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Fire closes lane of traffic

Fire from an undetermined cause burned 20.1 acres of stubble and brush at milepost 11 on HWY 34 near the county landfill on Wednesday, Sept. 2. Approximately 50 small straw bales were destroyed as well. The field and straw belong to Mark T. Owen.

Firefighters were paged at 2:20 p.m. Fire crews were assisted by county landfill employees, who used a road grader and a dozer to make a wireline, keeping the fire from burning into the landfill.

“The biggest hazard the fire department faced was the strong south wind which made the fire burn very fast. We were very fortunate to keep the fire from crossing the highway to the west,” said fire marshal Matt Gleed.

”A big thanks to the landfill employees and Franklin County Sheriff’s Department” who closed Hwy 34 for a short time allowing fire trucks to extinguish the fire from the northbound lane. The fire department deployed four brush trucks, one water tender, a fire-fighting UTV and a command truck to the scene. Fire crews had the fire out and cleared just after 5 p.m

The Fire District is not issuing any burn permits until after September due to the hot dry conditions in the county, said Gleed.

Locals benefit from Blue Sky program

Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky renewable energy program celebrates 20 years of community impact.

Idaho Blue Sky participants have helped support community-based projects and the growth of clean-energy resources across the state, including two in Franklin County: one for SIETec at Preston Junior High School and one for Consolidated Irrigation Company (CIC), located above Glendale Reservoir.

A few years ago, CIC undertook a major effort to pipe their irrigation ditch to correct seepage problems. As a part of the piping project, CIC installed a low-impact hydroelectric power system to capture the energy of water moving through the irrigation pipe.

In 2015, CIC completed installation of a 481-kilowatt generator, which feeds power directly into Rocky Mountain Power’s electric system and helps keep costs low for the nonprofit irrigation network. They received a Blue Sky community project grant of $46,922 to help construct the system.

The program also funded a solar installation for three Southeastern Idaho Technical Charter School campuses. Together, the schools received a $204,000 grant funded by Blue Sky participants to add individual 38.5-kilowatt solar array systems to West Side High School, Preston Junior High, and Malad High School. The project is expected to generate 66,356 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, allowing the schools to save money and divert more resources to serving local students.

The schools offer a focused curriculum designed to build important skills in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, the arts and math, and work with industry partners to inspire future careers in renewable energy and beyond.

“First, and obviously, there is a financial aspect to the project,” said Preston School District Superintendent Marc Gee.

”We invested limited dollars (about $10,000) for a project that will generate approximately $5,000 per year. The lifespan of the project, without replacement, is about 25 years, and so after two years our investment will be paid off” said Gee. In his estimation “$5000 a year, when compared with what we pay in our power bills is a modest amount, but as a school system, every little bit helps and can be used for other projects in our district,” he continued.

”Second, this provides an educational opportunity for our students to gain an understanding of solar power generation which has links to several of our science curriculums. Monitoring how weather patterns affect solar generation and the physics of a photovoltaic cell are just two examples of how we can apply specific learning goals to a system that is actively working within our district.

”As a district, we truly appreciate Rocky Mountain Power, the Blue Sky program and Blue Max Energy, for the part they each played in helping us develop this project,” he said.

West Side School District superintendent Spencer Barzee noted the ability the district now has to use green energy.

“The Blue Sky program makes it possible for our school district to have solar panels and utilize green energy. Without this program, we would not be able to have this access,” he said.

“Having solar here on our campuses not only helps our schools preserve critical educational funding for years to come, including this upcoming school year when we face some of our greatest challenges during the pandemic,” said Rich Moore, superintendent, Oneida School District. “These projects also provide a unique, hands-on opportunity for our students to learn how renewable energy can work for our communities.”

The premise is simple: when everyone takes a small step together, the impact can be momentous, states a press release from Rocky Mountain Power. “Twenty years ago, it was this idea that built Blue Sky — a customer-powered, opt-in program created by Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp, that helps local residents, small businesses, and municipalities support renewable energy and environmental stewardship in their communities and throughout the West.

As Blue Sky celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, program participants across PacifiCorp’s six states have supported 9.2 million megawatt-hours of renewable energy (enough to power around 938,000 homes for one year). Additionally, Rocky Mountain Power Blue Sky participants have helped support 160 community-based renewable energy projects for deserving local organizations like those in Franklin County.

“Blue Sky celebrates the power of community and the real change that comes from neighbors helping neighbors. Whether it’s new solar panels going up at a community center or a local wind project coming on-line, we are growing sustainable, renewable energy for generations to come,” said Gary Hoogeveen, Rocky Mountain Power president and CEO. “For 20 years, our customers have come together to support renewable energy and our communities, and it’s remarkable to see the tremendous difference their support has made.”

