TWIN FALLS — Most of the traffic signals in Twin Falls that were affected by Tuesday evening’s power outage have been restored to normal function, but as of Wednesday evening crews were still working to fix a few.
Many traffic signals returned to normal operation when power was restored, but the controllers’ programming on some of them was damaged, causing them to operate as flashing red lights, city officials said in a statement Wednesday morning.
As of about 5 p.m. Wednesday, most of them had been fixed. However, crews were still working on a few, hoping to finish them overnight or early Thursday morning.
The affected lights were all over the city, with many of them in the area of Washington Street South, Orchard Drive and the South Park neighborhood; Pole Line Drive west of Blue Lakes Boulevard; the area around Fillmore Drive, Blue Lakes and Bridgeview Boulevard; and the area around Addison Avenue West and Morrison Street, said city spokesman Joshua Palmer.
“The power outage seemed to wipe the programming (on the lights), or at least it’s not reloading,” Palmer said.
The affected signals had to have their programming software reinstalled and the controllers reconfigured. City officials ask drivers to be patient and careful while the work is being done.
“We’re just asking people to slow down,” Palmer said. “When they get to a flashing red light, it indicates a four-way stop.”
A contractor was working on the lights Monday morning. No estimate on when they would all be fixed was immediately available.
BUHL — Buhl teenager Lexi Bingham is pushing forward.
The 16-year-old has defined the odds in recovering from a broken neck she suffered in a snowboarding accident more than two years ago. And she continues to gain mobility.
While at home June 29 in her neighborhood at Clear Lake Country Club, Lexi said she’s doing “really good.”
She’s still doing physical and occupational therapy — but only twice a week now, compared with five times a week soon after the injury.
Her main goal now? To run again.
“My leg kind of turns in and I have pretty bad asthma,” Lexi said, which has been a challenge.
But she wants to become more active and play the sports she loves. “I really want to get back into softball and basketball,” she said.
Lexi even asked her mother, Jerri Bingham, if she could go snowboarding again. But her mom said that’s not going happen.
And understandably so.
Lexi used to go snowboarding every winter. But a trip in February 2015 with classmates at Pomerelle Mountain Resort in Albion had a terrible outcome.
She went over a jump and fell forward onto her face. The impact broke her neck.
Lexi, who was a 13-year-old eighth-grader at the time, was admitted to the intensive care unit at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.
Doctors told the family Lexi was paralyzed, and she was on a ventilator and feeding tube.
The Bingham family saw an outpouring of community support, with more than $23,000 in donations to help with medical expenses.
After three months in the hospital, Lexi returned home. Several Buhl businesses changed their signs to welcome her back, and neighbors greeted her by hanging up balloons and banging on pots and pans.
Lexi faced a long road with rehabilitation. She’s walking, but still sleeps a lot, Bingham said, because she gets physically tired after a long day.
And it’s not just Lexi who’s adjusting.
Bingham, a nurse practitioner, changed jobs at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center so her work schedule is better staggered with her husband’s. That way, one of them can be available to help care for Lexi.
It also allows them to stay in their home at the golf course — an area they love.
Despite the challenges of the last couple of years, Lexi is experiencing some typical teenage milestones like getting her driver’s license.
“She’s pretty scary when she’s driving,” Bingham said. That’s because dad taught me how to drive, Lexi responded.
And she’s thinking about college and a future career.
Lexi wants to become a physical therapist at Primary Children’s Hospital. She hopes to attend the College of Southern Idaho and then transfer to the University of Utah.
A service dog
Lexi has been trying to get a service dog through a nonprofit organization called Canine Angels Service Teams in Grants Pass, Ore. But plans have fallen through for two years in a row.
It costs between $20,000 and $25,000 to raise a service dog, Bingham said.
The family wouldn’t have to pay the whole cost, but would have to put up $7,000 to $8,000, plus two weeks of housing and food expenses in Oregon in order to go through training with the dog.
Sometimes, if she’s having a long day, Lexi gets tired and falls. Sometimes, she can’t get up on her own.
Having a service dog would help Lexi with her balance. And a dog could even help her with running again by allowing her to have something to hold onto and run in sync with.
