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From The Weiser Signal American, Monday, January 8, 2007, page 1

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  • grfranklin53
    LAWMAKERS: OTTER AN IMPROVEMENT District 9 reps weary of battling Kempthorne over Indian Valley Route by David Trigueiro District 9 state representatives told
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 9 8:13 PM

      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
      Washington County.
      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
      agricultural issues.
      "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
      Idaho 55.
      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
      Kempthorn's backing.
      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.
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