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Idaho state legislators will gather on Monday, Jan. 8, for this year’s legislative session. Between this being an election year and the plentiful unknowns remaining in Washington, there are plenty of question marks heading into this session.

Watch for reporter Gretel Kauffman’s preview story and columns from Magic Valley legislators in the Times-News and on

And see more of the Times-News’ best reporting now at


Sergeant Troy Tolman does a security walk through the cell block June 23, 2017, at the Jerome County Jail in Jerome. Jerome County is working to finalize a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to lease them 50 beds to house people arrested for immigration violations.

As suitors line up, Jerome County officials weigh pros and cons of jail bed rental options

JEROME — As Jerome County officials weigh the pros and cons of leasing excess jail beds to interested agencies, two out of three commissioners say they would prefer to avoid a controversial deal with Immigration and Customs Enforcement if possible.

The U.S. Marshals Service and Idaho Department of Corrections have emerged as potential lessees in recent weeks, as the county approaches one year of waiting on a fiercely protested contract to rent 50 beds to ICE.

Meanwhile, ICE has expressed renewed interest in a contract after the Times-News reported last month that the county was considering other options, according to Sheriff Doug McFall.

But that interest may not be mutual for all county officials. Commissioners Charlie Howell and Roger Morley say a deal with ICE would be their last choice if presented with proposals from all three agencies.

Commissioner Cathy Roemer maintains that she would need to see the final terms and conditions of any and all contracts before forming a preference.

“Basically for me it comes down to, how would the taxpayer want us to do this?” Roemer said at a Tuesday meeting with McFall and Security Services Commander Maricela Ibarra.

ICE and the Marshals are expected to pay comparable rates of around $75 per bed per day. The state’s official rate is $45, although there is potential for the state legislature to bump that number up to as high as $60 this year.

“For me, the goal is to create more revenue if we can, if it fits the program,” Roemer clarified in a post-meeting interview. “I think the taxpayers expect that of us as a business organization.”

Morley disputes the idea that money should be a top priority when making a decision.

“The economic factors, really, to me, it’s not truly economics,” Morley said after Tuesday’s meeting. “I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to make our jail pay. It’s not a paying facility. It’s not a business.”

If given a choice, Morley said he would choose the Marshals first and the state second.

“For ICE to set up a major presence here would be tenuous at best,” Morley said, noting that one-third of county residents identify as Hispanic or Latino. “It’s scaring the hell out of our population here in Jerome.”

On Dec. 20, Morley reached out to representatives from the Marshals Service — who he described as “real excited” at the prospect of renting bed space — before turning official communication over to the Sheriff’s Office.

Despite the lower potential for revenue, Howell still favors a contract with IDOC to take overflow from state prisons.

“Even from a business stance, we always have preferred customers,” Howell said. “I’d rather take locals first.”

One obstacle standing in the way of a deal with IDOC: concern that the jail isn’t properly staffed or built to handle a large population of state inmates, who are thought to be harder to control than county prisoners or ICE detainees. Those concerns could be alleviated somewhat if the county is given greater control over which inmates it takes, an idea that IDOC director Henry Atencio has indicated he may be open to, McFall said Tuesday.

If the county can avoid housing “problem inmates,” Morley said, he has “no problem at all” with renting to the state.

And while his preference wouldn’t be to lease to ICE, he isn’t ruling the possibility out entirely.

“I’ve got an obligation to my citizens here to pay the jail off,” Morley said. “If I have to pay it off with immigration money, well, that’s the way it’ll have to be. But I’ll tell you right now, I would rather we pay our jail off in a hundred different other ways.”

Burley man charged with rape, sexual battery after police say he attacked 16-year-old girl

BURLEY— Police say a Burley man grabbed a teenage neighbor girl by the hair, threw her on the living room floor and raped her.

