Look past the drama to see the real accomplishments of 2023
By Luke Omodt, District 1 Bonner County Commissioner
As a retired soldier and teacher with 25 years of public service, including 15 years in a classroom and multiple overseas deployments, I didn’t have a clue what I was getting into when I was elected as your Bonner County commissioner. Local politics is a rough-and-tumble sport. Fortunately, I grew up on a farm and am an avid gardener, so when I’m given manure I choose to recognize it as a future growth opportunity.
Here in Bonner County, your local Board of County Commissioners, BOCC, are a dynamic bunch. If you take a break from the slights, mud slinging and booger flicking, we are actually working and — more importantly — accomplishing our statutory responsibility, which is to serve you, the taxpayer. There have been bumps and bruises along the way, but here are some of the highlights and accomplishments from my first year in office.
The EMS Station 1 construction project will be completed in 2024, modernizing EMS, Veterans Services and Coroner’s facilities. This project has been funded through wise and prudent fiscal policy that will modernize and serve Bonner County for decades to come.
The Bonner County Road and Bridge Department has received approximately $25 million in grants, with zero county match, funding six replacement bridges. We’re chasing a seventh bridge replacement, and are submitting a $2.75 million grant to upgrade the Merritt Brothers Bridge in Priest River.
Bonner County has updated and adopted 13 of 16 required components to the Comprehensive Plan with multiple opportunities for public input. It’s not too late to make your voice heard on the remaining three, which will be completed in spring 2024.
The Planning Department has posted all of its monthly updates for 2023 and will continue in 2024. The growth in Bonner County is slowing, but still growing. There have been fewer Comprehensive Plan amendments, zone changes and minor land divisions in 2023 than years past.
The BOCC has returned human resources and risk management to where they statutorily belong, fixed a dysfunctional federal procurement policy to better serve Bonner County and required the Prosecutor’s Office — our legal counsel — to attend business meetings in accordance with Idaho Code 31-2607, all to better protect the taxpayer and to meet our statutory obligations
The regular business meeting agenda and packet is calendared on our website homepage and we are in the midst of a much needed update. The update will improve site navigation, be less clunky and have more self-serve options. Check out our existing site at bonnercountyid.gov to see what your county government is up to.
The Bonner County Fairgrounds is going to receive an independent outside audit for the first time in decades. Bonner County will continue to receive independent outside audits as required by law.
The Emergency Management Department BonFire Program continues to protect private property at no cost to private landowners by removing hazardous fuels, ladder fuels and increasing tree spacing. We have one of the best programs in the state. Check it out, protect your property and tell your neighbors about it, too.
Bonner County and Pend Oreille County, Wash., have had a mutual aid road maintenance agreement since the early 1970s. The last update was in 1995 and our two counties updated this agreement on Jan. 2, 2024, continuing this long-term relationship into the future and benefiting both counties’ and states’ taxpayers.
The BOCC worked with the Sheriff’s Office to raise detention wages to retain and recruit highly qualified and valued detention staff to maintain public safety.
I revert to my teacher days as a reminder that what we are experiencing in Bonner County, the United States and the world is not new.
George Washington wasn’t a member of a political party and the first and only president elected unanimously by the electoral college. The election of 1796 was bitterly partisan, with John Adams smearing Thomas Jefferson and vice versa with barbs of sexual infidelities, fat shaming, vote manipulation and so on. The presidential rematch of 1800 got worse… Jefferson’s supporters called Adams a hermaphrodite and Adams’ supporters said Jefferson would openly promote prostitution, incest and adultery. The race ended in a tie, leading to the 12th Amendment and Aaron Burr killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel shortly thereafter.
You do not see caravans of people fleeing the United States, Idaho or Bonner County. In fact, it’s just the opposite for good reason. Vigorous debate and disagreement is not a sign of dysfunction but of a working democratic republic.
This is a great place to work, live and play.
I’ve made mistakes but I’m learning and remain steadfast in my optimism and commitment to Bonner County. If you have questions email me at [email protected]. If you are going to attend a weekly business meeting, bring popcorn.
Luke Omodt represents District 3 on the Bonner County Board of Commissioners, comprising the areas immediately north of Sandpoint and the eastern portion of the county.