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Marc Lester 

Nicolas Petit arrives in Unalakleet,Alaska, in the lead of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 10, 2019. (Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News via AP)


Local
Not California: Proposed Twin Falls apartments might cost $650K

TWIN FALLS — A Ketchum-based developer wants to offer a one-of-a-kind housing opportunity: fifth-story apartments overseeing the core of downtown Twin Falls.

Each for-sale apartment would include 1,800 square feet of living space, elevator and rooftop access, a deck and two parking spaces. But beware of sticker shock: it could cost the buyer $650,000.

That’s the vision Summit Creek Capital Managing Director Tyler Davis-Jeffers proposed to the Twin Falls Urban Renewal Agency on Monday. Summit Creek Capital now plans to construct an estimated $6.5 million building at the corner of Main Avenue South and Hansen Street South — the site of the old Idaho Youth Ranch building.

After 10 months of negotiation, the URA will continue working toward an agreement to sell the property to Summit Creek Capital for $100. The board took a second look at the proposal this week after Executive Director Nathan Murray expressed concerns about the project’s financing and a planned parking structure.

Davis-Jeffers told the board his financing was delayed by several months due to the federal government shutdown pushing back approval of a New Market Tax Credit. His solution for funding was to add a fifth story to the building to offer four housing units for sale.

“I think this is a really exciting solution,” URA board member Perri Gardner said.

COURTESY OF CANYON CREST PHOTOGRAPHY LLC 

This rendering shows how the interior of an upscale apartment would look on the fifth floor of a proposed building at 160 Main Ave. S. Summit Creek Capital is the developer. 

As now planned, the building would have a first floor of office and retail spaces, a business office on the second floor, and two floors of rental units. The newly proposed fifth floor would have four higher-end apartments for sale.

“The structure was already tall,” Davis-Jeffers said about his earlier proposal. “It would be taller.”

The developer will have to apply for a special use permit because the structure would exceed the 50-foot height limit downtown.

Speaking on the company’s behalf, Fran Florence recognized that some people may have concerns about the building, as they seek to preserve the historical integrity of downtown.

“It’s OK to make a little bit of history, too,” Florence said. “We’re contributing to the future and respecting the past. I’m really confident that the extra building height will be embraced by the rest of the community.”

Florence and several URA board members also nodded to the success Summit Creek Capital have had downtown with the recent opening of the renovated Historic Elks Lodge, formerly the Historic Ballroom. The Milner’s Gate brewpub alone serves more than 300 people on a good day, Florence said.

Murray, however, was still concerned about a parking structure planned behind the building. An earlier estimate showed it could cost the URA around $2 million. The two-story parking structure would contain the same amount of public parking while creating parking for the businesses and apartments in the multi-use building.

COURTESY OF PIVOT NORTH ARCHITECTURE 

This rendering shows the possible footprint of a multi-use building and two-story parking structure proposed downtown across from the Downtown Commons, at right. The developer is Summit Creek Capital.

Davis-Jeffers said he’s working to put a cap on what the structure would cost the URA, but he could not disclose the bid amount.

For now, the developer may also continue pursuing the New Market Tax Credit through community development corporation Mofi. Plus, it will likely take three to four months, and a public hearing, to secure a special use permit for the building height, Planning and Zoning Director Jonathan Spendlove said.

An agreement between the URA and Summit Creek Capital could potentially come before the board for final approval this spring.

Absent from Monday’s meeting were URA board members Cindy Bond and Doug Vollmer. Also at the meeting, the URA board:

  • Approved the audited financial statements for FY 2018.
  • Approved a resolution authorizing the filing of the 2018 Annual Report for the Urban Renewal Agency.
  • Approved a feasibility study and an eligibility report resolution regarding a proposed revenue allocation area for nine tax parcels west of Washington Street South. The resolution goes to the City Council for final approval.
  • Tabled a request to approve a memorandum of understanding between the URA and the city to execute design contracts for development near Washington Street South and Park Avenue.

Agriculture
Regulating Idaho agriculture: How laws affect producers

BURLEY — For Brian Darrington, obeying the laws and regulations pertaining to farming means being a good steward of the land and a good neighbor.

