TWIN FALLS • Leery about the possibility of Open Meeting Law violations, Twin Falls’ City Council decided Monday to hold off on approving a list of road projects ranked in priority for state funding.
Instead, the Council voted 4-2 to take the list up again on Nov. 2.
Rebecca Mills Sojka and Jim Munn, who voted “no,” were both vocal during the discussion about their concerns about voting on projects on a list that was discussed during meetings that weren’t legally noticed.
Mills Sojka thought the Council should wait until Nov. 9 rather than act the night before Election Day.
The Greater Twin Falls Area Transportation Committee was created in 1990 to discuss regional transportation issues. Its work drew more public interest this spring when it came out with three proposals for a truck route bypassing Twin Falls to the southeast. That led to opposition from some of the Kimberly residents who would be affected by the route. One of the opponents contacted Twin Falls Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs, who said the committee may have been breaking the Open Meeting Law by not posting public notice of meetings.
Gary Young, chairman of the transportation committee, told the Council that, after hearing from Loebs, he posted a meeting notice at Idaho Joe’s restaurant, where they meet, and would post the agenda there a few days before its Oct. 13 meeting.
Keller Associates did the traffic studies and compiled the data, with the grant from the Idaho Transportation Department. Twin Falls City Engineer Jackie Fields recommended the City Council accept a recommendation to rank some projects in terms of priority for future state funding — safety-related projects first, then projects meant to reduce congestion downtown and finally, improvements to increase traffic capacity on the city’s north-south arterials.
However, the Council wanted to hold off until the transportation committee can discuss the projects again at its Oct. 13 meeting, to make sure they are discussed in an open meeting first.
Mayor Don Hall also said he would call county commissioners Tuesday to see if they would allow the committee to meet somewhere in the County West building. The committee meets at 7 a.m. at Idaho Joe’s, which Mills Sojka said isn’t the best way to solicit public input.
“I’m not sure how conducive that space or time is for public involvement,” she said.
The truck route is separate from the list of smaller road projects Keller developed, and wasn’t much discussed Monday evening.
The discussion of transportation issues took up the biggest chunk of the meeting. Among other agenda items, the Council approved a contract with Starr Corporation to be construction manager and general contractor in building the new City Hall in the current Banner building and renovating the current City Hall and police station into a new public safety complex.
Starr would get $16,000, and then a fee of 3.75 percent of the project’s cost, up to $9 million, said City Manager Travis Rothweiler. If it goes over $9 million, Starr gets 3.5 percent of the project cost.
Councilman Chris Talkington said he likes the fact that Starr is a local company, which gives them a greater stake in the project.
“We’re excited to be part of this project,” said Michael Arrington, with Starr. “It’s monumental. It’s historic for the city, and we’re excited to be part of it.”
Mills Sojka, who voted against the Banner building option for the new City Hall when it came before the Council almost a year ago, urged Starr to be careful with the project budget. The project is expected to cost less than $9 million. The citizens’ committee that recommended the Banner option had worked with an estimate of about $7 million, and $8 million in reserves was set aside in this year’s budget for the project, Mills Sojka said.
Council also decided to close the city’s leaf collection station on Maxwell Avenue. Public Works Director Jon Caton said commercial, and not residential, users were the ones most using the leaf collection.
This fall, city water customers will get a $5 coupon in their bill to bring their leaves or tree to the transfer station. Or, they can bag their leaves and leave them with the rest of their trash on the curb and cut Christmas trees into three-foot or smaller pieces to be thrown out the same way.