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Photo by RAPHAEL ARNSWORTH 

Magestic visitor

Raphael Arnsworth, Mink Creek, grabbed his camera when he saw this bald eagle coming in for a view of the landscape last week.


Preston
County Commissioners consider redear to preempt Quagga infestation

The February 24 meeting of the Franklin County Commissioners covered a wide range of topics of interest to citizens of the county. Among the most interesting was a discussion with representatives of both the Twin Lakes and Consolidated Water Districts. The first item discussed was funding to help defray costs of maintaining watercraft inspection stations. The inspection stations are part of the ongoing program to keep invasive species from polluting the two company’s privately-owned reservoirs, particularly from Quaga Mussels and their close relatives, Zebra mussels.

The mussels are extremely destructive to irrigation pipes, valves, and pumps. They multiply rapidly and are very costly to remove if even possible. As they have in the past, the commissioners voted to contribute $5,000 to each of the two irrigation companies to help fund the inspection stations for the coming boating and fishing season.

Commissioner Boyd Burbank has been researching the problem, and found that there is a species of fish, the redear sunfish, who’s favorite food is Quagga mussels. The fish is a game fish, a smallish sunfish, not unlike the bluegill which are already in the local lakes. Redear sunfish spawn when water temperatures are 65 to 89 degrees.

They have been introduced into Lake Powell and several other lakes in Utah in an effort to help control the Quaga infestations there, although the Utah effort may be “too little, too late” as Burbank said. “It is important to get ahead of the problem rather than try to play catch up,” he continued.

The fish are commercially available, and could become a self-sustaining population to help insure that the invasive mollusks don’t destroy the local lakes and irrigation systems.

The information that Burbank passed along was warmly greeted by officials from both irrigation companies. The companies will check with Idaho Fish & Game to get further clarification regarding importing the fish.

Stace Gearhart and Boone Smith presented the annual report on the status of the Department of Juvenile Corrections for the county. The report showed little increase in juvenile crime, and was particularly encouraging in terms of gang activity. There is essentially no gang activity in the county, thanks to careful coordination between all segments of the law enforcement community.

Kathy Ray and representatives of the Northwest Band of the Shoshone Nation led a discussion of the progress in regards to the interpretive center at the Shoshone Massacre Site just west of Preston.

The project is moving well and the upcoming summer season will see infrastructure consolidation, the removal of invasive Russian olive trees, and road building, with actual ground breaking for the buildings scheduled for early Fall. A previously approved county grant was reconfirmed.

Emergency Communications were discussed with Warren Wilde and Brent Larsen of the Idaho Emergency Planning Department in Boise. The discussion addressed various plans for disseminating vital information during an emergency. Most of the discussion was of a technical nature, and was also including input by Sheriff Dave Fryar.

The balance of the commissioners meeting concerned routine housekeeping business, and was concluded when the commissioners went into Executive Session.


Preston
Dayton City votes to build double well

Last year a water line broke on 1200 north, in Dayton, and washed out a swale. The road has been repaired and Wes Beutler presented a bill of $28,000 to the Dayton City Council during their February meeting. Both parties were surprised by the amount. Beutler said went over the bill for errors but it is correct. The city has a grant that will pay for it should the city’s insurance policy refuse to do so.

Aaron Beutler then explained the city’s water situation to the council. He broke down of the city’s fire suppression system and the buildings in the city that would pose the greatest demand on the system in an emergency. There are several problems. First, required fire flow is not available in much of the city’s boundaries where small diameter water lines are present. In addition, fire hydrants are connected to water mains with pipes smaller than six inches wide, which is in violation of Idaho Code. The local fire marshal has indicated it’s better to have a low flow fire hydrant than none at all. Second, many public buildings do not have built-in fire suppression systems.

That means they would have to depend on the fire engines when they arrived and that water would be distributed to the problem areas inefficiently. That reduces the maximum that the city water system can supply in that emergency. For example, based in the International Fire Code, the West Hall of H. B. Lee Elementary would require 585,000 gallons over three hours to extinguish, and since it has no fire sprinklers the maximum amount of water that can be supplied is 539,100 gallons leaving a 45,900 gallon water deficit. In good news, of the 11 sites that would need fire suppression the only other major building running a water deficit is the main high school building at 900 gallons.

Dayton has placed a yearlong hold on new water hookups. To alleviate this, the city may either increase the city’swater storage capacity, or drill new wells. The problem with option one is that according to state and federal guidelines the water in the tanks must be completely refreshed every five days to prevent water quality degradation. Currently during winter, when water consumption is at its lowest, the water gets refreshed every 4.3 days so the threshold of 5 days is too close to pursue getting a bigger storage tank at this time. Hence the well drilling options Beutler presented to the council.

