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Greater Twin Falls Area Transportation committee reorganizes, returns to future projects

TWIN FALLS — A group that pitched the idea of a 60-mph truck route around the southeast perimeter of town has reorganized and incorporated as a nonprofit.

The Greater Twin Falls Area Transportation Committee, an old group made up of county and city officials, engineers, truckers, highway district managers and other volunteers, is now out from under the Twin Falls County umbrella, says Ivan McCracken, an engineer with J-U-B Engineers Inc.

The committee formed some 25 years ago as an advisory group to “coordinate efforts and share resources,” said McCracken, who volunteers as the committee’s secretary.

The original entity was sponsored by Twin Falls, but its operation eventually fell under Twin Falls County’s control, Commissioner Don Hall said Friday. As a Twin Falls city councilman some time ago, Hall was the city’s liaison to the group.

For the most part, the group operated under the public radar, but not knowingly, Hall said.

“Frankly, the county didn’t know the group was a government entity and neither did the group,” he said. “As someone who has served on it off and on for 13 years, I never sensed any lack of transparency. Nothing was ever hidden or secretive.”

But when the group went public with a plan for a truck route through Twin Falls’ southeast corridor, residents along the proposed routes objected, and questioned the group’s operation. Jill Skeem, who lives with her husband, Tom, on 3300 East, contacted the Twin Falls County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office about the group.

It turned out the committee had likely been breaking the law by not posting public notices of its meetings. In addition, it had been so long since the group formed, no one could remember who had brought the group together all those years ago.

“Then we started wondering, ‘Why are we even under the county?’” Hall said. Legal counsel advised the county get out of the arrangement.

That’s all water under the bridge now, McCracken said. The group has since incorporated and has vowed to remain transparent and involve the community in its discussions.

Its role is strictly advisory; the group has no authority to spend money, levy taxes or make decisions, he said. What it can do, though, is make recommendations to Idaho Department of Transportation.

An ITD liaison attends meetings, but has no vote, ITD spokesman Nathan Jerke said.

The alternate truck routes first proposed by the committee have been tabled, McCracken said.

“I think they are doing a better job of engaging the community,” Hall said. “And that’s a good thing. Instead of Boise deciding what will happen here, it gives us that local influence.”

The committee is now modeled after the Mini-Cassia Transportation Committee.

“We took their by-laws and simplified them,” McCracken said. Gerald Martens is chairman of the group and Aaron Wert is vice chairman.

Commissioner Jack Johnson is the county’s liaison to the group.

Proposed projects

“It’s really a cooperative committee,” McCracken said. Stakeholders such as highway districts or small towns can bring their projects to the table for the group to brainstorm funding options.

The committee has ranked various road projects by priority, including one to rebuild Washington Street, Minidoka Avenue and Sixth Avenue West to reroute U.S. 30 off of the Second avenues, and another to expand Pole Line Road and Eastland Drive from Blue Lakes Boulevard to Candleridge Drive in Twin Falls. Also, Burley Avenue in Buhl and 1900 East north of Filer need work, he said.

Long-term goals could include a third bridge over the Snake River Canyon, which would reroute through-traffic from Filer to Jerome to relieve the bottleneck at the I.B. Perrine Memorial Bridge. Meanwhile, the existing bridge could be redrawn to include three lanes each direction.

“How close are we to needing another bridge? We could use it right now,” McCracken said. “How long can we go without replacing it? Another 40 years.”

Coping with a mental illness or everyday stresses: Twin Falls High students help peers

TWIN FALLS — Stress is a near-universal feeling for high schoolers. And often, students are dealing with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues along with the normal stresses of being a teenager.

But Lauren Parker, Twin Falls High School’s student body vice president, noticed mental health wasn’t often discussed at school.

The 17-year-old, who’s interested in brain sciences, wanted to see that change. She felt a dialogue was needed.

“It’s not really talked about in schools very much,” she said.

Over the summer, Lauren came up with an idea: Student council should organize an assembly about coping with mental illness and everyday stresses. Once school started, Lauren met once a week with Krystal Koelling, student assistant specialist at Twin Falls High, to plan the event. Finally, after four months of work, student council led an assembly Monday for the student body.

Now, the student council hopes a leadership team at the school — including students and teachers — will meet quarterly to help students who are struggling and to bring up topics such as mental health.

To prepare for the assembly, student leaders created a survey, which their peers filled out during advisory class. Results show 35 percent of students reported having a mental illness and 25 percent have been diagnosed. And 40 percent of students report occasionally feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

The student council’s technology coordinator, 18-year-old Jacob Buscher, created a database of the survey results to make correlations between data points. Results were also shared with school administrators.

During Monday’s assembly, seven community speakers with expertise in areas such as nutrition, fitness, art, music and social work shared coping mechanisms with students.

“It wasn’t just an awareness presentation,” Jacob said, but focused on how to cope.

Advice extended beyond exercising and eating healthfully, such as how art can be helpful. That resonated with a lot of students, Jacob said.

Lauren said she has been frustrated in the past when advice focuses on just one aspect of coping, such as positive thinking. With a variety of guest speakers and advice, she said, students can try what works best for them.

Everyone could find a speaker they relate to, 17-year-old student body president Lucy Murphy said.

After the assembly, the student council started hearing feedback from their peers. “I heard a lot of good things from everybody, which isn’t always the case,” Jacob said.

Koelling typically sees an influx of students in her office after a guest speaker comes and brings up emotions teenagers were trying to hide. But that didn’t happen after Monday’s assembly. Instead, students were excited about having ways to cope, she said, and it was an “uplifting and positive” assembly.

The general consensus among students, Koelling said, was “it’s nice there are other people in school who are dealing with what I am.”

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: Freeze Frame dance performances will be featured at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the College of Southern Idaho Fine Arts Auditorium in Twin Falls. Tickets: $8 for ages 12 and older, $4 for senior citizens and children 3-11, or $14 for both shows.


Canyon Ridge's Luke Teske puts up a shot against Twin Falls during their Great Basin Conference game Friday night at Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls.

Carl's Jr. nearly ready to begin construction on Blue Lakes Boulevard

TWIN FALLS — The developer of property at Blue Lakes Boulevard and Heyburn Avenue says Carl’s Jr. will open sometime this year.

On Monday, the City Council will consider two ordinances that will allow the development to move forward with permits. Construction plans are complete, owner and developer Kevin Mortensen said.

Some demolition has taken place already to make way for the Carl’s Jr. More buildings will be demolished probably later in the year to make way for retail along Blue Lakes Boulevard.

One ordinance Monday will vacate a sewer easement on the property, Twin Falls Zoning and Development Manager Renee Carraway-Johnson said. The developer will then reroute the sewer line. Another ordinance vacates the right-of-way on a portion of Ash Street.

“This particular owner was very meticulous about making sure everything was done correctly,” she said. “This was one of the final steps to get it to go forward.”

Three retail buildings are planned for eventual construction on property south of the restaurant.