Marcial Orellana-Castro, 38, is charged with felony counts of rape, sexual battery of a minor child age 16 or 17, battery with intent to commit a serious felony and two counts of forcible sexual penetration by use of a foreign object, according to court documents.

Cassia County Sheriff investigators said the mother of the 16-year-old girl reported the crime on July 25, 2016.

St. Luke’s Children at Risk Evaluation Services conducted an interview in August 2016, where the girl said she was at a neighbor’s home at a mobile home park south of Burley, when Orellana-Castro asked her to give him a back rub, then started touching her sexually.

She told detectives she got up and went into the living room, and Orellana-Castro followed her and attacked her.

A preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 12 in Cassia County Magistrate Court.

AmeriCorps holds kids' garden camp

KETCHUM — Local AmeriCorps members will host a free half-day kids’ garden camp, with drop-off from 8:30 to 9 a.m. and pick-up from 12 to 12:30 p.m., Jan. 15 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It will be located at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, 11 Gimlet Road — four miles south of Ketchum.

First- through third-grade students are invited to take part in a morning of games, crafts and stories celebrating the environment and Dr. King’s work. Instructors will be Lana Silver, Ben Menard and Jamie Truppi.

Wearing warm clothing is encouraged, as some activities will take place outside — weather permitting. All materials and snacks will be provided.

Space is limited, and pre-registration is required. To reserve your child’s spot or for more information: call 208-726-9358 or go to

Brief chase through Filer ends in New Year's DUI arrest

FILER — An attempted traffic stop in Filer in the early hours of New Year’s Day resulted in a brief chase through town and a DUI arrest.

Gary Wayne Dalton, 52, of Filer, was arrested for driving under the influence, driving without privileges, and eluding police. It was his second DUI arrest and his third arrest for driving without privileges.

Twin Falls County deputies attempted to pull Dalton over on Highway 30 for speeding around 1:30 a.m., a spokesperson from the sheriff’s office said. The chase ended on Park Ave. and 5th St. after about two minutes.


Valley BeansPrices are net to growers, 100 pounds, U.S. No. 1 beans, less Idaho bean tax and storage charges. Prices subject to change without notice. Producers desiring more recent price information should contact dealers.

Open market prices established by Kelley Bean’s Idaho locations: pintos, $21; great northerns, $21; small reds, $28; blacks, $27; pinks, ask. Quotes current Feb. 26.

Valley Grains

Prices for wheat per bushel mixed grain, oats, corn and beans per hundredweight. Prices subject to change without notice.

Wheat, $3.45, new barley, $6.00 (cwt) corn, $7.00 (cwt) oats, $5.45 (cwt). Prices are given by Rangen in Buhl. Prices current Feb. 26.

Corn, $7.30 (cwt) barley, $5.30 (cwt) wheat, $3.90 (bushel). Prices quoted by JD Heiskell. Prices current Feb. 14.


Barrels $1.47 NC Blocks $1.53 +0.5 Prices current Feb. 27.

Snow pack

Today’s Median

Salmon 103%

Big Wood 73%

Little Wood 72%

Big Lost 81%

Little Lost 104%

Henrys Fork/Teton 112%

Upper Snake Basin 110%

Goose Creek 63%

Salmon Falls 62%

Today’s median peak compares water content with what is normally seen on this day.

As of Feb 27.

Twin Falls provides curbside pickup of Christmas trees

TWIN FALLS — At no additional cost to utility customers, the city of Twin Falls is providing curbside pickup of old Christmas trees. Remove all decorations and cut trees into sections of four feet or less before placing near garbage bins for this service.

Residents may also discard Christmas trees, leaves and other refuse — up to 280 pounds — for $5 at the Southern Idaho Solid Waste Transfer Station, 2186 Orchard Drive E., Twin Falls.

More information about the Transfer Station’s services and hours of operation: call Southern Idaho Solid Waste at 208-734-3139. More information about the city of Twin Falls’ garbage and recycling services: call 208-735-7287.