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Monday, August 31, 2009

Lessons Ignored But Predicted In Leland Report

The Downtown Caldwell Revitalization Strategy Phase II Report was officially released to the public on October 25th, 2006. The report cost the city of Caldwell $140,000 and was prepared by the Leland Consulting Group, Mc Kibben & Cooper Architects and Urban Designer and Planning Management Services. In short, a lot of expertise in resurrecting and revitalizing rotting downtown's.

Mayor Nancolas, the City Council, The Urban Renewal Agency of Caldwell have chosen to ignore caveats and recommendations outlined in the report handed to the city leaders of Caldwell in 2006. Thousands of community volunteer hours of labor and meetings were put into this study. Mayor Nancolas chose to not have Mr. Leland present the report to the community and summarily tossed it into the dust bin of Caldwell history. Their collective answer was to give the Oppenheimer Group $50,000 to go in yet another direction and ignore $350.000 in studies and citizen efforts.

Team Garret has still not figured out a detailed strategy or plan for how the public investment will couple with and effectively leverage private investment in downtown Caldwell. (pp 3 Leland Report)

"There is the distinct possibility that if you build IT, IT will just sit there and be a beautiful waterway that has raised property values on either side of IT, yet not necessarily triggered private sector investment." (pp 4 Leland Report)

"Implementation of the rest of the Indian Creek waterway should be directly tied to private investment projects that are desirable and directly in line with the vision of revitalizing downtown. If the Creek has to be built in phases or held off until the right partnerships are formed, that is better than having no private investment or a bad project fronting this outstanding public amenity." (pp 4 Leland Report)

"Care should be taken such that the public investment is not squandered." (pp 5)

"Make a great plan. A great plan is one that combine market based potential with a community vision for the downtown area. A great plan is one that excites , motivates and enlivens the community and private investment to take action. A great plan demonstrates commitment to community." (pp 5)

"more than one project is needed from the private sector to successfully trigger more and continued commitment. Remember, a single project is very vulnerable and at great risk of failure." (pp 7)

THE GUARDIAN is providing the above information as some food for thought to those who will get to pay the bills. The wisdom in both the R/UDAT study and the Leland Report of 2006 are the product of a tremendous amount of 20/20 hindsight by the people sharing their wisdom and direction with us. Meanwhile, the Mayor and Caldwell Urban Renewal Agency choose to ignore both of these studies and throw millions on projects that will not spark an economic turnaround for downtown Caldwell.

Friday, August 28, 2009

There Is Not $18 MM In Stimulus Money For Jail Project

THE GUARDIAN keeps hearing Canyon County Commishes can get $18 million in Obama stimulus money for their jail project. The reality is that won't happen. Commissioner Alder agrees with THE GUARDIAN that the presentation of how this works did not go over very clearly at the Tuesday jail bond meeting.

What they will get is the right to purchase $18 million in non-tax exempt bonds and the federal government will give them money to buy down the interest rate on the $18 million to the tune of 45% of the non-tax exempt interest rate on the bonds.

Is this a win situation for the county Commishes? The real answer lies in what tax exempt bonds are selling for and the difference between the two. The spread on the interest charges in not something to get excited about. It may be cheaper to go with tax exempt bonds.

All money received under the stimulus plan will go to pay bond interest. Bankers will get the money and none will go for the project.

Stimulus money presentations were very unclear at the Tuesday evening jail meeting and I hope this post clears up how stimulus money would apply to financing the jail project.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Jail Bond Meeting Summary With Commish Alder and Chief Deputy Deulen

Tuesday evening THE GUARDIAN attended the public forum held at the Canyon County courthouse. Bonding costs were covered very well. Property taxpayers will be asked to fund an additional $3 million a year in taxes to pay for $46 million in borrowed funds over 20 years. Roughly $60-$64 million will be the total payback based on underwriting costs and actual interest rates when and if bonds are put up for sale.

What was not covered clearly at the Tuesday meeting was staffing and maintaining of the new jail project. THE GUARDIAN called Commissioner Kathy Alder for a meeting to try and clarify some serious questions. Commissioner Alder and Chief Deputy Deulen sat down and we went through all the issues.

What will this cost you? $32.94 per $100,000 of net taxable value on your property. So dig out your tax notices and you can nail it down to the penny what it will cost.

