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DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS 

Tami Billman speaks to the city council during their meeting Tuesday evening in downtown Twin Falls. Later in the meeting the council reappointed Shawn Barigar as mayor with a majority vote. Vice-mayor Suzanne Hawkins and councilman Chris Talkington also ran for the position. Councilwoman Ruth Pierce was absent for the vote.


Local
Barigar keeps mayoral title for another 2 years, Nikki Boyd is vice mayor

TWIN FALLS — The City Council voted to re-elect Shawn Barigar as mayor of Twin Falls on Tuesday, but with two other contenders, he just barely retained his seat.

In Twin Falls, the city manager and other administrators manage the day-to-day operations of the city. The City Council, meanwhile, serves as a sort of board of directors, where the mayor is like the chairman of that board, City Manager Travis Rothweiler said. The mayor is elected every two years by the City Council from among its members.

But this week, the Council got a little hung up on that selection process. After it chose to go with a slightly different selection method, Barigar was elected with just three of the six votes — Councilwoman Ruth Pierce was absent. With approval by the Council, Barigar then appointed Nikki Boyd as vice mayor.

Before his election, Barigar gave an impassioned speech about his first term, when the city found itself caught in the middle of a national discussion about refugee resettlement.

“I believe I’ve demonstrated my ability to address challenges,” he said. “I don’t think any of us knew that our city would be thrust into a national spotlight this past two years. And people outside of our community hijacked our reputation, twisted stories into elaborate falsehoods, threatened and lied and stoked the flames of intolerance. And they hung our city’s name on it.

“As challenging as it was, I’m proud to have been in the mayor’s seat during this time, to represent out community’s values and the true story of who we are.”

In past years, the mayor has been selected by a motion and a vote of the City Council. But on Tuesday, attorney Fritz Wonderlich said the process that’s been used before “wasn’t so much of an election as an approval of a motion.”

After Council members discussed the process, it was determined that, for transparency, the mayor would be elected with each Council member publicly voting for his or her preferred candidate. The vote took place after those interested in the position gave a speech.

Also seeking the mayor’s seat were Chris Talkington and Suzanne Hawkins.

“Any of the seven of us are definitely qualified to be mayor of this Council,” Hawkins had said in her speech. “I know I have the skills and the heart to take on this responsibility.”

Hawkins, who’s been vice mayor for the past four years, had Greg Lanting’s backing. She also lost her bid for mayor against Barigar in 2016.

Council members Christopher Reid and Nikki Boyd threw their support behind Barigar during the vote, while Councilman Chris Talkington cast the only vote for himself. Talkington said this is his last two years on the Council.

In his speech, Barigar did not shy away from the difficulties he had in his first term.

“I spoke up to protect our citizens and navigated a deluge of national and international media that likely didn’t even know where Twin Falls was before this all started,” he said. “And looking back, I truly believe that our true image of Twin Falls was preserved, shared, if not even strengthened — and really celebrated by our most important audience, and that’s the citizens of Twin Falls.”

He said he looks forward to continuing the city’s momentum over the next two years.

“The last two years I’ve really looked at my responsibility as representing the citizens, and taken it seriously,” he told the Times-News.

Barigar said he chose Boyd as vice mayor in part because he respected the enthusiasm and forward-thinking she brings to Council discussions.

“I’m always looking to serve more,” Boyd said.

The election took place in the new City Hall at 203 Main Ave. E., following the swearing in of Hawkins, Lanting and Reid to their new four-year terms.


Ap
Sen. Orrin Hatch announces he will not seek re-election

WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said Tuesday he will not seek re-election after serving more than 40 years in the Senate, opening the door for 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to run for his seat.

The 83-year-old Hatch, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, opted for retirement despite a full-court press from President Donald Trump to stay in Washington, particularly as Romney’s ambition for the seat became apparent.

Romney was a vocal critic of Trump’s during the 2016 election and could be a potential thorn in the president’s side in the Senate. He also has drawn the ire of Trump’s former White House adviser, Steve Bannon, who recently derided Romney as a draft dodger who “hid behind” his Mormon religion to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.

Hatch said he decided to retire at the end of his seventh term after “much prayer and discussion with family and friends” over the holiday break. He said he’s always been a fighter, “but every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves.”

“Only in a nation like ours could someone like me — the scrappy son of a simple carpenter — grow up to become a United States Senator,” he added.

Trump had been open in recent months about pressuring Hatch to stay in the Senate, and his private lobbying campaign was bolstered by a public love fest, with Trump inviting Hatch with him on Air Force One in December when he shrunk the boundaries of two Utah monuments.

“Congratulations to Senator Orrin Hatch on an absolutely incredible career. He has been a tremendous supporter, and I will never forget the (beyond kind) statements he has made about me as President,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “He is my friend and he will be greatly missed in the U.S. Senate!”

Hatch chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee and was a major force in getting a tax overhaul through Congress and signed into law in December. He also played a key role in persuading Trump to sign proclamations scaling back the two Utah monuments that Hatch and other conservatives considered examples of government overreach.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who now lives in Utah, thanked Hatch in a statement on Facebook and said Hatch “has represented the interests of Utah with distinction and honor.”

Romney’s statement did not mention his own plans.

If he ran, Romney would enter the Senate race as the heavy favorite, having carried Utah in 2012 by a margin of nearly 3-to-1 over Democrat Barack Obama. Romney would likely be among a small number of influential Republicans willing to take on Trump.

He was an early critic of the billionaire businessman, labeling Trump “a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University,” Romney warned in 2016 in a speech in Utah.

After the election, Romney submitted himself as a candidate to be secretary of state in an excruciatingly public interview process. But since Trump has moved into the White House, Romney has been a frequent detractor, particularly after Trump equivocated on condemning white supremacists in Charlottesville last summer.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday she had not discussed Romney’s potential candidacy with Trump and could not say whether the president would support him.

Amid earlier speculation about Hatch’s plans, the Utah senator stepped up to defend Romney, a fellow Mormon, against criticism from Bannon.

At a rally for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Bannon called Romney a draft dodger who “hid behind” his religion. Romney received a draft deferment for missionary work in France during Vietnam.

Hatch called Bannon’s attack “disappointing and unjustified” and said Romney “has sought every opportunity” to serve the country.

Late last year, Hatch also found himself in a heated debate with Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. The dispute occurred as Republicans pushed a near $1.5 trillion, 10-year tax cut for businesses and individuals through the Senate Finance Committee over Democrats’ objections.

Brown, a liberal firebrand, said people know Republicans want to help the rich because it’s “in their DNA.”

Hatch told Brown he’d heard enough, adding that he’s helped disadvantaged people “my whole stinking career.” As the two senators talked over each other, Hatch said he was tired of Democrats’ “bull crap.”

In the statement announcing his decision to retire, Hatch cited work helping create the Americans with Disabilities Act, expanding children’s health insurance and expanding use of generic drugs.

Hatch also served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was at the center of many of the biggest confirmation battles. During his time on the committee, the Senate has confirmed nearly 1,900 federal judges.

In 2000, Hatch sought the Republican nomination for president, saying he had more experience in Washington than his opponents and insisting he could work with Democrats. He withdrew after only winning 1 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses.

Hatch frequently wrote religious songs and recorded music in his spare time as a way to relax. One of his songs, “Unspoken,” went platinum after appearing on “WOW Hits 2005,” a compilation of Christian pop music.


If you do one thing

If you do one thing: Pickleball is available from 9 a.m. to noon at 302 Third Ave. S. in Twin Falls. All ages, levels and beginners are welcome. The cost is $3.


Local
Labor board settles case with Lamb Weston; union plans to file appeal

TWIN FALLS — The National Labor Relations Board has settled a case with Lamb Weston’s potato processing plant in Twin Falls.

The board’s regional director, Paula Sawyer, agreed to the settlement Dec. 22, refusing to reissue a complaint. The case involved allegations by Teamsters Local Union 483 saying Lamb Weston supervisors intimidated and coerced employees prior to a union election in July.

Now, the union is appealing the decision and asking the federal government to defer the case to state courts. The company, meanwhile, just wants to move on.

“Our management team acted with integrity before, during and after the vote,” Lamb Weston spokeswoman Shelby Stoolman said in a statement. “The overwhelming majority of employees — 80 percent — voted to not be represented by the union. The Regional Director of the NLRB has approved a settlement, and we are ready to move past this issue so we can focus on our business operations.”

The union has until Friday to appeal the regional director’s decision, Teamsters Local 483 Director of Representation Darel Hardenbrook said. It wants to pursue criminal charges at the state level, but Twin Falls County Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden have rejected the union’s requests.

Hardenbrook says this is in direct violation of Title 44, Chapter 20 of Idaho statutes, which says those officials are responsible for investigating complaints or violations of the right to work statute. But Loebs said there was not enough evidence to pursue criminal charges.

Wasden’s office, meanwhile, deferred to the federal agency.

“When contacted by the Twin Falls County Prosecuting Attorney’s office over the summer, the Office of the Attorney General conducted a thorough review of the matter and the laws that applied,” Wasden said in a statement. “Federal law provides that once the NLRB became involved, state or local authorities — including my office — were immediately preempted from having any role. At that point, it became a federal matter to be handled by federal authorities only.”

An email to Loebs’ office sent by Wasden’s assistant chief deputy Brian Kane provided a detailed court history supporting that stance.

But Hardenbrook believes that’s a cop-out. If the charges were against the union, he said, the state would be involved.

Teamsters Local 483, based in Boise, had rejected the settlement, turning it over to the regional director. In the settlement, Lamb Weston agreed to post notices telling employees about their rights — but the company does not admit to any wrongdoing.


Local
City manager sees 2018 as a year that will pave the way for future projects

TWIN FALLS — Twin Falls residents will likely see fewer city projects under construction in 2018, but it will be a year of planning for the next several decades.

As the city experiences substantial boosts in population, the government is dealing with the growing pains. Discussions have already begun on how the city will address those challenges.

This year, the city will be focusing on several major questions: What will a new urban designation mean for Twin Falls’ transportation and infrastructure? What is the future of the city’s fire stations and department? What will bring people to the heart of downtown? And what are residents’ recreational needs?

1. Metropolitan Statistical Area

Twin Falls city staff were surprised to learn in December that Twin Falls and Jerome counties were designated a metropolitan statistical area — years sooner than anyone expected.

“The playing conditions have changed,” City Manager Travis Rothweiler told the Times-News Dec. 14.

But the city is still discovering just how that changes things, and where it will need to go from here. Those efforts will continue throughout 2018 and may include discussions about forming a Metropolitan Planning Organization to develop a bus system. The counties will also need to be involved.

2. Fire stations evaluation

The current city administration inherited fire stations that have been in place for more than 40 years, Deputy City Manager Brian Pike said.

“We benefited from the fact that this community 40 years ago got this picture right,” Pike said.

The city’s newest fire station was constructed in 1978. Now, Pike added, “We have a number of facilities that are reaching the end of their level of service.”

The current configurations of substations don’t have any spaces for any female firefighters to have personal spaces and restrooms. The city could take measures to accommodate them now, if needed, Rothweiler said, but it would not be the most convenient way to do so.

This year, a firm will analyze the city’s architectural needs for existing and future substations. The firm has reached out to fire department staff to see how remodels or new substations could accommodate their needs. The city wants to plan for decades out.

Meanwhile, a committee is also reviewing 23 applications it received from around the country to fill the vacancy left by former fire chief Tim Soule. Soule resigned in October after having been on administrative leave for weeks, for reasons the city has not disclosed. He’d been in the position for only one year.

“The size of this pool is larger than the last pool,” Rothweiler said.

All of the candidates who applied currently live outside the Magic Valley. In mid-December, 10 semi-finalists were moving forward to a round of Skype interviews, after which Rothweiler hoped to select three to five finalists.

These finalists will meet city staff and tour the community in the second week of January, then go through a thorough vetting process. Rothweiler hoped to have someone on-the-ground by March 1 — and certainly no later than April 1.

The new chief will be expected to have an ability to establish partnerships and collaborate, he said.

3. Downtown commons

At least one construction project will be a continuation of work in 2017. The downtown commons, on Main Avenue and Hansen Street across from city hall, is already under construction. The Urban Renewal Agency owns the property that used to house the Rogerson Hotel, and it will turn it over to the city once completed.

The $2.1 million project is designed, with permits in, URA Executive Director Nathan Murray said. The first step of the project will be constructing restrooms and a storage area. The restrooms will sit between an alley and a parking lot at Hansen Street East and Second Avenue East. The alley, Murray said, will then become somewhat of an impromptu stage.

The plaza itself will have brick pavers sloping gradually toward the alley, allowing for stadium seating. Planters, tables and chairs, and a statue of John Hayes will decorate the community gathering space.

A flat, circular splash pad is also planned, with a 40-foot diameter. Murray hopes that eventually, the city could hire a company to bring in a portable ice rink to go over the splash pad area in the winter.

The entire project should be finished and open by early summer, he said. They city will allow for events to be scheduled, including farmers markets, yoga and concerts. Murray’s goal is to have 250 days of the year filled with events.

4. Recreation center study

In July, the City Council appointed a 13-member ad-hoc committee to study, design and secure funding for a recreation center in Twin Falls.

“The recreation center committee right now is very much in its infancy,” Rothweiler said.

The committee was given the thumbs-up to negotiate a contract for a feasibility study. This contract could come back to the Council for approval this year, and the firm would then begin its work.

There’s been no timeline established for when this work would be complete, but the committee is expected to report back to the City Council on the cost to build a recreation center, what it would take to operate one, and what partnerships may be needed.


DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS 

City Hall sits along Main Avenue Thursday in downtown Twin Falls.