Local developer Troy Lozano expressed frustrations with the county’s procedure for subdivisions at the commissioners regular meeting Feb. 27.
Lozano and engineer Josh Bagley said they expected to receive final plat approval from the commissioners for Lonely Moose subdivision. However, County Attorney Mariah Dunham said a public hearing is required prior to the commissioners approving and signing the final plat.
“Your county code requires a public hearing at your level, and so the next step would be to set this for public hearing,” Dunham said.
Lozano said according to a flow chart they received that step was not listed, and expressed confusion and frustration.
“I’m literally floored to hear we need another public hearing,” Lozano said. “Can you walk me through it since I don’t have an attorney here? I am beyond frustrated. This is set for action item today. I thought we were coming here today to get this thing signed.”
Dunham said she was unfamiliar with the chart Lozano referenced, but looked up the county code requirement and showed them to Commissioner Phil Lampert. She explained that there are no exceptions and a public hearing is required at the county level on final plats. She said for preliminary plat commissioners are not required to hold a public hearing but may request one. At the planning and zoning level, Dunham said a public hearing is required at the preliminary plat stage but not for final plat.
Lozano and Bagley said they did not have a public hearing at the county level for final plat approval for a development they did up Shay Hill. Dunham disagreed.
“This has been two years in the making with a lot of back and forth,” Lozano said. “I know I’m new at doing this…but how do we make it smoother for you guys and for ourselves?”
Commissioners approved scheduling the item for a public hearing at 9 a.m. at the March 13 meeting. Lampert said the commissioners should be able to sign it that day barring it is approved.
Commissioners sympathized with Lozano, but said they needed to follow the procedure outlined.
“We should be able to sign it that day and get things taken care of,” Lampert said. “I know you’ve done all the work on it.”
• • •
Commissioners approved an amendment for the ambulance transfer in regards to when financials were actually moved from the city to the county.
• • •
Clerk DeeDee Bramblett said there were some software errors in regards to the annual audit in trying to close out the books. A 60-day extension was granted.
• • •
Benewah Community Hospital requested assistance from the county in regards to a new roof for where the helicopter lands. The estimate for the recommended option was between $385,000 and $415,000.
“Makes it tough to me knowing what their future is…wish this was something they could manage, be self-supporting or self-sufficient,” Commissioner Mark Reynolds said, adding it is a county building, however, and should be maintained.
Lampert said Benewah Community Hospital is not the only facility having difficulty when it comes to “income not meeting expenses.” Lampert said a physician out of western Washington shared that other facilities are having the same problems because of “the high costs of nurses, costs going up and reimbursements not being where they should be.”
“We’re not a lone ranger in this,” Lampert said.
Lampert asked Bramblett where the county stood with ARPA funds. Bramblett said the county has spent and/or committed $800,000 to $900,000, and has received the second half.
Commissioners agreed it would be best to hear from the hospital on how much they could put toward the project before committing an amount from the funds.
• • •
Commissioner Bob Short said he needed to get another quote for redoing the roof at the CAF Building in Fernwood. He said it did need replaced and he would want to do another metal roof.
• • •
Commissioners briefly discussed the county’s all hazard mitigation fund, and agreed it would be beneficial to have someone come talk to them about it.
• • •
Commissioners approved the Intermax agreement for internet equipment on the Leuty Building after Intermax made some brief language changes to the contract after reviewing it.
• • •
The New Library Team in Fernwood was on the agenda again for a request to put speed bumps on 6th Street, which is where the new library will be built eventually due to speeding motorist complaints. It is the main road that leads to UpRIver Elementary, and sees a lot of use. There are also no sidewalks and children are often present in the area.
Dunham encouraged the commissioners to do a traffic study in the area, talk with their engineer as well as the sheriff, and to look at putting an ordinance in place defining speed limits for the county. Without the local ordinance limits are set by the state.
Short said he would like to see measures put in place for the safety of the children, and said it is “dangerous walking to and from school.”