In the last few decades, the number of rules and regulations on farming and ranching have been on the uptick, said Darrington, president of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation board for Cassia County.

Idaho’s agriculture laws include regulations regarding crops and animal production to the right of way of a cow in open range.

Darrington, who was raised on a family farm, grows a variety of crops, including sugar beets, hay and corn, on about 1,800 acres around Burley and Declo.

“Although there are more regulations than there were 20 years ago, I don’t feel like they are terribly cumbersome,” he said.

He attributes part of that to Idaho being an “agriculture-friendly state.”

In fact, Idaho has a law on the books supporting the right to farm. It states that agriculture operations in urban areas sometimes deal with nuisance lawsuits and the state Legislature will work to limit the circumstances where such operations may be deemed a nuisance.

“I farm south of Burley and everyone’s dream it seems is to move to the county and then they try to change the country,” Darrington said. “In reality, sometimes we’re spreading manure. I try to be a good neighbor, but it is still manure.”

Other agriculture regulations target specific types of crops, organic food products, seeds, use of chemicals, noxious weeds, pests and invasive species, the artificial production of rainfall, fisheries and animal health.

Ranchers also deal with laws regarding fire suppression and land leases to graze their animals, Darrington said.

Some of the regulations that affect Darrington the most include the use of chemicals and agriculture labor laws.

In order to use pesticides, Darrington has to be licensed as an independent applicator, which requires classes and tests.

The use of fertilizer, he said, is not regulated unless it’s going to be injected into the water, and then it also requires certification.

“You have to be aware of how the system works because you can’t let the chemicals get back into the ditch or groundwater — and you can get audited or inspected,” he said.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture is charged with overseeing many of the farming and ranching regulations in the state.

“The ISDA wears two hats,” said Chanel Tewalt, the department’s chief operating officer. “One is to regulate agriculture and the other is to promote it.”

The department employs 300 people around the state; during the summer and fall that number swells to 500.

The Department of Agriculture enforces dozens of state regulations or codes and often works hand-in-hand with law enforcement on issues that cross the criminal boundary.

The agency regulates the health of animals coming into the state through veterinarian inspections or farm visits and oversees new plants brought into the state to ensure they do not harbor pests or diseases.

“It’s important to understand that the majority of the regulations are driven by industry or the Statehouse,” Tewalt said.

The regulations and certifications protect the producers and help them market their products.

When new regulations are proposed, stakeholders are invited to participate in the process, she said.

Tewalt said the nature of enforcement if violations occur depend entirely upon what the authorizing statute allows but can include revocation of a license, fines and in some cases criminal charges brought by law enforcement.

“We want the rules to accessible and understood by the community,” Tewalt said.

Following the rules, Darrington said, usually equals good business practices.

“You don’t want to spray any more chemicals than you have to. I try to be a good steward of the land. After all, I have to farm the same field next year and I want it to be in good condition,” he said.

There are also a lot of regulations regarding food safety.

“You have to keep a lot of records regarding the applications of fertilizer and pesticides. You basically track every trip through the field,” he said.

The constant paper trail also benefits the farmer economically and demonstrates sustainability, he said.

Some of the most cumbersome regulations deal with hiring employees. Many agriculture producers hire farm workers through the H2 visa program, which comes with its own set of laws.

“It’s really hard to hire people who want to work like a farmer 70 hours a week,” Darrington said.

Hiring workers on visas includes having a steady set of eyes on the farmers. They have to provide housing for the workers, which is inspected for safety and they can be audited at any time.

“They want to make sure we’re treating the workers fairly and paying them according to the rules,” Darrington said.

Darrington said the most important laws for farmers deal with water.

“We live in a desert and water is our life’s blood,” Darrington said. “It ties into everything that we do.”

Along with laws ensuring no chemicals go back into the irrigation system or into the groundwater, there are also laws regarding the use of irrigation water.

A farmer has an allotment of water each year that is delivered via the canal system — and it is possible to run out.

