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DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS  

Dr. Donald P. Workman works at his desk Monday in Twin Falls.


Local
Junction malfunction: Here are Twin Falls' top priorities for state highway projects, what are yours?

TWIN FALLS — What highway intersection do you dread the most in town? It might be one of several up for discussion on the city’s priorities of things to fix.

On Oct. 9, City Engineer Jackie Fields sought input from City Council members on what Twin Falls should push for on the Greater Twin Falls Area Transportation Committee’s priority list. The annual list is a recommendation for Idaho Transportation Department’s project calendar, based on available funding and the needs of local jurisdictions.

Council members, however, deferred to Fields’ own recommendations on how the projects should be prioritized. The city engineer identified several street projects that she would like to see ITD pursue.

These included signal upgrades on Blue Lakes Boulevard at Bridgeview Boulevard; a left turn lane on Washington Street South at Park Avenue; and a left turn lane from U.S. 30 at Champlin Road/3300 East.

“At this point, this is just a priority list,” Fields said.

And it isn’t the city’s decision what gets funded. ITD will also consider input from other cities and highway districts before it develops its program, which will come out for public comment in the spring, she said.

ITD spokesman Nathan Jerke told the Times-News that the agency will check to see if any items on the list could be added to other projects. To pursue them, there has to be data showing they are needed based on traffic volumes, crashes, increased pedestrian or bicycle use or new developments, Jerke said.

Here’s more about the projects Fields identified as important in Twin Falls:

Reconstruction of Washington Street South, Sixth Avenue West and Minidoka Avenue

The city’s top priority is something it can’t even apply for until next year, Fields said. The city would like to encourage trucks to take Washington Street South, Sixth Avenue West and Minidoka Avenue around the city’s downtown — instead of turning onto the U.S. 30/Second avenues.

“The goal is to have downtown be more welcoming from the north side,” Fields said.

But the project would require widening of the streets in some parts, plus work on lighting and right of ways.

Eventually, the city would like to see Highway 30 rerouted onto those streets altogether, but even rebuilding them would make them more attractive for commercial vehicles, she said.

Unfortunately, the federal program that would fund this project with a local match isn’t accepting applications this year. Fields said she will work to keep this on the Transportation Committee’s priority list until it can be funded.

Signal upgrades at Blue Lakes Boulevard/Bridgeview Boulevard

There has been discussion of upgrading turn signals at Bridgeview Boulevard and Blue Lakes Boulevard to add left-turn phases. The existing signal does not allow for protected left-turns in a busy intersection between several shopping centers and the I.B. Perrine Bridge connecting Twin Falls and Jerome counties.

“I think that it’s worthy to keep this up front and have a conversation,” Fields said. “The initial discussion on whether or not that could work is stalling.”

Signal upgrades “would take certainly a less costly improvement,” Jerke said. However, there could be other impacts.

“When you add another phase, it increases your wait time,” he said.

The city and ITD have acknowledged concerns that a left-turn phase could back up traffic farther on the Perrine Bridge.

But there is no data to push the project to the next level, Jerke said. If the city and transportation committee request it, ITD could look at it more seriously.

“The solution might be a little bigger than simply putting a different head on that signal,” Fields said. “And I think it’s a worthwhile venture for the Council to keep that on the forefront until we can recognize some improvement on Bridgeview and Fillmore.”

Left turn lane on Washington Street South at Park Avenue

The city would eventually like to see Washington Street South extended to five lanes from Highland Avenue to Orchard Drive.

“That’s an absolutely huge project and it’s becoming something that we are going to need to consider as that part of town grows,” Fields said. “There’s water there now. There’s sewer there. There’s developments coming through.”

Currently, Washington Street South is just two lanes with wide shoulders at that point.

“There’s a lot of newer homes there built over the past 10 years,” Jerke said.

At the very least, Fields would like to suggest a left-turn opportunity at Park Avenue, where she’s seen many accidents nearly occur.

“I’ve seen quite a few brake lights and sometimes you can hear people screeching to a halt,” she told the Times-News.

The nearby Oregon Trail Elementary School impacts that intersection, Jerke said, but “there’s not a lot of accident history on Washington Street South.”

“I think that we should patiently wait a little bit longer for major widening on Washington Street South, but ask for a study and a potential small project to address the intersection of Washington Street South and Park Avenue,” Fields said.

Turn lane at U.S. 30 and Champlin Road/3330 East

Champlin Road off of U.S. 30 has seen more traffic since Clif Bar opened — as it serves as a major access for the company’s employees.

Fields sees a need to alleviate traffic concerns there by putting a left-turn lane on the highway. It’s also been recommended that the “stop ahead” signs on Champlin be relocated, and that flashing amber lights be installed to warn drivers of the intersection.

“It might not be our top priority,” Fields said. But it would help get left-turners out of the way and help traffic flow better.


