County Commissioners Meeting 1.6.23
In the basement of the Elmore County Courthouse on Friday, Jan. 6, the Elmore County Commissioners held their first regularly scheduled meeting of the new year.
It was a lengthy meeting riddled with invaluable discussion. The Commissioners began their meeting in executive session, after returning to the regular session, a motion was made to approve emergency funds to repair the roof and conduct other necessary repairs to the Elmore County Driver’s License building to the tune of $44,000. This came on the heels of the Mountain Home News anonymously receiving a letter donning signatures, that were confirmed, from Sheriff Mike Hollinshead, Chief of Operations Greg Berry, Sgt. Wendy Robison, and a number of driver’s license examiners. The letter listed unsuitable conditions including “significant breathing issues” and concerns about “electric shock or fire hazards.” The letter concludes asserting, “we are endangering the public, our employees, and our maintenance crews.” No doubt the employees of the office and the signers of the letter will feel relief over the action taken on Friday.
After some discussion with Sheriff Hollinshead regarding his request for approval of funds to purchase a side-by-side for the Sheriff’s Office, the Commissioners heard from two individuals who spoke with the Commissioners regarding a petition that was signed, delivered to, and approved by the state for a ballot initiative that would create a new college taxing district in Elmore County. The individuals explained that if the initiative were to receive a majority of votes and pass, Elmore County would be served exclusively by the College of Southern Idaho (CSI). It was unclear exactly what services would be provided should the tax district be approved. According to the individuals, CSI is preferable to other colleges because of their CTE programs. The individuals expressed their desire to create a “workforce pipeline.”
Following this, the Commissioners received an update regarding a survey being created to be distributed to county residents that is aimed at gauging constituents’ interest and investment in water projects being considered by the county.
After a break for lunch, the Commissioners returned to the courthouse and address Mr. Gordon Jones, President of the College of Wester Idaho (CWI). Mr Jones was present alongside the college’s Director of Government Relations. According to the pair, they were meeting with the Commissioners to discuss the services, programs, and future outlook for the portion of Elmore County that resides within the college’s service district. A “service district” is an area that is provided services by a college or university at no cost to the residents of the district. Currently, Elmore County is, uniquely, split into two service districts, served by CWI and CSI at no cost to the county’s taxpayers. With representatives of CWI present, the Commissioners took the opportunity to ask about CWI’s thoughts and perspectives on the ballot initiative that proposed the creation of a taxing district. Mr. Jones took the opportunity to express that he felt the petition which received signatures misled those who signed it. He provided a copy of the petition, which he claimed did not do enough to express that the change would involve taxation. The petition did indeed fail to use the word “tax”, instead the petition title and text reads, “Petition to Create a Community College District.” Mr. Jones claimed to have spoken with a number of individuals who signed the petition, and subsequently claimed that a majority of those who signed the petition were unaware that the initiative would create a taxing district. Mr. Jones also noted that the tax districts that currently serve CWI (not Elmore County, which is, again, a service district that receives free services) pay $7.82/$100,000 per individual. He highlighted that the cost of CSI’s proposed tax district in Elmore County would charge residents roughly $96/$100,000, totaling to an amount of 2.3 million dollars from residents each year. Supporters of the ballot initiative, the County Commissioners, and the CWI representatives engaged in discussion, deliberation, and even, at times contentious debate. Bud Corbus speaking against the ballot initiative even said, “Don’t punch a gift horse in the mouth” appearing to be referencing the services provided by both CWI and CSI currently provided to residents and the county at zero cost. Mountain Home School District (MHSD) Superintendent James Gilbert was also present, and shared input. He highlighted the services already being provided by both colleges within Elmore County and the MHSD, and noted the importance of transparency with the public regarding taxation. At one point, he stated that in outreach to both CWI and CSI, CWI were the ones who expressed the greatest interest in servicing and supporting Elmore County.
Following approval at the state level, the ballot initiative will be required to be taken to a county-wide vote. The Commissioners expressed their concern over the lack of communication with the public in the drafting of the petition, and additionally expressed concerns over the language on the petition and its clarity in demonstrating that it proposes the creation of a taxing district.
Following a slew of approvals of other action items, including payroll, a liquor license, tax cancellations, and more, the County Commissioners made a motion to adjourn.