TWIN FALLS — A strategic plan update approved this year brings new emphasis to workforce development, housing availability and the pursuit of a recreation center in Twin Falls.
Those were a few of the key points Mayor Shawn Barigar highlighted in Tuesday’s State of the City address at the Orpheum Theatre. This year’s message included comments from City Council members and city staff, and it was hosted by the Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce.
The city’s strategic plan serves as a guiding document for budgetary and planning decisions moving forward, but it’s also up to city staff to help make these goals happen.
“We all function as a team to help you, the citizens,” Barigar said as he acknowledged city staff members attending the ceremony.
The City Council first adopted the strategic plan in 2013, and staff and consultants spent most of 2017 gathering public input for an update. The latest update was adopted in March.
Each speaker addressed one of the focus areas in the plan, and some measure the city is taking to see it through.
The city can help foster a healthy community with projects such as the Canyon Rim Trail, Barigar said, but many of the 230 residents surveyed asked for a community recreation center.
An ad hoc committee formed last year and is working with architectural firms to study the needs for a recreation center, Vice Mayor Nikki Boyd said. If viable, the center could be designed for community recreation, classroom learning and other uses.
“As a team, I believe we’re going to build a long-range, sustainable community center that we’re all going to use,” Boyd said.
In the past, Barigar said, the city has largely overlooked the Twin Falls Public Library as a community learning center. But this strategic plan relies more on the library as a partner.
Under new leadership, the library has increased membership by 10 percent and programming by 25 percent, City Councilwoman Suzanne Hawkins said. These programs include things such as veterans services and recycling education.
“They’ve reached every age group in our community,” she said.
In 2017, the city finished moving its police department into a newly remodeled office space. Now, Barigar said, the focus is on the city’s fire stations.
The city has two firms working on a plan to meet fire service needs over the next 35 to 40 years, Deputy City Manager Brian Pike said.
“At this point, we’ve had a review and analysis of all of our stations,” he said.
After a harsh winter in 2017, city roads had $12 million worth of road damage, Barigar said. Reserve and emergency road funds have been helpful with repairs, including one ongoing project at Eastland Road North and Pole Line Road East.
This year, the city’s master transportation plan update will address a plan for sidewalks, Barigar said.
Councilman Chris Talkington spoke about the Magic Valley Regional Airport, which expanded its terminal last year and recently added a fourth flight to Salt Lake City. The airport also has a $4 million taxiway project that should be completed in the next two months.
“We have great expectations at some time to be able to have a connector going west, instead of everything to Salt Lake and east,” Talkington said.
City Manager Travis Rothweiler also addressed the city’s plans to develop a metropolitan planning organization to assist in a regional transportation planning effort. The formation of an MPO will likely be federally mandated after the 2020 Census when Twin Falls and Kimberly are estimated to have a combined population of more than 50,000.
The city has made great strides in conserving drinking water, Talkington said. Peak water usage has gone from 33.5 million gallons per day in 2003 to 25 million gallons per day since the city began using pressurized irrigation on lawns.
“We started a secondary water system to take care of the non-potable parts of our water (use),” he said.
He believes there’s still a long way to go, however, in educating people about not wasting water.
“Probably the easiest conservation is behind us,” Talkington said.
Urban Renewal Agency Executive Director Nathan Murray talked about the downtown commons plaza, expected to open July 7 at Main Avenue East and Hansen Street East. He also brought up the URA board’s decision Monday to demolish the Idaho Youth Ranch building across the street to make way for a $6 million investment downtown.
“I appreciate the amount of response and thoughtful dialogue that happened,” he said.
Twin Falls continues to have a responsibility to be welcoming to new residents, Barigar said. But the city is also working to find better ways to communicate.
One of these will be through a new archway and electronic message board over Shoshone Street at the City Park. The city had an art contest for designs and settled on one that resembles the I.B. Perrine Bridge spanning the canyon.
“The option selected actually was a combination of two different designs,” City Councilwoman Ruth Pierce said.
The archway committee and Twin Falls Community Foundation have raised $139,000 of $225,000 needed for the archway, she said.
Donations can be made at twinfallscommunityfoundation.org.
