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McFadgen, Chapman elected to Paradise sewer board

by CHUCK BANDEL
Valley Press | May 11, 2022 12:00 AM

As the dust from Tuesday’s Sanders County Special District Elections settles, supporters of the Paradise anti-sewer group can most likely take heart.

Their candidates who tend toward being against the proposed sewer project that has dominated discussions in the unincorporated town 6 miles southeast of Plains are now members of the Paradise Sewer Board.

And in the process, voters seemed to have solved a festering issue over membership on the Board when they officially denied former Board president and Paradise pro-sewer advocate Janis Barber from being re-elected to the five-member panel.

Also on the ballot were several Sanders County school board positions, as well as selections for Fire and Hospital trustee openings from the Heron and Noxon area.

Locally, most eyes were on the contentious Paradise Sewer District and Paradise Water District boards with the originally proposed $4.5 million project possibly getting flushed by what appears to be a healthy voter turnout.

Anti-sewer factions can take heart in the fact that the top two candidates selected by the town’s voters were incumbent Janie McFadgen and political newcomer Pernel Chapman to occupy the pair of seats that were up for grabs.

In so doing voters appeared to have sided with the anti-sewer crowd by an overwhelming margin. McFadgen, who was elected Board President last month following a heated and controversial bid by then president Janis Barber and current Board member Don Stamm to keep Barber in her leadership role despite being ousted after she submitted her resignation several times.

At a recent meeting, Board members voted 4-1 to accept Barber’s resignation, which she made during at least two meetings in both writing and by oral proclamation.

Chapman, a first-time elected official, said her focus will be “getting things done and moving on” when the Board convenes sometime later this month.

“I’d like to see the fighting stopped so we can move on to make our community better,” Chapman said. “All this arguing and fighting hasn’t gotten things done. Some of the folks involved just can’t let it go”.

Chapman said she will work to come up with a fair and just resolution to the situation.

“I will not allow negativity to delay this any longer,” she added.

Local anti-sewer activist LeeAnn Overman, who won one of two four-year service terms on the Paradise Water District board and who has been a leader in the fight against the proposed sewer project, was also happy with the outcome of the vote.

“I’m thinking the voters have sent a message that this community did not accept the plan as proposed, nor did we agree with the lack of transparency and public involvement in the process”.

One of the issues central to the multi-faceted dispute has recently centered around defining the roles of both Sewer and Water boards and establishing that they are separate entities. According to Water District board members, the Sewer Board owes them more than $50,000 for spending Water District funds on Sewer Board projects.

Following her election last month to be president of the Sewer Board, McFadgen echoed Chapman’s call for restoring tranquility in the small hamlet.

“I just want to see all this fighting stopped,” McFadgen said. “I want to see peace in this town so we can move forward”.

McFadgen was the leading vote getter in the election, gathering the support of 42 of her fellow Paradisians, just one vote more than the 41 garnered by Chapman. Barber was a distant third with 19 votes.

Overman and area resident Terry Caldwell, who is also a member of the Sewer Board, collected 33 and 42 votes respectively to secure their seats on the Water District panel.

School board elections, which have become headline news across the country, also played a key role in the Special Elections.

Plains resident Beau French won the lone open position on the Plains School Board, collecting 484 votes to top the 359 votes that went to Plains Realtor Mary Halling. French will begin a three-year term on the Board when it reconvenes later this month.

Thompson Falls voters also filled a solitary opening on the T-Falls School Board when they chose Ramona Jacobson to serve a three-year stint.

Other school board elections included Noxon/Trout Creek, where voters selected Natalie Erwin and James Colyer for openings representing Trout Creek, while Noxon residents chose Rachel Peterson and James Christensen to represent Noxon on the combined boards.

In addition, two unopposed candidates were elected to spots on the Trout Creek Elementary Board, Michael Linderman and Carolyn Nesbitt, while D. Scott Rasor topped Alicia Myers for the other Board vacancy.

Fire District voters also chose Board members Tuesday, with Christine Knodle and Timothy Lee Lindeman elected to the Heron Rural Fire District board, while Steven Davis won a similar position on the Thompson Falls Rural Fire District board.

And, Noxon-Heron voters chose Carolyn Carter to represent them on the Public Hospital board.

Voter turnout was stronger than usual in most areas, especially for a Special Election event involving local offices.

The Paradise sewer project has been on unofficial hold the last few weeks while developer and property owner Bridger Bischoff has been pondering the town’s latest efforts to rework the project and its costs.

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