County Studying Regional 9-1-1 Option

In a recent article from the Daily Bee regarding the future of a regional 9-1-1 operations, my opponent for Bonner County Commissioner is quoted as saying, “We’re just starting the conversation. We’ve got a year to figure this out.”

My opponent does not seem to be talking to his own staff. Conversations on regionalizing 9-1-1 operations have been on-going for more than two years. According to former Bonner County Technology Director, Bill Harp, in early 2016 he authored and won a grant that funded a critical startup component in 9-1-1 regionalization. Due to inaction by Commissioners, the $127,000.00 grant has not been executed, and the County may likely have to return the funds to the state in a couple of months.

The grant supported creating a multi-jurisdictional, shared GIS (the maps critical for pinpointing emergency locations) in collaboration with north Idaho jurisdictions: Bonner, Boundary, Benewah, Kootenai and Shoshone counties along with the cities of CDA and Post Falls. This showcase project would have served as a template for Idaho on the first wise steps for integrating regional 9-1-1 capability. Regional collaboration saves counties lots of money and it saves lives by supporting fast, cooperative emergency responses.

Bill Harp said in 2016 to the Idaho Geospatial Council that everyone, “regardless of their position in the decision matrix,” needs to begin educating themselves about integrating the next generation of 9-1-1.  I couldn’t agree more. Cities, counties and public safety officials need to collaborate on designing the best practices to manage regional 9-1-1 operations.

Sheriff Daryl Wheeler supported the project. Our current Commission dropped the ball on a fair amount of planning and the GIS project. As a result, a funding opportunity for a ground-breaking project is in danger of being lost.

I spent my career managing telecommunication infrastructure in the technology industry. I started out climbing poles and ended up delivering high quality service at far lower than average cost for AT&T as Operations Manager for Oregon.
It is unacceptable that these critical projects for public safety have been ignored. 9-1-1 technologies are complex, and being a rural area adds variables to the mix. Regionalizing key 9-1-1 operations will not be accomplished in one year. Five years would be a more realistic timeline.

Also, I would not recommend changing the funding strategy for 9-1-1 by additionally charging other local jurisdictions for services, as my opponent has suggested doing. If I am elected this fall, you will see attention to these issues and strong collaboration on behalf of local and regional public safety.

 

Steve Lockwood, Sandpoint

 

Bonner County Daily Bee Article

Commissioners…

August 30, 2018 | The Reader | Direct Link to Article

Dear Editor:

With Ben’s indulgence, a P.S. to my letter last week:

Since when did Dan McDonald become the Bonner County Commission? The article in last week’s edition by Lyndsie Kiebert and the piece in the Daily Bee seems to indicate the McDonald is the only member of the commission that matters. Lyndsie’s article mentions Commissioner Connolly’s name once, Klatt three times and McDonald’s a whopping nine times. It’s all about him and what he thinks and does.

You know conservatives say that Democrats are the tax-and-spend party, but they have nothing on the conservative Republicans. The only ones they cut taxes for are the well off and corporations. Not only did the county cut spending, but they’re raising your property taxes 3 percent and gave themselves a 7-percent raise. How much, if anything, have you gotten in the way of a raise recently, let alone 7 percent?

Not only will this put upward pressure on your housing costs, but McDonald’s plan to charge other entities for dispatch services will either lead to  Ponderay and Priest River eliminating positions, or, as will more likely happen, they just raise their share of your property taxes. More upward pressure on your housing costs.

So during this fall’s campaign think about who and what you’re voting for: a party that wants a more level playing field or one that pays lip service to low taxes but in fact raises them on the average citizen either directly or indirectly.  

Lawrence Fury
Sandpoint 

Wakeboarding Needs to End on Pend Oreille River

August 23, 2018 at 5:00 am |  Bonner County Daily Bee – Direct Link to Article

Summer is winding down and Commissioner Dan McDonald is still a do nothing concerning wake boarders on the Pend Oreille River. Big joke. He doubled the fine. A lot of good that has done. Wake boarders have figured out how to get around any control. On a recent Saturday night as I sat in the dark looking at the heavens over the water, there were three wake boarders out in the pitch black with their rear spot lights on, wake boarding until almost 10:30 at night in Willow Bay. True, it is illegal, but who is going to do anything about it? There is only one solution to the wake board problem on the river. It needs to be declared illegal to wake board at any time on the river, but OK on the main lake. Wake board boats should not allowed to perform in the wake board mode at any time.