Darrington orders his water supply in advance each day through the canal system. He’s not allowed to just turn it into his field.

“They can come and lock your head gate,” he said. “It doesn’t belong to you.”

County law enforcement officers can also show up when a farmer is accidentally allowing irrigation water to sprinkle the road.

It can be a vexing problem and a struggle for a farmer, Darrington said.

A farmer can get a wheel line set just right only to hear a complaint after he leaves and the wind shifts, blowing the water onto the road.

“We will have law enforcement show up and they’ll often wait around until we get it fixed,” Darrington said.

If the problem stems from an irrigation pivot, it makes the problem and solution even worse.

The pivot gun can be set just right and as soon as the wind kicks up, the spray could be out of whack, he said.

“It’s a big deal to reset the coordinates, it’s time consuming,” he said.

Cassia County Prosecutor Doug Abenroth said water on the road is a misdemeanor crime.

“It damages the roads and causes them to deteriorate and it is also a safety issue,” Abenroth said.

But, he said, those citations can be difficult to prosecute because his office has to prove general intent and that it was not caused by geography or wind.

His office hasn’t prosecuted many water citations in the last four and a half years.

All of Idaho, Abenroth said, is considered open range, which means that livestock has the right-of-way on roads unless herd districts have been established or the road is in an incorporated city.

“If you hit a cow on the open range in a car you could be liable to the rancher for the value of the animal,” Abenroth said.

But, he said, it would be up to the rancher to file the claim against the motorist.

If a resident living in an open range area wants to keep cattle from munching their garden or crops, they have to put up a fence to keep the animals out.

“If you are driving in the country and see fences you are most likely in a herd district,” he said.


House Education kills Ybarra’s teacher pipeline proposal

BOISE — The House Education Committee killed a teacher pipeline bill sponsored by Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, in other action from a roller coaster Monday morning.

Ybarra pushed House Bill 218 as a multifaceted approach to recruit and retain teachers in rural schools.

Ybarra’s bill would have done three things:

It would have created a grow-your-own program to encourage paraprofessionals or classified staff members to earn a teaching certificate.

It would have created a $10,000 rural Idaho fellowship program.

It would have created a $6,000 certification and retention bonus.

“The point of this bill is to attract folks into these rural areas and have them set up roots and keep them there,” said Ybarra, touching on her own background as an educator who came to work and raised a family in Mountain Home.

Ybarra’s bill wouldn’t have taken effect until July 1, 2020, and would not have affected next year’s school budget.

The Idaho Education Association and Idaho Business for Education supported Ybarra’s bill, while the State Board of Education voiced support for the general concept. None of that ultimately mattered as a majority of Ybarra’s fellow Republicans teamed up to kill the bill.

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, said the bill was too costly. She also objected to Ybarra’s unorthodox request — asking the Legislature to pass the bill in 2019, effective in 2020.

“I don’t understand why it came up this month,” Moon said.

Making a point that was difficult to follow, Rep. Barbara Ehardt said she needed a flow chart to see how much money is spent on education and who is in charge of various education groups, such as the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education, and how such groups interact with each other.

“It is hard, as these things come before us, to know where we are with what,” said Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls.

The Legislature sets budgets for public schools, the State Board and the SDE, and education funding is found in those budgets. Furthermore, the Idaho Constitution and state law spell out the roles of the SDE and State Board, and how those groups interact.

Ehardt also referenced stakeholder groups or associations that represent their various memberships, such as the Idaho School Boards Association and Idaho Education Association. These groups are not a part of state government.

Regardless, the bill’s defeat was another setback to Ybarra’s legislative agenda:

Earlier this year her $20 million school safety proposal was rejected with little discussion.

Budget writers also approved a much smaller school budget than the 8 percent increase Ybarra recommended.

Finally, Ybarra’s $28 million proposal to increase teacher pay beyond the career ladder didn’t even get a hearing or wind up in bill form.

Tempering the bad news, budget writers did embrace Ybarra’s $14.8 million proposal to increase discretionary spending for school districts, directing more money to health care costs and increase the overall pool of discretionary funding sent to school districts.

