TWIN FALLS — Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning, Janet Bartelf drives one hour from her home near West Magic Reservoir to DaVita Dialysis in Twin Falls.
When she pulls into either of the two entrances to the Pole Line Road clinic, she waits another 5 to 15 minutes for a line of cars ahead of her. For the other drivers, it’s the usual rush to get their early-morning caffeine fix at Dutch Bros. Coffee. But it’s made Bartelf late, on multiple occasions, for the treatment she needs to live another day.
“It’s almost impossible some mornings to get into dialysis,” she said. “It makes you anxious and angry, and that’s not good either. I have other problems.”
The double lines of drive-through customers regularly block patients from reaching the front or the back of DaVita Dialysis, Bartelf said. And it also can make exiting tricky.
But technically, the situation doesn’t break city code. Over the past year, DaVita and Dutch Bros. have worked with their landlords and the city to reach a compromise — but it seems that even the solutions present more problems.
In the meantime, it’s an issue that many patients with chronic kidney disease have to face multiple times a week, DaVita Dialysis Facility Administrator Trevor Pulley said.
“We can’t get patients really in or out,” he said. “Probably 75 percent (of them) need to be able to be dropped off right at our front door.”
Angi Veek, a corporate spokeswoman for Dutch Bros., said the company is keeping an open communication with the city and DaVita. The developer is working to submit plans to the city to reroute the drive-through.
“Our growth team is very well aware of it and working with the local developer,” she said.
In the meantime, they have rerouted lines around the DaVita building, Veek said.
But that wasn’t the case on Thursday afternoon, when one lane of cars crept along just inches from parked vehicles in front of DaVita Dialysis — blocking the aisle to pull up to or out of the center’s patient entrance.
“This isn’t the busy time of day, either,” said Michelle Roberts, a social worker for DaVita. “This is mild.”
Pulley said his communication with Dutch Bros. over the past year has so far been fruitless. Besides that, on the few occasions Dutch Bros. staff have rerouted vehicles around the back of his building, he said, it’s been an equally bad situation: The drive-through line passes between two rows of parked cars and blocks the handicapped parking.
A flaw in the code
Dutch Bros. came into the development off of Pole Line Road in 2015, the year after DaVita Dialysis moved there. The businesses have had conflicts ever since. DaVita Dialysis built its building front to its property line.
When Pulley complained to the City Council in January, he was referred to the city’s planning and zoning department to try to sort things out.
“Everything is to code,” Twin Falls Zoning and Development manager Renee Carraway-Johnson said. “It’s just a worst-case scenario for traffic flow.”
In fact, foreseeing issues after Dutch Bros. got its special use permits, the city opted to change its code to prevent those problems from happening elsewhere, she said. But the new code doesn’t apply to what was already approved.
“They’ve been a lot more successful than anticipated,” Carraway-Johnson said.
Dutch Bros. proposed stacking vehicles onto another property to help solve the problem. But Carraway-Johnson said Wednesday the city hadn’t received an application.
The Twin Falls coffee franchise also changed ownership a couple of months ago, and is being run by a regional manager from out of state.
DaVita could appeal the Planning and Zoning Commission to revoke one or both of Dutch Bros.’ special use permits for the drive-throughs. Pulley said he hasn’t done so, in an effort to be neighborly, but it may yet come to that.
Premier Auto Group, an adjacent property owner, previously had issues with Dutch Bros. customers pulling into its lot after missing the turn when the coffee shop first opened.
“The entrance to Dutch Bros. and DaVita is very confusing to get into,” sales manager Clay McCombs said.
Citing safety reasons, the dealership installed a fence and planter between the properties to prevent people from cutting through to get to the drive-through. Except for the occasional lost customer, McCombs said he hasn’t had a lot of issues since.
But DaVita patients report that besides the inconvenience and late appointments, they’ve been honked at and yelled at by drivers in the coffee line when they try to get to either of two exits that are blocked. Bartelf said she’s even been flipped off.
With faded paint and no signage, it’s an unusual layout and a stressful situation for many first-timers as well as those who return time after time.
“I feel bad complaining,” Bartelf said. But, “I don’t think it’s fair to us when they take up the whole place.”
