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Building code deregulation a focus in Kootenai County Commission race between Eberlein, Brooks

One of the more controversial issues facing the Kootenai County Commission is a decision to let some residents opt out of county building codes.

Incumbent Commissioner Marc Eberlein said it encompasses 5 percent of the job, but his opponent in Tuesday’s Republican primary, political newcomer Bill Brooks said his top priority will be to bring back the codes if he wins.

The code opt-out allows residential owners of buildable property in unincorporated parts of the county to build without a permit from the county.

Eberlein said the building codes that are important are electrical, sewage, plumbing and mechanical, and they fall under state laws or other government agencies.

Brooks said making the codes optional will bring insurance problems, lawsuits and safety issues, and could decrease home values.

The May 15 primary election for Kootenai County Commissioner District 1 is a two-year term. Registered voters in the county will be able to vote on the District 1 race in the primary and the general election in November.

First elected to the commission in 2014, Eberlein is a business owner and investor in North Dakota and Montana oil interests. He founded Eberlein Fine Cabinetry in 1996.

During the Vietnam War, Brooks worked for the Army as an interrogator and linguist. He was exposed to Agent Orange, which he said gave him cancer and landed him in a wheelchair. He said he fought his insurance company for years to pay for his costly treatment, which led him in and out of bankruptcy.

The Coeur d’Alene Airport is one of the main economic drivers in the county, Eberlein said, and he wants to strengthen it. Eberlein said commissioners will soon face a decision to bring in more contractors to provide mechanical work on planes and provide hangar space and parking at the airport. He said about six more companies want to set up larger operations at the airport.

He also wants to look for ways to cut the county’s spending and keep taxes low, he said, and to explore the privatization of the county’s Solid Waste Department. “Everyone likes clean streets, but we can find a better way to do it,” he said.

In January, commissioners changed rules to allow tiny house villages as a way to offer more low-income housing. Eberlein opposed the change because he believes public opposition would be too great for that development. Brooks said he also is firmly against it, stating it will draw homeless people from outside Idaho and the homes could spark crime outside of cities.

Brooks said he wants raises for county administrators and law enforcement.

“With that comes a responsibility to perform at the top scale,” he said.


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