A second thought makes me wonder why any residents in Bonner County voted for McDonald as commissioner. He and his crony just sold the people of Bonner County down the river by approving the building of a new railroad bridge over the lake. Inexcusable. I have heard rumors that McDonald and the others were catered to quite heavily by BNSF. How anyone in Bonner County can tolerate a man like McDonald for a supervisor is beyond me. He needs to be recalled.

GEORGE TAYLORSON

Priest River

Dispatch Fee Proposal Stirs Unease

August 23, 2018 at 5:00 am | By Keith Kinnaird | Bonner County Daily Bee – Direct Link to Article

SANDPOINT — Bonner County’s plan to offload the financial burden of dispatching fees is causing alarm among cities and fire districts.

County commissioners unveiled a suite of proposals earlier this month aimed at spreading the $3.4 million burden among the public safety agencies who rely on Bonner Dispatch. The proposals include having agencies pay fees according to call volumes, having agencies set up their own dispatch centers or establishing a regional dispatch center along with other counties.

Commissioner Dan McDonald said the county has been illegally bearing the brunt of the burden for years. But Clerk Michael Rosedale determined that Idaho law requires system users to contribute to the operation and staffing of the county dispatch center.

McDonald said Rosedale’s interpretation of the law has been vetted by the county’s legal counsel and is also being reviewed by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office.

“What we’ve been doing for 20 years is illegal,” McDonald told city, fire and emergency responders during a Bonner County Communications Advisory Board meeting on Aug. 9.

The news was not greeted warmly.

“This is going to be very detrimental to our city,” Ponderay Mayor Steve Geiger said.

Geiger said the nearly $100,000 fee that would be charged to the city would likely force it to cut two officer positions in a department that’s already relatively small.

Priest River Mayor Jim Martin said his city would face similar personnel cuts if the county insisted on charging fees. Martin estimated that 15 percent of the police department’s budget would be consumed by dispatch fees.

“We’re down to the chief and one person,” Martin said of a post-fee reality.

Jennifer Stapleton, the city of Sandpoint’s administrator, said the costs would be unsustainable.

“We have one of the larger budgets. Our police department couldn’t absorb this cost and neither could our fire department,” she said.

Some agencies felt blindsided by the county’s proposals, but McDonald emphasized that they were meant to start a conversation that leads to a solution.

“We’re not looking to impose anything this year. One of the reasons we’re having the conversation now is so that everybody can start digesting this and start talking about it,” McDonald said.

But Mike Nielsen of Priest Lake Search & Rescue pointed out that the new approach overlooks an ongoing arrangement in Bonner County in which the county provides centralized dispatch services in exchange for additional radio frequencies and all of the emergency communications funding provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Don’t welsh on the deal that was made with the members of this group,” Nielsen said.

Taxpayers Disadvantaged on Road Work Decisions

August 12, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee – Direct Link to Article

Is it Pay to Play on the County’s Roads Editorial dated August 7, 2018 submitted by R. Cramer

Commissioner Dan McDonald is encouraging constituents pay a portion of a project in lieu of meeting traffic count requirements for paving or chip seal projects? Does this leave taxpayers that cannot help fund their project at a disadvantage? Yes, that is exactly what is happening. Two different types of projects being promoted for constituent contributions. One road is used by homeowners that dead ends into that specific community versus a road that is used by the community as a thoroughfare; for emergency services, access to Dufort Transfer Station, Morton Slough ramp, route for schools, Campe Penne, and route for bicycle clubs.

If you live in a subdivision there is an incentive to contribute to that specific type of project which could help future values and marketability of your home. However, it is not an incentive for a thoroughfare where constituents do not directly live on the road. I believe it is the expectations that our tax dollars should pay for a thoroughfare. Why is this specific thoroughfare required constituent funding in order to be considered when others that have been completed have not? Promoting additional funding from constituents tips the scale to unfair tax payer project considerations.

I encourage all constituents to stay involved and informed on how and where your tax dollars are being used.

LAURIE WILLIAMS

Sagle

GOP Tax Plan Adds to Wealth Gap Between Rich, Others

December 12, 2017 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee – Direct Link to Article

Make no mistake. The current Republican plan to change the tax code is to give huge tax reductions to their political donors, in spite of resulting debt increases.

