911 Success Requires Partnering with County’s Many Responders

October 09, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee | Direct Link to Article

911 is extremely important to all county residents. One told me, “Each time I hear that it’s down, I feel exposed to danger.” Delivering the highest quality, dependable 911 service is paramount for safety in Bonner County. However, county commissioners are looking for ways to save money on 911; unexpectedly announcing a plan to put cost-sharing on local entities. Rural residents are asking, how will volunteer fire departments be treated? They have no tax base.

The future of 911 is regionalization, which will save all entities money and should deliver seamless service across boundaries. When the current commissioners took office in January 2017, they declined the department director’s offer to be briefed on 911 regionalization and other information technology issues. What were they thinking?

Since then, there have been department head changes, the department was split into two, and commissioners may not realize that the $127,000 grant received by Bonner County for GIS updates has been returned to the state. It might be won again, but there are no guarantees in a competitive grant environment.

Fortunately, GIS mapping is not the hurdle it might be. Kootenai County, Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Bonner County have complete GIS systems. Digital maps exist for counties that could be updated or purchased. Alternately, there are sources that provide free street data as a GIS service. These are the maps that GPS systems uses so there is mapping available that could be used and improved. With resourcefulness and goal orientation, the GIS underpinnings of regionalization can get moving.

Success requires partnering with the many responders in Bonner County, technical competence, and collaborative, and steady leadership to ensure that 911 across our county meets future federal standards and reliably gets help to those in need.

STEVE LOCKWOOD

Sandpoint

Scoping Comments: Proposed Newport Silicon Metal Smelter

Scoping Comments: Proposed Newport Silicon Metal Smelter

Steve Lockwood, Sandpoint

September 26, 2018

 

I am Steve Lockwood, resident of Sandpoint and Bonner County, Idaho.  My comments relate to the scope of the planned EIS on the PacWest proposed Silicon Metal Smelter proposed for Newport, Washington.

I strongly encourage that all of Bonner County, Idaho be within the scoping area. Before moving forward with the permitting process, a year of actual data needs to be gathered from numerous downwind sites throughout Bonner County. Projections of our air and water quality are not adequate as there are few sensors in place now. Where similar smelters are in place nationally and internationally, data needs to be obtained by Ecology to supplement that provided by PacWest.

Two forms of likely impact come quickly to mind: traffic carrying fuels for the smelter or output from it, and pollution. To elaborate:

Traffic includes both truck and train. Let’s take truck first. Highway 2/200 bisects several Bonner County communities and heavy truck traffic on it will have significant effects. What are the maintenance/expansion and social costs of this traffic for the decade after the smelter begins operations? Benefits? What are the crash/spill hazards? What preparation is needed to respond quickly and effectively? Who pays?

Rail: In the Sandpoint area, it is anticipated less than the needed emergency supplies are on hand for a major train derailment. There is no nearby, year-round boat launch.  What are the costs of bringing these up to par for quick, effective response to a major derailment? Who will pay? Beyond Sandpoint, what are costs of securing a major derailment throughout Bonner County related to the smelter? Who pays?

How many trains would be required to haul the 100,000 odd tons of coal and quartz (each) per year and what route(s) will the trains take? This needs to be taken into consideration in the context of our current level of train traffic (50-60 trains per day through Sandpoint), anticipated increases in rail traffic with the BNSF expansion project (BNSF has not produced any numbers on this yet), and how increased volumes will impact overall quality of life.

Pollution: We hear many estimates of air pollutants to be emitted. For each community in Bonner County, what does that mean? What health risks increase? By how much?  How does this pollution interact with/add to winter air stagnation (with wood smoke) and summer wildfire smoke? We are told that summertime wildfire smoke is the “new normal.” It needs to be fully factored in to pollution calculations.

Visibility is important to our way of life and to our tourism industry. Fine particulates reduce visibility. How much will visibility be reduced, and in what seasons?

What happens when air pollutants settle on plants, soil and water? How is pH affected and what will these changes mean? Will fish or wildlife be affected? Our forestry industry?

Snow pack is important for drinking water, recreation and waterways. How will snowpack be affected? What will those impacts be on fish, drinking water availability and recreation?

Other impacts: What ongoing jobs will be created in Bonner County’s communities? Pay scale and education/experience required to fill them? Which communities?

I have been involved in creating jobs in our area for the last fifteen years. Our ability to attract and keep businesses is impacted by our air quality and roads.

As a candidate for Bonner County commissioner, I hear daily from Bonner County residents concerned that their health will be impacted by degraded air quality, that the county’s recreation, waters, forests and natural beauty will be harmed.

It is important that Bonner County not be negatively impacted by a silicone metal smelter on its border.