Lexi is allergic to dogs. The family put in a request for an Aussiedoodle — a hypoallergenic Australian shepherd and poodle mix — two years ago.
But the dog ended up being kicked out of training, Bingham said.
This year, something similar happened again with a different dog Lexi was supposed to get. The news came just a couple of weeks before the family was slated to go to Oregon.
“The ‘doodle’ part in them are really high strung,” Bingham said about the dogs.
They’re considering having Lexi do allergy testing to see whether she could tolerate being around a golden retriever as a service dog instead.
Life at school
Lexi is preparing to enter her junior year at Buhl High School this fall.
“Freshman year was rough,” she said. “Sophomore year was alright and I’m looking forward to junior year.”
In addition to classes, Lexi plays on Buhl High’s girls golf team and is manager for the girls varsity basketball team. She also plays in a golf league with her mother.
Lexi doesn’t get a handicap when she plays golf and didn’t participate in the state championships this spring, which the Buhl High girls team won, Bingham said. But “she beat other kids out to go to golf tournaments.”
She also started as manager for the basketball team during her sophomore year.
“I do drills with them and go everywhere with them,” Bingham said, including games as far away as American Falls.
She said she wanted to be the manager her freshman year, too, but was in a wheelchair at that point.
Just like many rallied around Lexi throughout her recovery, she’s now helping her basketball teammates. “I just help them out mentally and physically.”
TWIN FALLS — Debra Bradley smiled as she watched construction activity outside the window of her women’s clothing boutique, HiPs.
The contractors have been doing a good job with dust abatement, she said. Communication has flowed smoothly. And the construction site at the end of the day has been “neat and tidy.”
But she’s ready for things to be back to normal. Bradley’s was the second block of Main Avenue to be torn up, and the shop hasn’t seen the same foot traffic since. She’s been scraping by to make rent.
“I wish it was done,” Bradley said. “I just wish it was done.”
Main Avenue reconstruction is about a week behind schedule on the first block from Gooding to Shoshone streets, but the Urban Renewal Agency says the project will still be finished by late October as planned.
The first block of the $6.45 million project got a late start in April while the Urban Renewal Agency waited on some design changes, URA Executive Director Nathan Murray said.
Since then, there’s been a few hiccups in the work.
“The first block is always going to be the most difficult because that’s when you learn from your mistakes,” Murray said. “I believe they’re going to be out of that block by July 10.”
What complicated the work was several basement unloading areas — including some old coal chutes — beneath the sidewalks. Although anticipated, they were larger than expected, so contractors had to design and engineer the sidewalk to ensure it wouldn’t fail, Murray said.
The second block between Fairfield and Gooding streets is scheduled to be finished sometime in July. Meanwhile, once the first block is complete, contractors will be able to begin demolition on the next phase, east of Shoshone Street.
This part of the project has changed. Main Avenue merchants from Shoshone Street to Idaho Street have asked the construction of their two blocks be done simultaneously.
“The two blocks do kind of flow together,” Murray said. “It might save us a little bit of time.”
During construction, portions of the sidewalk will be closed at times. Signs along the pathways will direct pedestrians, he said.
Parking is available behind those Main Avenue businesses, accessible via the Second Avenues. The URA also plans to clear its staging area in the parking lot along Second Avenue North between Gooding and Fairfield streets. The lot will be chip sealed and striped to help people know where to park, he said.
Once the first block from Shoshone to Gooding Street is complete, it will be open to vehicles. Some landscaping and light posts will begin to appear soon after.
About a half dozen parking spaces have been removed in front of several businesses to make way for extended sidewalks for festival seating. Restaurants are already making use of the extended outdoor seating.
Across the street, Tom Ashenbrener, who owns Rudy’s — A Cook’s Paradise, said more than half of his customers use the back entrance to his store. He’s lost about 20 percent of customers during construction, but his overall sales increased slightly.
Overall, he’s pleased with how reconstruction is shaping up.
“We’ve been through one of these before, and that one was way worse than this one,” he said.
JEROME — Opponents of a proposal for Jerome County to lease beds at its jail to Immigration and Customs Enforcement came out in force Monday.
