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Twin Falls School District decides to keep its bus service provider

TWIN FALLS — The Twin Falls School District is keeping its school bus company for another five years.

The school board unanimously approved a $2 million contract Monday night with Mid Columbia Bus Co. It goes into effect July 1.

The school district put out a request for proposals at the end of January, operations director Ryan Bowman said. Eight companies requested information and two submitted bids.

In response to trustee concerns about a lack of bids, Superintendent Brady Dickinson said he expected a few bids, but receiving only two wasn’t surprising.

“Part of the challenge for companies is the geographic location,” he said. “If you don’t already have the means within the region, it’s probably cost prohibitive to put a competitive bid out.”

A seven-member school transportation committee unanimously recommended awarding the contract to Mid Columbia Bus Co. The other bid was from First Student, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, at $2.1 million.

Several representatives from Mid Columbia Bus Co. were in attendance at Monday night’s school board meeting and thanked the school board.

Western States Bus Services, a part of Mid Columbia Bus Co., has provided busing for the Twin Falls School District for more than 20 years. The district’s latest contract with the company is slated to end later this year.

Because the terms of the five-year contract say it can be extended for five years, the contract has lasted 10 years, and the school district was required to go out to bid.

In 2015, the Twin Falls school board sent a letter to Western States Bus Services with a list of grievances: late routes, lack of communication with parents and drivers not dealing with problems on their buses.

The district hinted it would drop its contract with the bus company unless the problems were fixed. By fall 2015, operations were back on track, school officials said that year.


Heard a presentation about career and technical education from College of Southern Idaho executive vice president Todd Schwarz. The school district is looking into how to expand and enrich its Career and Technical Education programs, Dickinson told the school board before the presentation.

There’s a long history of collaboration between the school district and CSI, Schwarz said. About 10 years ago, CSI paid for the welding instructor at the Twin Falls High, he said, and invested significantly in equipment. It also collaborated with the school district on a high school manufacturing program.

CTE programs provide another option for students who may not want to earn a baccalaureate degree, Schwarz said. They’re typically elective classes in high school, while students in college CTE programs are often working toward a technical certificate or associate degree.

At CSI, there are “beautiful facilities that are not as full as we’d like them to be,” Schwarz said, and he’d like to see that change.

There’s a program underway now that allows high school seniors to take CTE classes at CSI’s Twin Falls campus and receive financial assistance. Only three students took advantage of that this year, Schwarz said, but he hopes for 40 next year.

High school counselors have talked with students, and some factors for not participating include the cost and wanting to stay on their high school campus, said L.T. Erickson, secondary programs director for the school district.

In response to a question from a board member about four-year degree offerings in Twin Falls, Schwarz said CSI is exploring the possibility of offering two bachelor degrees starting in 2019: in teacher education and food processing.

“It will be a bit of an uphill battle,” he said, adding there could be accreditation issues with that proposal and four-year universities have expressed concerns.

CSI plans to submit a proposal for the two degree programs to the Idaho State Board of Education within the next week or two, Schwarz said. But he said CSI doesn’t have any plans to become a four-year university.

During Monday night’s meeting, trustees also:

  • Recognized employees of the month: Sixth/seventh grade math teacher Steve Hill and attendance secretary Abril Deyanira Guzman from Robert Stuart Middle School, and science teacher Desiree Montoya and Sandra Garrity from South Hills Middle School.
  • Decided to split funds from an “Economic Trust” 50-50 between Twin Falls and Canyon Ridge high schools. It also approved a process schools will use to award the funds. The trust was set up in the 1950s with $5,000 and it has grown over the years, Erickson said. It’s used to provide higher education scholarships for high school seniors who take business classes.
  • Awarded a total of $75,307.57 in janitorial supply bids: $37,476.95 to WCP Solutions, $27,491.92 to Gem State Paper, $544.74 to Hanson Janitorial, $2,421.36 to Pyramid School Products, $730.95 to Brady Industries, $6,321.80 to Central Poly Corp. and $319.85 to Waxie Sanitary Supply.
  • Awarded a total of $5,204.29 in general/office supply bids: $524.74 to Quill Corporation, $28 to Caxton Printers, $2,325.77 to Pyramid School Products, $16.20 to National Art & School Supplies, $686.40 to Liberty Flags and $1,623.18 to Standard Stationery Supply.
  • Awarded a total of $96,242.22 in paper supply bids: $86,286.32 to Contract Paper Group and $9,955.90 to Pyramid School Products.
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Students exit a school bus in April 2015 near Harrison Elementary School in Twin Falls.

