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City Hall construction update

Scott Higley works on tile in the city hall building Oct. 11 in downtown Twin Falls.

Twin Falls received some pretty exciting news last week: We’ve hit 50,000 people, a mark that designates the town as a small city in the federal government’s eyes.

We’ve known for years this day would come soon, and public officials have been planning for a slew of mandates it will have to meet under the new designation, the most visible of which is a public transportation system.

But all this preplanning has occurred under the assumption the designation was still years away — after the 2020 census for sure and probably two years later when the census is certified.

Not so.

Leaders learned last week, thanks to a Labor Department economist who stumbled across the news, that Twin Falls and Jerome counties were named a Metropolitan Statistical Area — in August.

Apparently, nobody in Washington bothered to let us know. Needless to say, local leaders are miffed there was no word from the feds.

And now there’s a slight sense of panic as the deadline for meeting the federal mandates has been pushed forward three years sooner than local folks were anticipating.

“We thought we were being very forward-thinking,” Twin Falls City Manager Travis Rothweiler said. “I think we were all a bit surprised. … We had a plan, we were moving that plan forward, and the playing conditions changed. So we need to modify our game plan so we are able to comply with those requirements.”

Officials in both counties were meeting late last week to figure out what it all means.

Besides public transportation, other mandates are likely to include new rules for storm water management and other requirements that, at least last week, local officials could only guess at.

One thing is clear: The new designation forges the city of Twin Falls and Twin Falls and Jerome counties into a new, more inter-connected relationship. The governments have almost always worked well together, but the relationship is about to get a lot closer because the designation requires all three entities to meet the mandates together, presumably.

We’re confident a truly regional relationship will mean good things for the Magic Valley, especially when it comes to public services and planning for economic development and transportation projects.

We urge the governments to keep the public deeply involved in the process – the best ideas are those borne from the bottom-up, and the public needs to have a strong voice as new plans take shape.

We’re less confident in the relationship with the federal government, whose failure to alert local communities about the designation isn’t exactly the start you want when you’re entering a project that will have untold impacts in the region for years to come.

There has to be better communication from the feds. Period.

But even with the later-than-expected start, we’re sure Twin Falls and Jerome are up to the challenge.

If there’s one thing we know how to do in the Magic Valley, it’s building stronger communities. Now, let the planning begin.

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