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Troy Miller wipes his eyes as he walks beside a burned out car on his property last week in Concow, Calif. Miller said he tried to evacuate when the Camp Fire came roaring through the area, but had to turn back when the roads were blocked with debris and fire. 

Twin Falls and Jerome counties make plans for the future

TWIN FALLS — No one could have predicted Chobani’s 2012 entrance into the area when Twin Falls County put together its comprehensive plan 10 years ago. But the introduction of the food manufacturing giant changed the overall character in and around the town.

What Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter coined as the “Chobani effect” was unprecedented growth in both housing and commercial development, narrowing the divide between urban and rural lifestyles.

Is Twin Falls County ready for impending collisions in that urban-rural interface?

“No,” County Commissioner Don Hall said. “The county has been playing catch-up ever since.

“Because we have had such tremendous development in the area, the county’s land use plan has not caught up,” Hall said. “We need to make the plan better to reflect what is happening now and for the future.”


Don Hall

It’s time to revisit the county’s comprehensive plan, said the first-term commissioner who served for more than a decade on the Twin Falls City Council, including two terms as mayor.

What is a comprehensive plan?

2008 Twin Falls County Comp Plan

An intimate relationship exists between a city’s or a county’s comp plan and its zoning codes.

The “comp plan is the vision, and the zoning codes are the blueprints,” Jonathan Spendlove, P&Z director for the city of Twin Falls, previously told Times-News.

“You can’t control growth, but you can guide it into a better form,” Spendlove said.

Across the Snake River, Jerome County P&Z Administrator Nancy Marshall agrees.

“The comp plan says ‘this is how we view ourselves,’ and then we make ordinances based on that,” Marshall said. But she prefers another analogy, comparing the comp plan/zoning code relationship to moving into a new house.

“You decide what goes on each floor in the comp plan,” she said. “But the zoning codes say which rooms things go in.”

Jerome County is in the final stages of updating its comprehensive plan, which Commissioner Charlie Howell calls the legacy of Planning and Zoning Commission’s retired administrator Art Brown.

The Jerome County Commission will hold on Dec. 10 its first public hearing on the proposed plan. The plan has already been scrutinized by the P&Z, Marshall said Monday.

Proposed 2018 Jerome County Comprehensive Plan

As far as zoning changes go, some areas around the Snake River Canyon rim in Jerome County could change from preservation zones to recreational zones that would support tourism and recreation, she said.

In addition, the county “stripped out all the facts and figures” in the plan and moved the charts to appendices. In the future, the appendices can be updated without rewriting the whole plan.

“The changes to the plan are minimal,” she said, “because, in reality, the vision of the county hasn’t changed.”

A bigger job

However you look at it, a comprehensive plan is a unique representation of what each populace sees collectively for itself.

“That’s why we need people to get involved,” Hall said.

Twin Falls County is facing a much larger job than Jerome has faced.

“We’re still fairly rural,” Marshall said. “And our comp plan reflects the rural nature of our community.”

In comparison, about half the people in Twin Falls County live within the city limits of Twin Falls.

Twin Falls County Zoning Map

While more than 1,500 residential lots await purchase in the city, Hall said, subdivisions continue to eat up prime agricultural ground

“Where do we want new industries? Where do we want to live? Where do we want to recreate? And how do we keep the agricultural base of the county viable?” Hall asks.

While a critical part of the plan, land use is only one of 17 components that, by state law, must be addressed. Others include public utilities, transportation and property rights.


Jackie Frey, coordinator of the Twin Falls County Local Emergency Planning Committee, speaks to other LEPC members on Nov. 13 at County West in Twin Falls.

The county has chosen the consultant firm Orion Planning + Design out of Missoula, Mont., to oversee the process, said Jon Laux, P&Z community development director.

“They are going to analyze the current plan,” Laux said, “to see where we have gone since the last plan.”

A thorough audit of the comprehensive plan will determine whether the plan needs a simple update, a full rewrite or a combination of the two, he said. Laux expects Orion’s audit to take about six months.

