294From The Weiser Signal American, Monday, January 8, 2007, page 1
- Jan 9, 2007LAWMAKERS: OTTER AN IMPROVEMENT
District 9 reps weary of battling Kempthorne over Indian Valley Route
by David Trigueiro
District 9 state representatives told a public forum in
Weiser last Wednesday they are looking forward to better cooperation
from newly elected Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on issues important to
Rep. Clete Edmunson of New Plymouth told the small crowd of
mostly local government officials that Otter's small-town ranching
background is a welcome change from the urban outlook of former Gov.
Dirk Kempthorne, who seemed to have no interest in rural and
"When I stopped into the governor's office on his first day,
I didn't expect to be noticed. I just wanted to have a look and see
what was happening," Edmunson said. "But when Butch saw me he
stopped what he was doing and waved, 'Hey, Clete, come on in. How
are you doing?'
"For the last eight years that has not been the case, to say
the least," noted the District 9 representative. At previous forums
in Weiser he had consistently expressed his frustration at being
ignored by Kempthorne when trying to discuss important local
concerns like the governor's proposed new highway from Emmett to
McCall bypassing Fruitland, Payette and Weiser.
Kempthorne, who has personal interests in resort property
being developed at Tamarack Resort near Donnelly, was a major
supporter of a new highway connecting Boise to Donnelly through
Indian Valley and over No Business Lookout to take pressure off
Although it was of such low priority that it hadn't even
appeared on the Idaho Transportation Department's project list, the
so-called Indian Valley Route took on major proportions with
The entire GARVEE (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle bond)
road-funding proposal pushed through the Legislature by Kempthorne
and Ada County representatives is still a point of extreme
frustration for all District 9 representatives.
Rep. Lawerence Denney of Midvale, who was elected Speaker of
the House for the upcoming session despite intense opposition from
urban Idaho, said the highway-building initiative has been a fiasco
so far with the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) unable to get
any projects off the ground.
The GARVEE initiative opened the door for Idaho to borrow up
to $6 billion to build and improve highways in anticipation of
federal highway allotments to be paid in future years.
Edmunson, Denney, and District 9 Senator Monty Pearce of New
Plymouth all opposed the bill, arguing it was too big a risk given
the federal government's massive debt and the increased probability
of spending cuts in domestic programs to finance the war in Iraq and
other international obligations. Moreover, Idaho would have to
provide matching funds, which it may not be able to afford.
This is exactly what transpired in the GARVEE bill's first
year of operation, Denney and Pearce both pointed out.
"They (ITD) approved six projects," Denney said. "Now
they're coming back to us and asking for an increase in the gas tax,
or the sales tax on gas, to help them fund it. They say it's not
tied to the GARVEE funding, but somehow we don't quite accept that."
Pearce later pointed out again that none of ITD's initial
projects were under way or even funded. "That was a real
embarrassment last year. They (ITD) couldn't tell the same story
twice and it looks like they still can't.
"They started up with this project down in Soda Springs.
Then they decided that cost too much money so they moved it to
northern Idaho. Then they came back last summer and said they didn't
have enough money for either one and they needed more taxes.
"I know it was Clete's favorite governor (Kempthorne)
playing some of this scrabble that was handed to us. I don't know
what's going to happen now with a new governor, but it for sure
can't get any worse. So I guess it's got to get better."
Important local highway projects have fallen victim to ITD's
unpredictable on-again, off-again selection process, according to
all three representatives. Denney noted that the Council bypass was
ready to go with the right-of-way secured and virtually all the
property acquired and ready to go when ITD pulled out, saying the
money needed to go to a new bridge across the Weiser River in
The Weiser River Bridge project itself provides an excellent
example of ITD's indecision, according to Washington County
Commission Chair Diana Thomas. She pointed out that it was initially
planned for 1993, then 2004, and now it doesn't look like it will be
considered again until 2011.
Denney called it a shell game. "We think they're just
playing hide the ball with us," he said.
Edmunson said a woman in Council was now stuck with two
mortgages because of ITD's indecision on the Council bypass. ITD
told her that her property would be purchased and the check was in
the mail, he said. She immediately purchased another house. Soon
after she received an e-mail that no check would be coming.
Another topic of bureaucratic frustration was the Weiser
Senior Center. Commission Chairman Thomas told the representatives
that the local center was grateful for the extra funds provided by
the Legislature for meals, but all of it was designated specifically
for Meals on Wheels delivered to shut-ins.
"It's the congregate meals that make the center what it is,"
Thomas said. It is a vital community resource that brings people
together to do things not only for seniors but for every Weiser
Caryl Fausett, who has been a key negotiator for seniors
with Idaho Council on Aging (ICA) and Area, on Aging, noted that
none of the new money went to the senior centers.
"The biggest share went for managers in the Idaho Council on
Aging (ICA) and the Area on Aging," Fausett said. "What we need at
the ICA is a leader who is an advocate for seniors, not one for all
those managers and administrators."
Pearce, who helped resolve the seniors' dispute with Area on
Aging over food, said the problem lies in the Gordic knot of federal
financing. Federal funds come with such convoluted formulas attached
about where and how they can be spent, that it is all but impossible
to apply them directly to the service they are meant to support.
"Last year, those federal rules tied us up in so many knots
that we couldn't get the money down to the senior centers. Maybe,
you can talk to your federal representatives and ask them to remove
the formulas or at least simplify them so you can get the money
where it's supposed to go," Pearce suggested.
Thomas suggested that the Idaho government and the seniors
look into obtaining waivers for the most restrictive portions of the
formulas. As a county commissioner she has a lot of experience
dealing with the federal grants and funding formulas, she said, and
this is often the best way to proceed.