After years of saying deficits are the greatest problem we have, Republicans in Congress have decided that the deficits which will result from the tax reductions will give them an excuse to cut programs such as Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare.

So, big tax reductions for the superrich and for corporations, increasing national deficits and debt, and an ever widening gap between the very wealthy and the rest of us.

STEVE LOCKWOOD

Sandpoint

Affordable Housing Struggle Pondered

August 16, 2018 at 5:00 am | By MARY MALONE Staff writer | Bonner County Daily Bee – Direct Link to Article

SANDPOINT — With roughly half the residents in Sandpoint living with unaffordable housing, “missing middle” housing may be the answer.

“Housing affordability is an issue,” said Sandpoint planning and economic development director Aaron Qualls, during the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Aug. 9. “The way it’s measured, the federal standard, is if you spend more than 30 percent of your income on housing, it’s considered unaffordable. So by that standard, Sandpoint is way above the national average in unaffordability.”

According to recent census data, Idaho is the fastest growing state in the nation, Qualls said. In addition, Sandpoint is the seventh fastest growing “micropolitan” area in the country, he said, and the fastest growing in the state.

Permitting trends are up in Sandpoint, Qualls said, with record breaking numbers for single family housing in 2016. With the addition of the Milltown Apartments, multifamily trends are up well. Those 123 units, more than half of which include a mix of senior and low-income housing apartments, were all rented out before the buildings were fully constructed.

“So that gives you a sense of the housing demand,” Qualls said.

Subdivisions that lay dormant for several years also began filling up with homes in recent years, he said. Much of the growth in Sandpoint stems from retirees, as well as millenials.

Census data indicates the median home value in Sandpoint is $200,000. However, Qualls said more recent data from real estate websites indicates the value is closer to $240,000. With a conventional mortgage at 4.5 percent, a person would need to make approximately $50,000 a year to afford a $240,000 home. More than 60 percent of Sandpoint households make less than $50,000, and the median income in is $34,000, Qualls said.

Qualls said he has been looking at ways to encourage “missing middle” housing, which is not the low density single-family units or the high density multifamily units — it is everything in between. This includes duplexes, triplexes and multiplexes, he said.

“If you walk around south Sandpoint, you notice there are a variety of home types,” Qualls said. “There’s larger homes, there’s smaller homes, there’s a variety of duplexes. If designed right (missing middle housing) would fit well within the existing neighborhood pattern.”

The market, however, is swayed toward single-family homes, he said. The city has also seen an uptick in accessory dwelling units, which are small units attached to or on the property of a single-family home. The city made some updates to its zoning ordinance to allow for more “missing middle” housing, he said, but have not seen many developers take advantage of it. This includes cottage housing, Qualls said, which allows for more density on a parcel of land.

Qualls said four cities in the county have created the Bonner Regional Team for collaboration efforts, and one of the focus areas of the group is housing.

“That’s really important, because this is a regional problem,” Qualls said. “It’s going to take collaboration figuring out how many units we need, where should they go, how are we going to grow, maintain our quality of life, maintain our levels of service, not saddle taxpayers with too much of a tax burden to support the infrastructure … It’s very complex, but we are beginning those conversations — or renewing those conversations, I should say.”

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

Medicaid Expansion Tour Kicks Off

August 14, 2018 at 5:00 am | By MARY MALONE Staff writer | Bonner County Daily Bee – Direct Link to Article

SANDPOINT — It was little more than a year ago when Luke Mayville came back to his hometown of Sandpoint to organize a door-to-door campaign advocating for local schools.

On Monday, he was back in town for another door-to-door campaign, but for a different reason.

“The goal is to talk with voters about the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative, and how important it is to vote yes for Medicaid expansion in November,” Mayville said.

Since that first campaign in March 2017 to garner votes in favor of the Lake Pend Oreille School District’s supplemental levy, Mayville co-founded Reclaim Idaho with a quest to get Medicaid expansion passed in Idaho. After months of campaigning, Mayville, along with Reclaim Idaho co-founder Garrett Strizich and many volunteers across the state, collected enough signatures to put Medicaid expansion on the November ballot.

