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File - In this Friday, May 4, 2018, file image released by the U.S. Geological Survey, at 12:46 p.m. HST, a column of robust, reddish-brown ash plume rises after an earthquake shook the Big Island of Hawaii, Hawaii. The lava hisses, crackles and pops. It roars like an engine as it sloshes and bubbles. It shoots into the sky, bright orange and full of danger, or oozes along the pavement, a giant bubbling blob of black marshmallow-like fluff, crushing homes and making roads impassable. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP, File)


Govt-and-politics
Primary day is here: Here's what you should know about Magic Valley races

TWIN FALLS — A competitive governor’s race, an open district judge seat, and an unusually high number of challengers to Magic Valley legislators have the potential to bring out more primary voters than usual in south-central Idaho this year.

Polling places are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. across the Magic Valley Tuesday. Voters must bring photo ID — such as a driver’s license, U.S. passport, student ID, or concealed carry license — or sign a personal identification affidavit.

Here are the races to watch (and vote in) today.

Twin Falls County

Incumbent Terry Kramer, a farmer from Castleford who was first elected to the Twin Falls County Commission in 2006, has a challenger for the District 1 seat: Brent Reinke, former director of the Idaho Department of Corrections. Reinke previously served on the county commission from 1994 to 1997.

Both Kramer and Reinke are Republicans.

Blaine County

One Blaine County commissioner has a primary challenger this year: incumbent Larry Schoen, who faces retired Olympic high jumper Dick Fosbury in the Democratic primary for District 1. The winner will face Republican Mick Halverson and independent candidate Debra Hall.

Two Democrats are also competing for the assessor’s seat: Jim Williams and Kyle Kunz.

Camas County

There are no contested races this year in Camas County, as all incumbents are seeking re-election unopposed.

Cassia County

Five candidates will compete for two seats on the Cassia County Commission in this year’s Republican primary.

Randall S. Harris, Leonard M. Beck, and Jeff Jarolimek, all of Burley, are vying for the District 1 seat currently held by retiring commissioner Paul Christensen. Harris and Jarolimeck are business owners and Beck is a farmer.

Meanwhile, incumbent Tim Darrington faces farmer and business owner Kent Searle in the race for the District 3 seat.

Two Republicans are seeking the treasurer’s office: Cynthia Moyle and Laura Greener.

Gooding County

Gooding County Republicans have plenty of choices on the ballot Tuesday.

Susan Bolton and Dennis Rogers are facing off for the District 1 commissioner’s seat, while Ron Buhler and John Elliott compete for the District 3 seat.

Three people are running for county clerk: incumbent Denise Gill, a Republican; Crystal Spackman, a Republican; and Gillian J. Minter, a Democrat.

The coroner’s race is also a competitive one this year, with Republicans Jase Stockham and Ronnie Geer seeking the office.

Jerome County

Two incumbent Republican commissioners face challengers on Tuesday.

District 1 commissioner Cathy Roemer has an opponent in Ben Crouch, editor of the North Side Journal. Roemer has been on the commission for nearly a decade.

District 3 incumbent Roger Morley, who has been on the commission for eight years, has two challengers: businessmen George Panagiotou and John Crozier.

Lincoln County

Lincoln County voters have no shortage of options in the two primary races for the county commission.

Two candidates are competing for the District 1 seat: Rick Ellis, a partially retired construction manager, and Don Hudson, chairman of the county’s Republican Party Central Committee.

Hudson filed a lawsuit against Lincoln County in December, alleging that the commission refused “to enforce the law concerning the illegal residency of Commissioner Cresley McConnell.” In the lawsuit, Hudson claims that the county gerrymandered the zone boundaries when it redistricted commission zones in January.

McConnell, who resigned from the District 1 seat on May 5, was originally planning to run for re-election.

Another candidate whose name won’t appear on the ballot is throwing her hat in the ring for the District 1 seat as well: Democrat Julia Oxarango-Ingram, director of Southern Idaho Rural Development, who’s running as a write-in candidate.

Incumbent Roy Hubert, who has held the District 3 seat on the commission for seven years, has two challengers in the Republican primary: Larry Kerner and Roger Fields.

Minidoka County

There’s one contested primary race in Minidoka County: the race for the District 1 county commissioner’s seat, currently occupied by retiring commissioner Bob Moore.

Republicans Wayne Schenk and Carl Hanson are competing for Moore’s spot on the commission. Schenk is a businessman and farmer, and Hanson is a retired hospital administrator and the former owner of a small business.

State legislature

Two seats in the Idaho House of Representatives have opened up this year with the retirement of longtime legislators Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, and Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls.

Three Republican candidates are competing for Bell’s seat in District 25: ranchers Laurie Lickley and B. Roy Prescott, and Glenneda Zuiderveld, a small business owner.

Two Republicans will face off for Hartgen’s seat in District 24: his wife, Linda Wright Hartgen, who previously served as the Twin Falls county clerk and trial court administrator for the 5th Judicial District, and Rocky Ferrenburg, a truck driver from Twin Falls. The winner will face Democrat Deborah Silver in the general election.