Senator unveils ‘Idaho Promise’ scholarship

A new scholarship program could help Idaho make progress toward its elusive “60 percent goal,” state Sen. Grant Burgoyne says.

Burgoyne unveiled his “Idaho Promise” scholarship plan Monday but doesn’t plan to run a bill until the 2020 legislative session.

“We have quite a bit of work to do,” Burgoyne, D-Boise, said during a news conference Monday.

Burgoyne modeled his proposal after other states’ programs — including the Tennessee Promise program, which has been credited with helping to improve college completion rates in that state. Idaho, meanwhile, has made little progress in its efforts to convince 60 percent of its 25- to 34-year-olds to earn a college degree or career-technical certificate. Idaho’s completion rate is mired at 42 percent.

Idaho Promise would provide “last dollar” scholarships to community college or career-technical students. Scholarship recipients would still have to apply for federal financial aid and agree to take part in a community service program.

The idea is to provide more than financial aid, said Jean Henscheid, an education consultant working with Burgoyne on his bill. Postsecondary institutions would be required to provide mentoring designed to make sure high school graduates follow up on their plans to stay in school.

In the offseason, Burgoyne says he will work with educators and business and nonprofit groups on his proposal — and look for ways to drive down the potential cost.

Based on an initial estimate, the Idaho Promise program could cost $18 million. However, federal Pell grants, the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship and dual-credit courses could all help cover student bills and reduce program costs.

“This has to pencil out,” Burgoyne said.

TFA funding bill hits a detour

A bill to provide programs such as Teach for America a share of state funding is going to get a rewrite.

The Senate Education Committee sent House Bill 93 to the Senate floor’s amending order.

At issue is the potential cost.

HB 93 would make state funding available for nontraditional teacher preparation programs, such as Teach for America and the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence. The programs would have to at least match any state funding.

While HB 93 doesn’t earmark any state funding, it could eventually carry a price tag — possibly $200,000 in state funding, according to the bill’s statement of purpose.

But at this late stage of the session, any amendment could derail the bill. If the amended bill passes the Senate, the House would have to vote again and approve the new version.

The House passed the original version of HB 93 on Feb. 28, on a 43-25 vote.


Local
City approves $5 vehicle fee at Shoshone Falls, Dierkes Lake

TWIN FALLS — In just a couple of weeks, visitors driving in to Shoshone Falls and Dierkes Lake parks will have to pay $5 at the tollbooth. But the good news: they won’t have to carry extra cash.

Although the City Council on Monday approved a $2 fee increase for vehicles to enter either park, the Parks and Recreation Department also plans to install new technology that will allow it to collect that fee via credit or debit card. Department director Wendy Davis hopes to have that all ready to go for fee collections to start March 22.

The fee increase from $3 to $5 will help the Parks and Recreation Department save money to make some improvements to those parks and the roads to them. Residents can still dodge the fee increase if they buy a season pass or coupon book — and they can walk or bike in for free.

“Shoshone Falls and Dierkes Lake operate as an enterprise fund,” Davis said. “The park is 100 percent supported by the vehicle fees that are collected down there.”

The cost to bring wireless internet and credit card technology to the tollbooth is estimated at around $10,000. The city expects a fee increase will more than cover that, bringing in an additional $158,000 annually in revenue.

Because the increase is more than 5 percent, the City Council held a public hearing on Monday. No one from the public spoke in favor or against the increase.

The vote to approve the increase was unanimous, with Council members Suzanne Hawkins and Greg Lanting absent from the meeting.

“Five dollars into that park is equal to what it takes to get into state parks,” Mayor Shawn Barigar said.

Also on Monday, the City Council:

  • Approved the 2018 audited financial statements.
  • Adopted an ordinance repealing and replacing the city’s floodplain regulations.
  • Approved an ordinance vacating an undeveloped portion of Washington Street South right of way located at the southwest corner of Washington Street South and South Park Avenue West.

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: A community dance will feature music by the Shadows Band from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Snake River Elks Lodge, 412 E. 200 S., Jerome. Admission is $5.