The short version is the old jail will be shut down. The Daile Haile Jail (DHJ) will be made into primarily a women's facility for lock down and work release for women inmates. Additionally, part of the DHJ will be used for a holding area for male inmates going to court.

The staffing of all operations will be 19 people per shift of Jail Deputy staff and the remaining ancillary staff for clerical, and inmate supply staffing will remain the same but will service both jail sites.

Pods at the new jail site will be staffed with three deputies per pod. Five people will be in the booking area of the new jail. A transport bus will more than likely have to be purchased with the bulk of transports done with minivans and full sized van vehicles.

Medical services at DHJ will move out to the new jail site. Current Juvenile medical staff will be required to take over the duties for the women who will remain on lock down at DHJ.

The new jail will have three full time dedicated maintenance staff. The water, sewer and other utilities will come from the $125k mentioned for maintenance costs. The DHJ current costs are about $93k/year for the aforementioned utilities.

Current costs for the Daile Haile Jail are $7.9 million for labor and $1.4 million for maintenance. This makes the cost to take care of 300 inmates, 250 in the DHJ and 50 in work release come out to around $84/day cost to the Canyon County taxpayers. As the inmate count moves, the average cost per day will move as well. The new jail will not lower total costs but will allow for more inmates at the same or slightly increased costs.

I have tried to keep this short and as straight forward and I can make it. I would encourage anyone with questions to contact Commissioner Alder or Chief Deulen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Canyon Commishes Need to Review Nampa Court Costs, Supreme Court Says Boise Must Pay Ada County

Ada Beats Boise Again In Supreme Court
By David R. Frazier 8-25-2009

In a 5 zip decision, the Idaho Supreme Court has ruled that Boise City must provide courtroom space for the magistrate court handling Boise cases.

State law says district court judges have authority to order cities to provide adequate quarters and equipment for the magistrate division and those costs can be offset by court-imposed fees.

Boise and Ada County signed an agreement in 1980 outlining the city’s obligations. The city contended when the new Ada County Courthouse was completed in 2002 they no longer had to pay.

The city stopped payment of the court imposed “rent” in 2007, prompting the lawsuit and decision from the Supremes that was released today.

Once again, Boise’s legal beagles have cost the citizens thousands of dollars in staff expense and perhaps millions in “back rent” due the county.

We can’t help but note the irony of the city’s efforts to provide city ambulance service already provided by the county, but refusing to provide court ordered magistrate facilities, claiming the county should do it.

Editor Note: Mayor Tom Dale and the Nampa Police Chief had a meeting this past Spring offering to be landlords to Canyon County for the Magistrate Court services the county provides to the fair city of Nampa. The real estate in the offing was the new yet to be built police station for the city of Nampa via Urban Renewal property tax dollars. It now appears Nampa will have to pony up for the costs of the Magistrate Court services rendered to Nampa by Canyon County.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jail Town Hall Meetings Scheduled For Next Week

Two Town Hall Meetings have been scheduled to gather input and provide information regarding jail issues.

The first meeting will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, in the Public Meeting Room at the courthouse, and the second will be Wednesday, Aug. 26, in the Nampa City Hall Council Chambers. Both meetings will be from 6-8 p.m.

County personnel will talk about the consent decree with the ACLU that was recently signed, and what changes are being made, with the assistance of the judges, in sentencing and pre-sentencing, to keep jail numbers within the limits of the decree.

Additionally, with the availability of at least $18 million in stimulus funds to aid in keeping construction costs low, the commissioners would like to hear the public’s input on the potential of having a jail bond on the November ballot. Financial experts will attend both meetings to explain how the stimulus funds work, and what that might mean for taxpayers.

Commissioners will also present drawings and plans of the no-frills jail that is being considered.

“I would hope that many people will attend these meetings and give us their opinions on what steps we should take going forward,” said Commissioner Steve Rule. “We know we have to do something about the jail, and this might be the right time, and the right incentive, to put our plan in place.”

Editor Note: The ACLU lawsuit was largely centered around lack of maintenance and upkeep. No mention of the costs of operating a new jail in the above news release nor have they mentioned how much money they want taxpayers to approve.

