TWIN FALLS — Just as work wraps up on the last two blocks of the Urban Renewal Agency’s Main Avenue project, city employees are preparing to move to a new home.
On Monday, desks will arrive at the future City Hall — the former Banner Furniture building at Main Avenue East and Hansen Street. The $5.7 million remodel is nearly complete, as contractors work to finish drywall, painting, grouting and exterior siding.
Meanwhile, police officers will move next week into their operations building at the $9.5 million public safety complex.
And it appears that both city projects are on time and on budget.
“They need about two weeks to put those desks together,” said Jason Derricott, project manager for Starr Corp. — the city’s construction manager/general contractor for both jobs. “They will be out of the temporary City Hall by the end of October.”
He expects city staff to begin moving into their new home in the last week of October — starting with utility billing on the first floor, and followed by administration on the third floor and engineering on the second.
The new City Hall will open in November, Derricott said.
While awaiting the completion of Main Avenue’s reconstruction, Julie Deters at Benno’s Fine Jewelry hopes the new City Hall next door will attract more people to Main Avenue. Her family-owned and -operated business has been downtown for 57 years.
For Deters, construction has gone about as expected on the block between Hansen Street and Idaho Street.
“They’ve made a lot of progress,” she said.
Work here is pretty much on schedule. Having begun in August, it will be complete by the end of October, Guho Project Superintendent Rob Cloninger said.
But not every part of the URA’s $6.4 million Main Avenue reconstruction has gone as scheduled. The final block, from Idaho to Jerome streets, won’t be complete until mid-November.
“We’re pretty close to being on target,” Cloninger said. “For a project of this size, to be as close as we are is pretty good.”
The good news: The project is under budget, thanks in part to savings on tree removal and brick pavers.
The festival blocks off of Shoshone Street took longer than the two months they were projected to.
“When we made that two-month commitment, that was before we had even put anything out to bid,” Cloninger said.
He’s been more than satisfied with the half-dozen subcontractors Guho hired, but he didn’t have the numbers of skilled manpower needed to complete the project as quickly as planned.
“Our problem throughout Idaho is skilled, qualified manpower is hard to come by,” Cloninger said.
The third block of the project — from Shoshone Street to Hansen Street — was opened Friday.
The delay didn’t discourage Tony Prater of Jensen Jewelers from making some improvements of his own. Prater, who served on an advisory committee for the Main Avenue reconstruction, decided to put his money where his mouth was.
On Oct. 3, his downtown business got a new $20,000 storefront and logo — part of a company rebranding.
“I wanted this to be the first place where we invested the money because of what’s going on downtown,” he said.
In time for Oktoberfest, he also brought in new display cases and about $200,000 worth of new merchandise.
And his is just one example of private investment made during construction. On that same block, The Gyro Shop owners opened an ice cream shop and Extreme Staffing began remodeling the former home of Toy Orphanage and Things.
“Overall, I think it went very well,” Prater said. “Oktoberfest was a good boost to business down here.”
Twin Beans Coffee owner Paul Graff said his business increased from last year — but he estimates that during construction it was down about 20 percent from where it could have been.
“I think we fared better than most,” he said.
The final piece of Main Avenue’s reconstruction will include paving Hansen Street from Second Avenue East to Second Avenue South. Some of that has been completed.
Cloninger hopes to have good weather through Thanksgiving, but if that fails, the project will be carried over in the spring. That’s the same time when construction of the $1.3 million downtown commons — a public plaza with a splash pad and restrooms — will resume west of the new City Hall.
Police officers and administration should all be settled into their respective buildings at the public safety complex by the end of the month.
Starr Corp. led the project to turn the old City Hall into a police administration building, which was essentially complete and occupied in March.
Meanwhile, the former police station has been remodeled for general police operations and evidence storage. Everyone should be moved into their new working places in a couple of weeks.
“They’re trying to do a phased move-in to get everyone set,” Derricott said.