No action was taken.
• • •
Commissioners reviewed a draft agreement with Dan Hay for use of a rock pit. Lampert said it was a good start, and Hay should review it next.
• • •
The interagency agreement for sewer treatment services with the city of St. Maries was on the agenda, but commissioners agreed they wanted to talk about it in executive session.
In a letter to the county dated Feb 24, Mayor Tom Carver refuted the claim by the county that the city had any money remaining in accounts to turn over.
Carver wrote the following on the matter:
“With respect to your inquiry regarding the operational and reserve funds
addressed in the previous agreement, please be advised the city does not intend to provide any additional monies to the county. Neither an operational nor a reserve fund were ever established. The city expended all funds available to maintain the sewer treatment facility and both the city and county collection systems from 1987 until January, 2022,” the letter states. “For your information, the city has expended approximately $500,000 since that time to maintain and operate the county collection system, which, despite repeated requests, has never been reimbursed by the county. As we advised you on December 27, 2021, the city did establish a separate sewer reserve fund from monies collected from an increase in collected fees in 2017, with a balance of $80,296.44 as of November 30, 2021. This money was intended to reimburse the city for a portion of the defrayed costs of maintenance and operation. According to the city’s auditor, as of 2021, the city has incurred approximately $330,000 of general operations and maintenance expenditures in excess of user charges collected for providing services to county residents, but has not received any monies from the county for these services.
The city reserves the right to take legal action to recover these monies from the county outside the terms and conditions of the agreement.”
In the same letter, Carver pointed out one section of the agreement provides for the county to make improvements to its collection system within an undefined time period. He asked for the county to provide a date in which “you can commit to ensure. All wastewater will be transmitted to the city’s splitter box.”
Carver also wrote the city could not agree to maintain the lift station located at the fairgrounds as it was constructed for the county prior to annexation of the fairgrounds and the county collects fees from the customers on it. The letter also stated the city could not agree to share the costs of the Kootenai Ave. lift station.
The letter also pointed out that one section of the agreement requires the county to ensure all industrial/ commercial users within the county meet all pre-treatment standards.
Finally, in his letter, Carver asked the county to provide the city with the number and new types of users since January 2022 so that appropriate fees could be accessed.
• • •
Two letters were approved to be sent to Emida residents with encroachments onto county property.
• • •
Commissioners tabled two items in regards to the sale of a property at St. Joe Riverside Tracts. Dunham said when she went to prepare the deed, she realized the parcel had not been included in any recent auctions and the last time it went up for auction was in 2005 with a minimum bid of $35,000, which is what the county commissioners approved at a meeting Jan. 23.
“That changes things a little bit,” Reynolds said, adding the price would not be current.
“Has the money been paid to the treasurer?” Lampert asked.
Bramblett said it had been accepted. Dunham said there may be some options available and the commissioners may be able to reverse it as the “transaction hasn’t been completed.”
• • •
During public comment, Dave Johansson, of Fernwood, requested the alley way that allows him to access his backyard remains available. He referenced the agenda item concerning the new library. When asked about the traffic along 6th Street, Johansson said there is a lot of traffic on the road that drives fast. He added a lot of kids walk on the asphalt as its either the road or in a ditch.
Maureen Hodgson said the county has been doing an “awesome job” on grading the road out the Benewah.
Doug Pratt, who lives up Hells Gulch, said the people up the Benewah are lucky, saying the roads gets more gravel than any other roads in the county. Lampert explained Benewah was “trashed” after it was used as a detour when Highway 5 was blocked by a slide. He said the county secured a grant from FEMA to rehabilitate.
Pratt also asked if property owners were informed of their driveway approaches to which Reynolds said engineer Jim Roletto had talked to some.
• • •
Ambulance director Kristin Compton said the new ambulance, which she purchased with a grant, finally arrived. Three old ambulances no longer in use were also approved for surplus. Additionally, Compton said volunteers were testing that took the most recent class.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.