Jefferson County commissioners took curative action July 1 on another open session violation regarding the possible transfer of Highway 48 from the Idaho Transportation Department to the county.
On June 24, the commissioners took curative action for a May 28 closed meeting on the same topic. Initially, Scott Hancock said he believed ITD had also met with commissioners in February or March. However, a meeting actually took place Jan. 28, Hancock said July 1.
Both the May and January meetings were in violation of open meeting laws, which allow closed governmental meetings, or executive sessions, for “acquisition of real property,” except for in cases where the property is owned by a public agency. In this case, Highway 48 is owned by the Idaho Transportation Department.
“We have found this needs to be taken care of in all open session, since it, (ITD), is a public agency,” Hancock said.
County attorney Weston Davis previously said, regarding a closed May 28 meeting on the same topic, that there had been no calculated reason for closing the meeting, and said it had been an oversight.
A public hearing on the transfer of Highway 48 to Jefferson County was held at 7 p.m. July 8 at the Jefferson County Courthouse Annex at 210 Courthouse Way in the commissioners meeting room.
In other business, the commissioners approved updates to the emergency management ordinance that will modernize the ordinance and make it easier for the county to enact and enforce burn bans.
It has been decades since the ordinance has been updated, Emergency Management Coordinator Rebecca Squires said. She said the updates mainly bring the county in line with state code. The change most likely to affect people is that burning during a ban will now be an infraction punishable by up to a $300 fine, Squires said.
“There’s now a citation that will be attached to that, whereas before, that wasn’t the case,” she said.
No one testified at the public hearing, and commissioners voted unanimously to approve the ordinance changes.
Commissioners also spoke about the county’s bituminous surface treatment (BST) and sealing program with Jerry Ramirez of the county public works department. The county’s BST treatment creates an Otta seal and is one way the county is increasing road life, Public Works Director Dave Walrath said outside of the meeting. Otta seal is a type of BST treatment developed by the Norwegian Road Research Laboratory in the Otta Valley. Walrath said the seal can add 15 to 20 years of life to a road, and is the most “cost-effective and overall effective” treatment for roads.
However, he said many people don’t understand what road crews are doing when they apply the seal, and sometimes complain to the county.
“They think what’s happening is (road crews are) turning their paved road into a gravel road,” he said. “And that’s not what’s happening at all.”
Walrath said another issue people could be having with the Otta seal is it uses large crushed chip material that could fly up and cause damage to windshields. He said county workers have laid down a larger chip size,three-fourths, in the three years since they started the treatment. This year, however, he said they are using a smaller chip size, five-eighths, that may be less damaging.
Walrath said the county does not have the budget to repave all roads every year, and typically paves 10 miles of road per year, resulting in a 50-year rotation of county roads. No road, he said, lasts 50 years, so road and bridge workers have to do other treatments to improve the roads. He said they apply Otta seal to about 20 to 25 miles of road a year and chip seal, which adds traction, to the previous year’s newly-paved roads.
Ramirez told commissioners that workers are currently focusing on applying chip and BST seal to roads within the county, and said they will not work on paving until sealing is finished, which may be in August.
“A lot of this weather’s been putting us behind,” he said.
During the meeting, commissioners also went through an inspection of the county jail, approved a plat amendment for Triple Horseshoe Ranch and approved county personnel policy changes.
The commissioners meet every Monday, and agendas can be found at http://www.co.jefferson.id.us/Meeting_Agendas.php.
A previous version of this story said county workers had been laying down five-eighths chip size and are now laying down a smaller, three-fourths size. However, three-fourths is the larger chip size workers were laying previously, and five-eighths is the current, smaller size.