The Board of County Commissioners discussed a number of issues a their most recent meetings.
Introduction of Lyle Fuller
Lyle Fuller of Preston, representing the law firm of Fuller and Fuller, was introduced to the commission. Ethan Rawlings, also a member of the firm, will be handling the prosecutor’s duties for the county. Rawlings had also worked with Vic Pearson in the capacity of the prosecutor’s office. Pearson served as the temporary attorney for the county until the end of December. Fuller has had a lot of experience with land and water law, which has recently been the county’s most important concern on the civil law side. Members of the county offices introduced themselves to Fuller, and explained their roles on the commission.
Commission Ken Eliason nominated Bill Lewis to remain as the commission chair for the year. The motion was seconded by Brian Jeppsen and approved.
The commissioners revisited their assignments for the year, and decided to keep the same assignments going into 2024.
Name Change for Hylio Drone
A recently signed agreement with Hylio drones was signed without the full name of the weed department (Noxious Weed Control). A motion to add the full name and sign the document passed.
Sawyer Fonnesbeck, Extension Educator for the county, spoke to the commission about an ongoing project involving county funds. County funds were used to purchase several bales of hay in the furtherance of a study of hay storage. Hay is an important agricultural commodity in Idaho, and Oneida County specifically. Oneida ranks in the top half of Idaho counties for hay production, bringing in over $10 million in sales in 2017, according to Fonnesbeck.
Testing is routinely performed on hay to determine its quality as a nutrition and food source. Inspired by a question from a presentation, Fonnesbeck decided to further study how long the tested values from hay will remain accurate. Data on the longevity of stored hay under different conditions has not been conducted in a systematic way for Idaho. The best equivalent study was conducted in Kentucky, which has a very different climate. Fonnesbeck will conduct studies on uncovered straw hay bales, tarp-covered straw hay bales, and hay stored within a hay barn/shed. Permission was granted to store hay bales on the Fairgrounds property, north of the racetrack. Fonnesbeck will be testing the hay every four months for two years to see how the moisture and nutritional values change over time. Eventually, this will result in a very useful corpus of data for local livestock producers. The research fulfills Fonnesbeck’s University of Idaho promotion and tenure requirements, and will help make hay storage across the county more efficient.
Solid Waste Cancellations
County Treasurer Leigh Love spoke to the commission about whether she has the authority to cancels solid waste fees. It was determined that if a solid waste fee has been included in a tax bill, it will be brought before the commission for cancellation. If the fee is brought to the Treasurer’s attention beforehand, it will be handled in the commission meeting with Love’s recommendation.
PZ Module Update
Rhonda Neal, representing the Planning and Zone Commission, spoke about the ongoing process of establishing application fees for conditional use permits, as well as other development issues resulting from the new development code. Neal asked the commission to allow her to add services to the county’s IWORQ software for $1600/yr in order to electronically organize permits, applications, fees, etc. The county needs to create a fee schedule to support the implementation of the types of permits required by the development code. A public hearing will be necessary to set fees, as they don’t currently exist, and therefor will represent an increase above the 3% threshold. Fees in question are largely related to conditional use permitting for allowed non-conforming building applications. Each zone on the county map has a range of accepted variances for exceptions.
Federal State Labor Laws
The Sheriff’s Office talked to the commission about federal and state laws regarding law enforcement personnel. Sheriff Jones and Doug Williams communicated that under labor guidelines, dispatchers were not considered law enforcement personnel. Determining the best way to arrange for hours to reduce overtime becomes more complicated as a result. Dispatchers currently work a 36 hour week followed by a 46 hour week. This results in extra hours going to comp time, rather than pay. A change to eliminate the problem and create a standard 80 hour paid work period will be examined by the commissioners, the clerk’s office, and the sheriff before the next meeting. Lon Colton agreed to look into a way to adjust the policy to account for the problem.
Doug Williams explained that comp time unpaid during the first half of the fiscal year need to be paid out at the beginning of the next fiscal year if not used, according to Idaho law. A report on the status of comp time throughout the county and when it was accrued will be undertaken by Colton.
Resource Officer Agreement
A contract with the school district for a resource officer from the Sheriff’s Office was presented to the commissioners. The school district will be paying the wages of the resource officer to the county as an intermediary, and the hourly rate by the county is designed to account for PERSI and other taxes. The structure of the payment to cover those additional costs was discussed, though the deductions on overtime pay are considerable. Attorney Fuller advised that he did not see any direction to the county about how to pay out the funds to the employees serving as resource officers. The fact that the budget has already been allocated for the 2024 year presents some issues with budgetary flexibility on the matter. All entities involved expressed a belief in the importance of having a resource officer in the schools. Commissioner Jeppsen determined that either a flat $40/hr rate or a time and a half rate for the employee would allow for the position to be funded by the school board without affecting the county’s budget to the negative, as long as the allocation from the school district for the hourly rate was $50/hr. A new contract will be written and presented to the school board.
