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Commissioners fail to agree on parks and trails panel term limits

Beltrami County Commissioner Jim Lucachick makes a point during Tuesday night's County Board meeting. Earlier Tuesday, he blocked efforts to set multiple term limits for the county's parks and trails panel, hoping to set a one-term limit. Pioneer Photo/Brad Swenson

Term limits for members of the Beltrami County Park and Trail Advisory Council remain unsettled after Commissioner Jim Lucachick blocked efforts Tuesday to set them.

Lucachick, during Tuesday's board work session, argued that members serve only one term, after Commissioner Jim Heltzer paved the way for setting a two-term limit, with terms lasting three years each.

"The whole intent of an advisory council is to get public input," Lucachick said. "If there is no public interest in the position, then let them serve two terms."

The County Board two weeks ago reappointed four incumbent members to the PTAC, with two of the positions having multiple applicants. Lucachick voted against the incumbents.

'Lots of people are interested in the PTAC," he said. "These positions should be turned over very rapidly. Six years is a long time."

People "stepped up to the plate" and applied for posts who were qualified and could have rotated onto the PTAC, Lucachick said. "But we didn't do that two week ago."

Commissioner Quentin Fairbanks said one term isn't enough for a member to learn about the committee and what it does. "Some are very tough -- it takes two terms to understand what's going on."

"We're not talking about planning and zoning," Lucachick said. "To allow the general public, we have to rotate members."

As he did two weeks ago, Lucachick accused commissioners of "rubber-stamping" incumbents who think like they do, rather than continually seeking public input.

And, as he did two weeks ago, Commissioner Joe Vene took offense at the remark.

"I do resent the term rubber stamp," Vene said. "That's the way I feel. We do have an investment in people who serve over time. ... I don't expect them to follow lockstep in my beliefs."

But Fairbanks said it is important to appoint members "with the same philosophy as the board and not of themselves. We voted last time (for the incumbents) because they support the philosophies of the board."

Chairman Jack Frost said the incumbents "were a known commodity" and he was "uncomfortable" replacing them with people he didn't know.

Members to county panels "should come and speak their mind," Lucachick said, "not the board's mind. You don't want people who align with the board but those who bring their own ideas."

"You're upset that you got outvoted," Fairbanks said.

Lucachick denied that, saying that "people ought to have the opportunity to speak their mind, and they didn't get that chance."

Heltzer started the discussion by proposing a two-term limit but also suggesting to increase the number of at-large general public positions from one to three. He also noted that two of the applicants that didn't get picked were Bemidji Ski Club members.

"It's an opportunity to appoint some of these people, and open it to the general public," Heltzer said.

"We've spent a lot of time on this," said Fairbanks, "after a few people complained. Maybe we should throw the whole thing out and start the whole cotton-picking thing over again."

The board made no further suggestions Tuesday, and didn't decide on an action for Tuesday night's meeting.

Instead, it appears the PTAC will be asked at their Thursday meeting to discuss its bylaws and term limits. Commissioners also asked about provisions of the Open Meeting Law, as the panel has two commissioners as ex officio members and a third wants to attend to testify.

County Attorney Tim Faver said three commissioners could attend such a meeting, as long as only two are decision-makers and the third sits in the audience and testifies.

The board didn't discuss the matter at its regular meeting, but Sue Sastrom of Eckles Township asked the board after it had adjourned that she wanted to apply as an at-large member to PTAC.

Commissioners told her to fill out an application and the county would consider it in the event of an opening. Sastrom has been critical of the board's efforts to cite a shooting sports park in Eckles Township.

In another matter, Natural Resource Management Department staff presented a proposed 2010 parks and trails budget request of $70,107 in capital improvements and $3,000 in maintenance operations.

Projects include $5,000 for remaking the historical marker at Rognlien County Park to $30,000 for a cross country ski bridge and $10,000 for a shelter at Three Island County Park.

Work at $140,000 is proposed for that park, using only $56,000 in county funds. Efforts are also under way to place the park on the National Register of Historic Places.

Other projects include $14,000 for park improvements to the Beltrami County Shooting Sports Park and $4,107 for new signs for the Soo Line Trail.