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Commissioners further discuss Solid Waste Fees, Law Enforcement Center, and break to Executive Session to discuss staff workloads and layoffs

Monday, February 25th – Board of County Commissioners Meeting

Commissioners further discuss Solid Waste Fees, Law Enforcement Center, and break to Executive Session to discuss staff workloads and layoffs

As mentioned in last week’s meeting report from the February 11th BOCC meeting, each Monday BOCC meeting begins with a 15-30 minute “Morning Mic” session, a public Q & A session with the commissioners.  We greatly encourage you to attend these public “Open Mic” sessions and/or email or call our County Commissioners (commissioners@co.teton.id.us) with any concerns or feedback you may have. The next opportunity to meet with the BOCC will be at their first “Town Hall” meeting on Monday, April 8th at 7pm in the Commissioner Chambers of the courthouse in Driggs.

Before Department Business was discussed, Commissioner Rinaldi suggested that the county record meetings and post them on the county’s website, so that the public has access to the meeting before minutes become available.  Some members of the public have asked the commissioners to post recordings since it is hard for everyone to make it to the daytime public meetings. Video recording was also discussed, but audio recording could be implemented right away since the county already has the required technology. It was then decided that audio recording would be discussed at a future meeting.

Solid Waste Fee Update:

Spurred by a request to waive waste disposal fees for a commercial business, the county is now working on restructuring these fees. Currently the county charges 15 cents per square foot for most commercial buildings and $105 per year for residential properties (exact costs are on the county’s fee schedule, which can be obtained through the Teton County Assessor’s Office). There have been requests to waive fees based on occupancy in the past, but there is no way for the county to track when occupancy changes in the building. This would require the county spending money to hire an enforcement officer to monitor occupancy.

Commissioner Rinaldi agreed that the most fair method is to charge businesses based on the volume of trash produced, but there is no way to track this other than requiring trash pick up and weighing. Commissioners Park then asked Teton County’s Assessor Bonnie Beard to look into a new fee structure for trash disposal and that fee structures would be further discussed when the Commissioners discuss the county’s future budget slated for the end of August/early September. It is important to note, that re-working the current fee structure could be a laborious process, affecting hundreds of businesses, perhaps even affecting residential properties.

Law Enforcement Center Update:

Commissioner Kunz asked County Engineer Jay Mazalewski if there could be ways to cut the costs of the Law Enforcement Center (LEC). Kunz wondered if there was a way to let the public further comment on the project and whether the building is extravagant. He was concerned that the project would cost over $3 million said the building doesn’t need to last 50 years. He was unaware that the county was building a law enforcement center until after the election, even though this process began in 2010 (Note: If construction costs go over the contracted price with Ormond Builders, then Ormond Builders is responsible for covering those costs, not the county. Further, the county has planned and budgeted for the LEC and has the necessary funds needed to proceed).

Rinaldi asked Commissioner Park what he thought and reminded him that the LEC had been discussed numerous times over the last 2 years he was in office and that he had been involved and voted in favor of decisions that were made throughout the process. Park said that he felt like other options and locations were ignored, but couldn’t name specific instances when questioned by Rinaldi. She reminded him that the county did look at locating the law enforcement center at the courthouse (which was mentioned as a possible location by Kunz and Park), but that it was determined that the courthouse wouldn’t meet the standards and space needed for a law enforcement building. All county personnel would be located in the same building, which could be unsafe, as well. Park and Kunz also asked about building the LEC in phases.

Redesign of the LEC at this stage would require new evaluation from the Driggs Review Board if significant exterior changes to the exterior were made. There would also be cost impacts for design changes and time delays. Rinaldi said that the building will save the county and taxpayers in the long run if it is built to last. She expressed confidence that the Board went through a comprehensive and open process when determining the size and location of the LEC and that contrary to Kunz and Park’s claims that the process had been rushed, the LEC project was actually behind schedule.

County Engineer Mazalewski asked for the board to give him specific questions for the Ormond team, the architect and construction manager by Wednesday, February 27 and noted that the design process could take 6 weeks to 3 months (Note: Ultimately, no specific questions were submitted by the Commissioners by the 27th).

Planning, Building & GIS Update:

Planning Adminstrator Angie Rurtherford first updated the BOCC about the Economic Development Committee, stating that they had met for the last time and made final recommendations towards the economic plan for Teton Valley. She said that the volunteer committee had put many hours of their time into the project over the last couple of years and asked the Board to write thank you notes to each member.

Planner Curt Moore then updated the BOCC about the Teton Springs Heli-Ski Operation mentioning that there had been a complaint from a neighbor about being “strafed” by a helicopter on Mt. Oliver in early February. Commissioner Rinaldi said that the Forest Service was responsible for this jurisdiction.  

The conversation then quickly turned to questions about staffing in the planning department. Kelly Park said that there are not many homes being built now, so the county needs to rethink their staffing needs. He asked the planners if they feel like they are overstaffed and stated that, “There are going to be layoffs”—the Planning department just happens to be the first department that they are looking at. The planners stated that they are busy; Angie Rutherford said that she usually puts in over 40 hours of work each week. Planner Curt Moore explained that there’s a distinction between the planning and building workloads and the timing of building and planning applications. He also stated that there is a difference between planning for short versus long-range projects and that there is more than one person’s work in their department. Park stated that the county should look at other nearby communities and feels like they are doing more with less and that government should be run like a business. Commissioner Rinaldi stated that we should look at our current county needs and base our staffing on that, not on other communities.

Prosecutor Spitzer said that she receives several emails a day from both planners in reference to legal questions and agrees that they are busy. Then there was a turn of events…

While agendas to BOCC meetings are posted on the county’s website 5 days before public hearings, meetings don’t always go according to schedule. Commissioner Kunz asked to continue the staffing conversation into an Executive Session. At 11:50am, the BOCC went into Executive Session, telling members of the audience to return at approximately 12:20pm. Instead, the Executive Session ended at 12:55pm, with the BOCC and Prosecuting Attorney returning, all looking drained and without the County Planner or Planning Administrator. Rather than continuing the scheduled Planning Department update, Park told the audience that no decisions had been made and the BOCC went into discussing administrative business.

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