Issues Show Lack of Honesty, Integrity

September 16, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee | Direct Link to Article

Commissioner Dan McDonald’s condescending replies to Bonner County residents are offensive and inappropriate for an elected official. I encourage readers to look at his op ed responses (Aug. 30, 23, 12 and more). McDonald states they don’t know what they’re talking about or “you’re twisting the facts.” Really? McDonald said I had my facts wrong regarding Wooded Acres. I got my facts from county employees and records. McDonald supports taking taxpayer money from deserving roads to chip seal a dead-end road (Wooded Acres). Why? Because Wooded Acres residents throw money at him (pay to play). McDonald tells taxpayers he is saving them money. How? Taxpayer money would likely never be spent on Wooded Acres; it does not meet the 300 car count. Is McDonald moving the goal post?

Why won’t McDonald implement a solution that truly addresses the problems caused by wake surf boats as Sheriff Daryl Wheeler requested? Their wakes are destroying the Pend Oreille River shorelines, environment and properties, yet McDonald has done nothing to remedy the problem. Contrary to his op ed on Aug. 28, 2018, the activity of wake surfing can be restricted. All boating activity is not treated equally – see Idaho Code, Title 3, Chapter 3-203 for precedence set with Upper Priest Lake at http://bit.ly/2pa8qI1.

My perspective is that Dan McDonald is part of the problem, not any solution. I support replacing Dan McDonald with someone who represents constituents equally, honestly and does not favor special interest.

RICHARD CRAMER

Sagle

Comms Board Status Toggled

SANDPOINT — Bonner County is changing the frequency of the Bonner County Communications Advisory Board.

The county commission unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday to make the advisory committee on public safety communications an ad hoc committee, which will only meet on an as-needed basis or at the direction of the commission.

BCCAB was formed in 2011 and created to oversee the Bonner County Interoperability Communication Advisory Board. The board was formed to advise and provide clarity regarding public safety communications and attendant infrastructure. The commission contends the advisory board has served its purpose and the communications system and infrastructure has been sufficiently developed.

Marcus Robbins, the county’s deputy director of technology and public safety communications manager, said BCCAB helped determine where grant funding would make meaningful improvements to the system and guide decisions on interoperability.

BCCAB, for instance, aided law enforcement’s migration from ultrahigh frequency to very high frequency, the band on which other public safety disciplines communicated on.

“The switch to VHF made it possible for everybody to be interoperable,” said Robbins.

However, the commission also notes in the list of whereases that “meetings have been sporadic and poorly attended and general lacking in its original intent, no longer serving in an advisory capacity.”

The move follows an August meeting which was quite well attended and involved a spirited discussion about the possibility of charging dispatching fees to municipal police forces, fire districts and emergency medical service providers who rely on the system.

The commission and its legal counsel determined that the county has been improperly subsidizing labor costs for the dispatch center for years, which is contrary to state law. Phone user taxes are collected to fund the hardware side of public safety communications, while system users are responsible for kicking in on staffing the dispatch center, according to the county’s interpretation of Idaho Code.

The county has not decided whether it will ultimately impose dispatching fees. Other options include establishing a regional dispatch center with neighboring counties or system users creating their own dispatching apparatuses.

The prospect of dispatching fees attracted an estimated 50 people to the August meeting. City officials from Sandpoint, Ponderay and Priest River raised concerns that fees would force them to cut back on staffing. The meeting included tense exchanges between Commissioner Dan McDonald and former Commissioner Mike Nielsen. The latter urged the county not to welsh on an agreement previous county commissioners made to cover staffing costs when the county took over public safety communications for the whole county, while the former argued that the future boards could not be bound by the decisions of its predecessors, especially when those decisions are incompatible with state law.

Nielsen contends the county is downgrading the role of BCCAB because it is unable withstand the heat it took at the August BCCAB meeting.

“Rather than meet to discuss communications problems, it appears the BOCC has chosen to effectively disband BCCAB,” Nielsen said in an email.

Meanwhile, ongoing public safety communications issues are at risk of not being addressed, according to Nielsen. Those issues include representation of Priest Lake on the board, dispatchers speaking in low tones or not closely enough to the microphone, and garbled transmissions.

Nielsen also takes issue with the commission’s decision to consider collecting dispatch fees from other taxing districts, while baking in raises to their salaries in its recently adopted budget.

McDonald disputes that the August meeting was the impetus for converting BCCAB to an ad hoc committee.