Caldwell Urban Renewal Board May Have Stepped Outside of Their Legal Authority

Caldwell East Urban Renewal Agency has just put together Resolution 2009-3 telling one and all their actions with respect to financing TVCC are legal and within their authority to fund.

There is a very hasty movement by Urban Renewal and the City of Caldwell toward making all the financial commitments they can to TVCC prior to the November election. Relax, you are not going to get to vote on any of this anyway. The public rinse cycle is not getting any respect from the Urban Renewal Board, Mayor Nancolas or the Caldwell City Council.

The following is the meat and potatoes out of CEURA Resolution 2009-3:

"Section 1. That the proposed clarification of the Plan, submitted at this meeting is hereby approved and recommended for adoption and approval by the Caldwell City Council, after notice and hearing. A notice of such hearing shall be published in the IDAHO PRESS-TRIBUNE at least 30 days prior to such hearing in the City Council.

Section 2. That any motion, resolution or provision thereof. which is inconsistent with this Resolution, is hereby repealed."

Clearly, they have overstepped their legal limits and have made a move to rectify the situation before some irate taxpayer picks up the scent and takes some form of legal action to make these folks accountable to the taxpayers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Canyon County Fair Administrator, Rosalie Cope Comments on Fair Land Purchase

I would like to comment on the Canyon County Fair "pulling up Stakers and leaving Caldwell". I am not sure where the comment from someone close to the Fair Board came from, but it is far from correct. Mayor Nancolas has been a tremendous supporter of the Fair from cooking in our Celebrity Cooking Show to singing the National Anthem to allowing City departments to help make the Fair a success in any way possible. The Caldwell Police and Fire departments are on site during the Fair to ensure safety of the patrons, Parks and Rec. loans items such as picnic tables and a generator, which the Fair Board would normally have to rent and the Street Department helps with clean up, traffic control, etc. It was never the intent of the Fair Board to leave Caldwell, however when looking into purchasing land that would remain the home of the Fair for many years to come there were a lot of criterias which had to be met. For example, SPACE, we would not want to spend money that has taken years to save on a "quick" fix. The new Fair site needed to be large enough to accomodate future growth, freeway access was important, availability of City services, good highways for easy access, etc. This decision was not made lightly. There was a site that was looked at which would have been in Caldwell City limits, however it was decided that there would not be enough room for future growth and we may end up in the same situation in several years. The Fair Board feels that the new location best fits our criteria. The site sits in a very central location to Caldwell, Nampa and Middleton which are the City's within the County with the largest population base. We feel that we can service the citizens of the County very well from such a location. The intent of the the Fair Board is for the Fair to become a self-sustaining entity and require no tax dollars for day to day operation in the future. That is a challenge which is impossible at the current site, with one dirt floor building. We hope to bring many more events to the County which will in turn bring a much larger economic impact to our cities. As reported in the Idaho Statesman, at this point it will be years before the new site is in place and once the move is made, we see no reason to abandon the current site. There are several interim events which are currently hosted at the old site that would more than likely remain at the old site.

Rosalie Cope - Fair Administrator

EDITOR NOTE: Why would Mayor Nancolas, City Councilors spend scarce tax dollars on a venue wanting to leave town? Case in point are all the improvments on the back side of the current fairgrounds for parking lots, paved streets etc. This all points to nobody looking out for those of us paying the bills and no cooperation or common goals with elected and appointed officials.

Monday, August 17, 2009

City Council Agenda Suggests City Had No Clue About Fair Board Actions

THE GUARDIAN has taken items 8 and 9 from the Caldwell City Council agenda for 8-17-2009:
Continued Public Hearing to discuss the proposed transfer of City-owned real property to Canyon County known as the land underlying the Canyon County Fair Building. The underutilized property is part of a larger area known as the Caldwell Events Center or Canyon County Fairgrounds.[Requested by the applicant to continue this item to the next Regular City Council Meeting to be held on September 8, 2009.]
Consider Bill No. 14 (Ordinance No. 2797) for transfer of City-owned underutilized real property known as the Canyon County Fair Building to Canyon County with a request to waive the rules, pass on the first reading, and approve the summary for publication. [Requested by the applicant to continue this item to the next Regular City Council Meeting to be held on September 8, 2009.]