Marc Lester 

Nicolas Petit hugs one of his dogs before they leave Unalakleet, Alaska, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Sunday, March 10, 2019. (Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News via AP)


Washington
AP
Trump's record $4.7 trillion budget banks on strong growth

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump proposed a record $4.7 trillion federal budget for 2020 on Monday, relying on optimistic 3.1 percent economic growth projections alongside accounting shuffles and steep domestic cuts to bring future spending into promised balance in 15 years.

The deficit is projected to hit $1.1 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year, the highest in a decade. The administration is counting on robust growth, including from the Republican tax cuts — which Trump wants to make permanent — to push down the red ink. Some economists, though, say the bump from the tax cuts is waning, and they project slower growth in coming years. The national debt is $22 trillion.

Even with his own projections, Trump’s budget would not come into balance for a decade and a half, rather than the traditional hope of balancing in 10.

Still, Trump contended the nation is experiencing “an economic miracle.” He said in a letter to Congress accompanying the plan that the country’s next step must be “turbocharging the industries of the future and establishing a new standard of living for the 21st century.”

Presidential budgets tend to be seen as aspirational blueprints, rarely becoming enacted policy, and Trump’s proposal for the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, sets up a showdown with Congress over priorities, including his push for $8.6 billion to build the U.S-Mexico border wall.

Titled “A Budget for a Better America: Promises Kept. Taxpayers First,” Trump’s proposal “embodies fiscal responsibility,” said Russ Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Despite the large projected deficits, Vought said the administration “prioritized reining in reckless Washington spending” and shows “we can return to fiscal sanity.”

The budget calls the approach “MAGAnomics,” after the president’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.

Some fiscal watchdogs, though, panned the effort as more piling on of debt by Trump with no course correction in sight.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said Trump “relies on far too many accounting gimmicks and fantasy assumptions and puts forward far too few actual solutions.” She warned the debt load will lead to slower income growth and stalled opportunities for Americans.

Perhaps most notably among spending proposals, Trump is reviving his border wall fight. Fresh off the longest government shutdown in history, his 2020 plan shows he is eager to confront Congress again over the wall.

Trump’s budget proposes increasing defense spending to $750 billion — and building the new Space Force as a military branch — while reducing nondefense accounts by 5 percent, with cuts recommended to economic safety-net programs used by many Americans. The $2.7 trillion in proposed spending cuts over the decade is higher than any administration in history, they say.

The budget imposes work requirements for those receiving food stamps and other government aid as part of the cutbacks. The Department of Housing and Urban Development faces a 16 percent cut and for Education, a 12 percent reduction.

Trump’s budget would re-open two health care battles he lost in his first year in office: repealing “Obamacare” and limiting future federal spending on Medicaid for low-income people. Under the budget, both programs would be turned over to the states starting in 2021.

The top Democrat on the Appropriation Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said the budget is “not a serious proposal.”

By refusing to raise the budget caps, Trump is signaling a fight ahead. The president has resisted big, bipartisan budget deals that break the caps — threatening to veto one last year — but Congress will need to find agreement on spending levels to avoid another federal shutdown in the fall.

The Democratic chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, called the proposed cuts to essential services “dangerous.” He said Trump added almost $2 trillion to deficits with the GOP’s “tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations, and now it appears his budget asks the American people to pay the price,” the Democrat said.

In seeking $8.6 billion for more than 300 miles of new border wall, the budget request would more than double the $8.1 billion already potentially available to the president for the wall after he declared a national emergency at the border last month in order to circumvent Congress — though there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to use that money if he faces a legal challenge, as is expected.

The budget arrives as the Senate readies to vote this week to terminate Trump’s national emergency declaration. The Democratic-led House already did so, and a handful of Republican senators, uneasy over what they see as an overreach of executive power, are expected to join Senate Democrats in following suit. Congress appears to have enough votes to reject Trump’s declaration but not enough to overturn a veto.

The wall with Mexico played a big part in Trump’s campaign for the White House, and it’s expected to again be featured in his 2020 re-election effort. He used to say Mexico would pay for it, but Mexico refused to do so.