Bonner Co. Commissioner pushes to defund Panhandle Health District

BONNER COUNTY, Wash. — As COVID-19 cases surge in North Idaho, Bonner County could take a drastic step to withhold funding to the Panhandle Health District. A county commissioner proposed the idea in a resolution.

Commissioner Steve Bradshaw presented the resolution at Tuesday’s county meeting. He read a draft of the resolution as it wasn’t officially on the agenda.

“I’m not going to pay them [Panhandle Health] to mandate illegal laws on our citizens and I’m going to push to defund them,” Bradshaw said.

In the resolution obtained through a public records request, Bradshaw proposed that the county no longer fund the district or spend money to enforce the mask mandate.

Less than a week ago, Panhandle Health approved the mandate, requiring a mask in all five North Idaho counties.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Panhandle Health Board implements mask mandate for all five N. Idaho counties

All five counties served by the PHD – Bonner, Boundary, Benewah, Shoshone and Kootenai – also remain the “red” risk category, meaning testing positivity is greater than 20 percent and hospital capacity is at or above 100 percent.

Bonner County gave PHD about $256,000 this year. According to Katherina Hoyer, Public Information Officer for PHD, the five counties in north Idaho make up about 10% of the budget. Hoyer said what the counties provide is based on the county’s population and valuation.

The money not only goes to COVID-19 efforts, but programs like cancer screenings and dental care.

“If you’re not going to act right, I’d move them back to $1 if it was up to me because I think that makes more of an impact than taking it all,” Bradshaw said.

In the resolution, part of the language states,

“We are welcomed into this world with our first breath and delivered from it with out last. Breath is the very essence of life…Unfortunately, this is precisely the power erroneously claimed by the Panhandle Health District by the issuance of its mask mandate.”

“I don’t feel that there’s any power short of heaven that can tell us how we can take our breath,” Bradshaw told 4 News Now.

He doesn’t believe the health board has the right to issue a mandate. Bradshaw claims the mandate violates federal and state laws.

“First of all I don’t think they have the authority to pass a mandate. They’re acting on illegitimate authority,” Bradshaw said. “That was given to them by a little dictator down in Boise named Brad Little.”

The resolution states no county agency will enforce the mandate. Recently, Bonner County Sheriff Sheriff Daryl Wheeler said his office will not enforce it.

“The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office is working at maximum capacity on real crime, and it cannot enforce the unenforceable mask rules,” said Wheeler.

The governor has not issued any state-wide mandate, but people like Nellie Lutzwolf said she wears a mask to protect others.

“I know a lot of people with health deficiencies that it’s not a choice for them,” Lutzwolf said. “They have to protect themselves and it’s really easy to be considerate of those people’s needs.”

Lutzwolf is a painter and business owner, who said she requires masks inside her store. She doesn’t agree with the resolution Bradshaw presented.

“I don’t understand how that is helpful for anybody at all,” she said.

Bradshaw said if someone wants to wear a mask, he supports it, but doesn’t think it should be required.

“If I was to devise a psychological warfare device, I could never hope to create as much fear as what this pandemic thing has caused,” he said. “I don’t think anybody has the right to tell us how we’re going to breathe.”

Lutzwolf disagrees and is support of the mask mandate.

“I’m not willing to put my loved ones at risk,” she said. “Even one life is just enough for me.”

The resolution was only read to the other commissioners, not passed. It also state that the county will “undertake all available legal challenges to the legitimacy of the Mask Mandate, and hereby authorizes the County Prosecutor and Civil Prosecutor to institute such challenges forthwith.”

If it passes, the change would go into effect immediately. The resolution is scheduled to be up for discussion at the next meeting on December 1.

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Read the full resolution below: