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NeciaSeamons / Photo by NECIA P. SEAMONS 

Artistry of agriculture

The graceful lines of windrows just north of the KACH radio station, belie the dry dusty work it is to prepare hay to be baled. In addition to cutting hay, Franklin County Farmers who bring their grain into Valley Wide’s granaries have been coming in with their new harvest for about two weeks, said Jessie DeLong, who manages the feed department for Valley Wide. To date, the company’s granaries are about half full, but the Valley Wide’s capacity to store grain is far from being full, as it has storage areas in Whitney and across the street from the store, as well. “Harvesting is going well. The test weights on the grain are good. Everything is going well,” he said.

According to Shawn Parkinson, Valley Wide has the capacity to store about 300,000 bushels of grain. The co-op takes in corn and barley, but determined not to take wheat this year, since they moved their organic operations from Downey to Preston.

Preston City moves funds to pay debt

Two public hearings started off the Aug. 26 Preston City Council meeting.

The first one concerned the question of what to do with the $400,000 that the city had budgeted for garbage pick up. The city turned over the duties of garbage pick up to Franklin County several months ago, and at the end of the public hearing it was decided the move the now unused funds to the water and street department. The street portion of the funding will go toward the continuing effort to chip seal and repair many blocks of city streets that are in various states of disrepair. The other portion of the funding will go toward retiring the debt from the finished project to build a redundant culinary water line from the storage tanks near Glendale reservoir to the city distribution system.

The second public hearing was a routine consideration for the next fiscal year of the city budget. The budget was passed with no comment from the public that was in attendance at the meeting. The final approved city budget for FY 2020 is $4,746,380.

Julie Johnson of 289 Eagle Way requested a refund of $1,500 that had been held by the city until the required swale in front of her property was installed. It has not been, and Johnson reminded the council that several other residences also had not put in the required swales or had filled them in after receiving their refunds from the city.

City Engineer Tyrell Simpson pointed out to the council that the whole point of the requirement for swales is to prevent flooding and to provide for rain and snow melt water to run off. All of the city council members commented that they had also noticed the illegal filling in of swales at several sites. It was decided to task the city code enforcement officer and city engineer with the job of insuring that the swales are opened up, brought up to code, and properly maintained.

Council member Terry Larson requested that a school bus turn-around be built on city property in the area next to Foster Reservoir. No decision was made, and city attorney Lyle Fuller will investigate the request, which was made by the Preston School District to help facilitate the district’s efforts to reduce the amount of time children are on buses.

Some children on the Glendale route are currently on the bus for over an hour, and a turn-around along the road south of Foster Reservoir will reduce the time they need to be on the bus by about a half an hour.

The Rotary Club requested that the city contribute $16,000 for the annual fireworks display during the Pioneer Day fireworks show. It was briefly discussed, and a decision put off until next April.

Two young people, Megan Jensen, 13 and her brother, Kaleb, 11, asked the council to allow them to conduct a small business in the city park during soccer season.

“They are taking an online class on entrepreneurialism and as part of it, they need to start their own business. They thought it would be fun to have a bake shop at the park,” said their mother, Tammy Jensen. They will be selling baked goods and cotton candy, she said.

Mayor Beckstead congratulated the youngsters for having the courage to address the council, and the request was approved for a one-year period.

Parents tired of gold cards, district told

Parents are ready for the Preston School District to find another way for their children involved in sports to raise funds.

“Our kids have enough of gold cards,” Darren Kelley told board members at their August meeting. Youth participating in sports are asked to sell a certain number of cards at the beginning of the school year. The funds are funneled into the fall sports programs.

Of the $25 dollars the cards, which offer coupons to buyers, cost, $10 goes to the card company and $15 to the program. Over last three years the district has averaged $15,000 from the sale of the cards, which is split up between teams, said superintendent Marc Gee.

“I’d rather give $25 if I knew it was going to the team instead of $10 go to someone else,” Kelley said. “I’m asking you as a board to come up with something else and put this to an end.”

His request was seconded by Brett Meek. Both men say they have more than one child interested in participating in the program and when they consider the youth in their neighborhood. That means a neighborhood becomes rapidly saturated with requests to purchase the cards — or parents purchasing an inordinate amount of cards of coupons they don’t use.

“It’s the kids that do fall sports that get the pressure,” said Meek.

The board agreed to review the program.

“The pressure is not supposed to be heavy. This is supposed to be an opportunity,” said board member Brooke Palmer. Board member Fred Titensor noted that individuals interested in donating to any aspect of the education of local youth are invited to do so through the Preston Education Foundation.

“You can donate to the education foundation, such as $500 and it’ll cost you about $125, because of the way the state weighs education deductions. Donations could be earmarked to any team or teacher you wanted to.”

In other business, the board welcomed new teachers hired for the 2019-20 school year.

Amy Roberts, who has been substitute teaching and volunteering in the district, recently finished her teaching certificate through the ABCTE program and is teaching fifth grade. She originally graduated from Utah State in nutrition and food science.

Story Hines will split her time between the junior high and high school teaching English. She graduated from college in 2016, gained her teaching certificate through the ABCTE program, then earned a masters degree.

“This is my fourth year teaching,” she said, but is coming from a “very large district is said she’s glad to be coming where she can can “get to know people.”

Sara Kartimedies, a Logan native, is coming to the district from Australia to teach choir in the high school and the junior high. (See the Aug. 21 edition of The Preston Citizen) She accepted the position two weeks before school started, so despite being tired, she said she had “a great first week. The kids are great.”

Samantha Averett – is also teaching English at the junior high. This is her first job as a teacher and she hopes to gain some experience before returning to school to get her masters degree.

Craig Cunningham will teach high school English as well as weight training. This is his 23rd year teaching and coaching sports. He will be helping to coach the PHS varsity football team.

Three other teachers have started with the district, but were unable to attend the board meeting. They are Jen Oxborrow, who will teach first grade, Cami Thorsen, who will teach speech and language, and Dakotah Atkinson, who will teach economics and Spanish.

A delegation of the Preston Future Farmers of America attended the meeting and requested permission to attend the 92nd annual National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana at the end of October. Fourteen students and two advisors will attend the 92nd national state convention Oct. 26-Nov. 2. They will be part of a 65,000 delegation at the convention and will take the school’s poultry judging team to compete nationally.

The board granted the youth their request, then heard about changes to the district’s bus routes that will allow children in Treasureton an extra half an hour at home in the mornings.

“We did some rearranging and some of our new sub drivers had some ideas that knocked 20-25 minutes off the route,” said transportation supervisor Kevin Seamons. Children on those routes are getting on the bus at 6:50 a.m. now, instead of 6:20 a.m., like they were last year.

He also split the Riverdale route and created a lower Riverdale route that also covers part of Preston, and takes pressure off of leaving so early in the morning; and a route to Maple Creek in Franklin. That makes 19 routes for the district this year.

Seamons was also happy to report that he was able to hire four new drivers, something the district desperately needed last year.

The district will also be disposing of two of its older busses and receiving two new transit buses with improved controls on emission as part of a government granting program to reduce traffic-created pollution.

Seamons also reassured board member Brandon Roberts that he continues to look for a reasonable price on a travel bus.

That prompted a quick review of the savings the district has accumulated through the purchase and use of vans instead of busses for smaller groups of youth.

Already we would have spent $264,000 in bus fees if we hadn’t had vans,” said Supt. Gee. Seamons was thanked for his work in “keeping the fleet and crew in order,” and the bus routes were approved.

The board also renewed a contract with Franklin County Medical Center – Contract for its athletic trainer, which began three years ago. Instead of $10,000, the contract is $12,000 per year for three years. All other aspects are the same.

“For the amount of time he spends it is still a bargain,” said Titensor. The partnership with the FCMC has also allowed the district to cut costs on hiring a certified speech pathologist supervisor.

Last year, the district contracted with IHC for services “to the tune of $38,000 a year to supervise our speech language pathologist. It was in our opinion more than needed to happen, and more than state required,” said Gee.

“Last spring FCMC hired their own speech language pathologist for their own purposes. But that means they have someone that can be our supervisor. They can do 6-8 hours a week. Already that’s more than what state was requiring. So we were able to save a significant amount of money,” he said. “We are bringing money back home and we have another speech and language pathologist working with our kids rather than doing paperwork”

Franklin County adopts bigger budget

After several months of hard work, the Franklin County Commissioners finalized and adopted the budget for fiscal year 2020 during its Aug. 26 meeting.

The new fiscal year begins on October 1, 2019, with the new budget covering over 50 line-items and expenditures. The county budget has grown over the current 2019 fiscal year budget, with the new one coming in at $46,339,974.

The FY2019 budget was $43,342,299. Part of the difference in the budget totals are state mandated requirements for increases for public defenders and federal increases for the airport as well as several other fiscal requirements of the county. There was also a modest increase in payroll costs of 3% in a COLA increase. The growth in population and its impact by adding to the property tax revenue will largely offset the FY2020 budget growth.

Jared Ricks of the Idaho State Public Defense Commission held a brief discussion with the county commissioners and announced that rules for the hiring and scope of public defenders duties will be put off for a year. “We want to get this right,” said Ricks. Commissioner Dirk Bowles agreed strongly with the statement, and pointed out “that getting it right is more important than getting it fast.”

County Prosecuting Attorney Vic Pearson listened to the whole conversation and asked Ricks if the mandated increase in Public Defenders would lead to the entire program being taken over by the state, because the burden of paying for the program was going to be very difficult at some point for the counties. Ricks gave a vague answer to the effect that he couldn’t speculate on what the legislature might do in the future.

Austin Bracken spoke to the commissioners regarding the status of the elevator in the courthouse. Bracken said that the various parts had been ordered, but the elevator is so old that parts often have to be custom made because off-the-shelf items had disappeared many decades ago.

“When will it be finished?” Commissioner Bowles asked very directly. Bracken replied that maybe by November because the parts are very difficult to replace in the 80-year-old system. Even when repaired the elevator will not be ADA compliant.

The Family Dollar Store in Preston asked for and received a Retail Alcoholic Beverage License from the commissioners.

The balance of the meeting covered routine meeting and county business subjects, with the commission going into executive session at about 11:45 a.m.

Franklin City approves budget

A public hearing was held Wed., Aug 28, for citizens to raise questions or concerns about the budget for the City of Franklin next year. In explaining the slight hike in expenditures in the future, Mayor Hawkes said, “We are actually tightening our belt to plan for the bills coming due.” Expenditures for 2018-2019 were around $677,000, whereas, the projected amount for 2019-2020 is approximately $777,000. The new budget was approved.

Additional police protection was also discussed. The $12,000 contract is up for renewal, and the council vote was split with two voting for renewal, and two voting against. The discussion was tabled until the next council meeting, Sept. 11, when the sheriff will be invited to answer questions about the coverage involved.