By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has now weighed in on the continuing debate about the future location of an RV park expansion at the Bonner County Fairgrounds, sending an email to Bonner County commissioners to share “serious concerns” about the likelihood of the granting agency allowing for a deadline extension amid the infighting between commissioners, the sheriff and Fair Board.
The RV park’s location has been a point of contention for Sheriff Daryl Wheeler since the Board of County Commissioners accepted the expansion grant from IDPR in 2022. Wheeler argues that the land slated for the campground would be best used for future construction of a justice facility.
Recent attempts to complete a boundary line adjustment — led by Commissioner Luke Omodt — would designate the contested land as fairgrounds, and has drawn renewed pushback from Wheeler, Commissioner Asia Williams, the Fair Board and several vocal members of the public who believe the campground should be moved to established fairgrounds land.
At the BOCC regular business meeting April 4, Williams and Chairman Steve Bradshaw voted to request a grant extension from IDPR to allow time for the Fair Board to determine its own preferred location for the campground.
At the board’s meeting April 11, Omodt read from an email sent to the BOCC office by IDPR North Region Grants Specialist Tiffany Brunson — an email prompted by several inquiries IDPR received about the Bonner County grant, which carries a June 2023 deadline.
“At this point, we have concerns about the timeline and costs of this proposed project,” Brunson wrote. “A grant extension is not guaranteed, but subject to the state’s assessment of the ability of the applicants to comply with the rules and regulations and the likelihood that the proposed project will complete within the timeline and budget.”
The project’s budget is $498,315, including $473,315 in IDPR grant funds and $25,000 in matched funds from the Bonner County Fair.
“IDPR has serious concerns that the work committed to can be accomplished within budget and within the project timeline, even with a one-year extension, given the current lack of movement on the project,” Brunson wrote. “If the project has not been put out to bid and estimated costs received by Bonner County by June, 2023, IDPR is concerned that the project will not complete within the necessary time frame and within the original budget.
“We are extremely hesitant to approve an extension request under the current circumstances,” she added.
Omodt said April 11 that there will be a meeting in the coming weeks between the BOCC and Fair Board to discuss the RV park placement issue, as well as “determining what the path forward is between these bodies.” That meeting’s date and time was yet to be determined as of press time.
“I believe this is an important conversation for the future of Bonner County that needs to be had,” Omodt said.
The relationship between the Fair Board and BOCC has undergone considerable change in recent weeks, made evident by a March 29 email to commissioners from Fair Board Chairman Eddie Gordon, which stated that the Fair Board would “no longer be utilizing a [BOCC] liaison” during its business meetings, “nor will a commissioner liaison be utilized in our official dealings with the BOCC.”
“If a county commissioner attends the open part of our business meetings, they should expect to be included only as a member of the general public,” Gordon continued in the email. He did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
“Consequently, no special rights to speak as a county commissioner will be afforded in our business meetings,” Gordon added in the email. “The Fair board has an MOU relationship with the prosecutor’s office. They will assist us on all legal matters when required and provide any necessary training in any matters pertaining to the lawful conduct of our business meetings.”
That email arrived on the morning of March 29 — the same day the Fair Board was slated to hold a special meeting in the evening. Records show Omodt replied to Gordon’s email in the afternoon prior to that meeting, stating he intended to be at the meeting in his liaison capacity and that it was “not the decision of the Fair Board to dictate policy to the Bonner County Board of Commissioners.”
Bonner County Sheriff’s Office personnel were present at the meeting at the request of the Fair Board, according to Wheeler. Omodt shared at the BOCC meeting April 4 that there were three law enforcement officers on hand, apparently to quell an anticipated disruption by the District 3 commissioner.
In an audio recording Omodt shared with the Reader, he can be heard speaking with BCSO Sgt. Aaron Flynn, who told Omodt that he was there to “remove” the commissioner should he attempt to stay after the Fair Board’s public session and into executive business. When Omodt asked the officer where he got the information about his alleged intent to stay for the executive session, Flynn would not say.
Omodt told the Reader that his conversation with Flynn prior to the meeting was his only interaction with BCSO officials that evening, as he “left when the open meeting ended.”
In his recollection of the interaction shared at the April 4 BOCC meeting, Omodt listed several instances of what he saw as legitimate public safety concerns, and then said, “Sending three deputies to protect the Bonner County Fair Board from a Bonner County commissioner is an interesting use of resources.”
Omodt’s remarks prompted others to speak on the issue at the April 4 BOCC meeting, including Wheeler, who read aloud from an email he received March 30 from Bonner County Human Resources Director Cindy Binkerd accusing Omodt of being a “bully.”
According to Binkerd’s email, “the Fair Board members were truly appreciative of the sheriff providing law enforcement for the meeting and said they were so relieved” due to the anticipated confrontation with Omodt, who Binkerd said displays “behaviors” such as “arrogance, staring, talking over others, body posture that portrays dominance and smirking” as a means to “intimidate” them.
“The behaviors of Commissioner Omodt need to stop and until so, it would be prudent to ensure law enforcement coverage at future Fair Board meetings,” Binkerd wrote. “Ideally it would be [in the] best interest of the Fair Board for Mr. Omodt to refrain from attending at all.”
Wheeler confirmed with the Reader that one BCSO deputy was present at the Fair Board’s April 10 meeting, as did Omodt, who attended and said he shared copies of the IDPR email with Fair Board members.
While we have you ...
... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.
You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal