TWIN FALLS • Most of the testimony at a public hearing on road projects Monday evening was about a project that wasn’t on the list — a proposed truck route to bypass Twin Falls to the southeast.
The hearing wasn’t on the truck route, but on a list of other projects that the Twin Falls City Council was being asked to prioritize in terms of which ones to seek funding for first. All the projects stem from the work of the Greater Twin Falls Area Transportation Committee.
And many of the City Council’s questions were about not the road projects they ended up voting on, but about how the committee is appointed, who controls it — it’s the county, which created it in 1990 and passed the last resolution in 2004 defining its makeup and role — and the committee’s compliance with open meeting laws.
“The committee is doing its best to come into compliance with open meeting laws,” said Twin Falls City Engineer Jackie Fields, who did the presentation at Monday night’s public hearing.
The committee, which consists of representatives from local governments plus some other stakeholders, has started to post notice of its meetings and agendas after county Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs told Chairman Gary Young in September that the committee might not be following the law. The City Council was scheduled to take up the list of road projects a month ago but held off so the projects could be discussed at a legally noticed meeting of the transportation committee on Oct. 13.
The City Council ended up voting to prioritize first, three safety-related projects — a warning signal near the Washington Street and Orchard intersection, left turn signal improvements at Kimberly Road and Locust Street, and left turn lanes on Kimberly Road at 3300 East. It also voted for projects widening Shoshone Street and Sixth Avenue West at that intersection, to put a second northbound left turn lane on Shoshone and adding a right turn lane on Minidoka Avenue. And it approved a traffic analysis and possibly a traffic light at Murtaugh Street and Second Avenue South.
The Council then passed a third resolution that, Councilman Shawn Barigar said, would support the two other projects within the City of Twin Falls on the transportation committee’s priority list — one to rebuild Washington Street, Minidoka Avenue and Sixth Avenue West to reroute U.S. 30 off of the Second avenues, and one to expand Pole Line Road and Eastland Drive from Blue Lakes Boulevard to Candleridge Drive.
As for the truck route, Fields, who was part of a three-member steering committee that worked on the route proposals, said there would be more public involvement and study done before any decisions are made on that front.
“There was a recognition that we needed more outreach,” she said.
Most of the public testimony centered on the truck route — several of the people who testified live in its proposed right-of-way — and on questions about how the transportation committee works. Some of them were concerned about the lack of solid information on what could be built and whose properties might be affected, and said the proposal has affected their property values.
“We have no comfort and no information on what’s happening with our home,” Jill Skeem said.
The committee can’t make decisions on what to build but does study transportation issues and make recommendations on road projects. When the truck route proposal brought the committee into the spotlight earlier this summer, there was some confusion initially about who appoints it, who is on it and who even created or has legal responsibility for it. Mayor Don Hall, who served as the city’s representative on the committee in 2006, said he was unaware at the time of who created the committee.
County Commissioner Leon Mills, who was at the hearing, told the City Council that commissioners, too, just found out that it was created by the county. Mills said the county would start to post the committee’s meeting notices online. Currently, paper copies are posted at City Hall, at County West and at Idaho Joe’s, where the committee meets once a month.
“We’re willing to comply with that in all aspects,” Mills said.