TWIN FALLS — The city will relieve congestion on Eastland Drive by eliminating one of several bottlenecks where the road width varies greatly.
Twin Falls city staff will meet with contractors Wednesday to lay out a plan for a $2 million rehabilitation of Eastland Drive North this year. Work will begin immediately to prepare the road for construction, project engineer Josh Baird said.
The City Council on Tuesday approved agreements with two property owners that, combined with the right-of-way on eight other properties, grant the city the right to make Eastland Drive five lanes wide from Falls Avenue to Pole Line Road.
Drivers will see intermittent work with some impact from now until April. Major construction will restrict Eastland Drive North and Pole Line Road to two lanes from April to August, Baird said.
“We would recommend using alternative routes during the construction,” said Rob Ramsey, project consultant with Civil Science.
The construction will span more than a mile of roadway.
The city had already planned to rehabilitate Eastland Drive North and Pole Line Road along the curve. But the failing road got higher on the priority list after it was damaged from last winter’s storms and temperature swings.
With $1.2 million of emergency state road money, the city will extend the project even farther. It’ll start from Pole Line Road at Mountain View Drive, and extend down Eastland Drive North, almost to Falls Avenue East.
Kloepfer Inc. received the contract for just under $2 million earlier this month. But the final piece was to secure right-of-way with Amazing Grace Fellowship and Twin Falls Rural Fire District in order to widen the road between Julie Lane and Falls Avenue, Baird said.
“I’m impressed with how quickly this came together,” Vice Mayor Nikki Boyd said.
Kloepfer will pulverize the existing asphalt and recycle it to be used as base for the new lanes of road, Baird said. The existing road base will be mixed with concrete. Using recycled materials versus doing a total rebuild saves the city about 30 percent on the project.
The contractor will then repave the roadway with new asphalt. When complete, the road will meet traffic needs for 20 years or more. It will have two lanes in either direction, plus a center turn lane.
The city will pay for curb, gutter and a detached sidewalk to be constructed along the widened roadway. It will also make stormwater retention improvements. The new sidewalk means pedestrians will be able to walk along the entire length of the project.
Twin Falls would have required the property developers to make these improvements, Baird said, but since the city wanted the project done sooner, it agreed to build the roadway in exchange for right-of-way. The city will replace some landscaping to make a smooth transition to the affected properties.
One resident asked at the City Council meeting if there were plans to include a bicycle pathway along Eastland Drive. Baird said there were not.
“You don’t want all of your vehicles and all of your bicycles on the same road,” he said.
Also at the meeting, the City Council granted Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office and Twin Falls Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit funds to purchase some needed technology. The unit investigates people who are involved in criminal organizations and have committed violent crimes.
The city also approved a guaranteed maximum price of $2.4 million for the downtown commons plaza and associated road work.
BOISE — Idaho Courts Director Sara Thomas said Tuesday the state has made big gains on improving court access and technology, but Idaho is barely hanging on when it comes to judicial turnover and vacancies.
“We are holding on by the skin of our teeth,” Thomas told members of Idaho’s legislative budget-writing committee. “We are seeing huge turnover — it is having a strong effect.”
As a result, the judicial branch is recommending lawmakers approve a plan that would both fund a new magistrate judge position in Jerome County and allow the courts to cover more cases using retired judges on “senior status.” The senior judge program pays retired judges to cover cases as needed when the local court would otherwise be overwhelmed by caseloads.
Jerome County currently sees more than 3,100 magistrate cases each year, not including infractions.
“We simply can’t keep up with the resources we have, so we are looking for an additional magistrate position in Jerome,” she said.
The judicial branch is recommending that lawmakers approve a budget increase of just $1 million from the general fund, for a total of about $72 million for fiscal year 2019.
That total would include about $49 million from the general fund, about $21 million from dedicated funds like court fees and alcohol surcharges, and roughly $2 million in federal funding.
Built into the budget is roughly $3.7 million and 17 additional staff positions for the state’s online court access system, called Odyssey, part of an ongoing effort to modernize court technology and replace a 25-year-old statewide computerized case management system.
A few Idaho counties have already switched to the new system, and another 14 counties are expected to go live this April. By the end of the year, Thomas said, every county in Idaho will be at least partially using the new system.
“Sometimes like Odysseus, we are sailing very smooth seas and sometimes we are on exceptionally rough seas,” Thomas said of occasional bugs that have popped up during the transition.
Thomas said the state can’t go back to the old system, though, and most of the bugs have been worked out.
“The reality is that we cannot fail,” she said
TWIN FALLS — A Twin Falls man who threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend’s family and shot into an empty car after a custody dispute on Father’s Day was sentenced Tuesday to up to 20 years in prison.
Kevin Duran, 28, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Prosecutors say Duran has known white supremacist ties and a violent criminal history. They recommended he spend 10 to 20 years in prison, and the judge agreed.
Duran was convicted of showing up to his ex-girlfriend’s home with a gun, attempting to break in and shooting at her new boyfriend’s car outside. Earlier in the day, Duran had threatened to kill everyone inside the residence, police said. His children were also in the house at the time.
“I’m going to kill him … my word white power white race I promise and very sorry,” Duran wrote in one text message sent to his ex-girlfriend’s mother, referring to his former girlfriend’s current boyfriend. “I will pull the trigger I hope he doez.”
Tearful victim testimonies from Duran’s ex-girlfriend, her boyfriend and her mother described a long history of violent and abusive behavior by Duran leading up to the incident.
His former girlfriend told the court that Duran had “always had really bad anger and jealousy issues” while they were together and after their relationship ended, resulting in years of physical and emotional abuse.
“This time, I’m done,” she said. “I’m sticking up for myself and stopping the abuse.”
Duran was initially charged with four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, and one count of malicious injury to property, all felonies. As part of the guilty plea, the prosecutor’s office dismissed five of those six charges.
In a statement to Senior District Judge Cheri Copsey, Duran said he never intended to harm anybody that day.
“All I was trying to do was go get my kids,” he said. “When another man tells you you can’t see your kids or have your kids, I’m sure another man would get mad.”
“Another man who cared about his children, as opposed to his own desires, would not have put his children through this incident,” Copsey responded. “Another man would have gone about it in a civilized way.”
Before delivering the sentence, Copsey read Duran’s criminal history out loud to the courtroom, highlighting his participation in a three-on-one attack on another inmate while incarcerated and previous charges of child endangerment.
She rejected defense attorney George Essma’s suggestion that alcohol had been a driving factor in the June incident.
“Whatever is going on with you and your white power and all the other stuff you were spouting, it has nothing to do with alcohol,” Copsey said.
Duran will serve a minimum of 10 years in prison, with a maximum sentence of 20.
GOODING — A woman was shot late Tuesday afternoon by sheriff’s deputies near Wendell, says the Gooding County sheriff.
Sheriff Shaun Gough said his office responded to a domestic call to 1918 S. 2200 E., east of Gooding and found the woman standing in the road with a rifle. She pointed the rifle at the deputies and deputies told her repeatedly to put the rifle down.
“Shots were fired,” Gough said.
The woman, who was alive when she was taken to the North Canyon Medical Center, Gough said, has not been identified.
Gough declined to take further questions Tuesday night.