BURLEY — A plan for a new Mini-Cassia airport will soon be under scrutiny by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The city held a meeting Thursday at Burley City Hall where the public heard details of the plan and got a first glimpse at sketches of the proposed airport.
The city has tried to relocate its municipal airport for decades but government officials or landowners have always spoken out against it, challenging efforts. A task-force in 2016 identified two possible sites for a new airport, including the one south of Interstate 84 and Exit 216 that will soon go before several FAA divisions that will look for red flags in the plan.
“If everything runs grease smooth we are looking at four to five years before anybody will be out there turning dirt,” said Rick Patton, an aviation planner with GDA Engineers.
The site runs parallel to Interstate 84 on the south side of the interstate east of Exit 216 and is designed in three phases over 20 years.
The plan includes room for the airport to grow if needed, Patton said.
Once the FAA approves the plan it will come back to the community for approval.
Meanwhile, Mark Mitton said, the Idaho Legislature must write legislation and approve a mechanism that will allow Minidoka County and Cassia County to create an airport taxing district, similar to a highway district.
Once the legislation is in place the voters that would be included in that district would have to approve the district’s formation.
The district would include two representatives on a board from each county and one member at large.
Minidoka County Commissioner Bob Moore asked if the taxing district would require a super majority to pass.
“I don’t know yet because the legislation hasn’t been written,” Mitton said.
The city of Burley is currently the sole sponsor of the airport, which means they are the legal owners and have the right to obligate the ground.
Patton said they need to have a bigger coalition of support for the new airport.
Mitton said if voters approve establishing the taxing district, plans for the new airport will move forward. If the community votes against it, the new airport won’t be built and the city will close the existing airport due to lack of funding by the FAA.
“The FAA has told us they won’t fund the Burley airport anymore and this airport will eventually close,” Mitton said. “We’d like to get a new airport in place before that happens.”
Patton said they are still working on establishing cost estimates for the airport at the preferred site along with figures on what the tax burden would be for property owners in the taxing district.
In past years the city received about $150,000 a year in FAA funding for maintenance of the current airport, but that funding stopped when the FAA determined the Burley airport did not meet its standards.
Patton said if the new airport plan is accepted by the FAA and the community then the environmental assessment phase will begin, which can take up to two years to complete. Then property acquisition would begin, which entails abiding by federal regulations for establishing property values and buying property.
“We are a long way from property acquisition,” Patton said.
The property included at the site is owned by Lynn and Lisa Taylor, Midnight Sun Inc. and Mark T. Newcomb.
Residents asked about how wildlife like geese, deer, skunks and elk would be controlled at the new site.
Patton said the plan includes an 8-foot fence designed to keep wildlife and unauthorized people out.
Questions regarding how money from the sale of the current airport will be used were also posed.
Mitton said if a new airport is built, the money will be used for the new airport, if voters decide against forming an airport taxing district, it is unclear where the money will go.
Years ago, Burley Councilman Jon Anderson said, the FAA told the city that the airport land had been obligated as an airport for so many years that the money from its sale would be turned back to them.
“The city would still own the ground but you would essentially buy back your obligation,” Patton said.
TWIN FALLS — Downtown Twin Falls will be abuzz with holiday cheer Friday.
The parade, featuring a “Hometown Holiday” theme, begins at 6 p.m. It will feature 40 floats and last about an hour.
The route will go in the opposite direction than past years, starting at Magic Valley High School and ending at Jerome Street.
Community members are also invited to take a guided tour of the new Twin Falls City Hall from 1-4 p.m. at 103 Main Ave. E.
A building dedication ceremony will be at 4 p.m. and a tree lighting is slated for 7 p.m., featuring choirs from Canyon Ridge High School, Robert Stuart Middle School and Vera C. O’Leary Middle School, and Twin Falls High School‘s brass band.
Thousands of people are expected to flock Friday to downtown Twin Falls, so be prepared for traffic and street closures.
Starting at 11 a.m., parking and vehicle traffic won’t be allowed on Main Avenue from Shoshone to Idaho streets. Another section of Main Avenue, from Eden to Shoshone streets, will also be closed starting at 4 p.m.
Parking will be available in city lots on Second Avenue North and Second Avenue West.
“To accommodate the number of visitors expected to attend the events, the city will be suspending parking enforcement at all city lots during the day of the events,” the city said in a statement Thursday. “It’s highly encouraged that visitors carpool to the event.”
Faith Leaders of the Magic Valley are organizing a rally for religious freedom. It’s slated for 11 a.m. to noon Saturday at Twin Falls City Park.
Organizers say it’s a grassroots effort, and the purpose is to celebrate the diversity of religions in Twin Falls and to exercise freedom of religion. It’s a direct response to the Islamic Center incident, which Twin Falls police have called a hate crime.
Following the incident, “a lot of community leaders felt very concerned about why that happened,” said Haroon Rashid, an outreach leader for the Islamic Center and one of the rally’s organizers. “We wanted to set up a rally in support of all religious groups in the Twin Falls area.”
In late October, someone left a cross in the Islamic Center’s parking lot, police said. About 4 feet tall, it was wrapped in bacon, pig’s feet and a tongue.