“It has nothing to do with last month’s meeting. It has everything to do with a lack of participation from the various members, the lack of agenda issues and the fact that over the last year they have only had three out of the 12 meetings because of the lack of business. Those meetings were poorly attended and I believe at least on of the three didn’t even have a quorum,” McDonald said in an email.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

Seat Open on Bonner County P&Z Commission

September 11, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee | Direct Link to Article

SANDPOINT — The Bonner County Planning & Zoning Commission has open seats in all districts.

Those interested in serving on the commission are encouraged to submit letters of interest to the Bonner County Planning Department for review and appointment by the board of county commissioners.

The deadline to submit a letter is 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 17.

Residents who have lived in the county for at least two years are eligible to serve on the panel. They must continue to reside here during the duration of their term.

Members are selected without respect to party affiliation and may receive mileage and per diem compensation. Members can serve two terms with further terms requiring a two-thirds vote of the board to continue.

The planning commission reviews and hears simple to complex land use applications that require reading and understanding of codes and state laws. The commission reviews and updates the county’s comprehensive land-use plan, conducts public hearings, provides means to obtain citizen participation in land-use matters, considers permit requests and code amendments.

The planning commission holds two meetings each month, with one for public hearings and another planning workshop. The meetings are typically held on the first and third Thursday of the month beginning at 5:30 p.m. Meetings are held at the Bonner County Administration Building in Sandpoint.

Letters of interest may be submitted to the Bonner County Planning Department, 1500 U.S. Highway 2, Suite 208, Sandpoint, ID. 83864.

For additional information, contact Planning Director Milton Ollerton at 208-265-1458 or planning@bonnercountyid.gov

Vote Lockwood for Bonner County Commissioner

September 13, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee | Direct Link to Article

There is a long-time friend of the community, who will work for all county residents and bring a breath of fresh air to our county commission. His name is Steve Lockwood.

Some highlights:

Steve is a strong advocate for public education and has served on the Lake Pend Oreille School Board.

He supports Medicaid expansion. Not only will it help workers and families who need medical insurance, but it will save money by bringing back more federal dollars to Idaho’s counties.

He will work to promote good-paying jobs and affordable housing for working families.

He wants to ensure that our county has a strong seat at the table and to find out how our air and water quality might be adversely affected by the proposed Newport smelter.

As a probem solver, Steve says there is no Republican or Democrat way to fix roads and bridges — only an effective way. He is a fiscal conservative, and with his valuable management experience, he can give taxpayers the best service at the lowest cost.

Finally, it’s time for transparency of the county commission. Steve promises to open the doors and windows. It’s time for a change for the better, so get out and vote for Steve Lockwood as your new Bonner County commissioner this November.

PHILIP DEUTCHMAN

Sandpoint

Area Experts Debate Wildfire Issues

September 12, 2018 at 5:00 am | By MARY MALONE Staff writer | Bonner County Daily Bee

SANDPOINT — Forest management and defensible space were a common theme as a group of area fire, forestry and county experts formed a panel on Saturday to discuss the current state of wildfires in North Idaho and the surrounding region.

“Wildfire has affected everyone in this room, and by all indications, we’ll be facing more summers like this one in the future,” Jean Gerth, event organizer with 350sandpoint.org, told the approximately 50 people who attended the panel discussion.

“Planning now, and building on what we have in place, will help protect firefighters, our property and our health. My hope is that everyone here will leave with an idea of their next step in planning for that future … We are beyond wanting to just talk about this.”

The discussion, “Fired Up: Planning for Wildfire in Bonner County,” was hosted by 350sandpoint.org in the Sandpoint branch of the East Bonner County Library District. Panelists included Nate Rogers, Idaho Department of Lands fire marshal; Matt Butler, fire management officer for the U.S. Forest Service in the Idaho Panhandle; Bob Howard, director of Bonner County Emergency Management; Vernon Roof, Northside Fire commissioner; Jeff Connelly, Bonner County commissioner; Milton Ollerton, Bonner County planner; and Erin Mader, communications for Idaho Forest Group.

Each panelist was tasked with answering specific questions, including what their role is in fire response, how they coordinate with other agencies and whether their agency has the resources to respond adequately to wildfire.

One of the biggest advantages for fire departments and other agencies, as noted by several of the panelists, is agreements and memorandums of understanding with other agencies outside of their jurisdiction to come in and help when needed. While many departments are equipped to deal with small fires, none are equipped to deal with the fires that spread to hundreds or thousands of acres. IDL and USFS, for example, assist local agencies with fire response and resources.

“The problem we run into is when the whole United States gets extremely busy … then there is a lack of resources nationally, and that is what we are starting to see,” Butler said.

