County leaders bid farewell

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  • Keith Hutcheson, right, Kootenai County’s director of adult misdemeanor probation, gives Commissioner Marc Eberlein a handshake during a farewell open house Tuesday.

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    Photos by LOREN BENOIT/Press Laureen Chaffin with Kootenai County Solid Waste gives Commissioner Bob Bingham a hug during a farewell open house Tuesday for Bingham and fellow Commissioner Marc Eberlein.

  • Keith Hutcheson, right, Kootenai County’s director of adult misdemeanor probation, gives Commissioner Marc Eberlein a handshake during a farewell open house Tuesday.

  • 1

    Photos by LOREN BENOIT/Press Laureen Chaffin with Kootenai County Solid Waste gives Commissioner Bob Bingham a hug during a farewell open house Tuesday for Bingham and fellow Commissioner Marc Eberlein.

Swearing-in ceremony

COEUR d'ALENE — Kootenai County will host a swearing-in ceremony for elected officials on Monday at 10 a.m. in Rooms 1A and 1B of the Administration Building, 451 N. Government Way.

The ceremony is open to the public.

Those who will be sworn in include: Bill Brooks, District 1 commissioner; Leslie Duncan, District 3 commissioner; Jim Brannon, clerk; Rich Houser, assessor; Steve Matheson, treasurer; and Warren Keene, coroner.

For more information, call (208) 446-1600 or send an email to kcinfo@kcgov.us.

COEUR d'ALENE — Two-thirds of Kootenai County's board of commissioners are in their final week in office, making this a time to reflect on accomplishments and leftovers for the next board to nibble on.

Marc Eberlein is finishing up a four-year term, while Bob Bingham is completing a two-year stint. Both were defeated in last May's Republican primary during their re-election bids.

Eberlein said serving as a commissioner has been an eye-opening experience.

"You represent all the people of the county — from the far left to the far right — and it's just not possible to know what it's like until you walk in the door," he said. "You make tough decisions that are difficult to prepare for. But, if you're used to managing a company, you'll do fine."

Eberlein said he plans to work on his invention of an industrial-strength grinder.

Bingham said he wants to stay involved politically as well as build a home and shop — under the option of opting out of the county's building permit process that he authored as a commissioner.

The opt-out provision aimed at reducing regulations. Government met stiff opposition from those who believed it would lead to shoddy construction. It's expected to be one of the first discussion items of the new board and could be reversed.

Bingham won the support of Eberlein to get the opt-out option approved. Eberlein said he believes that support hurt his chances of being re-elected, but he has no regrets.

"There's talk about making America great again, so where do you draw the line in the sand?" Eberlein said. "A politician does what it takes to be re-elected. A statesman does what is right for the people."

Bingham said that while he believes the opt-out was a step toward reducing government, much more streamlining needs to be done. Commissioners have had to approve expenditures as low as 10 cents, he said.

"There is much more I wanted to accomplish, but aspects of Idaho and county government does make changing things much more difficult than in the private sector," he said.

Other laws have also hamstrung progress, he said. The high turnover rate on the board, especially with a two-year seat, makes long-term planning at the county difficult, he said.

Among Bingham's other initiatives was creating a business analyst position in the commissioners' office to help the board make wise financial decisions. It was a move that Eberlein opposed, saying existing staff was available to provide financial data.

Bingham said Nanci Plouffe, the business analyst, will be an asset for future boards and will relieve some of the frustrations he had.

"I didn't come into office seeking that position," he said. "To serve the citizens as best as we can, we need more time as commissioners than what's available for each issue."

Bingham also spearheaded discussions ranging from how to make improvements to the county's fleet management system to expanding the Administration Building to create more space for offices and a larger meeting room.

The current board budgeted to hire an architect to design an expansion, but the future board will be tasked with deciding whether to construct the project.

Eberlein said he's pleased that during his term the county purchased property near the airport in two separate sales to ensure future expansion.

The airport master plan, which required collaboration from several local jurisdictions as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, is wrapping up.

"My name won't be on the line (for final approval), but the plan is about ready to be signed, sealed and delivered," Eberlein said. "It took four years to get it done and a vast amount of input."

The $12.5 million jail expansion, which finished this year and was paid for with funds that had been saved, was a major undertaking and relief, Eberlein said.

"We should have enough jail space for several more years now and we've got it shelled for another future expansion," he said.

Eberlein said expanding the jail rather than building a new one, which had been debated several years ago, was the more prudent decision for taxpayers.

"The people were not going to support a bond for a new jail," he said.

Eberlein said fiscal responsibility was important to him and the lone time he supported a tax hike was to pay for a steep hike in health insurance costs.

“We’ve found a new insurance consulting firm to get that problem under control,” he said.

Eberlein said he's also proud the county was able to open a Driver’s License office in Post Falls under his leadership, in order to reduce wait times at the Coeur d'Alene office.

Eberlein pushed for the county to consider privatizing solid waste services to save money.

"It will fall upon the next board to decide whether to further explore the potential savings to the taxpayers," he said.

Eberlein said a project that he never supported, but was approved by the majority of the board, is the new transit center that's under construction. He questioned the need for the facility and had concerns it may prompt crime.

Both commissioners said it's been a pleasure serving citizens and county employees.

"One person can make a difference whether you're in office or as a citizen," Bingham said.

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