In an effort to refurbish the county’s wastewater collection system, Benewah County will apply for $1 million in grant money.
A public hearing was held in regards to the project and the county’s intent to apply for grant money Nov. 14.
The county is applying for $500,000 Idaho Community Development Block grant, for which they held the public hearing. A second grant of $500,000 is also being sought from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Commissioners approved setting aside $170,000 as a match for the project should it come to fruition.
Jesse Herndon, of HMH Engineering, said the county will know in March if they are awarded the money from the Idaho Community Development Block Grant. Awards for the Army Corps will be released in April.
The county previously received $15,000 for the wastewater facility plan, which Herndon anticipates approval for next spring as well.
Commissioner Phil Lampert said he would like to see the project go out for bid next winter so construction could begin in spring 2024. The proposed construction will address deficiencies within the system and its 18 lift stations.
Grant writer Walter Steed said there are fewer applications for the grant program in this round, which he said could benefit the county. He said projects will be scored on a number of factors. He added the county did meet income requirements to be eligible for the Block grant.
Commissioners agreed it would be a great project for the county and its wastewater collection system. No written comments or verbal comments were given on the project during the public hearing from county residents.
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Lampert suggested the commissioners should sit down with the board of Benewah Community Hospital in the near future to discuss revenue. He said the facility is losing money each month.
“They could make money if they had more business, but they are not getting enough business,” Lampert said.
Lampert did give specific numbers in regards to the hospital’s monthly shortcomings.
Lampert said a special session with the hospital board would allow commissioners and the board to discuss options going forward.
“How can we cut costs without cutting services or increase participation to cover ongoing expenses,” Lampert said.
A date was not set, but commissioners agreed it would be a good idea.
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Commissioners approved dispatch services agreements for the cities of both Plummer and St. Maries.
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Concerns were brought to the commissioners in regards to Doupe Road, located over by DeSmet. Lampert said concerns included how narrow the road was. He said initially there were only one to two houses on the road, but a development that will eventually include more houses is going in. He said there are roads being constructed into the development and as such have been six or so trucks using Doupe Road regularly.
Lampert said eventually the county will have to look at widening the road. Commissioner Mark Reynolds said there are several other similar situations like that throughout the county.
“Echo Springs is one of them,” Reynolds said.
Commissioners agreed there was not a budget to go out and fix each and every road. Engineer Jim Roletto, of HMH Engineering, said they would be bound by priorities and budgets as to what they were able to do.
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Reynolds mentioned a possible shortage of diesel and asked if the commissioners should add a pump to a tank, originally intended for use at the airport. He said the tank is not yet needed at the airport, and could be utilized to store offroad diesel.
“It sounds like it’s happening more in the east,” Reynolds said, “but they are talking about it coming here and driving the price up.”
Commissioners agreed it may be advantageous to fill the tank, and Reynolds said it would be easy to add a pump. He said he estimates it is a 7,000-gallon tank.
“It wouldn’t be a bad idea to get quotes from vendors,” Lampert said.
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Commissioner Bob Short said there was a request for the county to adopt Green Valley Road as a county road. County attorney Mariah Dunham said the county needed a written request to which they could respond. She said it should detail whatever the owner is asking the commissioners to do.
Roletto said there are a few punch list items that still need to be completed so the road meets specs as a county road.
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Commissioners briefly discussed a portion of land they own in Shoshone County that is utilized as a road. Lampert said two new commissioners were elected in Shoshone County and he said they may be interested in taking ownership.
The commissioners received a request from the Idaho Department of Lands wanting an easement across the property before it is sold. Short said it was his opinion the ground should be sold, not that the county had actually voted to sell it.
“They got the wrong impression,” Short said.
Commissioners agreed they would discuss the matter with the newly elected commissioners in Shoshone County next year. Lampert said if Shoshone County took it over then they could get so many tax dollars per mile to help maintain it as an actual road.
Dunham said they county could assure the Idaho Department of Lands if Benewah County did decide to dispose of the property, they will take the request for an easement into consideration.
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Commissioners voted to return unused grant money. The grant was to help pay for wages for a position the county does not employ for in regards to emergency management. The funds being returned totaled approximately $12,618.
Commissioners did vote to accept grant funds totaling $27,692 from the 2022 State Homeland Security Program. Clerk DeeDee Bramblett said these funds have been used in the past to purchase items such as radios and batteries for fire districts, sheriff’s office and the like.
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Commissioners approved an Interagency Sewage System Agreement between St. Maries and Benewah County with a treatment fee of $9.25.
“Looks good to me,” Reynolds said.
“Covers everything,” Lampert said.
Lampert said the agreement would be sent to the city’s attorney, Andy Doman, for review and had to be approved by the city council.
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Due to environmental comments, the plan to replace two bridges along Sanders Road will be delayed. Bids had been opened for the project, but no bid will be accepted. Roletto said there are some conversations that need to take place that impact the bridges so the county could not award the project at this time.
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Commissioners agreed they would like to purchase a turnkey building to serve as the shack for when the scales are operating at the transfer station, and approved having Roletto chase that down. Roletto said he is also looking for 12 Eco blocks for the scales project.