Doug Williams advised the commissioners that the county’s Family Medical Leave policy needed to be posted in county facilities as part of Idaho Code. The signage is a legal requirement for governmental entities.
Williams also spoke about the county’s random drug testing policy. Williams felt that currently the sheriff’s office and road and bridge were disproportionately affected by the policy, which should be more randomized. While the importance of testing law enforcement and road and bridge (who maintain CDLs and operate heavy equipment) was noted, it was also noted that in order for the policy to fulfill its stated goal, representation from other departments in the testing process should be pursued. The commission suggested that they would explore means to expand the testing in order to more broadly reflect county employees. Road and Bridge and the Sheriff’s Office are both under their own random testing requirements, while only county guidelines are in place for other employees.
An update on the current status of the SHSP to cover a backup generator for the Event Center was provided by Tory Richardson and Dan Williams. The county is waiting for a study to be completed about Environmental Impact on the location for the cement pad. Construction on government property is required to have proof that the construction will not create any negative environmental impact, especially if the use of federal or state grant funds are used in the project. The timeframe for the study and the deadline for project implementation under the SHSP grant create a narrow window of time for the project. Generac has reported that they will not be able to supply a generator within the required time, so a company who can provide a generator more quickly than Generac has been located, hopefully leaving the grant timeline intact.
Ben Naylor Rezone
February 15 has been scheduled as the day for the Ben Naylor rezone appeal hearing. Following the adoption of the new Development Code, rezoning has been put before the commission in one major case, that of a proposed rezone by Allen Nielsen. That rezone request was denied by the county. Naylor’s case specifics are different, in that the goal for the rezone was determined to be possible without a rezone. However, in order to keep the rezone active as a secondary possibility, the hearing needed to be scheduled within a certain amount of time from the initial application, which this would fulfill.
Stone Garbage Dump
Commissioner Ken Eliason raised the issue of the Stone Garbage dump. He asked what the status of the Stone dump currently is, with regard to IDAWY. A citizen had inquired about the possibility of receiving a grazing permit for the area. IDAWY responded that they were managing the site of the former landfill, which was a construction and demolition site. The dump is currently in the middle of its closure process. During the process, the site is restricted from allowing grazing on the area by the DEQ.
ARPA Funds Balance—
ARPA funding was used for the county elevator project. To date, just over $26K remains in the ARPA fund, which needs to be spent by the end of the year. The potential to use some of those funds for additional needs within the courthouse was discussed. Some issues with the elevator since it has been in use have prevented the county from viewing the contract as finalized.
Bulk Gas Tank for county fuel
Bids for a gas tank have been received. The tank will be used to store fuel for county vehicles, and allow the county to potentially save costs on fuel buy buying in bulk during lower prices. The tank will also provide a supply of emergency fuel for the county. The bids will be reviewed before a determination is made moving forward.
First Responder counseling
Emergency responders through the sheriff’s office are eligible to receive tele-health counseling services through a contract with an outside counseling company. After one year of the service, it was determined that the county has found it useful and valuable. A new contract would increase the number of sessions available to county employees to unlimited (rather than set) for a negligible increase in cost ($10K/yr vs. $9875). Discussion was held over whether the first year represented a high number due to initial contacts, but may not correlate to ongoing volume. The commissioners expressed the feeling that the service was necessary, but wanted to do more research on which method for structuring the costs was best for the county. Counseling is an important factor in the mental health of first responders, who regularly encounter situations such as accidents, unattended deaths, domestic violence investigations, and other serious situations that can lead to PTSD and other negative mental health outcomes if not addressed.
Open Meeting Law
Commissioner Jeppsen raised the issue of what situations were appropriate for the discussion of issues relevant to the county outside of open meetings on the part of commissioners. Under state and county guidelines, commissioners are not permitted to discussion issues which require action from the commissioners outside of open meetings. Fuller clarified that the law was intended to prevent discussion of ongoing decision making, rather than informational conversations. Fuller cautioned that this was as much a perception issue as a real concern. Lon Colton suggested that the School Board does make a post in cases where a quorum may be present. He further advised that out of an abundance of caution, posting notices for informal meetings without action items might be a good idea.