JEROME — Signs of economic growth continue to pop up across Jerome County, local leaders say.
Jerome 20/20 Inc., an economic development organization that supports the city, county and 20 large corporations, held its annual forum Tuesday at the Jerome Country Club.
Mayor Dave Davis touted a combined total of $32 million in recently announced expansions of Commercial Creamery, Jerome Cheese, and Magic Valley Quality Milk, on top of Lynch Oil’s $6 million truck stop and infrastructure enhancement for future developments.
Residential development is also increasing, the mayor said.
Jerome’s $37 million wastewater treatment plant will be finished in December, and the Idaho Department of Transportation’s complete overhaul of Interstate 84’s south Jerome interchange is in the works. The projects will remove two existing obstacles to the town’s growth and open the door to future business, Davis said.
“Jerome is a model for the rest of the state,” Idaho gubernatorial candidate Tommy Ahlquist told the crowd of more than a hundred.
County Commissioner Charlie Howell applauded contracts the county has secured to house inmates from the U.S. Marshal’s Service and Twin Falls, and expressed the county’s continued support for the University of Idaho’s Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, or CAFE.
The state’s funding for the $45 million world-class research center is still on track, Sen. Jim Patrick told the Times-News. The legislature committed $10 million to the CAFE in 2017, then pledged another $5 million when the university comes up with its share of the cost.
UI President Chuck Staben said the university has not chosen a site, but confirmed it will be in Jerome County.
“The logical place is right here,” Staben said.
Garth Taylor, agriculture economist with the university, revealed why Idaho’s economy was able to weather the Great Recession, while some states are still suffering: the 600,000 cows — dairy and beef — in the state.
“We are recovering; the U.S. is not,” Taylor said.
Retiring Idaho Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, was honored in a surprise ceremony, and afterward, received a certificate for several days’ stay at Redfish Lake Lodge, a gift from the lodge and Jerome 20/20.
“You rascally bunch,” Bell said to the crowd after former Sen. Dean Cameron gave a heart-felt speech detailing her accomplishments.
Bell, an ardent supporter of education and agriculture, led Idaho through the Great Recession, Cameron said. She cut the state’s $3 billion budget by a third, “using a scalpel, not a cleaver, to minimize the impact on individuals.”
“It was a labor of love,” Bell said, visibly humbled by the attention. “It’s my pleasure to be a public servant and to serve the best people in the world.”
If you do one thing: Twin Falls Public Library’s Kids Club will feature design-squad activities for elementary school-aged children at 4 p.m. at the library, 201 Fourth Ave. E. Free.
TWIN FALLS — If you talk with Kim Dahlquist’s leadership students, they’ll tell you she pushes them and holds them accountable.
It’s not the answer you’d expect from middle schoolers. But even at a young age, they recognize their teacher’s impact.
Under Dahlquist’s leadership at Robert Stuart Middle School in Twin Falls, a fairly new required class for sixth-graders has led to a drastic drop in disciplinary issues and the number of “F”s students earn.
Her work was recognized Thursday. She was named Twin Falls’ “Teacher of the Year” during the Twin Falls School District Education Foundation’s Red Apple Gala.
The Twin Falls School District, which has about 9,400 students, employs hundreds of certified teachers.
The award came as a total surprise for Dahlquist. She could feel her heart pounding as an education foundation leader talked about her work during the gala.
Dahlquist describes herself as a person who doesn’t like being in the spotlight.
“If I’d had it my way, I wouldn’t have gone,” she said Tuesday, but added being named teacher of the year was “pretty emotional.”
Robert Stuart student council member Lily Teske, 12, said her teacher is pushing for change at the school.
Classmate Emma Brulotte, 13, also a seventh-grader on student council, said Dahlquist holds students accountable for their actions and how they act around their friends. “She’s really big on self-leadership and she’s trying to establish that more.”
Dahlquist has taught for 24 years in Twin Falls — most recently, for three years at Robert Stuart. She teaches a “Bear Essentials” class and is student council adviser. Before that, she taught at Lincoln and I.B. Perrine elementary schools.
In fall 2015, Robert Stuart launched a new required class for sixth-graders, covering topics such as how to get organized, set goals, and succeed in middle school and beyond.