The public safety complex, City Hall, Main Avenue reconstruction and downtown commons represent a $17.2 million effort by the city and URA to revitalize downtown.
LAS VEGAS — Pressure mounted Wednesday for Las Vegas police to explain how quickly they reacted to what would become the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history after two hotel employees reported a gunman spraying a hallway with bullets six minutes before he opened fire on a crowd at a musical performance.
On Monday, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo revised the chronology of the shooting and said the gunman, Stephen Paddock, had shot a hotel security guard through the door of his suite and strafed a hallway of the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino with 200 rounds six minutes before he unleashed a barrage of bullets into the crowd.
That account differed dramatically from the one police gave last week when they said Paddock ended his hail of fire on the crowd in order to shoot through his door and wound the unarmed guard, Jesus Campos.
“These people that were killed and injured deserve to have those six minutes to protect them,” said Chad Pinkerton, an attorney for Paige Gasper, a California college student who was shot under the arm in the attack. “We lost those six minutes.”
Maintenance worker Stephen Schuck told NBC News that he was checking out a report of a jammed fire door on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay when he heard gunshots and the hotel security guard who had been shot in the leg peeked out from an alcove and told him to take cover.
“It was kind of relentless so I called over the radio what was going on,” Schuck said. “As soon as the shooting stopped we made our way down the hallway and took cover again and then the shooting started again.”
Gunshots can be heard in the background as Schuck used his radio to report the shooting, telling a dispatcher: “Call the police, someone’s firing a gun up here. Someone’s firing a rifle on the 32nd floor down the hallway.”
Campos also used his radio and possibly a hallway phone to call hotel dispatchers for help, police have said. It was unclear if and when the hotel relayed the reports of shots being fired to police.
Las Vegas authorities did not respond to questions about whether hotel security or anyone else in the hotel called 911 to report the gunfire.
“Our officers got there as fast as they possibly could and they did what they were trained to do,” Las Vegas assistant sheriff Todd Fasulo said previously.
The parent company of the hotel has raised concerns that the revised timeline presented by police may be inaccurate.
“We cannot be certain about the most recent timeline,” said Debra DeShong, a spokeswoman for MGM Resorts International. “We believe what is currently being expressed may not be accurate.”
DeShong declined to comment on a lawsuit filed Tuesday by lawyers for Gasper against the company, concert promoter, gunman’s estate and the manufacturer of the “bump stocks” used by the gunman to help mimic a fully automatic firearm.
Undersheriff Kevin McMahill earlier defended the hotel and said the encounter between Paddock and the security guard and maintenance man disrupted the gunman’s plans, but he would not comment on the revised timeline.
“MGM and the people associated with the MGM and people involved that night at the event did a fantastic job,” McMahill said.
The six minutes wouldn’t have been enough time for officers to stop the attack, said Ron Hosko, a former FBI assistant director who has worked on SWAT teams.
Rather than rush in without a game plan, police would have been formulating the best response to the barricaded gunman, he said.
“Maybe that’s enough time to get the first patrolman onto the floor but the first patrolman is not going to go knock on that customer’s door and say ‘What’s going on with 200 holes in the door?’” Hosko said.
If you do one thing: The College of Southern Idaho Theater Department presents “Galileo” at 7:30 p.m. in the CSI Fine Arts Theater in Twin Falls. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students.
SONOMA, Calif. — Fueled by the return of strong winds, the wildfires tearing through California wine country exploded in size and number Wednesday as authorities ordered new evacuations and the death toll climbed to 23 — a figure expected to rise higher still.
Three days after the fires began, firefighters were still unable to gain control of the blazes that had turned entire Northern California neighborhoods to ash and destroyed at least 3,500 homes and businesses.
"We are literally looking at explosive vegetation," said Ken Pimlott, chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "It is very dynamic. These fires are changing by the minute in many areas."
The entire historic town of Calistoga, population 5,000, was evacuated. In neighboring Sonoma County, authorities issued an evacuation advisory for part of the town of Sonoma and the community of Boyes Hot Springs. By that time, lines of cars were already fleeing.