Fix 9-1-1 Failures

9-1-1 is extremely important to all county residents. One told me, “Each time I hear that it’s down, I feel exposed to danger.” Delivering the highest quality, dependable 9-1-1 service is paramount for safety in Bonner County. However, County Commissioners are looking for ways to save money on 9-1-1; unexpectedly announcing a plan to put cost-sharing on local entities. Rural residents are asking, how will volunteer fire departments be treated? They have no tax base.

The future of 9-1-1 is regionalization, which will save all entities money and should deliver seamless service across boundaries. When the current commissioners took office in January 2017, they declined the Department Director’s offer to be briefed on 9-1-1 regionalization and other Information Technology issues. What were they thinking? Since then, there have been department head changes, the department was split into two, and commissioners may not realize that the $127,000 grant received by Bonner County for GIS updates has been returned to the state. It might be won again, but there are no guarantees in a competitive grant environment.

Fortunately, GIS mapping is not the hurdle it might be. Kootenai County, Post Falls, CDA and Bonner County have complete GIS systems. Digital maps exist for counties that could be updated or purchased. Alternately, there are sources that provide free street data as a GIS service. These are the maps that GPS systems use so there is mapping available that could be used and improved. With resourcefulness and goal orientation, the GIS underpinnings of regionalization can get moving.

Success requires partnering with the many responders in Bonner County, technical competence, and collaborative, and steady leadership to ensure that 9-1-1 across our county meets future federal standards and reliably gets help to those in need.

Steve Lockwood

Sandpoint

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

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

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

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

Now is the Time for BNSF Talks

Why do you care if Bonner County has a skilled manager as commissioner? The proposed new railroad bridge across the Pend Oreille River is one reason. It’s very likely to be built, especially as the first permit has been issued.

But, right now is the only time Bonner County and its EMS, fire districts and cities have leverage for needed improvements. If a trainload of oil or coal overturns into the water, we have to send to Spokane or Whitefish for emergency supplies. BNSF has provided some containment materials but not enough for a major spill. A large stockpile should be right here to use at a moment’s notice.

A catastrophic oil fire? We’re not ready to deal with it. People would likely die, property and waterways be destroyed. BNSF needs to make sure needed materials are stored right here in Bonner County.

The new bridge might temporarily shorten wait times at RR crossings. Long term, have the cars go over or under the railway is the solution. That’s expensive and the moment to secure BNSF funding for that is now.

These are all negotiations the county should have underway with BNSF. Instead, inexperienced managers are just saying, “Sure, build a bridge.” Improvements come from serious negotiations. That’s why I am running for Bonner County commissioner.

STEVE LOCKWOOD

Sandpoint

Unpleasant Surprises May Face Many County Landowners

April 19, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee – Direct Link to Article

Unpleasant surprises may face many Bonner County landowners. The county is considering undermining 27 years of countywide zoning by allowing illegally created parcels created before Nov. 18, 2008, to be lawful through “amnesty.”

This waives 27 years of zoning standards, like lot size minimums, and 13 years of subdivision standards, like the need to plat. Your neighborhood may change without notice as you welcome neighbors to lots you thought were too small to develop. This “amnesty” is unfair to those who followed the rules. For example: A 20-acre parcel zoned agricultural since 1981 with a 10-acre minimum was split into four 5-acre properties, violating the lot size minimum without going through the subdivision process, would now become legal.

Folks who bought into a neighborhood in rural Bonner County thinking they were moving into an agricultural area now find that this isn’t going to be the case because neighboring lots will be smaller.

The code proposal would affect property owners and jurisdictions county-wide. A fire district that has staffed for homes on 10-acre lots, could find itself serving many more property owners, with no advance notice. Roads may not be properly sized. Water and sewer districts may be overextended.

STEVE LOCKWOOD

Sandpoint

Demand Open Process on Proposed Planning, Zoning Changes

Do you want an industrial plant near your rural home? No? Then read this:

Bonner County zoning codes are currently up for changes without the usual opportunities for citizen input. Under currently proposed revisions, industrial plants would be permitted in many county zones, potentially including yours. Protection of private property will be weakened.

In the past, citizens were offered many opportunities to contribute to changes such as these. The county held evening workshops in many locations, published progress reports, and tried hard to keep you informed and include your ideas.

Zoning for industrial uses is only one of many changes underway. Today’s commission may be doing the legal minimum, but they are trying to ram this through without your knowledge and ideas.

If elected Bonner County commissioner in November, I will transparently conduct public business. Today’s commission is doing the opposite.

Call the commissioners at 208-265-1438. Ask for a copy of the proposed changes and demand an open process!

STEVE LOCKWOOD – Sandpoint