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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Where Is the Point of No Return On Canyon Jail Project

It was "SUMMARY JUDGEMENT DAY" today and the Canyon County Commishes found themselves in front of Justice Linda Copple-Trout and they lost their bid for a dismissal of a citizen initiated law suit over jail expenses out on Highway 20/26. The Judge also did not allow an injunction to stop any further expenses. THE GUARDIAN sat through most of the testimony presented by County Chief Civil Deputy Chuck Saari and the Citizen's attorney Richard Harris.

The short version is the Commishes have just about reached the "point of no return" on this jail deal. The Judge frequently cited Article 8 section 3 as she probed both sides in this case. At some yet to be defined point in time, expenses will create a legally defianable tax liability for taxpayers going beyond one budget cycle The Commishes will have finally violated Article 8 section 3 of the Idaho Constitution.

Expenses so far are about $1.5 million for engineering costs and about $2 million for land purchases on the jail project. Commishes admitted to having $2 million more in the 2009 fiscal year budget for water and sewer lines to the property but have not yet let the contracts for the work. The water and sewer improvements may constitute the point of no return and cross that line the judge is looking to determine. This adds up to around $5.5 million and we still won't have a jail facility or any voter approvals.

The Judge is waiting for more information from Mr. Harris gleaned from depositions of Commishes and other elected and appointed officials taken earlier this week. The legal process grinds forward in this case. It remains to be seen if the Commishes realize where they are headed with the Judge if they continue to push their luck.

What really needs to happen is for the Commishes to put a CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT BOND ELECTION up for voter approval. They have the third floor of the courthouse hallways loaded and cluttered with church pews that will go in courtrooms to be built when the Assessor, Platt Room and Development Services offices are vacated from the courthouse.

It has not yet come out in the media but the Commishes will close on the Job Service building purchsse on October 3, 2008. Price to be paid is $1.3 million to the State Lands Board. They will then have to front the costs of the moves of licensing offices, assessor and development serives out to the new site along with the conversion costs of those old offices to new courtrooms on the third floor of the courthouse. This move could run into several millions for the conversions and remodel jobs.

The judge gave them some breathing room but not much in court today.

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