The incident was the latest in a string of vandalism at Twin Falls’ only mosque dating back to 2015, when anti-Muslim sentiments began to take hold as the community debated refugee resettlement.
Saturday’s rally will send a message, Rashid said. “This is to show others and people in the community that we are a welcoming town and this sort of behavior will not be tolerated.”
“We believe that most members of the community felt similarly to the way we did,” said Brian Johns, who’s also organizing the event, in seeing the Islamic Center incident as a “targeted assault on someone else’s religion.”
Organizers say the rally will be family friendly and they’re striving to make it non-political.
The event will feature speakers — including Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar, Twin Falls County Commissioner Don Hall, Sen. Lee Heider of Twin Falls and a few religious leaders — as well as music and refreshments.
The rally will end with a “hands across the park” prayer. It will hopefully help people feel closer to each other, Rashid said.
“We won’t ever agree on theology,” he said, but added community members can have their differences while living as neighbors and respecting each other.
The rally is an opportunity to get together in a safe place, said Johns, who’s bishop of Kimberly’s Third Ward for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Everyone should be free to worship free from fear.”
“Freedom of religion is a right we have in the United States,” Rashid said, “and I think anytime that right is encroached upon, I think we need to make sure we resist.”
The interfaith group organizing Saturday’s rally includes Johns, Rashid, First Presbyterian Church of Twin Falls pastor Phil Price, Twin Falls First United Methodist Church pastor Mike Hollomon, and Christopher Reid, an LDS bishop and member of Twin Falls City Council.
“I think the really neat thing is that we’re not trying to proselytize each other in this group,” Johns said. “We’re not trying to say ‘what I believe is better than what you believe.’”
The members get along, he said, have developed a friendship, and trust and respect one another.
TWIN FALLS — The five declared Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor appeared in Twin Falls on Thursday afternoon, speaking at a Kiwanis Club forum. The candidates each answered questions from a moderator and one question from an audience member, including inquiries about how they view the role of lieutenant governor, what they see as the greatest challenges facing the state, and what they would do on their first day if they were to find themselves taking on the role of governor.
Nonini, who has served 14 years in the Idaho state legislature, eight in the House and six in the Senate, emphasized the value of his experience in Boise and his commitment to education issues.
“I can tell you one thing: there is no swamp in Idaho,” he said. “Yeah, there is a swamp in DC. But there is no swamp in Idaho. We just want to make a great state great.”
If elected, Nonini told forum-goers, any of the three leading candidates for governor could stand to benefit from his years in the Senate and House: Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist, who’s “going to need someone with my experience,” U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, who’s “going to need some help on the Senate side of the Idaho cabinet,” and current Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who has earned Nonini’s support.
Nonini repeatedly stressed education as his first priority, calling it “the most important thing we do,” and touting his position on the Senate Education Committee and former time as chairman of the House Education Committee. Other priorities, he said, are economic development and affordable quality health care.
McGeachin, an Idaho Falls business owner who served in the House from 2002-2012, vowed to tackle corruption among powerful politicians and make state government more accessible to ordinary citizens. “Government is not the solution to the problem. It is the problem,” McGeachin said in her introduction, quoting Ronald Reagan. “That pretty much sums up my philosophy of government.”
“How many of you really feel that your government truly understands your concerns?” she asked forum attendees, later adding, “I am just a regular Idahoan, just like you.”
In a geographically expansive state like Idaho, McGeachin said, she sees a need to improve all constituents’ access to politicians.
“In Boise, you can swing a dead cat by the tail and hit someone in government,” she said. In places like Twin Falls County, she continued, people may only have a chance to hear from their elected officials “several times a year.”
She expressed a desire to change this through increased use of technology, including social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Sen. Hagedorn has represented District 14 since 2012, having served as a state representative representing District 20 for five years before that.
On Thursday, he named issues surrounding economic development as one of his priorities, citing his experience working in business.
Particularly, Hagedorn said, the state should consider the importance of local communities having control over economic development.
“We need to be very careful about how to develop economic development in this state,” he said. “Idaho’s been discovered. We’re gonna grow. But we need to manage that growth in the most careful, productive way that we can.”
Rep. Packer, who has served Idaho’s 28th district since 2012, told attendees that as lieutenant governor, she would look forward to acting as president of the Senate and “helping to prioritize the issues and the needs that our state faces every year.”
Another focus of Packer’s would be building “strong relationships” with other leaders and stakeholders “to make sure we flesh out the issues.”
When asked what she would do if she found herself needing to take on the role of governor, she touched again on the importance of relationships.
“The governor is the person who leads the state, but they are surrounded by other amazing leaders,” she said. “I would need to make sure that I have in place relationships with the individual stakeholders so I could counsel them and understand what is necessary to move things forward.”
Yates, former chairman of the Idaho Republican Party and policy analyst for the DC-based think tank Heritage Foundation, said he believes the state should “fundamentally change” the way it engages in the state policy process.
He called for a new team in government committed to “getting key coalitions of support for key policy areas.”
“If we have more of an orderly and engaged process throughout the year, we should have more collaborators delivering on things you know were their priorities and we have more time to hear feedback about whether we’re on the right or wrong track,” Yates said.
“[Gubernatorial candidates] need help on how to build those coalitions and how to build that grassroots support to allow each of our partners in government to support you,” he added.