“Then we’ll have a recommendation.”

Frustration, chaos as California fire recovery drags on

CHICO, Calif. — It's been 12 days since Christina Taft started the frantic search for her mother Victoria, who refused to evacuate their Paradise home as flames neared, and six days since she gave authorities a cheek swab to identify remains that are likely her mother's.

She still hasn't received confirmation that her mother is dead, and says she's been frustrated by what she feels is a lack of communication from Butte County officials.

"They said they found remains, they didn't say her remains. They won't confirm it to me the whole time," Taft said Monday.

With 79 people killed in the nation's deadliest wildfire in at least a century, there are still nearly 700 names on the list of those unaccounted for. While it's down from nearly 1,000 the day before, it is inexact, progress has been slow, and the many days of uncertainty are adding to the stress.

More than a dozen people are marked as "unknowns," without first or last names. In some cases, names are listed twice or more times under different spellings. Others are confirmed dead, and their names simply haven't been taken off yet.

Survivors and relatives of those caught in the fire in Northern California are using social media to get the word out: In some cases, to post that their loved ones were safe; in others, to plead for help.

"Aunt Dorothy is still missing. There has been confusion going on at the Sheriffs office regarding her whereabouts because she was taken off the list," a man wrote on Facebook on Monday.

"I have an uncle and two cousins that I have not been able to make contact with," one woman wrote on Facebook, with their names. "Any info would be appreciated."

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea has said he released the rough and incomplete list in hopes that people would contact authorities to say they are OK. He has called it "raw data" compiled from phone calls, emails and other reports.

"We put the list out. It will fluctuate. It will go up. It will go down because this is in a state of flux," Honea said Monday. "My view on this has been that I would prefer to get the information out and start working to find who is unaccounted for and who is not. I would put progress over perfection."

Officials have also culled reports from the earliest hours of the disaster, when fire knocked out mobile phone communications and thousands fled, some to safe shelter that was hundreds of miles away.

Honea said his office was working with the Red Cross to account for people entering and leaving shelters. Evacuees are also helping authorities narrow the list, sometimes by chance.

Meanwhile, those searching for bodies were in a race against the weather, as rain was forecast for Wednesday. The precipitation could help knock out the flames, but it could also hinder the search by washing away fragmentary remains and turning ash into a thick paste.

The fire, which burned at least 236 square miles and destroyed nearly 12,000 homes, was 70 percent contained on Monday.

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco's cable cars, the Oakland Zoo and other San Francisco Bay Area area attractions were closed Monday because of smoke from the blaze some 140 miles away. Several San Francisco museums over the weekend offered free admission to give people something to do indoors.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said it is "way too early" to estimate the damage done by the wildfire. But for perspective, he said the Northern California fires that gutted 6,800 homes last year resulted in $12.6 billion in insured losses.

"It's going to be a long and painful process," he said.

In Southern California, the tally of structures destroyed by the huge wildfire increased to 1,500 on Monday, fire officials said. With 95 percent of the burn assessment completed, the count also showed 341 structures damaged.

The fire erupted Nov. 8 and powerful Santa Ana winds pushed it through suburbs and wilderness parkland in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, forcing thousands of people to flee.

Three people were found dead in the aftermath. They remain unidentified.

Gunman opens fire at Chicago hospital, killing at least 3

CHICAGO — A gunman opened fire Monday at a Chicago hospital, killing a police officer and two hospital employees in an attack that began with a domestic dispute and exploded into a firefight with law enforcement inside the medical center. The suspect was also dead, authorities said.

It was not immediately clear if the attacker took his own life or was killed by police at Mercy Hospital on the city's South Side, police said.

"The city of Chicago lost a doctor, pharmaceutical assistant and a police officer, all going about their day, all doing what they loved," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, fighting back tears. "This just tears at the soul of our city. It is the face and a consequence of evil."

The chain of events that led to the shooting began with an argument in the hospital parking lot involving the gunman and a woman with whom he was in a domestic relationship, police said.

When a friend of the woman's tried to intervene, "the offender lifted up his shirt and displayed a handgun," Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.