Meanwhile, six incumbent candidates have challengers in the Republican primary, some for the first time in years.

In District 23, Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, is facing Mark Rhatigan of Mountain Home, while Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, goes up against Oscar Evans of Homedale.

In District 24, Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, has a challenger in Jay S. Waters III, also of Twin Falls.

Two incumbents have opponents in District 25: Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer, is up against Lyle Johnstone of Twin Falls, while Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, faces Terry Edwards of Jerome.

One sitting legislator in District 27 has a primary challenger: Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley. He’s running against Kevin Williams of Elba.

Governor and Lieutenant Governor

The crowded race for governor includes a competitive pool of candidates for both the Republican and Democratic nominations.

The seven candidates on the Republican side include frontrunners Lt. Gov. Brad Little, businessman and former E.R. doctor Tommy Ahlquist, and U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador. Harley Delano Brown, Dalton Ben Cannady, Lisa Marie, and Twin Falls resident Steve Pankey are also seeking the Republican nomination.

There are three names on the Democrat ballot: businessman A.J. Balukoff, former Idaho state Rep. Paulette Jordan, and organic farmer Peter Dill.

In the race for Lieutenant Governor, Democrats have two candidates to choose from: software engineer Kristin Collum and Jim Fabe, a retired dentist who lives in Sun Valley.

Republicans have more choices, with five candidates throwing their hat in the ring: Marv Hagedorn, Janice McGeachin, Bob Nonini, Kelley Packer, and Steve Yates.

Congress

Labrador’s seat in Congressional District 1 has attracted a number of candidates.

Seven Republican names are on the ballot: Russ Fulcher, Alex Gallegos, Nick Henderson, David Leroy, Luke Malek, Christy Perry and Michael Snyder.

Three Democrats are running for the seat as well: Cristina McNeil, Michael W. Smith, and James Vandermaas.

While U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, who holds the District 2 congressional seat, is running unopposed in the Republican primary, two Democrats are facing off for the Democratic nomination: Aaron Swisher, an economist from Boise, and Peter Rickards, a retired podiatrist from Twin Falls.

Other statewide offices

Secretary of State Lawrence Denney is seeking the Republican nomination unopposed, but two candidates are competing for the Democratic nomination: Joseph J.P. Chastain and Jill Humble.

Three Republicans are running for the office of State Treasurer: Julie Ellsworth, Tom Kealey, and Vicky McIntyre.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, a Republican, has a primary challenger in Jeff Dillon. Two Democrats are also running for the office: Allen Humble and Cindy Wilson.

District Judge

Four candidates are competing for the 5th Judicial District judge seat left open by the death of Judge Randy Stoker: public defense attorney Samuel Beus, Twin Falls Magistrate Judge Roger Harris, civil attorney David Gadd, and water adjudicator Theodore Booth.

All 5th Judicial District residents can vote in the race, which is non-partisan.


Education
The Twin Falls School District just bought nearly 60 acres of land. It could be used for a future south-side high school

TWIN FALLS — The Twin Falls School District will buy 58.7 acres of land that could be used for a future high school site.

The school board voted Monday night to approve the $520,000 purchase, about $9,000 per acre, for a parcel at Blue Lakes Boulevard South and 3600 North in south Twin Falls. Trustees Paul McClintock and Bryan Matsuoka were absent.

Student numbers continue to grow and the school district is planning for the future, particularly with more homes under construction and planned subdivisions in south Twin Falls.

“This site could serve as a potential site for a future high school,” Superintendent Brady Dickinson told trustees, but that would likely be 10-12 years from now. Or the school district could use the property to acquire a different parcel, he said.

The school district will also need to look at finding land in south Twin Falls for a potential elementary school, Dickinson said.

The Twin Falls School District has opened three new schools in the past two years — South Hills Middle School in 2017, and Rock Creek and Pillar Falls elementary schools in 2016 — in order to handle enrollment growth and alleviate school overcrowding.

The bulk of the money for the Blue Lakes Boulevard South land purchase will come from a payback from a private developer who benefited from school district infrastructure near Pillar Falls Elementary School and owes the school district, said school district director of operations Ryan Bowman.

Of the purchase price, the remaining $113,487 will come from a voter-approved plant facilities levy.

An appraisal shows the market value of the property is $530,000. When the school district bought land to build South Hills Middle School, it paid about $18,000 per acre, twice as much as the land it’s buying now.

“It’s a great location with a good price,” Bowman said, adding the owners live out of town and are motivated to sell.

The land couldn’t be developed today, Dickinson said, but could most likely be developed within the next five years and definitely in 10 years with new infrastructure likely to go in.

“Again, it’s a good investment,” he said. “It meets the needs of the district going forward.”