‘A ticking time bomb’
DaVita Dialysis would have to spend millions of dollars to relocate because its business requires a specific water system and plumbing in order to do the treatments. But Pulley and his staff worry that they could face a potential lawsuit with the situation as it is.
That’s because emergency vehicles could be blocked in or out if they arrive at the wrong time of day.
“Our people are really sick,” Dietician Janine Neiwirth said. “That could be a major safety issue.”
Bartelf worries about what could happen if she had a second stroke during one of her three-hour treatments. It isn’t unheard of for a patient to need an ambulance due to health concerns, Pulley said.
“It’s just kind of a ticking time bomb,” he said. “That’s going to be a huge liability. It could be life or death for someone, or it could be a huge lawsuit.”
TWIN FALLS — A 2-year-old girl who died in an RV fire south of Twin Falls was napping inside the trailer when the fire started the afternoon of Dec. 4, according to the Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office.
Cassandra Luckey’s mother, Meredith Menard, had stepped out of the RV and into the house next to the trailer just minutes before the trailer caught fire, said Lori Stewart, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office. Deputies and the Salmon Tract fire department were dispatched to the scene shortly before 1 p.m.
Cassandra, her parents, Menard and Shawn Luckey, and her 4-year-old sister were living in the RV and had family members living in the house next door, at 3344 U.S. 93, according to Stewart.
Cassandra died on the scene, authorities said. The cause of death was smoke inhalation, Twin Falls County Coroner Gene Turley said. No one else was injured.
The family had moved to Twin Falls from Texas just over two months ago, said Taryn Prestin, branch manager of Tradesman Staffing, where Shawn Luckey works.
“They lost everything in the hurricane down there,” Prestin said. “He’s gone through some tragedies already.”
“He’s one of those guys where your heart just melts to see him in pain like we have the past couple days,” Prestin said.
Tradesman Staffing has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the family. The company hopes the funds raised will help with the costs of clothing, food, housing and Christmas presents for the family’s surviving daughter, Prestin said.
Kimberly Nurseries has also set up a Farmers National Bank Account for the family, office manager Sherry Wright said. Shawn Luckey worked with Kimberly Nurseries through Tradesman Staffing.
The cause of the fire is still unknown and is under investigation by the fire marshal.
BUHL — A Buhl mother says her 9-year-old son was upset after being confronted about a bullying incident and left school the morning of Dec. 8, but no one noticed he was gone.
The boy’s mother and the Buhl School District Superintendent have different accounts of what happened.
Elizabeth McDonald said her son, a third-grader at Popplewell Elementary School, was confronted by the school principal. “Kids were bullying him. He was upset and scared. He left the elementary school.”
Her son walked to a local chiropractic office and called his father, McDonald said. He called the school, asked where his son was and was told he was in class.
“My husband said ‘no, actually, he’s not,’” McDonald said. “They didn’t even know for 30 minutes he was gone.”
The child got into trouble and was sent back to class, but chose to leave the schoolgrounds, Superintendent Ron Anthony said, and made it about two blocks away. “He was in a trouble for a major discipline issue and didn’t want to be at school anymore.”
The child was safe and nobody was harmed, Anthony said.
No report was filed with the Buhl Police Department and it wasn’t a law enforcement matter, Buhl Police Cpl. Benny Torres said.
A police officer was at the elementary school during a meeting between the parents and school officials in order to keep the peace, he said.
McDonald said there’s an issue with bullying at the school and a friend’s child has also been affected.
She said a couple of children gave her son a bloody nose Tuesday. “I didn’t think too much of it. Kids will be kids. I let it go.”
But then, it happened again Thursday, she said. “He got in trouble today.” McDonald said she didn’t hear anything from the school about it.
She said she and her husband went to the school asking to speak with the principal, who allegedly started yelling at them.
They were told they couldn’t leave because the school district superintendent was on the way, McDonald said, but they left anyway and went to the police station.
They contacted a police officer on duty, she said, who told them the superintendent and school principal wanted them to come back to discuss the issue.
During the meeting, “the superintendent tries to turn the entire story around and tries to make it my son’s fault,” McDonald said.
She said she and her husband told the superintendent their son will no longer attend the Buhl School District.