Saturday, August 31, 2013

Press: ITD to Transfer 160 Acres to Coeur d'Alene Tribe

Posted By on Sat, Aug 31, 2013 at 2:00 PM

The Idaho Transportation Department announced Aug. 30 that it would soon transfer the ownership of five parcels of wetlands—nearly 160 acres valued at approximately $1 million—to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe.

This morning's Coeur d'Alene Press reports that that transfer will follow nearly 13 years of planning, construction and wetlands restoration in connection with the realignment of U.S. 95 between Worley and Mica Creek in North Idaho.

ITD was required by the U.S. Clean Water Act to offset environmental impacts to the wetlands by the highway construction project. The department and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe agreed that the requirement would be fulfilled by the purchase of additional private parcels in the Lake Creek drainage, which would then be transferred to the Tribe for permanent management and protection.

The Press reports that four of the parcels are already within the boundaries of the Coeur d'Alene Reservation and the fifth parcel is adjacent to the northwest boundary of the reservation.

"From the beginning, we all agreed that ITD would identify and develop the sites, bring them to a successful state and then transfer them to the Tribe for the long-term stewardship of the wetland sites," ITD engineer Damon Allen told the Press.

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Idaho Gas Prices Outpacing Oregon, Washington

Posted By on Sat, Aug 31, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Maybe it's the end of the recession; maybe it's families weary of a summer defined by scorching temperatures and massive wildfires; but AAA Idaho expects more people to be on the road this Labor Day weekend—approximately 179,000 Idahoans should travel 50 or more miles between now and Monday evening.

Nationwide, as many as 34 million Americans are expected to hit the road, a 4.2 percent increase since last year and a post-recession high.

AAA reported Idaho's average price for a gallon of self-serve unleaded gasoline this past week was $3.82, 28-cents higher than the national average of $3.54. That's the sixth highest price in the country, just pennies below California's $3.84. Idaho prices are higher than Washington ($3.81) and Oregon ($3.77), which traditionally outpace the Gem State.

Meanwhile, the price of gas is again tracking the rising price of oil, which reached a two-year high this past week on fears of supply disruptions in the Middle East. Oil has climbed 5 percent in August on worries about escalating violence in Egypt and the possibility of a U.S. attack on Syria.

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Zoo Boise Unveils New Patas Monkey Exhibit

Posted By on Sat, Aug 31, 2013 at 12:00 PM

A new Patas monkey exhibit was unveiled at Zoo Boise August 30.
  • Zoo Boise
  • A new Patas monkey exhibit was unveiled at Zoo Boise August 30.

Nine months after a senseless break-in and attack at Zoo Boise which left a Patas monkey dead, visitors welcomed three other Patas monkeys—Incas, DJ and Kibibi—to their new home Aug. 30.

Michael Watkins, 22, of Weiser, was ultimately convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for jumping a fence at the zoo in the early morning hours of Nov. 17, 2012, manipulating a lock to get inside the primate building and beating a Patas monkey to death in an attempt to kidnap the animal.

Meanwhile, The Friends of Zoo Boise raised the needed funds for a new Patas monkey habitat, which opened to the public Aug. 30. the new facility was designed by Boise-based Erstad Architects.

Meanwhile, Zoo Boise officials installed new security measures, including additional razor wire to the facility's perimeter fence.

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Boise Council to Decide If $33.8M Bond Should Appear on Ballot

Posted By on Sat, Aug 31, 2013 at 10:30 AM

When Boise Mayor Dave Bieter hinted at a bond initiative June 12 that would help fund new public safety facilities, neighborhood parks and refuel the city's open space fund in order to purchase more available property in the Boise Foothills, it was met by polite applause from the members of the Boise City Council who were in attendance, along with hundreds of attendees of the mayor's State of the City address.

Nearly two months later, Bieter formally unveiled his plan for a $33.8-million proposal, detailing the initiative that he wanted to put before voters this November.

The proposal fueled a bit of a viral spat at this past week when Idaho Freedom Foundation director Wayne Hoffman ripped the bond proposal for having "wants, not needs." arguing that "funding for discretionary projects will come on the backs of people who may still be unemployed, may be facing unemployment or are seeing a decline in their income."

Idaho Engagement Project Director Emily Walton responded that "Wayne Hoffman doesn't understand Boise," arguing that "enjoying our life in Boise isn't just something we 'want.' Instead, it is something we 'need' and open space and parks are an important part of that enjoyment."

In the meantime, members of the City Council have been relatively silent on the bond proposal, but that will change when they old a special  public session to review the plan and give city staff further direction on how, or even if, the bond should be prepared for the November ballot. The meeting begins at noon, Wednesday, Sept. 4 at Boise City Hall.

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Son of Idaho Lawmaker Found Dead in Pocatello Jail Cell

Posted By on Sat, Aug 31, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Pingree Republican Rep. Julie VanOrden was elected to the Idaho House in November 2012.
  • Pingree Republican Rep. Julie VanOrden was elected to the Idaho House in November 2012.

Pingree Republican Rep. Julie VanOrden is mourning the death of her 26-year-old son, whose body was discovered Aug. 30 in a Bannock County jail cell.

