Extension request for BoCo Fairgrounds RV park project denied

Grantor ID Parks and Rec: ‘A fresh start can be in the best interests of all parties’

By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Reader Staff

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has denied an extension request from Bonner County for the use of a $473,000 grant meant to expand the RV campground at the Bonner County Fairgrounds, citing the lack of a completed bid or construction contract as reasons for that denial, as well as the Fair Board’s opposition to the project.

The location for the campground’s expansion between the fairgrounds and sheriff’s complex proved a point of contention for a vocal opposition, led by Sheriff Daryl Wheeler and Bonner County Commissioner Asia Williams, who contest that previous boards of commissioners have unofficially slated the property for a new justice complex. Commissioner Luke Omodt has led the camp in favor, and pointed to long-standing efforts to make the fairgrounds more financially sustainable as key to the project’s importance. 

Despite the pushback, Omodt and BOCC Chairman Steve Bradshaw have maintained a majority vote on the three-person board and achieved forward movement on the campground expansion in recent months, approving survey contracts, opening bids and requesting land use changes though the city of Sandpoint.

Commissioners approved the submission of a grant extension request on a split vote in May after it became obvious that the county would not meet IDPR’s initial construction deadline of June 30. On June 21, IDPR sent a letter to the county denying that request. The letter, from by IDPR Director Susan Buxton, cited three “unresolved items” that influenced the decision, including “the lack of a current, completed bid” making it “impossible to determine if sufficient funding is available to complete the project”; and “the absence of an executed construction contract,” making it “impossible to determine whether the project can be completed within the next year.”

IDPR also cited a letter it received from the Bonner County Fair Board in May that stated the board had “not had the opportunity to be a part of the planning for the proposed RV campground,” and alleged that lack of involvement constituted a violation of Idaho Code related to fairground operations. The Fair Board stated that it would not accept the grant, illustrating a clear rift with the board of commissioners.

According to the June 21 denial letter from IDPR, the Fair Board’s opposition to the campground expansion “means a new source of matching funds must be identified” and “a new entity to oversee maintenance and operation of the proposed facility” would be needed.

“IDPR deems the best course of action is to not extend the grant at this time,” Buxton concluded in the letter. “We encourage the County to submit a new application that could build off of the work the County has recently initiated and answer the questions identified in this letter. While we know this is not the outcome sought, IDPR believes a fresh start can be in the best interests of all parties.”

As for what will come next for the proposed campground expansion project, Omodt told the Reader on June 27 that he was “not prepared to answer that at this time.”

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