Commissioners Are Uninformed on ARPA
Put It On The Ballot
By: Asia Williams, SSBB, LPN, MBA
Attorney Bill Wilson presented his memo regarding ARPA to those who were able to make the workshop on February 16, 2022. The commissioners clarified during the workshop that Mr. Wilson’s memo was not a recommendation, merely an opinion.
Commissioner Connolly agreed that he has only read about 100 pages of the available information related to ARPA. Information that was identified as being required.
Commissioner McDonald clarified for the room that, commissioners often have legal read and give an opinion due to the number of issues they have to address.
Asia Williams, candidate for district 2 commissioner, promptly responded to Commissioner McDonald by reminding all that we are in 2022. She went on to give the timeline. She stated that commissioners made a unanimous decision to accept the funds in 2021.
Prior to signing for ARPA funds, the commissioners did not read the available information nor did they receive a legal opinion. She continued, stating that such a decision is an uninformed decision that does not address the risks associated with the language of the documents. Commissioner Connolly responded to Williams’s statement with a follow up of well, you must have more time to read.
There was a pointed discussion from members of the public regarding the lack of an assessment of the risks to the county as a whole as well as the impacts to the economy. Although some information was provided regarding case law that could be used if litigation were to ensue, many left the workshop with additional questions regarding the way in which the commissioners make decisions. Mr. Wilson’s memo highlighted some of the actions the federal government could take which included affected other forms of federal money to the county. What was clear, was that all three commissioners are in agreement to spend ARPA money in spite of legal questions that remained unanswered.
Williams raised three specific issues from the final treasurer rule. 1. that “state..local…needs to respond at scale to public health emergency. This includes continued public health efforts to slow the spread of the disease, to increase vaccination rates and provide vaccinations. She asked how has Bonner County responded to scale. The question went unanswered. 2. Language regarding decisions that contravene are not permissible. She questioned how Bonner County’s position as a constitutional county that voted to not have a mask mandate will be viewed during an audit with respect to “contravening” or opposing. The question went unanswered. The final concern was that the final treasurer rule states that “…after the issuance of the fiscal recovery fund final rule, treasurer will issue detailed requirements for reporting.” ( Final Treasurer Rule page 18) wherein we have agreed to accept additional rules post the final rule. Kendra Martin commented on the requirement for data gathering in the final rule.
Williams ended by stating that we may not all agree on the decision that is made. There are people on both sides of the aisle on this issue. However, the commissioners have a responsibility to make an informed decisions on key issues that may impact the residents of Bonner County. Commissioner Connolly attempted to interject and was greeted with a response from Williams that as a commissioner who has not read the document, she was not interested in an uninformed opinion but asking that the commissioners provide an informed response to the concerns that she raised.
It was suggested that the issue be put on the ballot for the community to take a vote on. Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen. Per Mike Rosedale, there is enough time to get the issue on the ballot for the public to review.
Editor Note: There is a public ARPA Informational Meeting tonight in Sandpoint at the VFW, 6pm.