Holding handmade signs bearing slogans such as “No ICE” and “Keep our families together,” they packed into the county commissioners’ meeting room and after the meeting rallied outside the building, chanting “Jerome unido jamas sera vencido,” or “United Jerome will never be defeated.”
The contract between ICE and Jerome County hasn’t been finalized, but the plans tentatively call for the county to lease 50 beds to ICE at $75 a day per bed.
“The board has not had any communication other than the contract is coming,” Commissioner Charlie Howell said.
Jerome County is about 35 percent Hispanic, the second-most Hispanic county in Idaho, and according to a report the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs released earlier this year it’s split almost evenly between people born in the U.S. and people born abroad, mostly in Mexico. Some of them are in the country illegally — the Pew Research Center estimated in 2014 that about 45,000 undocumented immigrants live in Idaho, almost 3 percent of the state’s population and 42 percent of its immigrant population.
Even if ICE’s leasing beds at the local jail isn’t linked to any specific changes in enforcement, opponents worry having more ICE agents in town will lead to more people being arrested.
“Just seeing an ICE officer going to a restaurant, stay at a motel or something like that, that’s going to scare the literal hell out of people,” said Benjamin Reed, on-air personality at the local Spanish-language radio station 99.1 La Perrona.
Reed said the proposal has been the hot topic on his call-in show since news of it came out. Whenever someone sees an ICE agent, he said, word spreads on social media and some people avoid going out to events like quinceañeras (a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday) or rodeos. Reed pointed to an incident in Baltimore where much of a restaurant’s staff quit after ICE agents demanded everyone’s documentation.
“What’s going to stop ICE from going into the dairies locally?” he asked.
Maria Andrade, a Boise-based immigration lawyer who came to Jerome for the protest, worried the move could erode trust between the Hispanic community and local law enforcement. She said she has seen an increase at her practice in the number of people being prosecuted for immigration violations who don’t have criminal records.
“I cannot believe that ICE can make a promise that they’re only going to arrest a certain segment of the population,” she said.
Commissioners voted to bring someone from ICE to Jerome at some point in the near future to talk about the proposal. They didn’t take any public comment Monday, although they will at 2 p.m. on Monday, July 10. If as many people turn out as did this Monday, testimony might be moved to the county courtroom instead of being held in the smaller commissioners’ meeting room, Howell said.
Brothers Jose Mendoza, 13, and Carlos, 12, were born in the United States but their families are from Colima, Mexico, and they’re worried. Holding a sign saying “No ICE! We want to keep our community safe!,” Carlos said he plans to come to next week’s meeting “so we can support our family, help the people here and hope they can stay here still.”
Yadira Juarez, who lives in Boise but whose family lives in Jerome, doesn’t think a PR campaign would set people at ease. An ICE presence in town, she said, would increase fear in the Hispanic community.
“I was kind of taken aback at their lack of perspective,” she said of the commissioners.
Juarez said the timing of the proposal seemed interesting, given the stricter immigration policies the Trump administration is pursuing.
“It almost feels like a direct attack on the Hispanic community here,” Juarez said.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice declined to answer questions about the reasons for the contract or whether it signals any changes in enforcement in the region, citing federal regulations barring the agency from “speculating about possible future detention contracts.”
“However, ensuring there are sufficient beds available to meet the current demand for detention space is crucial to the success of ICE’s overall mission,” she said in an email. “Accordingly, the agency is continually reviewing its detention requirements and exploring options that will afford ICE the operational flexibility needed to house the full range of detainees in the agency’s custody. In weighing future detention contracts, ICE’s foremost considerations are the welfare of those in our custody and ensuring that the agency is being a responsible steward of taxpayers’ money.”
Commissioner Roger Morley told the crowd ICE was looking for more beds in the region because they have fewer in Utah than they used to, not because they plan on additional enforcement.
“Their status is not going to be increased,” he said. “We’re a pass-through facility for them.”
Morley said he would listen to public input and wouldn’t want to do anything to harm the dairy industry, which employs many Hispanic people and is a major part of the regional economy.
“We’ll look at this very hard and we do not want to disrupt our economy whatsoever,” he said.