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Crime-and-courts
Larger building will offer enhanced safety for Rupert police

RUPERT — The Rupert Police Department is weeks away from moving to a new building nearly double the size of its current one.

The building, 633 Fremont Ave, is on the corner and across the street from the department’s current location, and it will increase the function of the office and provide enhanced security.

The building was the former Minidoka County School District’s central office.

The structure has been vacant since 2012 when the school district relocated its central office to the old Memorial Elementary School building in Rupert.

Enhanced features include cameras throughout the building, a reception window at the public entrance located inside an enclosed area and a suspect interview area separate from the patrol room, detective and sheriff’s offices.

“The building will be totally secure,” James Wardle, Rupert police chief, said.

The public access area will have chairs and contain the department’s drug drop off box.

The biggest improvement, Detective Jeff McEwen said, will come from having the secure interview area.

When a suspect is brought into the office for questioning they are led through areas at the station where sensitive documents or information may be visible on officer’s desks or on bulletin boards.

“We have to make sure all the desks are cleared off and we can’t put anything like officer safety publications on the wall,” Wardle said.

The new interview room is easily accessible from the outside and it is behind a locked door leading to the rest of the building.

“Now if someone is yelling and screaming you won’t be able to hear them throughout the entire building,” McEwen said.

Rupert Administrator Kelly Anthon wrote in an email to the Times-News that the purchase price for the building was $40,000 with some intangibles for the school district that include credits and waiver of fees if the district builds a new elementary school in the city.

“The money was donated to allow the purchase,” Anthon wrote, so no taxpayer cash is involved.

“The donor wanted the Wilson Theatre to get possession of the old police station to be an annex to the theater. So we have contemporaneously leased our old station to the Renaissance Arts-Wilson Theatre group,” Anthon said.

The project has been in the works for the past two years.

Renovations have been ongoing for the past 10 weeks including building walls, installing sheet rock, hanging ceiling tiles and painting.

The police department has put $28,000 into renovations that came from the police budget but much of the work has been done by Wardle, his officers and administration staff.

The department has a staff of 12 including officers, detectives and administration.

The office has handicap accessible restrooms, which were lacking in the other building and the evidence room will also have an alarm.

Eventually the department would like to install evidence lockers in the wall that adjoin the evidence room for added security, Wardle said, but the lockers are pretty costly.

DL Evans Bank has donated used desks and chairs to the department.

There will also be a large training room that can be used for community training like concealed weapons and Citizen Academy classes. The training room capacity will increase from 20 to 50 people.

“This room will be our crown jewel,” Wardle said. “We hope we will be able to hold regional trainings.”

The training room can also be used for victim interviews and the patrol room will be behind locked doors.

Wardle plans to put a picnic table and an umbrella outside at the front of the building to make the office more community friendly.

“It will make it easier for the officers to interact with people,” Wardle said.

When the department completes the renovations and moves into the building an open house will be planned.

“The future looks so promising with everything that we want to do here,” he said.


Local
It costs more than $100 per ton to recycle out of Twin Falls. The City Council will consider the future of recycling on Monday.

TWIN FALLS — The City Council may need to decide whether it will raise rates for residents to continue the city’s recycling program.

The city has had recycling in some form since 2005, beginning with blue plastic totes for paper and metal cans. Since 2010, PSI Environmental Services has placed 95-gallon carts with orange lids at residents’ homes for biweekly collection.

The program has diverted 14,499 tons from the landfill since it began. But on Monday, the City Council may decide whether the city will continue that program and whether it will be willing to share the costs.

“When we started out, the deal was the revenue would be split,” said Bill Baxter, utilities billing supervisor for Twin Falls.

But in 2013, the program ceased to gain revenue, and costs to recycle have increased. The cost in January was $116 per ton — with February estimated at $136 per ton.

China, which once imported most of the West Coast’s recycling, has ceased doing so due to contamination. Meanwhile, U.S. recycling mills had closed because they couldn’t compete with China, Baxter explained.

PSI Environmental Services, the city’s garbage and recycling contractor, stopped accepting most plastics at the end of 2017 because there is now no market for them. Last year, it spent more than $109,000 on recycling. By comparison, it would have cost about $69,000 to divert those 1,800 tons to the landfill, Baxter said.

On Monday, city staff and the company will present their data to the City Council in hopes of getting some direction.

“At the very least, this is going to be a fascinating conversation,” Baxter said.

He does not expect the high recycling costs to be a long-term problem.

The Council could opt to cancel the city’s recycling, but this would come at the cost of collecting and storing those recycling carts. The city could also decide to pay the costs of recycling, and pass those down to residents. For a cost of $110,000 a year, residents in Twin Falls would pay an additional 62 cents per month — or $7.44 per year.

“We don’t have the ability to fund any kind of cost-sharing without adjusting the rates,” Baxter said.

PSI factors a cost for recycling into its contract with the city, but it’s been picking up the extra costs, he said. Its contract allows it to negotiate a cost sharing agreement as market conditions may require.

The City Council meeting begins at 5 p.m. Monday in Council Chambers at 203 Main Ave. E.

Earlier in the meeting, the Council will consider staff recommendations for filling four vacancies on the nine-member Planning and Zoning Commission. There were 14 applicants.

Terms for Tom Frank, Kevin Grey and Steve Woods expire on Wednesday, and none of them were eligible for reappointment because commissioners cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. Additionally, Darren Hall resigned his spot on the commission in September, and the city needs to fill the rest of his term, ending Feb. 28, 2020.

The city’s Zoning and Development Manager is recommending Craig Kelley and Jonathon Austin of Twin Falls serve three-year terms. Kelley is the commodities division manager for Rangen Inc., and Austin is an associate pastor at Twin Falls Reformed Church.

David Detweiler is recommended to fill another three-year term. He lives in the area of impact and has farmed in the area for 40 years.

Carolyn Bolton is recommended to take over the rest of Hall’s term. Bolton is the administrator for Twin Falls First Presbyterian Church and is semi-retired.

Also on the agenda:

  • Discuss the annual update with CH2M Hill.
  • A request to reject all bids for the on-site sodium hypochlorite generator project.
  • A request to amend the city’s code regarding the Traffic Safety Commission.
  • A request to purchase a new HP Designjet T1530 with one set of ink cartridges and with a warranty.

Editor's Note: This story was updated Feb. 26 with changes to the description of recycling carts, and to the number of positions on the Planning and Zoning Commission.


TIMES-NEWS FILE  

A worker with PSI Environmental Systems collects curbside recycling in Twin Falls in 2010.