting unanimously to not move forward with the request attached to this grant?” Williams asked, referencing the fact that the BOCC voted 2-1 earlier in the month to request an extension for the IDPR grant.

“This parcel and this project has been on the radar of the Bonner County Fair since 2001. This has been discussed in open meetings, public workshops, with the Bonner County Fair Board,” Omodt responded, stating that the commissioners’ office recently requested a joint meeting with the Fair Board but had not yet heard back.

“Speaking for myself, I’m not interested in forcing people to participate,” he added. “I do expect people to keep their word.”

Williams questioned whether the Fair Board had adequate time to respond regarding the joint meeting. Bradshaw interjected to say that the Fair Board’s lack of response could constitute “grounds for removal,” prompting audible disagreement from the audience. 

Bradshaw then attempted to move onto public comment, prompting Williams to say that she was “still speaking” and going on to accuse Bradshaw of wanting to “trash the whole Fair Board because they won’t agree.”

“She is a master at manipulation and turning things around,” Bradshaw said of Williams, raising his voice. “What I said is they have a responsibility to answer to the board of commissioners.”

Deliberations devolved into a debate about “respect” before Bradshaw called for the vote, and  the bid advertisement was approved, 2-1.

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