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DARIN OSWALD, Idaho Statesman 

Idaho Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore is retiring after 30 years with the agency and the last eight as its director.


Local
North Canyon Medical Center plans to open a primary care and orthopedics clinic in Twin Falls

GOODING — Gooding-based North Canyon Medical Center plans to open a primary care and orthopedics clinic in northeast Twin Falls this spring.

It will be North Canyon’s first offering in Twin Falls. Hospital officials are looking to move into an existing building — which hasn’t been finished out yet — on Eastland Drive near The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ temple. The clinic will likely be up and running in April.

In Twin Falls — the region’s population and health care hub — St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center is the only hospital in town. North Canyon wants to provide residents with more health care options and is also eyeing future expansion in the Magic Valley.

In conversations with Twin Falls residents, they’ve expressed a desire for more health care options, said Tim Powers, chief executive officer for North Canyon Medical Center. ”It became pretty obvious to us that not only should we open a clinic in the Twin Falls market, but complement that with orthopedics as well.”

It’s the first step of a broader initiative. North Canyon officials have meetings scheduled next week in Jerome about the possibility of opening a clinic there, too, Powers said. Plus, “we will be evaluating other areas in the greater Twin Falls market.”

North Canyon leaders hope to finalize a contract for tenant improvements to its future Twin Falls clinic building within the next week. An architect has already done some preliminary drawings.

The Twin Falls clinic — which will house one primary care provider and one orthopedic physician — will be on the opposite side of town from St. Luke’s hospital.

“We thought that was a really good area for us to be,” Powers said, and “not go toe-to-toe with St. Luke’s.”

In May, Gooding County residents voted overwhelmingly — with 87 percent support —to dissolve North Canyon’s hospital taxing district and allow it to become a nonprofit. The hospital had already cut tax revenue out of its operating budget in July 2017.

The change means North Canyon — an 18-bed critical access hospital that’s independent and locally controlled by a board of directors — can now expand outside its primary Gooding County service area.

After conducting a feasibility study, results showed expansion was a difficult proposition, Powers told the Times-News in summer 2018, but the board felt it was the right avenue economically to support the hospital.

Construction is nearly done on a new family practice clinic — which will also house rotating specialists — in Buhl. A ribbon cutting ceremony is slated for Jan. 18.

After evaluating needs in Buhl, North Canyon officials looked at the possibility of expanding into Twin Falls.

The hospital has hired a North Carolina orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Toby Anderton, who is slated to begin at North Canyon on March 18. Anderton will be the full-time orthopedic surgeon at the new Twin Falls clinic.

Powers said he’d like the Twin Falls clinic to be ready by March 18 when Anderton stars, but the space likely won’t be ready until April.

As for other Twin Falls health care options, Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center — which operates in Boise, Nampa, and Ontario and Baker City, Ore. — was in talks in summer 2017 with city officials about building a hospital and emergency department in Twin Falls. It contacted the city’s building department and asked to meet about a conceptual plan. But nothing has been announced since then.

Beyond hospitals, a handful of providers — including Family Health Services and independent physicians — are also in Twin Falls.

In November, Pocatello-based Portneuf Health Partners announced gastroenterologist Dr. Judith Csanky will see patients in Twin Falls in addition to Pocatello, but a Portneuf spokesman said the hospital has no further plans of expanding into the Magic Valley.


Local
A farewell to Terry Kramer: Castleford farmer honored for 12 years on Twin Falls County Commission

TWIN FALLS — With two days left in his term, Terry Kramer’s office is almost entirely packed up.

Gone are the knife collection, the floral print couch and the buffalo hide that once surrounded his desk. And after 12 years, it’s a strange feeling. When Kramer leaves on Friday afternoon, he plans to head out of state for a few weeks.

“I think it’s better if I leave the environment for a bit,” he said. “I really like this job. I feel sad about not continuing.”

The office will be taken over by commissioner-elect Brent Reinke come Monday, but the presence of Kramer’s legacy will be felt for years to come. On Wednesday, he was honored at a retirement party by state and local officials, county employees and friends. Many spoke about Kramer’s commitment to county government, emergency services and employee compensation throughout the years.

PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS 

Twin Falls County Commissioner Terry Kramer holds a decorative clock given to him Wednesday during his retirement party at the Twin Falls County West building in Twin Falls.

“He’s always served people,” said Jackie Frey, coordinator for the Twin Falls County Office of Emergency Management. “He’s always been involved in the community. Terry is extremely dedicated.”

Kramer has served on the Twin Falls County Commission since 2007, but he’s continued to live and farm in his hometown of Castleford. And he imagines he’ll continue farming grain, corn and hay for the rest of his life. At 65 years old, he has no plans to run for public office again.

