SHOSHONE — The Idaho Department of Transportation Board wants to move the District 4 headquarters out of town. But townsfolk say moving the office would virtually rip the rug out from under Shoshone and Lincoln County.
Until last week, the proposed move from Shoshone to Crossroads Point near the Interstate 84/U.S. 93 junction was just a possibility. But Thursday, the board unanimously voted to study several options between Twin Falls and Jerome.
“Moving the office will crush Shoshone,” Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said Tuesday.
Stennett and Reps. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, and Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, are fighting to keep ITD in town. So are county and city officials.
Mayor Dan Pierson, who works for ITD, has recused himself from the issue.
“The situation puts the mayor in a bad position,” City Councilman Payson Reese said.
The district headquarters in Shoshone employs some 60 people, most of whom live out of town but still purchase fuel and meals at mom-and-pop stores and diners during the day.
About 1,500 people live in Shoshone, the county seat; about 5,200 people live in Lincoln County, including the tiny towns of Richfield and Dietrich.
“Our state leaders talk a big game when it comes to empowering our rural communities,” Toone said in a statement, “but this is just another example of our small towns and counties losing out to the larger cities.”
Various groups have studied the economic impact of moving the office out of Shoshone: One study says the town would lose as little as $82,000 of business per year, and another says the figure is closer to $500,000.
“I can’t in good conscience say the move would be productive to our state,” Stennett told the Times-News. “How are we as a state going to replace what the move would take away from Shoshone and Lincoln County?”
Shoshone has been home to a transportation department since the 1910s, before the ITD was the ITD, said spokesman Nathan Jerke. History aside, the 60-year-old building is dilapidated and too small for the transportation department’s current needs.
Most understand the need to replace the building but are not convinced the headquarters has to move out of town.
“I just want Shoshone to be given a shot,” Wood said. “If the bids show that it isn’t feasible, well, at least we got a shot.”
A preliminary cost estimate for new construction is about $4 million, Jerke said.
“ITD’s budget request is $5 million,” he said, “but that is projected to be more than adequate to cover all costs, including razing the current facility.”
Reese, who is also president of the local chamber of commerce, said he hasn’t heard anyone in town say the plan was a good idea.
But Shoshone doesn’t get to make that decision.
Ultimately the decision lies with the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, the powerful legislative committee that decides which projects get funded.
“I think they should leave (the headquarters) here,” Shoshone resident Donna Ross said. “I’ve seen too many things leave before.”
“Amen to that,” Dorothy Kerner said. “Pretty soon there won’t be anything left here.”