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Commissioners approved amending requirements originally set for plat approval for Lonely Moose subdivision. Originally, the measure required was for the water system to be installed and approved prior to final plat approval. However, the commissioners voted the project developer, Troy Lozano, could pay a performance bond in lieu of installation and approval of the wells and shared system.
Dunham said it was in line with previous conversations the commissioner held on the matter. Roletto said the proposed tank met code requirements, and the proposal seemed reasonable. This will allow plat approval so the developer can sell lots faster.
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St. Maries resident Christian Kerodin spoke to the commissioners about how a “small group of county residents” are being affected by the city no longer allowing anymore connections from county residents to the city’s water system. Kerodin said “the group” asked him to come and talk to the county and see if the commissioners had any kind of plan to help them out.
“At this point, no,” Lampert said.
Kerodin said he hadn’t dug deep into the matter, and admitted there was a lot more he didn’t know than he did know. Kerodin claimed from what he was told someone went to the city to get a permit for water outside city limits and was told they were given verbal assurance it wouldn’t be a problem, started work on their property, but when they went back to the city, they were told they were “out of luck.”
Kerodin said he was willing to bet the commissioners should be able to do something through their attorney to allow the connection to be made as there is a pipe serving the property already and the line lies within the county and not the city. He also said there are some legal questions that need answered in regards to the moratorium and the latest decision for no connections to be issued.
“Why are these people, just outside city limits, being abused?” Kerodin said.
Reynolds said there are some legitimate issues with the city’s system involving the DEQ one of them being the chlorination of the wells, which has been an ongoing problem for ten years. He said if there are other issues they have not been verbalized well by the city.
Kerodin said he planned to attend the city’s meeting, which would be held later the same day.
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During public comment, Maureen Hodgson commented she was confused about the commissioners needing to nominate a consultant for the Benewah Creek Road safety project.
Lampert said initially they were confused as well, but explained it was two separate projects. He said what happened was they were able to select a consultant for the Benewah Creek Road project as it was small enough in scale, however, they did need to nominate three consultants to be evaluated for another safety project that was for all of Benewah County.
Hodgson also asked if the commissioners were aware of the situation and drama surrounding the election of new trustees for North Idaho College. She wondered if Benewah County should be able to have a voice, or if there was a way for all the northern counties to be able to vote in the election as there are various programs for high school students to partake in to earn college credits. Hodgson said it would be nice if other counties had a say as the college almost “lost its accreditation because of the political mess.”
“As far as NIC, I don’t think we are involved. It is between Kootenai County and the state legislature,” Lampert said. “Nobody has brought it up to me except you and it hasn’t been on my radar.”
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Doug Pratt brought concerns before the commissioners again regarding drainage at Hells Gulch Road and Ridgeview. He asked is anything is in the works or being planned. He said it has been almost a year now since the issue arose. Reynolds agreed some major work needs to happen.
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An item of information was brough to the commissioners. A weather station is up and operating at the Benewah County Airport. Visit https://s72.org/weather to view the weather information.
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Jim Worden, from Emida, said he removed his items that were encroaching into the right-of-of way. He asked when other people would be required to move their items that are encroaching. The alleyway, which created a dispute, has been put back into the surveyed position.
Lampert said the commissioners would take Worden’s comment under advisement as they try to figure out the next step forward. He said the item was not listed for action on the agenda.
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Kenny Moore and Alan Moore said there are still drainage issues at the fairgrounds. They said water filled the Walker Building again affecting the mats of the wrestlers. Both men said they never heard from the engineers when the item was brought up previously. Alan Moore said he is afraid they will lose a wall of the Walker Building due to the flooding. He said the ground is higher than the bottom of the wood wall. Roletto said he remembered the item being discussed previously and would find out what was decided. He said he would contact the Moore brothers later this week.
“Sounds like it needs taken care of pretty quickly,” Short said.
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Jeff Miller appeared before commissioners to discuss issues he’s having accessing his property. He said it is becoming an issue across all of Benewah County.
Miller said the individual that bought five acres below his property put up a gate, which he was fine with and now intends to lock it. Miller said the road he used to access his property is the same road he’s used for years and years. He said the road his neighbor has blocked is the only one that goes to his house, and the recorded road has never been used to access his house and is not even a part of his address.
Miller said he understands it’s a civil matter, but wanted commissioners to be aware that it is happening in the county and not just to him.
“It is happening to a lot of us who live here because of the boom that is happening,” Miller said.
Lampert thanked him for bringing the matter to their attention, agreeing it was a civil matter.
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Commissioners nominated DEA Ruen Yeager and HMH Engineering as potential consultants for the safety project across Benewah County. The nominated firms will send in RFI’s (requests for information) to design, bid and build the project. A committee will evaluate proposals and select the best one.
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Commissioners voted for Boundary County to be included in the morgue trailer shared use agreement.
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Commissioners scheduled a canvass date for the Nov. 8 election for 8 a.m. Nov. 17.
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Bramblett said the county still had not received payment from the city for solid waste fees. She said they returned the city’s check, and rebilled them for two quarters. The city had sent a check for approximately $24,342 for third quarter billing, however the county believes it should be $36,612. Bramblett said she resent the city two bills, each for $36,612, for the third and fourth quarter.