“I just don’t think that I could improve on what I’ve already done,” he said.

Kramer has taken the election loss the best of any official Grant Loebs has known, the county prosecutor told a roomful of people on Wednesday.

“Being an elected official is a little bit weird,” Loebs said. “You always feel like you’ve got one foot on a sheet of ice.”

But Kramer stuck through to the very end, and even reached out to Reinke and invited him to meetings.

“The two of them sat there like they were best friends,” Loebs said.

PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS 

Twin Falls Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs talks about County Commissioner Terry Kramer's career Wednesday during his retirement party at the Twin Falls County West building in Twin Falls.

Despite the emotional toll the loss took on Kramer, he chose to move on.

“Whenever the public says it’s time for you to retire, we need to do that with honor and dignity,” Kramer said, “and we need to transfer that enthusiasm to the other person.”

As each person spoke a few words, Kramer, in turn, spoke highly of him or her. Still, he agreed that he’s leaving the county better than he found it.

Career highlights

Kramer says he’s proud of several things he’s done in his time as county commissioner, but the first of those is helping to develop a long-range plan for the county.

“We’ve remodeled virtually every building,” he said.

He helped develop the County West building into a “one-stop shop” for services, bringing complimentary services such as the VFW, veterans services, Interlink Volunteer Caregivers and Safe House under the same roof.

“I was sort of the real estate guy for the last 10 years,” Kramer said.

And he feels the county — with the exception of the jail and courts — is well prepared for spacing needs over the next 50 years.

Next, Kramer is proud of the programming he’s helped establish over 12 years: specialty courts, treatment and recovery programs and the pest abatement district. Lastly, he is proud of the progress Twin Falls County has made with personnel.

“When I came, there was an unequal pay scale across the county,” Kramer said. “… I recognized that we had a spectacular staff that worked for Twin Falls County and I felt they weren’t appreciated as they should have been.”

Employee turnover was around 35 percent and the county did not offer competitive benefits, he said. Kramer ran a decade-long campaign to get county employees into the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho. He helped to raise wages and reduce turnover to around 12 percent.

Those efforts didn’t go unnoticed during the retirement ceremony. Still, others recognized him for other work he’s done: helping set up and work in quick-response units, repairing the county’s roads after a harsh winter and fostering collaboration with cities and nonprofits.

“He helped make county government better in this state,” said Dan Chadwick, former executive director of the Idaho Association of Counties.

Sheriff Tom Carter said Kramer is “a friend to law enforcement.” And ongoing commissioners Don Hall and Jack Johnson said they will miss his diverse knowledge and experience.

“Terry took us under his wing and shared more knowledge than we can remember,” Johnson said. “Godspeed, and find your passion.”

PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS 

Jennifer Bergin looks at photos highlighting Twin Falls County Commissioner Terry Kramer's career Wednesday during his retirement party at the Twin Falls County West building in Twin Falls.

Moving on

To Kramer, it’s a good time to break away.

“I’m leaving the county in an excellent position financially, facility-wise, program-wise,” Kramer said.

And it doesn’t end with him, he said. The next commission is well suited to take the reins and move forward on addressing capacity issues in the courts and the jail.

“They don’t have the history I have, but I don’t have the vision they have,” he said.

He imagines he’ll continue to stay involved locally with emergency medical services and land use issues — “where my roots are and my heart is.”

Kramer’s advice to new commissioners?

“Do it right and keep your people in mind, always.”


Local
Planning and Zoning OKs plans for dairy processor

TWIN FALLS — A food-processing plant is one step closer to becoming a reality on Washington Street South near Glanbia Nutritionals.

The Twin Falls Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously to forward a positive recommendation to the City Council for a rezoning of the property. Gem State Dairy Products LLC has asked the city to rezone the farm ground from light manufacturing and residential to a heavy manufacturing zoning designation. The proposed food processing plant is under design, company representative Tom Mikesell told the commission.

The commissioners agreed the zoning conforms with the city’s master plan. Some residents, however, were skeptical based on the limited information they were given.

“I think the developers should be more forthcoming with exactly what they are planning to do,” said William Mills, an adjacent property owner. “I don’t know what they intend to process there... this is very vague.”

Alfred Kyle expressed similar concerns, worrying that property values could plummet and trucks could damage the roadway. Shirkel Silvester, who has operated the farm ground for years, voiced concern about making sure irrigation water was still getting to nearby farms.

Pete Johnston said he had the most to gain as both farm parcels were his property.