Mini-cassia
Albion asks Oakley to return Diamonfield jail cell block

ALBION — The city of Albion wants back its old jail cells that have been in Oakley for more than 80 years.

The jail cell block once held Diamondfield “Jack” Davis in Albion in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

“It would be really nice to have it back for our 150-year celebration,” Albion Mayor Sharon Hardy-Mills said.

The Albion valley will celebrate its anniversary of being settled next July 4.

Hardy-Mills sent a letter to Oakley Mayor Robert Bell on Sept. 25, asking Oakley to return the jail cell block.

“Contact has been made off and on over the years with no resolution,” Hardy-Mills wrote in the letter. “I am unsure of the course to take to accommodate this matter, and would like to open some dialog with you on this issue.”

Oakley Mayor Robert Bell said he hasn’t seen the letter.

“I’ll have to do some research and see where the letter is,” he said.

Bell said the letter may have gone to the city and has not been forwarded to him.

“I’ll have to talk to the board and see what they want to do,” he said.

Oakley City Council President Ralph Barnard said Council will hold its meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the city office, 200 W. Main St.

“I haven’t heard anything about the jail,” he said.

In the winter of 1923-24 a fire destroyed Oakley’s jail, according to an article in the Week Ender dated Sept. 5, 1976.

For years, Oakley went without a jail, and in the 1930s the historic cell block, that has two cells, was taken by truck from Albion to Oakley.

“They needed to borrow the Albion jail,” Hardy-Mills said.

The cell block sat out in the open on Main Street in Oakley and was not a place of comfort for those who were arrested, the article said. Unprotected from the elements, the jail was hot in the summer and cold in the winter, a Week Ender Sept. 11, 1977 article said.

In 1936, the jail was moved to a room between the old Farmer’s Commercial Bank and Simmons Furniture store, where it was used as a jail.

In September 1976 the jail was moved again, this time onto an Oakley street.

The article said in September 1976 the Oakley City Council discussed the fate of the old jail after receiving a request from the city of Albion to return it for display at the Albion City Park.

The Oakley Council decided to keep the jail and had it moved to the Oakley City Park, where a cement slab was poured that summer for it, the article said.

A roof was constructed over the top of it to protect it from the weather.

Hardy-Mills said the Albion City Council discussed requesting once again that the city of Oakley return the jail so Albion can have it for its celebration.

Newspaper articles were found documenting that it originally belonged to Albion, which was the first county seat.

Diamondfield Jack was arrested and held at the jail after two sheepherders were found murdered at their sheep camp in 1896 during the cattlemen-sheep herder wars. He was sentenced to hang in 1897, but one appeal after another followed with the hanging date was postponed each time.

In 1901, the board of pardons gave him a stay of execution. He was freed in 1902 and he moved to Nevada.

The cell block was not used by Albion after the county seat shifted to Burley in 1919.


Education
3 school districts are planning November bond or levy elections

TWIN FALLS — Three Magic Valley school districts will bring a ballot measure to voters during the Nov. 7 election. Here’s how the money will be used if passed:

Filer

The Filer School District is seeking renewal of a two-year, $500,000 annual supplemental levy. The amount will remain the same as past years.

With an increase in property valuation in Filer, property owners will likely see steady tax rates — or maybe even a lower rate.

If approved by voters, levy money will be used for operational expenses — specifically, to help maintain class sizes.

“That’s been a big push of the feedback we’ve gotten from the community,” Superintendent John Graham said.

Money would also be used to maintain programs for students, he said. Plus, as the school district’s enrollment has grown, it has added job positions such as another school counselor and agriculture teacher.

Normally, the school district goes to voters in the spring every two years seeking renewal of a supplemental levy — which would be spring 2018.

But a long-range facilities planning committee recommended the November election instead.

That’s because there’s a possibility the district will bring a bond to voters in the future for a building project to address space constraints as student numbers grow.

“We didn’t want to have two together, or create confusion about which one is which,” Graham said.

Shoshone

After voters rejected a $6 million bond in August, the Shoshone School District plans to try again in November.

The measure requires a two-thirds supermajority to pass. It would pay for a new multipurpose building — including a stage and gymnasium — plus a new vocational building and a small building with a couple of alternative school classrooms. It would also pay for remodeling the existing school.

If approved, it will cost taxpayers $6.67 each month per $100,000 of taxable value.

Minidoka County

The Minidoka County School District is seeking a two-year, $2.25 million annual plant facilities levy. It’s a renewal, but the district is seeking an increase of $600,000 total.

How the money will be used: $800,000 for technology, $50,000 for bus leases and the rest will go toward building maintenance.

If approved, taxes would increase $10.38 per year on a $100,000 home. For a commercial business or farm, taxes would increase $20.76 per $100,000 in value.