The door-to-door initiative in Sandpoint on Monday kicked off the latest state tour for the Reclaim Idaho team. When Mayville first spoke with the Daily Bee in 2017 in regards to the levy, he said he was following the mantra, “door to door wins the war.” He continues to follow that mantra as his team will meet up with volunteers in 20 Idaho communities over the course of 20 days to talk with voters about Medicaid expansion. And it was 20 local volunteers who met up with Mayville at Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters to help out with the door-to-door campaign.

The overarching reason for the effort, Mayville said, is that 62,000 Idahoans are currently without health care because they fall into the coverage gap. This means they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for Your Health Idaho, the state’s health insurance exchange created under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“By voting yes for Medicaid expansion, we would cover those 62,000 people with health insurance” he said. “And we would cover them by bringing back millions of federal tax dollars into Idaho. These are tax dollars that we are already paying for through our federal taxes each year. Voting yes for Medicaid expansion would bring back those tax dollars. It would result in net savings for the Idaho economy and create up to 12,000 new jobs for Idaho. So the bottom line is that Medicaid expansion is the morally compassionate thing to do, and also the fiscally responsible thing to do.”

The Reclaim Idaho team recently joined forces with another group, Idahoans for Healthcare. With that, Mayville said the Idaho business community and the medical community came together, with legislators from both sides of the political spectrum expressing support of the initiative.

“As we continue to go around the state, we see support growing and growing among voters, so it’s going really well,” he said.

Mayville said it was important to the Reclaim Idaho team to kick off the 20-day tour in Sandpoint, as it is where it all began. It was the first Sandpoint volunteers, the ones who helped with the LPOSD levy campaign, who became the core of the Medicaid expansion effort, he said.

“And then that cascaded across the state, town by town, to the point where we have versions of our Sandpoint team in about 20 different places across the state,” he said.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

 

Is it Pay to Play on the County’s Roads?

Residents have been asking for years to pave or chip seal 3.5 miles of Lakeshore Drive, connecting to Dufort. The commissioners and Road & Bridge Department say a minimum car count of 300 per day is required to be eligible. That’s a fair requirement, but it is not applied equally. Why not?

I attended the Bonner County Budget Meeting on July 18. Wrenco Loop was paved in 2017, even though it never met the minimum requirement (the most recent car count was in 2014, at 218). At the meeting, residents petitioned to pave Wooded Acres (2.4 miles) and offered up to $100,000. Wooded Acres car count in June 2018 was only 233 and it only serves residents of that community.

Lakeshore met the 300 car per day minimum in 2017 and in June 2018, car count was 320. Lakeshore is an arterial, a school bus route, alternate to Highway 95, to Dufort, etc.

However, at the budget meeting, Dan McDonald led prioritization of Wooded Acres over Lakeshore. Why? Private money. It didn’t matter that Lakeshore’s car count met the requirement or that Lakeshore serves a much broader user base; all that mattered was private money. And, Dan McDonald suggested the Lakeshore property owners pay if they want Lakeshore paved. Smells like pay to play, and, if it’s not illegal, it’s certainly unethical.

Attend budget meetings. Hold commissioners accountable to equitable treatment. Vote for new commissioners.

Note: All car counts are from Road & Bridge Department

R. CRAMER

Sagle

Full EIS Needed on Second BNSF Railroad Bridge

For BNSF, as for Bonner County and its communities, a second bridge across the Lake Pend Oreille at Sandpoint is a big deal. A full Environmental Impact Statement is needed to document the advantages and drawbacks of this proposal for all of us. It’s also important that Bonner County advocate to ensure that we are fully prepared for potential catastrophic spills.

I’ve been asked what the needs are; a published plan identifies many, including:

The response equipment that BNSF has provided the Lake Pend Oreille area could be helpful in response to a small spill. But, those involved know that we need a lot more response equipment here locally for a really significant spill. Additional equipment is available in Spokane and Whitefish, Mont., but the time to retrieve it would be far too long to successfully contain a spill.

Deploying spill equipment requires launching boats into the river or lake. During low water times there are no launch sites close to the existing BNSF Bridge. The closest all-weather ramps are at Hope and Laclede.

I some cases, Railroads contribute to the cost of creating underpasses or overpasses for cars and trucks. Sandpoint needs one on N. Boyer and several others are needed around the county.

These are a few of the items that emergency responders, transportation officials and others have identified to me.

STEVE LOCKWOOD

Sandpoint