It would appear the Mayor and City Council have been caught flat footed with the move of the county fair from its present location to rural north Nampa. The Fair Board Paid about $20,000/acre for the 80 plus acres they bought for the new digs for the Canyon County Fair. No official comments have been made by Caldwell City officials on the latest economic engine to announce they are leaving our fair city.

Canyon County Adopts Tenative Budget, Total Taxes Down, Levy Rate Up

The Board of County Commissioners signed the tentative budget for Fiscal Year 2010 Aug. 13. The budget is for just over $69 million, down $9 million from the previous fiscal year, and $14 million from the FY08 budget of $83.3 million.

A public Budget Hearing is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 1 in the Public Meeting Room in the Courthouse.

In preparing the budget, the commissioners asked all Elected Officials and department heads to be very frugal, and only include budget items that are critical to the mission of the county.

Based on Idaho budget law, the Commissioners had an additional $3.4 million in property tax dollars available, but chose to leave that money in the hands of the taxpayers, and reduce the county’s budget instead.

“In these economic times, it’s critical that the county do everything we can to help our taxpayers,” said Commissioner Kathy Alder. “Leaving $3.4 million in taxpayers’ hands, and keeping our levy low, was very important to us as commissioners.”

Included in the budget is the restoration of employee pay, which had been cut 2.5 percent in March to make up for predicted budget shortfalls in the FY09 budget year, as well as an additional $70 per month per employee being added to the county’s portion of health insurance premiums.

“Canyon County is doing our part to help the taxpayers of Canyon County,” said Commissioner David Ferdinand. “Our department heads were diligent in their efforts to keep costs, and therefore property taxes, as low as possible. We’re all taxpayers, so we understand how hard it is on the people of Canyon County when their taxing districts raise taxes. Our goal was to make it as painless as possible, while still providing the services we’re statutorily required to provide.”

One of the areas where the most savings will be seen is personnel. Approximately 47 positions in the county will not be filled in the upcoming fiscal year; a number of those were left unfilled for all or part of the current year.

While the county’s levy rate will increase 10.2 percent, the rate is still less than it was in 2005 and 2006. A total of $36.6 million will come to the county from property taxes.

“It is with great relief after much effort on the part of the Commissioners, Elected Officials and department heads that we were able to balance the budget, and keep it at a level that will have minimal effect on taxpayers,” said Commissioner Steve Rule. “We’ve done our part not to raise property taxes, and hope for the sake of taxpayers that cities, schools and other taxing districts are able to do the same.”

What Happened to Voting on TVCC Project. Caldwell Coninues As City Very Difficult To Work With, Economic Development Bypasses Caldwell Again

Mayor Garrent Nancolas stated publicly this past spring he would allow citizens of Caldwell to vote on the TVCC project to be built in downtown Caldwell. Today we have another announcement we're going to try a project concept that failed in downtown Boise right here in Caldwell. Government and retail in the same building just like the Ada County Courthouse flop. There will be not voting on this matter as our Mayor has decided and we get to pay for his wisdom and decision.

Team Garret is going to spend millions on a building project nobody has asked for nor have they a public mandate to proceed with this project. They want to provide TVCC with $300k to stop-gap finance improvements and upgrades to the Mercado building right now until they get into the new taxpayer funded building. Next, they also want to break ground on a building in downtown for TVCC that is too small to meet their needs. The cost of this building will be around $10 million for the taxpayers to shell out with no formal vote or approval process.

There is also another downtown revitalization effort that will attempt fix all that is wrong with downtown Caldwell with no dedicated funds for the effort. Mayor Nancolas has apparently forgotten all the studies and reports in city file cabinet drawers collecting dust. This appears to be nothing more than a thinly disguised effort to silence critics of his administration and his lack of progress with downtown Caldwell. It is another effort where hope springs eternal and fools will never learn. People in attendance at the meeting this past week knew little to nothing about previous studies and efforts.

Absent from the new and improved downtown commission are the R/Udat study, the Leland Report from 2006 and other studies. The City has paid out nearly $400k for all these studies. Caldwell deserves better than what we are getting from the current city administration and Mayor Nancolas. Unilateral decision making does not build community. Nor does irresponsible spending of Urban Renewal property taxes on non-economic projects. All this bad behavior will continue until citizens start holding elected officials accountable for the millions they have spent with no apparent results. We do have a five block addition to the city park system in the form of the uncovered creek project. True economic development, synergy, and sense of community continue to degrade in our downtown core. Twelve years of Mayor Nancolas leadership and we are worse off today than we were before he took office.