The woman's friend ran into the hospital to call for help, and the gunfire began seconds later, with the attacker killing the woman he was arguing with, whom Johnson described only as a hospital employee.

When officers arrived, the suspect fired at their squad car and then ran inside the hospital. The officers gave chase.

Inside the hospital, the gunman exchanged fire with officers and "shot a poor woman who just came off the elevator" before he was killed, Johnson said.

The slain officer was identified as Samuel Jimenez, who joined the department in February 2017 and had just recently completed his probationary period, Johnson said.

The identities of the other victims, and the gunman, were not immediately released.

Television footage of the aftermath showed several people, including some wearing white coats, walking through a parking lot with their arms up.

Jennifer Eldridge was working in a hospital pharmacy when she heard three or four shots that seemed to come from outside. Within seconds, she barricaded the door, as called for in the building's active shooter drills. Then there were six or seven more shots, now much closer, just outside the door.

"I could tell he was now inside the lobby. There was screaming," she recalled.

The door jiggled, which Eldridge believed was the shooter trying to get in. Some 15 minutes later, she estimated, a SWAT team officer knocked at the door, came in and led her away. She looked down and saw blood on the floor but no bodies.

"It may have been 15 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity," she told a reporter.

Maria Correa hid under a desk, clutching her 4-month-old son, Angel, while the violence unfolded. Correa was in the waiting area of the hospital for her mother-in-law's doctor appointment when a hospital employee told them to lock themselves in offices.

She lost track of how many shots she heard while she waited under the desk, "trying to protect her son," for 10 to 15 minutes.

"They were the worst minutes of our lives," Correa, a Chicago resident, said.

Dennis Burke, who lives across the street from the hospital, was getting off the bus when he heard six gunshots and saw officers nearby with their guns drawn.

"I dropped my groceries," Burke said. He ducked behind the bus for cover and watched as 50 to 100 people poured out of the hospital, including a victim on a stretcher.

People "were helping each other over the fence, trying to get away," Burke said. "People were running across the street, right past me — everybody from doctors to what looked like patients, people of all ages."

A message left for hospital officials was not immediately returned.

Mercy has a rich history as the city's first chartered hospital. It began in 1852, when the Sisters of Mercy religious group converted a rooming house. During the Civil War, the hospital treated both Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners of war, according to its website.

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: Reptile Revue begins at 6 p.m. at CSI’s Herrett Center for Arts and Science on North College Road, Twin Falls. The “Dinosaurs at Dusk: The Origins of Flight” program follows at 7 p.m. in Faulkner Planetarium; $6 adults, $5 seniors, $4 children.

Kelvin Kuo, Associated Press 

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen reacts after their loss against the Denver Broncos during an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Carson, Calif.

Amid turkey salmonella outbreak, health district urges residents to use proper cooking techniques

TWIN FALLS — One person has died and another 164 people — including one in Idaho — have gotten sick after contracting salmonella from raw turkey products since October.

The national outbreak has not yet been tracked to a single, common supplier of raw turkey products or live turkeys. However, Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales in Barron, Wisc., has recalled nearly 150,000 pounds of raw ground turkey products, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The recalled products were produced on Sept. 11 and include:

  • 1-pound packages of Jennie-O Ground Turkey 93% Lean/7% Fat with “Use by” dates of Oct. 1 and Oct. 2
  • 1-pound packages of Jennie-O Taco Seasoned Ground Turkey with a “Use by” date of Oct. 2
  • 1-pound packages of Jennie-O Ground Turkey 85% Lean/15% Fat with a “Use by” date of Oct. 2
  • 1-pound packages of Jennie-O Italian Seasoned Ground Turkey with a “Use by” date of Oct. 2
  • 1-pound packages of Ground Turkey 90% Lean/10% Fat with a “Use by” date of Oct. 2

Meanwhile, the South Central Public Health District is urging residents to take precautions in their kitchen to keep their families safe and illness-free over the holidays.

“Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for friends and families to get together and eat lots of food,” Public Health Program Manager Josh Jensen said in a statement. “Food safety is something everyone can practice; we want people to have a memorable Thanksgiving for the right reasons, not because they got sick from eating food.”


People infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading, by state of residence, as of Nov. 5, 2018. There were 164 total cases reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that millions of people suffer from foodborne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

“Don’t cut corners and put your family at risk for foodborne illness by forgetting to wash your hands after handling the raw turkey,” USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Carmen Rottenberg said in a statement. “Always remember to use a food thermometer to be sure it’s cooked to 165 degrees.”

To help your guests avoid getting sick this Thanksgiving, the health district offers these simple steps:

Wash your hands for 20 seconds

Handwashing is important when handling raw meats, both before and after touching the meat, so bacteria can’t be accidentally spread around the kitchen. The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds.

Say no to ‘bird baths’

Don’t rinse or wash your turkey. That can spread bacteria around the kitchen, contaminating countertops, towels and other food. Washing poultry doesn’t remove bacteria from the bird; only cooking the turkey to the correct internal temperature will ensure all bacteria are killed.

Take an accurate temperature inside, cook the stuffing outside the turkey

The health district suggests you don’t rely on pop-up thermometers to determine if your turkey is safe to eat. Take the bird’s temperature with a food thermometer in three areas — the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing and the innermost part of the thigh — and make sure all three locations reach 165 degrees.

Use the two-hour rule

Bacteria love to multiply at room temperature. If perishable foods have been left out at room temperature for more than two hours, they should be discarded.

Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline

If you have questions, call the South Central Public Health District at 208-737-5900 or the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) to talk to a food safety expert.

Twin Falls seeks input on potential smoke-free policy

TWIN FALLS — Should the city ban smoking from bars, parks and golf courses? The City Council has mixed feelings but wants to know what Twin Falls residents think.

The Council on Nov. 19 heard a presentation from Luke Cavener with Smoke Free Idaho, a coalition of organizations that aim to reduce the impact of secondhand smoke and support smoke-free public places. Cavener asked the City Council to think about potentially coming up with a smoke-free policy that banned smoking inside bars, small businesses and city parks.

But even Council members didn’t agree on what should be done for the sake of public health. City Manager Travis Rothweiler said he intends to gather community ideas and then present them to the City Council at a future meeting for Council direction.

“I choose not to go to smoking bars,” Councilman Greg Lanting said. “I don’t really want to put them out of business.”

But Cavener, who works for the American Cancer Society — Cancer Action Network, argued that bars could actually increase their business by going smoke-free.

“The majority of your constituents support creating these types of laws,” he said.

Cavener also pointed out the health concerns for employees who work at those establishments. Idaho law currently prohibits smoking inside businesses except for bars and some small businesses with fewer than five employees. While some employees choose to work at smoking establishments because they smoke, most smokers want to quit at some point, he said.

“It’s a lot easier to quit when you’re not being subjected to those toxins on a daily basis,” Cavener said.

In looking at a 14-page model ordinance Cavener provided, Councilwoman Suzanne Hawkins said she felt OK with addressing smoking at city parks. But when it came to small businesses, she thought the city would do best to not intervene.

“I feel like they have the freedom to make that choice,” Hawkins said.

Councilman Christopher Reid agreed that parks should be smoke-free for families. He also recognized that some businesses expose not only their employees but bankers and service businesses to the smoke when they allow smoking.

“It affects all of us,” he said.

City staff may reach out to the community via social media and through public “listening sessions” to determine what Twin Falls residents would like to see. Rothweiler said that could potentially come back to the Council at a public hearing where they would determine the next steps.

Also at the meeting, the City Council approved an agreement between the city of Twin Falls and Breckenridge Homeowners Association, Randy Grant and Angela Grant, and Gerald L. Martens for improvements associated with the Canyon Rim Stabilization Project. A consent calendar item regarding the sale of a city-owned building on Hansen Street passed with a 5-1 vote; Councilman Chris Talkington cast the dissenting vote and Councilwoman Ruth Pierce was not present.