Launched in the spring of 2000, Blue Sky allows customers to match their energy usage with the purchase of renewable energy credits (RECs). It’s a simple way for participants to support new renewable energy in the West, above and beyond Rocky Mountain Power’s substantial and growing commitment to renewables.

Blue Sky is currently more than 135,000 participants strong, and according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory rankings, one of the top five utility programs of its kind based on most participants and most renewable energy supported. For many cities and counties, Blue Sky offers a tangible way to meet local sustainability and climate action goals.

In Idaho, nearly 2,000 Rocky Mountain Power customers take part in Blue Sky, and the number continues to grow each year. To participate, customers select the amount of renewable energy they want to support, then pay that extra amount on their monthly bill, starting at $1.95 per month. In addition to supporting clean energy to offset their energy use at home or work, participants also support community-based renewable energy projects for local nonprofits, schools and civic groups, and the development of new utility-scale renewable energy facilities.

LoToJa to pass through county on Sept. 12

The 38th annual LoToJa Classic will pass through Franklin County with approximately 1,250 cyclists on Saturday, Sept. 12.

Residents and motorists should experience only minimal delays, a race official says.

However, there may be no delays at all as groups of cyclists are expected to be smaller and more spread out than in past years, said LoToJa Race Director Brent Chambers. The change is because of several Covid-19 Adaptations that have been implemented to mitigate the health risks of cyclists, support crews and communities.

Like previous years, the one-day, 203-mile bike race from Logan, Utah, to Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, features two rider classifications and each will take different routes through Cache Valley early that morning, Chambers said.

Cyclosportive and relay cyclists will enter Preston from the south on State Street. They will turn left onto 8th South and proceed west. Next, they’ll turn right onto 2nd West and proceed north to 2nd North where they’ll turn right and then immediately left onto 1st West and ride past Preston City Park for a feed zone manned by support crews and volunteers.

Meanwhile, USA Cycling licensed racers will approach Preston from the south on state Route 91, Chambers said. After passing Preston Junior High School, racers will turn right onto 2nd East and pedal north to 4th North where they will turn right and proceed east to 8th East. There, they will turn left and continue north to state Route 34. At the highway they’ll turn right and continue to Riverdale and Strawberry Canyon.

All licensed racers will stay east of Preston’s business district, and will not stop in Preston for any feed zone, Chambers said. Plus, their support crews and vehicles will not drive through Preston. Instead, they’ll take US-89 in Logan Canyon to Bear Lake and will continue to Montpelier to meet racers for a feed zone there.

Preston City Police and traffic control contractors will assist at numerous intersections to keep traffic orderly, he said.

Although LoToJa-related traffic will be kept to a minimum in Preston, motorists are advised to remain alert. Also, on race day, the Idaho Transportation Department will restrict eastbound traffic on state Route 36 north of Preston between Riverdale and Ovid from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. Eastbound traffic on US-89 between Montpelier and the Wyoming state line will also be restricted from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The temporary travel restrictions are used to add an extra layer of safety for eastbound cyclists, Chambers said. Motorists are asked to use caution while traveling on these two roadways during LoToJa, and to anticipate encountering groups of cyclists. Cautious passing is advised to ensure safety for motorists and cyclists.

Chambers defined “cautious passing” as slowing down, giving at least three feet of space between the vehicle and cyclist(s), and patiently waiting for oncoming vehicle traffic to clear before pulling around a cyclist or group of cyclists.

LoToJa cyclists, plus their support crews, well-wishers, event staff and volunteers, represent an entourage of approximately 3,000 people, Chambers said. He expressed gratitude to every community that LoToJa has the privilege to ride through.

“Without the support of every community along LoToJa’s course, we wouldn’t be able to hold the event with a premium on safety,” he said.

Started in 1983, LoToJa winds across northeastern Utah, southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming. There are also three mountain passes with almost 10,000 vertical feet of climbing. Participants ride the entire course in one day. The current men’s course record is 8:18:29 and the women’s is 9:35:00.

Most LoToJa finishers are on their bike 10 to 13 hours. LoToJa is the longest one-day bicycle race in America that is sanctioned by USA Cycling, the sport’s governing body.

During its nearly 40 years of existence, LoToJa has grown into one of the nation’s premier amateur cycling races, attracting riders from across the U.S. and foreign countries. It has also become a major fundraiser for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and other health-related organizations. To date, LoToJa sponsors and participants have raised more than $2 million for these causes.

Preston City finalizes sale of rodeo grounds to county

District Judge Mitchell Brown met with city officials and representatives of the city’s engineering firm on Sept. 2, to determine whether the city would receive judicial confirmation to raise a levy to pay for a new sewer treatment plant.

After reviewing the documentation, public notices and learning that no one expressed an interest in testifying for or against the procedure, the judge approved the confirmation.