Idaho Senate panel advances abortion information bill

BOISE — A proposal that would increase reporting requirements for abortion providers is advancing at the GOP-dominated Idaho Statehouse.

The bill outlines a list of abortion complications that must be reported by providers, hospitals and clinics to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. This includes complications like infection, blood clots and hemorrhaging — as well as reporting of depression, anxiety and sleeping disorders.

“Idaho currently has no enforceable requirement that complications be reported, and the scant reporting that does occur is from abortion providers only,” Rep. Greg Chaney, a Republican from Caldwell and co-sponsor of the measure, said in a statement. “This is a challenge since many complications are treated by emergency room doctors or primary care doctors-and not the abortion providers.”

The measure advanced the Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday and now moves to the full Senate for consideration. It has already cleared the House.

Supporters, which include Idaho Choose Life and Family Policy Alliance of Idaho, say the measure is necessary to ensure abortions are provided safely.

Some of the personal information required in the proposal is already collected by the state’s health and welfare agency, but under the bill it would be required by law to report details such as woman’s age, race, how many children she has, if any of their children have died and how many abortions they’ve had in the past.

The abortion provider and facility where the abortion was performed must also be disclosed.

The state would aggregate the information for an annual report and make it available to the Legislature and the public, but identifying information would not be disclosed.

Similar proposal have been introduced in Indiana and Arizona this year. At least 20 states have such laws on the books, though the amount of detail that must be reported varies, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which opposes abortion restrictions.

The group notes that interest in such laws has spiked after a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas restrictions that had contributed to the shuttering of more than half of the state’s abortion clinics.

At the time, the court found there was insufficient data to justify the restrictions, which required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and forced clinics to meet hospital-like standards.

Twin Falls City Council adopts sanitation rate increase, update to 2030 strategic plan

TWIN FALLS — Recycling costs are up to $164 per ton to take materials out of Twin Falls. On Monday, the City Council approved a rate increase to continue recycling in Twin Falls, but only when prices drop below $100 per ton.

Following a new cost-sharing agreement with PSI Environmental Systems, full-service customers will pay 53 cents more per month to continue the recycling program. But when the cost exceeds $100 per ton, that rate increase will instead go toward fees to dump those materials in the landfill.

The City Council voted 7-0 to pass the new sanitation rate resolution, hoping it will buy the city some time and help it react more quickly to a market that’s currently unpredictable.

“Last week the citizens spoke loud and clear, in my mind,” Councilwoman Ruth Pierce said. “They want recycling, and they’re willing to pay for it.”

However, to recycle no matter the cost would have required an even higher rate increase. Utilities Billing Supervisor Bill Baxter had presented the $100-per-ton breaking point as a compromise between eliminating the program altogether and raising rates substantially higher.

Recycling costs have risen over the past year, and especially since China began cutting back its imports due to contamination levels. China is now buying 20 percent of what it used to, PSI Manager Jeff Brewster said.

But analysts believe the price will decrease and normalize over time.

“China’s going to need that product, eventually,” Brewster said.

Under the new rate increase, beginning April 1 residents who have full-service garbage and recycling will see their sanitation rates increase 53 cents per month. Those with 65-gallon carts will see rates increase 37 cents. Customers with 35-gallon carts will see an increase of about 20 cents per month.

Also at the meeting, the City Council adopted an update to its 2030 strategic plan. Major changes to the document included planning for how to make the library an educational center, as well as the city becoming involved in workforce attraction and housing needs.

About 250 residents were involved in the update process, said Phil Kushlan with Kushlan Associates.

The 37-page document helps to guide the city’s financial and policy-making decisions through the year 2030 with a set of goals and objectives.

“We just keep building on a very strong foundation,” Vice Mayor Nikki Boyd said. “I feel like we continue to create a culture that provides an environment where people really want to live and work and raise families and retire.”

Also at the meeting, the Council approved a zoning agreement with a development on the northeast corner of Addison Avenue East and Carriage Lane North; and voted to spend $125 to participate in Arts & Soul of the Magic Valley.