“We had it sold one other time and the economy kind of fell on us,” Johnston said. “I understand that there are several dairymen going into this.”

Dairyman Willie Bokma said the dairy industry is in dire need of more processing.

Mikesell has previously declined requests from the Times-News for more information, saying more would be released after the zoning is approved. He did, however, assure homeowners that Gem State Dairy Products will work with the city to mitigate noise and odors from the factory. It would also work to make sure irrigation water can get to nearby farms.

“We do want to be good neighbors,” Mikesell said.

A couple of adjacent residential properties are under contract, he said.

According to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office, Hiram Finney is listed on the filing papers for Gem State Dairy Products LLC. He was previously registered with the company Rockin 31 Cattle LLC, which appears to be inactive.

Planning and Zoning Director Jonathan Spendlove told commissioners that the manufacturer may not need to come back before the commission. However, the board’s recommendation will go to the City Council for a final decision. Commissioner Ed Musser was not present at the meeting.

Also at the meeting, the P&Z commission heard a presentation on a request to allow for a 124-room, four-story hotel on the canyon rim between Petco and the Twin Falls Visitors Center. The hotel would be about 60 feet tall and come with additional parking on the north side of Petco. A public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 29.

The commission also:

  • Reinstated a special use permit for a fourplex at 2140 Elizabeth Blvd., lot 26.
  • Approved a request to vacate an undeveloped portion of Washington Street South right of way at South Park Avenue West, so the city can construct a parking lot for its public works department.
  • Approved a request for a special use permit for a fourplex at 1969 Shoup Ave. E.
  • Voted 6-2 to approve a special use permit to allow Subaru of Twin Falls to operate an outdoor amplified audio system at 1725 Park View Drive. Commissioners Danielle Titus and Gerardo Munoz cast the dissenting votes, expressing concerns about noise affecting nearby residential and assisted living properties.

Washington
AP
Trump stalks out of shutdown session with Dems

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump walked out of his negotiating meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday — “I said bye-bye,” he tweeted — as efforts to end the 19-day partial government shutdown fell into deeper disarray over his demand for billions of dollars to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a negotiating session that was over almost as soon as it began, Democrats went to the White House asking Trump to reopen the government. Trump renewed his call for money for his signature campaign promise and was rebuffed. Republicans and Democrats had differing accounts of the brief exchange, but the result was clear: The partial shutdown continued with no end in sight.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers will miss paychecks on Friday; a little more than half of them are still working without pay. Other key federal services are suspended, including some food inspections. And as some lawmakers expressed discomfort with the growing toll of the standoff, it was clear Wednesday that the wall was at the center.

Trump revived his threat to attempt to override Congress by declaring a national emergency to unleash Defense Department funding for the wall. He’s due to visit the border today to highlight what he declared in an Oval Office speech Tuesday night as a “crisis.” Democrats say Trump is manufacturing the emergency to justify a political ploy.

That debate set the tone for Wednesday’s sit-down at the White House.

Republicans said Trump posed a direct question to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: If he opened the government, would she fund the wall? She said no. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump slammed his hand on the table, said “then we have nothing to discuss” and walked out.

Republicans said Trump, who passed out candy at the start of the meeting, did not raise his voice and there was no table pounding. Pelosi said Trump “stomped” out of the room and was “petulant.” Republicans said he was merely firm.

“The president made clear today that he is going to stand firm to achieve his priorities to build a wall — a steel barrier — at the southern border,” Vice President Mike Pence told reporters afterward.

Trump had just returned from Capitol Hill, where he urged jittery congressional Republicans to hold firm with him. He suggested a deal for his border wall might be getting closer, but he also said the shutdown would last “whatever it takes.”

He discussed the possibility of a sweeping immigration compromise with Democrats to protect some immigrants from deportation but provided no clear strategy or timeline for resolving the standoff, according to senators in the private session. He left the Republican lunch boasting of “a very, very unified party,” but GOP senators are publicly uneasy as the standoff ripples across the lives of Americans and interrupts the economy.

Trump insisted at the White House: “I didn’t want this fight.” But it was his sudden rejection of a bipartisan spending bill late last month that blindsided leaders in Congress now seeking a resolution to the shutdown.

The effects are growing. The Food and Drug Administration says it isn’t doing routine food inspections because of the partial federal shutdown, but checks of the riskiest foods are expected to resume next week.

The agency said it’s working to bring back about 150 employees to inspect more potentially hazardous foods such as cheese, infant formula and produce. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency can’t make the case that “a routine inspection of a Nabisco cracker facility” is necessary during the shutdown, however. He said inspections would have ramped up this week for the first time since the holidays, so the lapse in inspections of high-risk foods will not be significant if they resume soon.