This judicial confirmation will allow Preston City to proceed with financing to comply with EPA and Idaho DEQ mandated upgrades to the Preston City Waste Water Treatment facility. The maximum estimated cost of this upgrade will not exceed $34 million, said Mayor Dan Keller.

With the approval of the judicial confirmation, Preston City will immediately commence working with the engineering firm Keller & Associates out of Pocatello, to procure grants available from the USDA, Army Corp of Engineers, DEQ, and other regulatory agencies. It is expected that at least 30% to 40% and possibly more of the cost of the project will be financed with grants, subsidies and loan forgiveness. The rest of the project will be financed with indebtedness that will mostly be provided by USDA and DEQ low interest financing, he said.

In other city business conducted during the Aug. 24 meeting, the council finalized a deal to sell the rodeo grounds to Franklin County, which will lease the property to That Famous Preston Night Rodeo.

The city then considered an appeal by Brandon Timothy to revoke the Preston Police Chief’s determination that Timothy’s dog is considered vicious.

Timothy’s dog attacked another dog while its owner, Eleanor Talbot, was walking it across the street. A dog fight ensued, which Timothy broke up. Talbot’s dog was injured slightly, according to the report.

The council unanimously upheld the chief’s decision, which means the animal is not allowed within city limits.

Mayor Dan Keller appointed Dr. Justin Carter to the city’s planning and zoning commission to fill a position resigned by commissioner Jeff Pope, due to health problems. Carter will fill the rest of Pope’s three-year term, until Feb. 28, 2023.

Councilman Todd Thomas brought to the council’s attention several improvements he would like to see made to the Craner Field property, such as a walking path and making the restroom ADA compliant before winter. However, until the city is able to close on the sale with the seller, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the city will have to wait. City attorney Lyle Fuller was directed to see if the Church would be willing to close sooner than the noted 60 days. The city has paid earnest money on the transaction.

An approval on the SS&S minor subdivision requested by Spence Rogers and Susan Atkinson was tabled due to a lack of documentation.

After considerable discussion, the council decided to waive building permit fees required of Preston School District to construct new bleachers along the sides of the school’s football field.

Although the council is willing to work with intergovernmental agencies, the city wants the proper paperwork on the project filled out. The school district had done so online, but city staff had not seen it.

“It was simply a matter of miscommunication,” said Mayor Keller. The council approved waiving the city’s portion of the building permit fee upon full completion of the project. The situation brought to light the ambiguity of the city’s code on the matter, said Mayor Keller, who doesn’t believe the district should be required to get a building permit for such a project.

The council determined to not take any action on receipt of a petition submitted by a neighbor to a lot at 315 West First North, who would like the city to make some road improvements before town homes are built on the lot.

“The city council did not take any action because the city’s planning and zoning commission had already approved the permit with no stipulations,” said Mayor Keller.

Councilwoman Allyson Wadsworth discussed the annual festivities sponsored by the city such as a Halloween walk through the city’s business district and the Festival of Lights. “We are still on hold, because we want to do something, but we don’t know how to handle it (in light of COVID-19) yet,” said Mayor Keller.

Councilman Dodge requested that the council direct the planning and zoning commission to focus more on the city’s comprehensive plan than rezoning the city. Despite some discussion on the matter, a determination was not made.

Coronavirus cases raise by four over last count

As of Thursday evening, Sept. 3, the Southeast Idaho Public Health District had reported four new cases of coronavirus in Franklin County since Monday, Aug. 31.

That made a total of 64 cases identified locally. Of those, eight were active on Sept. 3, the latest update before The Preston Citizen went to press due to the Labor Day holiday printing schedule. None were hospitalized as of that date, but two had been formerly: a woman over the age of 50, and a man between the ages of 19 and 49.

Of those cases that were active as of Sept. 3, four were men between the ages of 19 and 49. One is a woman of that same age range. Two are males over the age of 50 and one is a woman of that same age range.

Franklin County remained in SIPH’s minimal risk category, which means that there was no evidence of exposure in large communal settings such as a healthcare facility, school or mass gathering. Bannock, Bingham and Oneida counties were also listed as minimal risk. Bear Lake, Caribou and Power were listed as moderate risk.

In Cache County, as of Sept. 3, a total of 2,182 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed; three of them were hospitalized. There have been a total of six deaths due to the virus in Cache County.

SIPH urges all residents to take precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19. This includes practicing social distancing at all times, wearing cloth face coverings in public places, practicing good hand hygiene, and isolating immediately if you show symptoms of COVID-19.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

•Fever or chills


•Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing


•Muscle or body aches


•New loss of taste or smell

•Sore throat

•Congestion or runny nose

•Nausea or vomiting