The Bannock County Sheriff's Department confirmed that 26-year-old Jason VanOrden, also of Pingree, died in the early morning hours of Aug. 30 but didn't provide further details.

Jason Van Orden was arrested Aug. 15 following a four-hour standoff with Pocatello police. Law enforcement said that Van Orden had barricaded himself in his vehicle and told officers he had a gun. Negotiations broke down when police said Van Orden came out of his vehicle waving a knife. He was charged with misdemeanor domestic battery and resisting arrest.

Jason VanOrden had several previous arrests, according to Idaho court records, including DUI and domestic battery.

Julie Van Orden was first elected to the Idaho House in November 2012 and during the 2013 legislative session, served on the House Agriculture, Commerce and Human Resources and Education committees. Van Orden defeated former Representative Jim Marriott in the May 2012 GOP primary.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Bujak Reclaims Law License, Will Open Private Practice

Posted By on Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak—who successfully fought back criminal charges of preparation of false evidence and computer crime—says he's anxious to get back to practice private law following the Idaho Supreme Court's decision to reinstate his license.

This morning's Idaho Press-Tribune reports that Bujak said his reinstatement "marks the end of a three-year battle to get my life back."

In July, prosecutors dropped the felony charges after two juries acquitted Bujak of other crimes—theft by unauthorized control and misuse of public funds— in separate trials.

"I'm thankful for the support of people in the local community and throughout the state, including those who signed my petitions," said Bujak.

Those petitions spurred Bujak to recently declare his intention to run for Idaho governor in 2014.

Bujak said he was a victim of Idaho's "good-old-boy system."

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Mountain Home Rejects Six Juvenile Sex Offenders From Public Schools

Posted By on Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Controversy in Mountain Home over six children—currently wards of the state who are being treated for previous sexual offenses—has left them without a school.

The Mountain Home News reports that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare had hoped to enroll the children in the Mountain Home School District, but District Superintendent Tim McMurtrey "strongly resisted" the plan. IDHW had hoped to enroll the children, living at a juvenile sex offender secure treatment facility in Mountain Home, in Hacker Middle School and Mountain Home High School.

Now, IDHW told the Associated Press that, "it has nowhere else for them to go, due to shortages of foster homes."

IDHW dropped its bid to place the children into Mountain Home schools this week "as community opposition escalated," according to the AP.

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Illegal Parking Leads to Felony Drug Charges

Posted By on Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Daniel Matlock, 34, is charged with meth and drug paraphernalia possession and probation violation.

Boise police said what started out as an incident of illegal parking ended in a Parma man being locked up on felony drug charges.

Police said they observed a vehicle parked illegally in a no-parking zone near Belmont St. and Longmont Ave. early this morning. When officers checked through Boise city records, they found that the driver was currently on parole. While conducting a compliance check of the vehicle, police said they recovered meth and a glass pipe.

Daniel Matlock, 34, of Parma, was booked into the Ada County Jail on felony counts of meth possession and probation violation, as well as a misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

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Beaver Creek Fire: $25 Million-Plus

Posted By on Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 12:00 PM

The price tag to battle the massive Beaver Creek Fire, which at its height became the nation's highest wildfire priority, is expected to top $25 million.

This morning's Idaho Mountain Express reports that while the tab is still being run up as firefighters mop up the blaze, Blaine County officials are expecting the U.S. government to foot most of the bill.

"The cost is still being accumulated," Bill Swartley, Incident Command Center public information officer told the Mountain Express. "It's probably going to be rising up to $25 million by the time the incident is concluded."

Swartley added that the estimate doesn't yet include what he called "cooperators," which tallies the cost to local police, fire departments and other emergency responders.

As an example, the city of Hailey is estimating that its personnel cost is expected to top $26,000. But even local costs are expected to be picked up, in part, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Fire Management Assistance Grant. FEMA said in mid August that local and state costs associated with the fire were eligible for the grants.

Meanwhile, firefighters are scheduled to pick up hoses and equipment through much of the day today and the incident command is expected to rotate in a smaller Type 3 team, composed mostly of local forest managers.

The lightning-caused fire, which was sparked Aug. 7, has burned 111,488 acres (about 174 square miles) and as of Aug. 29, there were still 599 people working the fire.

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Star-News: More Bad Math in Valley County

Posted By on Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Valley County officials have made another accounting error, the second in less than a year, leaving taxpayers in the lurch.

This morning's McCall Star-News reports that Valley County "forgot to allow for a rate increase in the annual flat rate charged to homes and businesses to pay for the county's share of solid-waste expenses." The fees help fund the city's trash management operations.

Simply put, the county first calculated that solid waste revenue would be $424,115 for Fiscal Year 2014, when in fact the correct total should be more than $1 million.

Now, Valley County residents are learning that fees will have to bump from $11.50 to $33 per year.

In January, Valley County struggled with a half-million dollar accounting error when the Valley County Clerk's Office wrote down the wrong amount on property tax billings. The receipts were supposed to total $775,000 but the clerk's office wrote down $275,000 on the billings. The county ended up borrowing money from its court facilities fund to cover the shortfall.

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