Republicans are mindful of the growing toll on ordinary Americans, including disruptions in payments to farmers and trouble for homebuyers who are seeking government-backed mortgage loans.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, was among several senators who questioned Trump at the Capitol.

“I addressed the things that are very local to us — it’s not just those who don’t receive a federal paycheck perhaps on Friday, but there are other consequences,” she said, mentioning the inability to certify weight scales for selling fish. The president’s response? “He urged unity.”

The Democratic-controlled House on Wednesday approved a bill 240-188 to fund the Treasury Department, the IRS and other agencies for the next year as part of a Democratic strategy to reopen the government on a piecemeal basis. Eight Republicans joined 232 Democrats to support the bill.

The bill is unlikely to move forward in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has dismissed it as political theater.

Democrats said before the White House meeting that they would ask Trump to accept an earlier bipartisan bill to reopen the government with money for border security but not the wall. Pelosi warned that the effects of hundreds of thousands of lost paychecks would begin to ripple across the economy.

Ahead of his visit to Capitol Hill, Trump renewed his notice that he might declare a national emergency and try to authorize the wall on his own if Congress won’t approve the money he’s asking.


If you do one thing

If you do one thing: Oil painting classes will be held for beginners and experienced painters at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. at the Twin Falls Senior Center, 530 Shoshone St. W. Cost is $25 per class. Call 208-734-5084 to register.


Govt-and-politics
#MeToo at the statehouse: Idaho lawmakers undergo harassment training

BOISE — While some other statehouses around the country experienced a groundswell of harassment allegations in the wake of the #MeToo movement, the Idaho capitol saw just a “small number” of complaints last year, a representative from the Attorney General’s office said.

A training session for lawmakers Jan. 9 outlined the Legislature’s new policies on harassment and discrimination, updated in November with recommendations from a Respectful Workplace Task Force formed in early 2018. It marked the second year the Legislature held such a training session, established in reaction to an increase in misconduct allegations in other statehouses across the U.S.

“The #MeToo movement has worked its way across the country, and it’s definitely here in Idaho as well,” Colleen Zahn, deputy attorney general with the Civil Litigation Division, told lawmakers. “I’d like to think in state government we aren’t seeing that at all, but time will tell.”

The Idaho statehouse has not, of course, been immune to high-profile harassment allegations in recent years; in 2017, an 18-year-old page reported that two lawmakers and a lobbyist behaved flirtatiously toward her and made unwanted comments on her appearance. The lawmakers were reprimanded and the page was moved to a different set of committees, the Idaho Statesman reported. That same year, Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, was stripped of her committee assignments after suggesting that female lawmakers performed sexual favors to earn committee chairmanships.

The new guidelines more clearly establish reporting procedures for pages, interns and other employees — something the previous guidelines were lacking, said Rep. Sally Toone, a Democrat from Gooding who served on the Respectful Workplace committee.

“There was no set protocol on how to handle that, and in today’s world it needs to be there,” Toone told the Times-News. “If the #MeToo movement caused that oversight to be rectified, so be it. It was something that just needed to catch up with the 21st century.”

Sen. Michelle Stennett of Ketchum, the Senate Democratic leader, was one of 14 female legislators who signed a letter requesting mandatory sexual harassment training in 2017.

“It seems like a chunk out of our time, but overall I think it is a small investment on how we have our relationships down the road,” Stennett told the Times-News following the Respectful Workplace training session. “I would love to think that we’d wave a wand and everybody knows how to behave in the building. For the most part, we do a pretty spectacular job of it. But there’s always going to be pitfalls.”

Stennett said that since the first training last year, she has been more aware of her own behavior, particularly when interacting with subordinate staffers.

Meanwhile, some female lawmakers have expressed concerns that the new focus on harassment prevention and the rise in misconduct allegations nationwide have caused some male legislators to avoid one-on-one interactions with their female colleagues.

“The pendulum almost swung too far the other way,” Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, a Republican from Genesee who led the push for mandatory harassment training, said at the training session Wednesday.

Purposely avoiding female colleagues can be “really dangerous,” Zahn told the gathered lawmakers, as it can lead to other kinds of discrimination complaints.

While the capitol didn’t see a significant increase in harassment allegations last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found a 14 percent increase in sexual harassment charges across the country — including an uptick in Idaho, Zahn said. The Idaho Human Rights Commission also reported seeing a rise in sexual harassment complaints between Oct. 2017 and July 2018, with nearly a third of the employee discrimination-related complaints made during that period involving sexual harassment claims, as the Associated Press reported at the time.