Benewah County officially has a new commissioner and a new sheriff as of Jan. 11, 2021.

County Commissioner Mark Reynolds and Sherriff Tony Eells were sworn in to start the first meeting of the year. Incumbent Commissioner Phil Lampert and County Prosecutor Brian Thie were also sworn in. Former Sheriff Dave Resser and members of the BCSO also attended.

The ceremony concluded with Mr. Resser handing over his badge to the new sheriff while expressing his confidence and willingness to offer support in the future.

The first county commissioner meeting of 2021 was also the first meeting in 46 years that did not include Jack Buell. Mr. Buell first served in 1974.

Commissioners Bob Short and Mr. Reynolds nominated Mr. Lampert, now the senior commissioner, to the position of chairman.

“It’s a big chair to fill because Jack was here for (46 years). It’s a big change for the county,” Mr. Lampert said.

The county is researching the purchase of a vibratory roller, water truck and grader for county maintenance. Jeff Shaw, a representative of Western States Cat, presented some examples of lease options to the county.

Mr. Lampert is also exploring purchasing used equipment. He estimated purchasing costs based on private market sales. Estimates were $49,000 for the roller; $38,500 for the water truck, and $100-$130,000 for the motor grader.

Mr. Reynolds said he preferred a lease option for the equipment.

“Maintenance costs will save you tremendously,” he said.

Commissioners asked Mr. Shaw to return to them with specific lease terms to determine the best option for the county.

At the St. Maries Golf Course, a septic tank backup at the clubhouse is estimated to cost $35,000. Approximately $20,000 for repairs and another $15,000 for cleanup. The septic backup damaged bathrooms, sheetrock and floors.

The county will submit the repair bill to the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program commonly known as ICRMP. The county’s ICRMP deductible is $1,500.

It is suspected that the damage occurred over several weeks while the lower level was unattended. To address the issue, the septic tank will be placed on a cleaning schedule.

The county will present 1-year lease agreement to the Casa de Oro restaurant. The previous lease expired in September 2020. The restaurant pays $1,000 per month April – Sept. and $500 per month Oct. – March. Due to the lapse, the current lease is month-to-month.

County Clerk Deanna Bramblett said she believed the lapse of the lease was an oversight.

The commissioners agreed to offer a one-year lease renewal to the restaurant.

According to Mr. Reynolds at least one other restauranteur has expressed interest in the location.

Mr. Short sought permission to research an Avista program that provides funding for the replacement of lights. He said lights at the transfer station need replacement. Mr. Reynolds suggested the county look for additional replacement opportunities.

“As of January 1, it doubled in the rebate…so, if there are others in need it might be a good time to look at,” Mr. Reynolds said.

According to Mr. Reynolds, the Avista rebate program was previously used to replace lighting at the Cormana Building.

County Assessor Donna Spier said that the county DMV office is increasing its hours.

“The gals think that Fridays we can start edging out. We are at 1 o’clock right now. We have been using the afternoons for appointments for people who have a lot of stuff,” Ms. Spier said.

The office is continuing to only provide service to the county and bordering towns while Idaho Transportation Department continues to fix the new software system implemented last year.

In other news:

The county paid $54,025 toward design and construction work on the Slaughterhouse Bridge. The project is still in the design phase.

A grant application for assistance with the completion of the county’s hazard mitigation plan was submitted to FEMA. The five-year plan expired. Without a current plan FEMA will not make improvements to county areas damaged by disaster but will make equivalent replacements.

An annual requirement to present an audit engagement letter to the firm previously hired by the county to conduct the audit was approved for presentation. The county previously negotiated a 3-year fixed rate for audit services. However, law requires an annual agreement to be presented.

The county reviewed odd-lot parcel purchase requests. Odd-lots are county owned land that is adjacent to privately owned property and is unusable or inaccessible otherwise.

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