"That's very bad," resident Nick Hinman said when a deputy sheriff warned him that the driving winds could shift the wildfires toward the town of Sonoma proper, with 11,000 residents. "It'll go up like a candle."
Ash snowed over the Sonoma Valley, covering windshields, as winds began picking up toward the potentially disastrous forecast speed of 30 mph. Cars of evacuees raced away from the flames while countless emergency vehicles sped toward them, sirens blaring. Residents manhandled canvas bags into cars jammed with possessions or filled their gas tanks.
The wildfires ranked as the third deadliest and most destructive in state history. And officials warned the worst was far from over.
"Make no mistake, this is a serious, critical, catastrophic event," Pimlott said.
The fires have burned through a staggering 265 square miles of urban and rural areas. High winds and low humidity made conditions ideal for fire to ignite virtually anywhere on ground or brush that was parched from years of drought.
Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said 22 wildfires were burning Wednesday, up from 17 the day before. As the fires grow, officials voiced concern that separate fires would merge into even larger infernos.
"We have had big fires in the past. This is one of the biggest, most serious, and it's not over," Gov. Jerry Brown said at a news conference, alongside the state's top emergency officials.
They said 8,000 firefighters and other personnel were battling the blazes and more resources were pouring in from Oregon, Nevada, Washington and Arizona.
Flames have raced across the wine-growing region and the scenic coastal area of Mendocino farther north, leaving little more than smoldering ashes and eye-stinging smoke in their wake. Whole neighborhoods were leveled, leaving only brick chimneys and charred appliances to mark sites that were once family homes.
In Boyes Hot Springs, residents for days had watched the ridges over the west side of town to gauge how close the billowing smoke and orange flames of the wildfires had come. On Wednesday, the ridges themselves were obscured by the growing clouds of smoke.
Increasingly large pieces of gray ash drifted down on the community. Sirens wailed. Residents who had held out hope of staying at home packed up to leave.
With fires advancing from several sides in Sonoma Valley, law enforcement officers on loan from other areas of Northern California barred residents of evacuated communities from returning to see how the homes and businesses had fared. Manned roadblocks blocked routes between Sonoma and devastated areas of Santa Rosa.
Alejandro Rodriguez had been evacuated from one tiny Sonoma Valley town, only to have deputies come to the neighborhood he had relocated to and tell residents there to pack up to go.
"I want to see my house, see if any things left," Rodriguez said, gesturing at officers at one roadblock. "They won't tell us nothing."
Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said hundreds of people were still reported missing. But officials believe many of those people will be found. Chaotic evacuations and poor communications over the past few days have made locating friends and family difficult.
The sheriff also expects the death toll to climb.
"The devastation is enormous," he said. "We can't even get into most areas."
In Southern California, cooler weather and moist ocean air helped firefighters gain ground against a wildfire that has scorched more than a dozen square miles.
Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi said the blaze was nearly halfway surrounded and full containment was expected by Saturday, but another round of gusty winds and low humidity levels could arrive late today.
LYMAN, Wyo. — Two Magic Valley residents died in a Monday morning crash in Wyoming.
Alan Peterson, 54, of Eden was driving west in a 2007 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup on Interstate 80 when his vehicle slid on an icy bridge deck of an overpass at the Lyman interchange, said Trooper Mike Adams of the Wyoming Highway Patrol. The pickup spun to the right and slid off the north side of the roadway and down an embankment, rolling several times. The pickup landed on its roof, between the interstate and the westbound on-ramp.
Peterson’s wife, Silvia Peterson, 58, was a passenger in the pickup. Both were thrown from the pickup and died at the scene. Neither were wearing seat belts, Adams said.
Lyman is a small town about 40 miles east of the Utah border. The crash happened sometime between 1 and 5 a.m. in a two-way construction zone, he said. The wreckage was discovered at sunup.
“It had snowed (the evening before) until 1 a.m.,” Adams said. “(The accident) happened after it quit snowing.”