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City council gets earful on proposed ARPA expenditure

January 19, 2022

By Mike Weland

The Bonners Ferry City Council heard from 17 people at Tuesday evening's meeting, all adamant that a funding opportunity to replace a 60-year-old snow blower that's held together with spit and prayers be turned down in the interest of preserving the community's sovereignty and liberty. Because Mayor Dick Staples was not able to attend, the council tabled consideration, and will meet in special session at 3 p.m. Friday, January 21, to continue consideration of both the purchase of a compatible used snowblower now available as well as funding the purchase with federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

The agenda for that meeting is available here.

"No amount of federal money is worth trading for our freedoms, autonomy, privacy," city resident Jim Fuentes said.

"It's a trap," county resident Donna Thomas professed. "It would allow the federal government to rule us with executive orders that they make up in the future. If we need a snowblower, I'd be happy to lead a fundraiser."

The snowblower, circa 1960s, is typically used in downtown Bonners Ferry when snowfall is heavy. Plows pile snow in the median, and the blower is used to load it into trucks so it can be hauled away. The motor was replaced in 2019, but replacement parts are no longer available.

With this winter being rather exceptional in terms of snowfall, some areas of town getting as much as four feet, the shortcomings of the machine have become obvious.

"The city streets department uses the blower to move snow in our downtown core and along areas where berms are too high, or snow has no where to go," city administrator Lisa Ailport wrote in a memo recommending that the snowblower be replaced with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars. "In past seasons, we have attempted to limit our use of the blower to only those streets that have no other options. This year is an exception to the two previous years where the blower is needed more than ever. With the unreliability of the machine, it is causing more overall strain on the streets department ability to adequately and timely remove snow from the downtown as well as other areas that may need it. If any new snow accumulations are received, staff expects that we will have to seek other options for removing this snow, including leaving berms in downtown streets."

Staff found a 2014 snowblower in South Dakota that fits the bill for $105,950, $30,000 less than a new unit and, compatible with existing city equipment, which new models aren't, and, more importantly, available now. With only 182 hours, it's expected that the machine could serve the city for decades.

"While staff knows that there needs to be more discussion on the planning and use of the ARPA dollars, we are hoping that Council sees the benefit of using the money we have already received from the state to cover this most important service that we are providing right now."

The city has received an estimated $567,208 from the U.S. Department of Treasury, delivered through the state of Idaho, and drafted Resolution 2022-1-12 to authorize the use of a portion of those funds to replace the snowblower. The alternative would be to budget for the item from the city's general fund, which would both take time and burden local taxpayers.

All who spoke on ARPA Tuesday, two city residents and 15 living in the county, were opposed.

"We're already seeing the federal government use this as a strong arm in the United States with ARPA money," county resident Linda Fioravanti said. "The State of Arizona got questions said 'you will mandate the mask or you're going to have to have to pay the ARPA money back.' So we're already seeing this happen and that's what we're concerned about."

"ARPA is unconstitutional and is clearly a power grab," her husband, Steve Fioravanti said. "By taking ARPA money, a state, county and city legitimizes this usurpation of power ... Now is the time to defend our constitution and uphold your oath of office and reject this money. There is a hidden agenda behind the 'free money.'"

Citing a "left wing think tank article 'A New Social Contract for the 21st Century,' which he called code words for president Joe Biden's Build Back Better bill, he said the real reason for ARPA is "to expand and grow our gargantuan federal government to exercise total and complete and total control over the people."

The sentiments expressed have been heard often of late throughout North Idaho.

In Bonner County, commissioners voted in November to return $18,486.11 in ARPA funds allocated to the sheriff's office after a request by sheriff Daryl Wheeler, who said, "In light of the discovery of the strings attached to the ARPA fund’s monies, I will not follow applicable federal statutes, regulations and executive orders of President Joe Biden or his administration."

As the Bonners Ferry City Council was meeting Tuesday night, so to was the Coeur d'Alene City Council, where about 75 people in attendance urged against the city accepting $8.6-million in ARPA funds. By a 5-1 vote, the city council approved acceptance, prompting a few to call out "treason," "fascist" and "recall as members attempted to explain their decision.

The $1.9-trillion ARPA stimulus bill was signed into law by president Joe Biden March 11, 2021, to speed up the country's recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession after being passed by the U.S. Senate, 50-49, with all Republicans and one Democrat voting against it. It followed the $2.2-trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act signed into law March 27, 2020, by president Donald Trump after passing the U.S. Senate 96-0.

Questions or Comments? Send us an email!

Mike Weland, Publisher

6931 Main St.
P.O. Box 1625
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805
(208) 295-1016

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