He noted that the city needs another water source capable of 1,000 gallons per minute (GPM) and second that the current water rate is too low to pay for its own up keep. There are two well options available: a $1.4 million single well project or $1.9 million double well project. Beutler emphasized that the double well option was a better investment because the likelihood of the one well producing the 1,000 GPM the city needs, is not unheard of, but unlikely.

Beutler then presented three options for paying for new wells. In the worst case scenario the city can get a $200,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help with the US Dept. of Ag. (USDA) 40 year Loan at 3% interest. In the slightly better scenario the CDBG is $300,000 with the same loan. In the best scenario the CDBG is $500,000 and a $250,000 grant from the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) and a loan from the Dept. of Envi. Qual. (DEQ) for 20 years at 1.75% interest. Aaron did point out that the ACOE grant and DEQ loan can happen with the other two options. The city is ineligible for other grants due to the high median home income survey results from 2019, and it’s current low water rate. To qualify, the city would need to raise water user rates to $80.10 a month.

Though a water bill that high was off the table, other options to help offset the cost of the well project were explored, including quadrupling the impact/hookup fee from $5,000 to $20,000.

To pay for the future system rates would need to be as high as $53.73.

The current system required fees of at least $30.38, to cover the cost of maintenance and repair which the current $21 rate isn’t meeting. That does not cover large things like water line replacement, water tank replacement or replacement wells should one collapse.

The council emphasized that the water project will require a bond. The Council will hold a meeting on March 11, at 7:30 p.m., at Beutler Middle School Community Center, to explain the project to residents. If the project is to receive those grants the city will need to willingly bond first as this will demonstrate to the grant selection committee that the citizens of Dayton recognize the need for more water. The intention of the grants is to reduce a loan amount.

As the meeting drew on, Anna Mae Ward had to leave for a sporting event, effectively ending the meeting until she could be called to vote on the well project. The council unanimously voted in support of the $1.9 million, two-well project.

Brett Hyde who had been sitting through the meeting hoping to hear news on the water ordinances rewrite got good news. The second water hookup on his property can now be moved at his expense. City attorney, Steve Fuller, noted that the decision, “opened the door” for others to request to move their water hookup to another property.


Preston
Summers inducted into EI Ag Hall of Fame

Jim Summers, Preston, is one of seven of Idaho’s Agriculture industry leaders who will be inducted into the Eastern Idaho Agriculture Hall of Fame during the 48th Annual Banquet & Induction Ceremony, on March 13.

The others are Clen and Emma Atchley, potato seed producers; Sylvan Seely, irrigation industry leader; Carl Ellsworth, rancher, and Kent Taylor, potato grower/shipper.

In addition to the regional inductees, Idaho Governor Brad Little and ISDA Director Celia Gould will be honored as members of the Hall of Fame class of 2020.

The event will take place at the Shoshone-Bannock Hotel Events Center, Fort Hall, Idaho. A no-host reception begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $30 and can be obtained at the Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce, by calling 208-301-1620, or email eiagricultureHF@gmail.com for information. March 5 is the deadline for purchasing tickets.

Summers is the first educator to be honored by the award. He spent 41 years teaching ag ed and advising the West Side High School chapter of The Future Farmers of America. Summers was nominated by former student Doug Eck, and chosen for the honor based on his influence on students who have gone on with careers in agriculture and in agricultural education.

Born on a dairy and row crop farm in Tremonton, Utah, Summers grew up loving agriculture and the FFA program, a program he has supported throughout his life. He earned a B.S. degree in ag education from USU in 1974, followed by a M.S. in 1980. His career at West Side High spanned from 1974-2015.

During his tenure at West Side High, Summers was able to restructure a failing ag program into a successful and powerful source for hands-on learning in agriculture. Through his efforts, the ag shop was continually upgraded to meet current technology and industry requirements for skills and job readiness. Most of the improvements were made with limited funds and through community grants and mobilizing local “elbow grease.”

After retiring from teaching at Dayton’s West Side High School in 2015, Summers served as a cooperating teacher/mentor for 36 Utah State University teachers and five student teachers from the University of Idaho.

Summers, and his wife Debbie, live on a small acreage in Preston where they raise and train registered Quarter horses and Appaloosa horses. They are both enjoying retirement, and time with their three children, 11 grandchildren and three dogs.