“It’s been really successful,” Dahlquist said. “Our number of ‘F’s dropped significantly.”
Robert Stuart principal Amy McBride said she thought of Dahlquist as the perfect person for the job. “I really sought her out.”
The class helps students have the mentality they can be successful at school if they believe in themselves and work hard, McBride said. “One hundred percent starts with Mrs. Dahlquist and the class she’s teaching.”
Now, 46 percent of all grades sixth-graders earn are “A”s and there are only 13 “F”s.
Dahlquist has been interested in teaching for decades. “It probably goes back to kindergarten and first-grade teachers I loved,” she said.
Dahlquist went into college thinking she’d study education. But she found it intimidating to stand up in front of other people — particularly teaching mock lessons.
She ended up going into public relations and worked for a few years in Seattle. But she discovered it wasn’t her passion and she decided to pursue an education degree.
As for public speaking, she found out she does well with a younger audience. “If it’s kids, it’s OK,” she said.
Dahlquist said she gets to know her students and has fun, personalized interactions with them — something she thrives on. “Maybe that’s the elementary teacher in me.”
A challenge with being a middle school teacher is having 150-160 students, instead of about 30 as an elementary school teacher, Dahlquist said. But there’s a plus: “What I like the most is how the kids are allowed to be independent here,” she said, and she can relate to them on a different level.
During her student council class Tuesday afternoon, Dahlquist told students only she and two council members showed up Saturday to help with a project and it took them three hours.
“There are after-school things that needed to take place,” she told more than 20 students, adding student council is a time commitment and they need to be role models. “There are a lot of kids who want to be part of this group, but only a few kids can be in it.”
Dahlquist came up with the idea for a girls night out her first year at Robert Stuart but said she was “too chicken” to ask the school principal for permission.
Her second year, she sent an email to the principal with the idea and received a “yes” right away. Now, Dahlquist said it has become her favorite thing about her 24 years of teaching.
It’s the second year for the girls night out and 74 girls at Robert Stuart have signed up to participate Friday. “It’s just a whole night of empowerment,” Dahlquist said.
Guest speakers will include a nutrition expert from St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center, an instructor from the College of Southern Idaho to teach yoga and a female police officer, who’ll talk about inappropriate texting.
The night will also include crafts, an exercise session and watching the movie “Odd Girl Out” about bullying. Girls will have a sleepover in a school hallway, which will be decorated with Christmas lights.
It goes beyond teaching students in a classroom. Dahlquist said she enjoys being part of Robert Stuart Middle School and the “amazing group of teachers.”
There are many outstanding teachers in Twin Falls, McBride said. “It’s nice to get an opportunity to celebrate one of them.”
BURLEY — A report of a pipe bomb April 9 at the Burley Army National Guard Armory turned out to be a false alarm.
The call came into dispatch at 11:02 p.m. from armory staff regarding a suspicious item believed to be an improvised explosive at the armory, 1059 Airport Rd.
The Twin Falls Bomb Squad was called, which used a robot to examine the device and found that it was an olive-drab whip antenna commonly used on military vehicles inside the pipe.
Cassia County Undersheriff George Warrell said the antenna likely came from the armory.
“There were no explosives,” Warrell said. “Nobody knows how it got there.”
Sergeant Sean Passey told officers that he and 25 other guardsmen had returned from training and were going to spend the night at the armory.
The group went to get something to eat and when they returned they found a white PVC pipe outside the front doors of the building.
The pipe was about 5 feet in length and 3 inches in diameter and had what appeared to be yellow wires coming from one end.
The guards said it was not there when they left, and they were not expecting any packages.
They were evacuated from the armory and stayed at a Burley hotel for the night.
Life Flight was also contacted and the helicopter, which is stationed across the street from the armory, was taken to Cassia Regional Medical Center.
Burley Fire Department and Medic One were placed at 937 East Main St. until the device could be examined.
The bomb squad arrived at 1:37 a.m. on Tuesday. Upon examining the pipe they found a yellow rope extending from the center of the end cap and looping back into another hole in the pipe.
The robot removed the end cap and exposed the antenna.