As a local district, Roof said Northside firefighters are the first responders when a fire happens within Northside’s jurisdiction. Because it is a small department, he said they have “very good” mutual aid agreements with other local agencies, such as Selkirk Fire, Sam Owen and Clark Fork.

“We try to have a mutual aid matrix in place because we realize we just do not have the people to handle every single circumstance,” Roof said.

He also reiterated, a few times, that the department can always use volunteers.

It is not only the fire departments and agencies who respond to fires that work together during wildfires. Howard said Bonner County Emergency Management plays a support role to all fire agencies, local, federal and state. For example, he said, they are the “eyes and ears” for the county commissioners and the community. They also get disaster declaration approval when needed, and apply for grants for fire management assistance if needed, he said.

“We coordinate with all public safety agencies — state, federal, the entire spectrum,” Howard said.

Mader noted that, while IFG does not play a role in fire response, it does play a role in fire prevention.

Mader said there is about four times the amount of trees per acre than there was historically, because fire is prevented from moving through the acreage to clean out the smaller trees and allow the bigger trees room to get the light and water they need to survive. Between that and insects, the forests are not healthy, she said.

“As time moves on, we are seeing more and more forests, more trees, dying, and less healthy growth,” Mader said. “There is all kinds of side effects of that, and one of them is you are kind of setting up a situation where things are going to burn easier and faster … managing your forest is one way to get around that.”

As for defensible space for property owners, Connelly said the county’s BONFire program has done “a lot of work in Bonner County” and continues to be very successful at reducing fuel hazards around homes. The program aims to help property owners create defensible space and provide them with information and educational tools to protect their home or business from wildfire.

“You are not always going to make yourself fire safe,” Connelly said. “The conditions will control that … Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking we can completely cure this; we can help prevent it, that’s what we can do.

Ollerton said there is “a lot of benefit” that can come from conversations such as the one on Saturday, especially as the county works with the community to create plans for fire protection. For instance, he said, there are grants available for property owners to create defensible space around their homes.

“There are lots of opportunities to address this, we just need to start having the conversation,” Ollerton said.

Homes with a defensible space are also safer for firefighters in the event of a fire, and will be the first homes the firefighters will attempt to save, agreed Butler and Rogers.

“We are not going to put our folks in areas where they are going to fail,” Rogers said.

As the panel discussion came to a close, Gerth said 350sandpoint.org plans to host similar discussions in the future, in an attempt to get people to take action.

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

County Should Cooperate…

Dear Editor,

Regional 9-1-1 will save money and lives by supporting fast, cooperative emergency responses. Contrary to some comments, conversations on regionalizing 9-1-1 operations were initiated more than two years ago in Bonner County. Unfortunately, progress stalled.

According to former Bonner County Technology Director Bill Harp, in 2016 Bonner County won a state grant to fund a key component of 9-1-1 regionalization. Due to inaction by Commissioners, the $127,000.00 grant has not been executed, and the county will likely have to return the funds.

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 critical public safety projects have been ignored. 9-1-1 technologies are complex, and vital. Realistically, regionalization will take years. 

The county’s current proposal to charge other jurisdictions for the current 9-1-1, contrary to existing agreements, is ill advised. Funding should be reconsidered as part of a broader 9-1-1 regional plan. If I am elected in November, you will see attention to these issues and strong collaboration on behalf of local and regional public safety. 

Steve Lockwood
Sandpoint

Lockwood Will Bring Honesty to County Commission

September 04, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee | Direct Link to Article

It’s that time of the year again when it’s time to make decisions as to who you are planning to vote for. The following are some of Marguerite’s and my observations as to who or what has been said that has not been truthful as relayed to us by county officials.

As we live on the water, we see what is or isn’t happening. Last year, we were told the sheriff patrolled every day along the river; that was not true and we sustained significant damage from wake boats. This year, I was told the same thing so I called the former marine division commander, who told me that the patrol boatthat had been assigned to the river was tranferred to Priest Lake several years ago and there was no regular patrol between the Long Bridge and Dover. So I asked for a sit-down with the lieutenant in charged. That never happened. So, I guess it is time for a change whereby we will once again have some honesty.

I urge you to vote for Steve Lockwood for Bonner County commisioner, District 3, and I can assure you that your vote will note be squandered not be a poor choice. I have known Steve for a long time and respect his integrity, honesty and commitment to fiscal integrity.

Vote Steve Lockwood on Nov. 6.

TOM SUTTMEIER

Sandpoint

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