TWIN FALLS — The Times-News won top honors Thursday in its division in the Idaho-Utah-Spokane Associated Press awards, winning in general excellence, along with several first-place prizes.
Times-News reporter Julie Wootton-Greener won first place in beat reporting for her coverage of education in south-central Idaho. Judges said Wootton-Greener’s “impeccable reporting, context and multiple points of entry into her offerings are impressive. In each instance she puts human faces on the news and delivers knowledge, not just information. Superb use of data — and not anecdote — to discover and illuminate trends.”
Heather Kennison took second place in the beat reporting category for her business coverage. “Some business reporting can test a readers’ attention span,” judges said. “But not on Heather Kennison’s beat. From the future of fish to unionization of potato-processing plant to a downtown revival, Kennison humanizes her coverage with shoe leather and face-to-face reporting. Excellent range of coverage that always describes the impact of the news on people and places.”
The Times-News also took first place in project or series reporting for its reporting on foster care in southern Idaho. Judges said the series made a complex topic easy to understand.
Former editor Matt Christensen took first place in editorial writing. Judges said “these editorials are elegant and precise and show leadership in the critical arenas of government transparency and the camaraderie and constitution of a local community. Moreover, they persuade not with opinion, but with knowledge and illumination.”
Photographers Drew Nash and Pat Sutphin took first in several categories. Nash won first in feature photo for his photo of a girl in a corn maze, and he took first in overall photo portfolio. Sutphin won first in photo illustration and portrait. He also took first in photo story for his project on Idaho Aquaculture.
Former reporter Alex Riggins won first place for spot news for his reporting on the bus crash that injured students in Carey.
If you do one thing: Twin Falls High School’s Jive show choir presents its Spring Showcase at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Roper Auditorium, 1615 Filer Ave. E., Twin Falls. Tickets are $10 each or $30 per family.
MURTAUGH — The Cassia County Sheriff’s Office and Bureau of Land Management are looking for whoever has dumped dead animals and trash at the Milner Historic Recreation Area.
Vandals have also marked rock formations and structures with graffiti in the area nine miles west of Burley,
“People don’t want to go to the Milner area to experience graffiti on rocks,” said Kelsey Brizendine, spokeswoman for the BLM. “It affects everyone who uses the area. Everyone that sees it is impacted. It’s really unfortunate that one or two people or even a group can take away, alter or damage that experience.”
Cassia County Undersheriff George Warrell said people have dumped about 30 dead calves in various stages of decomposition on the land, which includes portions of federal and private property.
People have also been using a target shooting area at the side of a hill to dump old tires and loads of trash.
Several areas along Trout Point in the recreation area have been covered in graffiti including some rocky cliffs.
“It causes various permanent damage,” said Ken Crane, a field manager for the Burley BLM office. “Some of the lichens and moss take a hundred years to grow on that rock. We have to put chemicals on the rock to remove the paint, which kills the moss. Then it’s just a rock and it loses those unique properties.”
Then those chemicals, he said, remain at the site.
The vandals also sprayed graffiti on some of the bathrooms last winter, and they were vandalized again in the last couple of weeks. Someone also used spray paint to deface some county and federal lands signs.
It takes extensive labor to remove the paint and the chemicals used to remove paint from the signs takes off the reflective surface, which means the signs will have to be replaced.
“It’s a cost to the taxpayers,” Crane said.
Warrell said the dumping has been going on for years, and the jail crew has been used to clean it up before, but people keep bringing more trash.
“We are going beef up patrol in the area,” Warrell said.
The recreation area contains pieces of the pioneer Oregon Trail, marked by deep ruts. The area has developed and primitive recreation sites along four-miles of Snake River shoreline.
The area’s basalt cliffs, sagebrush and grassland are a year-round draw for waterfowl and songbirds.
TWIN FALLS — As Jayco prepares to more than double the size of its plant and its workforce, the company is now asking the county for a five-year tax deferral on its increased property value.
In an application before the Twin Falls County Commissioners, the company anticipated investing more than $21 million into its facility. The current assessed value of the property is $6 million, County Assessor Bradford Wills said.
Commissioners heard Jayco’s request on Thursday, but a final decision is expected to be made next week.
Idaho statutes allow the county commissioners to grant a property tax exemption for a specific industrial project for up to five years. This application is for the same type of exemption that was granted in March to KapStone Paper and Packaging.
“I truly believe if they fit into this, that we should try to help ‘em out if we can,” County Commissioner Jack Johnson said.
Multiple calls to the company were not returned Friday. Jayco COO Matt Thompson previously said in a statement that the company had considered other western states for its expansion.
“We concluded that capitalizing on the benefits offered in Twin Falls out-weighed benefits outside the state of Idaho,” he said.
Projects must have a value of at least $500,000 to qualify for a property tax exemption. The amount of the exemption the county grants depends on the capital investment, the number of jobs created, and the wages, benefits and training provided to those employees. Location is also a factor.
Jayco’s project score based on these metrics was in the top bracket of allowable exemption. The county might defer 76 percent to 100 percent of the property tax increase for four to five years.
Even if the full exemption is granted for five years, “They keep paying taxes on the value they have right now, and that doesn’t change,” Wills said.
According to the company’s application, Jayco will create 360 new jobs over three years — 51 in the first year, 239 in the second and 70 in the third. Jayco currently employs 260 people in Idaho.
The average wages and benefits for the new employees are estimated at $43,261. That’s more than 20 percent higher than the average wage in Twin Falls County.
“They get points for that in the matrix,” Wills said.
Jayco’s new 284,000 square-foot building will house two production lines for its travel trailers. It already produces 40 of these trailers every day, Wills said. The new building was expected to open this summer.
Jayco has already been approved for a tax reimbursement incentive from the Idaho Department of Commerce’s Economic Advisory Council. That incentive is valued at $4.9 million over 12 years and reimburses the company 24 percent of the taxes on its income, payroll and sales.