One step closer to reform

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COEUR d'ALENE - The Kootenai County commissioners approved 2-1 on Tuesday a resolution to place an alternative form of county government on the ballot this November.

The resolution makes official the commissioners' announcement earlier this year to offer voters an option to reorganize county government, something all three had promised in their campaigns.

"There are two ways to put a ballot vote to citizens to adopt an alternative form of county government. One way is a referendum, and the other is a resolution of the board," said Commissioner Dan Green at the commissioners' business meeting in the county administration building.

The approved resolution outlined the options that will be presented in the ballot measure.

That includes the creation of a hired county manager position, which would assume the commissioners' administrative duties, freeing their time for policy decisions.

According to the resolution, the manager would be actively involved with the commissioners, taking part in commissioner meetings and discussions, and recommending measures for adoption.

The official would also have authority to "appoint, supervise, suspend and remove county personnel," the document states, as well as nominate and appoint advisory board and committee members.

Its duties would also include acting as county budget officer, preparing and submitting an annual budget to the commissioners and keeping them apprised of the county's financial needs.

The position would be charged with general supervision of county administrative functions, too, and seeing that the commissioners' ordinances, resolutions and contracts are "complied with and faithfully executed."

The manager would further "furnish the board with information concerning the operations of county departments, boards or commissions."

Green noted after the vote that these county manager duties are outlined in Idaho Code, under the "commission-manager" form of government in Chapter 53, title 31.

"In my opinion, it streamlines the administrative process for county government," Green reiterated of why he supports that form of government.

The other major change proposed in the resolution is to make the county clerk, treasurer, assessor and coroner positions appointed by the county manager, instead of elected by voters as they are now.

The commissioners, sheriff and prosecuting attorney would continue as elected positions.

The commissioners have explained that they would have more authority over the four positions by changing their status.

Commissioner Jai Nelson cast the lone vote in opposition to the resolution, out of her concern for presenting the county manager and appointment options together in one ballot question.

"We had discussed splitting this," Nelson said of making each a separate ballot question. "I support one part and I don't support the other one. I want to make that clear."

Nelson has previously spoken of added commissioner responsibilities, if certain officials are no longer elected.

Commissioner Todd Tondee pointed out that the majority of the commissioners supported presenting the two options under one ballot question.

Tuesday's resolution will be edited for the ballot, Tondee said, but the final language will cover the same major points.

"It will be pretty close to this resolution," he said.

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