Add to this the we learn the Canyon County Fair Board is pulling up stakes and leaving the city of Caldwell. Mayor Nancolas has claimed he knew nothing of this move but people close to the fair board claim the City of Caldwell was very difficult to work with when it come to doing something in Caldwell to improve and make the fairgrounds a viable venue for the fair.

City officials also have managed to bungle a new big box retail complex out of 20/26 as well. Again the familiar refrain.. the city of Caldwell is just too difficult to work with. "We do not want to be the retail pioneer in the city of Caldwell" were the parting words of the developer as he moved to Nampa to do his projects.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nampa Library, Keep the dream alive with a bond election

Debbie Holm wrote a guest opinion in the IPT today (8-11-09) about the New Library project for downtown Nampa. Friends of the Library are holding all manner of fund raisers from used book sales to you name it to raise money for the library. Meanwhile they are waiting for the Idaho Supreme Court to rule on a Rexburg case dealing with Urban renewal abuse of taxpayers.

It would appear Ms. Holm is hoping for a favorable ruling of continued taxpayer abuse so Nampa can have a brand new $38 million library without a vote of the people. Ms. Holm has to be a well intended citizen of Nampa but has forgotten about the principle of "THEY ASK AND WE DECIDE".

Bond elections are there for a reason. It is a ceremony conveying a right of passage and support for a big dollar project. Urban renewal agencies all over Idaho continue to abuse taxpayers and circumvent bond elections at every opportunity.

If Ms. Holm wants a new library then put it up for a vote of the people. They will let you know if they are willing to pay for this project via a proper bond election.

Caldwell Urban Renewal Agency to "Loan" $300K to TVCC. Mulit-Million Dollar Building Next

Caldwell Urban Renewal Agency board approved a draft resolution to "loan" $297,700 to TVCC this past week. The "loan" will be interest free and the repayment details very sketchy.

Under terms of the resolution money from the loan will go to remodel the Mercado building and other upgrades for the benefit the Oregon based community college. The money will be a stop-gap effort at best. What is really confusing here is the original site for a 60,000 square foot building was supposed to be in the Sky Ranch business park. Mayor Nancolas jerked the rug out from under this effort in his state of the city address this year. Mayor Nancolas unilaterally moved the site to downtown as a part of the catalyst project/city hall effort. None of this has been requested nor approved by the citizens of Caldwell. Mayor Nancolas indicated he would seek voter approval for this project. To date no election of any kinds has been offered up for voter oversight.

What we have now is Mayor Nancolas, Finance Director Eljay Waite, Councilor Rob Hopper, and Urban Renewal Board members Leona Fouts and Amy Rojas moving forward with a 30,000 square foot structure three stories high on Blaine Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. The intent is for the Veterans Outpatient Clinic to occupy the ground floor and TVCC the upper floors. Not enough room per previous requests from TVCC for classroom space and no site yet slected by the VA on bid packages submitted.

This effort is now the new and improved "catalyst project" for downtown Caldwell. The cost will be in the $6-10 million dollar range and no voter approvals or oversight for this project. It is yet another move by Urban Renewal to lock out voters on millions of dollars on a project nobody wants nor have they asked for in our downtown area. It is the actions of five people deciding what is good for the rest of us.

Why is Caldwell Urban Renewal supporting an out of state college with Caldwell property taxpayer dollars. Why aren't we allowed to vote this up or down with a proper vote of the people. It is a blatant case of Idaho Urban Renewal Law being abused to the fullest extent possible. (See Draft CEURA Resolution 2009-2)

We will not see economic development in downtown Caldwell with this project. What we will get is more property removed from the tax rolls, a duplication of what is already offered by College of Western Idaho, and more property taxes heaped on the taxpayers of Caldwell. The City of Caldwell will be going into the landlord business locking out private development. The need for this project simply has not been demonstrated beyond those on the urban renewal board declaring it so.

It would make far more sense to support voter approved College of Western Idaho with our scarce property tax dollars.

Final Note: Canyon County Commissioner Steve Rule who is a member of the CEURA board voted no on the $300k "Loan" resolution to TVCC.