May 14 Twin Falls School District land purchase

During their meeting, trustees also:

  • Heard a 2018-19 preliminary budget presentation. The budget includes 9 ½ additional job positions, fiscal affairs director Bob Seaman said. They’re not all new positions because some of them weren’t filled this year. Some of the biggest expenditure concerns are a negative short-term operating food service budget due to families who haven’t paid for school meals, and special education expenditures. The school district spends about $600,000 more for services such as occupational and physical therapy for students in need than what it generates through Medicaid billing.
  • Awarded a $208,928 bid to Thomas D. Robison Roofing, Inc. to replace Bickel Elementary School’s roof. Money will come from a plant facilities levy. The company has done several other projects for the Twin Falls School District in the past, including roofing at Twin Falls High School, and have done a good job, Bowman said. It will take about 10 to 12 weeks to complete the project. The school district saved money because Thomas D. Robison Roofing can do asbestos abatement when the old roof is removed, Dickinson said.
  • After a public hearing, approved school meal prices for next school year. The main change: The Twin Falls School District will no longer offer free breakfast for all students because it’s no longer cost-effective because the district doesn’t qualify anymore for a federal provision that provides funding for the program. Next school year, breakfast will cost $1.50 for elementary schoolers and $1.75 for middle schoolers and high schoolers. Lunch prices will increase anywhere from 3.1 to 3.6 percent next school year, depending on whether a student is in elementary, middle or high school. Each elementary school lunch will cost $2.85, while a middle school lunch will cost $3.10 and a high school lunch will cost $3.35. It’s unfortunate there will no longer be free breakfast, Dickinson said. Without qualifying for federal Provision 2, the school district would have to cover the cost, but can’t afford to absorb it in its general fund, he said. Students who attend schools with the Community Eligibility Provision program, though, will still receive free breakfast and lunch. And parents of students at other campuses can still apply for free or reduced-price lunches to receive assistance if they’re eligible.
  • Approved a resolution to submit to the state for an average daily attendance (ADA) adjustment. The request is due to an attendance dip some weeks this school year as a result of inclement weather and/or a severe flu season. It affects the vast majority of Twin Falls school campuses. The school district gets state funding based on ADA.
  • Recognized employees of the month from Twin Falls and Canyon Ridge high schools: American government teacher and head track/cross country coach Marty Grindstaff and library assistant LaDawn Farnworth from Twin Falls High, and special education teacher Sasha Anderson and administrative secretary Lesa Long from Canyon Ridge High.
  • (tncms-asset)48366812-57b6-11e8-baea-00163ec2aa77[1](/tncms-asset)

DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTO 

Twin Falls' Tayllore Ward tees off during the Great Basin Conference tournament Monday, May 7, 2018, at the Rupert Country Club.


Crime-and-courts
breaking
Police looking for suspect who robbed Burley Mr. Gas on Saturday

BURLEY — The Cassia County Sheriff’s Office is looking for an armed suspect who robbed a Burley convenience store Saturday at gunpoint.

About 3:30 a.m., a suspect wearing a mask made out of a shirt with holes cut out for the eyes went into the Mr. Gas convenience store with a semi-automatic rifle and demanded money, Cassia County Undersheriff George Warrell said.

The robber left the store at 855 Overland Ave. with an undisclosed amount of money.

The suspect was described at being 5’10” to 6’ tall and weighing 185 to 200 pounds.

The clerk was not injured.

“We are following up on leads and actively investigating the case,” he said.

The sheriff’s office did not release any further information at this time.

Anyone with information on the robbery should call the Cassia County Sheriff’s Office at 208-878-2251.


Local
Does Twin Falls need a recreation center? The city hopes to find out.

TWIN FALLS — The City Council on Monday made its first major financial commitment toward studying the possibility for a recreation center in Twin Fall.

The Council voted 6-0 to enter a contract with Pivot North Architecture/BRS for a feasibility study and statistically valid survey for $114,000. Councilman Chris Talkington was not present.

Although Council members struggled with the cost, they agreed a study would provide them useful information: whether a rec center is needed, what it should include and what it would cost.

“I’m not really ready to step into a new facility if it’s going to be another drain,” said Councilman Greg Lanting, noting that the city pool is losing money.

The study will take place in phases. The first phase will provide a mission and vision statement for a recreation center, plus include a focus group, concept schedule and program list. The second phase will have an estimate of community support, a business plan, site selection and a schedule. The third phase will include a budget model, business plan, timeline, cost estimate and survey results.

“We can stop at any time,” said Clint Sievers with Pivot North. “The service is flexible — you’re not committed to spending the entire amount.”

Members of an ad-hoc committee were also present to support the study.

“The feasibility study is the most ethical thing to do for the next step,” said Bryan Wright.

Parks and Recreation Director Wendy Davis looked at community centers in other areas and saw there were vast differences between them, depending on the community’s needs.

“There is no such thing as a cookie-cutter approach to building a recreation center,” she said.

Also at the meeting, the Council:

  • Approved the Crazy Days on Main event for June 2 in downtown Twin Falls.
  • Approved a request to waive the non-conforming building expansion permit process for a home at 219 Lenore St.
  • Agreed to set the minimum value of 324 Hansen St. at $200,000 during a public auction.