Summers said he is honored to be recognized for something he thoroughly enjoyed. To think that he’s had an affect in the agricultural world of Southeastern Idaho means a lot to him.

“I’ve enjoyed people both locally and in the state. I have friends in business all over the West,” he said. But especially, he said, the job gave him an opportunity to “interact with the younger generation. Some of my best friend and acquaintances are past students and fellow teachers,” he said. “ Some of them still call. I enjoy hearing of their success,” he said.

Summers said he enjoyed being a part of finding something that could turn a youth on to their education, and lead to career choices that were fulfilling to them.

“You see the light come on, and they see that there’s more at school than math and English, which are important, but ag offers them something they enjoy,” he said. And the many opportunities the FFA program offers for youth to travel and compete offers another level of education Summers values.

“For some, its their first time out of town, on a plane or in a taxi. Education comes in many forms,” he said.

Last year, Summers was recognized by his peers with the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) Lifetime Achievement Award.

“He deserves it,” said one of Summers’ peers, Larry Stevens, a retired ag teacher who taught at Grace High School for 37 years. “Larin Crossley is another one,” he said.


Preston
Preston Council gets wastewater treatment plant report

Preston City Council was brought up to speed Monday during its Feb. 24 meeting, on design options for the upcoming wastewater treatment plant design, as well as more routine business.

The council meeting was directed by Allyson Wadsworth, council president. Mayor Dan Keller was away on vacation.

Colter Hollingshead, representing Keller Associates of Pocatello, outlined four options for the mandated rebuild of the city sewer plant. Keller Associates has been studying the city’s needs for the last year to determine the best options for the city to consider.

Regulations mandated by both the state and federal environmental quality organizations, the Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) require the city to revamp its sewage treatment plant to better control the release of nutrients and chemicals from the treatment plant. The city also wants a facility that will handle expected future growth.

The four members of the council voted to pursue what they felt was the most cost effective of the four options the engineers had presented. It calls for an oxidation ditch, which is the preferred technology both in terms of cost of building and operating the plant. It is also an updated version of the plant’s current system, which takes advantage of the training already invested in city personnel.

An exact cost of the system depends on several variables the city is currently working to determine, such as the purchase of additional land next to the current plant location. The council expects to have that info by the first part of the summer.

The council set March 16, from 7-8 p.m., as time to explain the process in an open town hall meeting to be held in the council room of the city building. The public is encouraged to come.

The council sees the public meetings as an opportunity to answer the questions of city residents regarding the reasons for and methods of building the new sewer plant.

In the council’s Feb. 10 meeting, Wadsworth noted that since the DEQ and EPA have given the city no choice as to whether or not to replace the city’s current sewer plant, it seemed that putting a bond request on the ballot for the public to vote, was a waste of time and money.

“It’s not a choice. We should just move forward,” she said. To do that, the city would request a judicial confirmation — a process in which a district judge determines if a municipal action is necessary. With that, and final numbers, the city would be clear to increase fees for sewer services to help pay for the new sewer plant. The grant process has already begun,” she said.

In other business, the city granted three new business licenses: Scott Palmer for Spit Shine, a car wash located at 596 North State; Gordon Brewster for Prime Shine Commercial Hood Cleaning located at of 279 South 1st West, and April Murray for April’s Wall Covering, located at 2223 South 1600 East.

Wadsworth mentioned that some members of the Festival of Lights Committee were retiring: Matt and Nicole Nielsen and Sharla Thain, and will be replaced by Desiree Sharp and Tanya Ogden.

“We appreciate their service. It’s a busy committee, and the Festival of Lights wouldn’t happen without them. A lot of volunteer works goes into it,” said Wadsworth.

She said with the new ornaments for the tree and park in place, the committee will focus on downtown business and poles this year.

“It means a lot to the community to continue this tradition. I appreciate their willingness to serve,” she said.

Also in the Feb. 10 meeting, the council approved the appointments of four new planning and zoning commission members to fill the positions vacated by Linda Hansen, Brock Alder, Chuck Chesney, whose terms expired and Vern purser who recently resigned. The new members have been appointed on staggered terms so the commission won’t need to fill so many positions at once.

“It’s an unsung and thankless job and we really appreciate their service,” said Mayor Keller.

The new members are Jeff Pope, David Cole, Adrienne Alvey and Bernie Winn. Pope as the commission’s impact zone member, as he lives outside of the city limits, will serve a three year term. Cole will serve a four year term, Alvey a five-year term and Winn a six year term, each of which began Feb. 12.