The day after word reached the Preston station of Rocky Mountain Power that a rare Derecho Storm left 1.9 million people in Iowa and Illinois without power, four Franklin County men had their bags packed and were on their way to lend a hand in restoring it.
Joe Campbell, Mike Bunn, Ben Cox, and Jared Moore left Aug. 11 and returned Aug. 18, spending time in Des Moines and Davenport, Iowa, helping Rocky Mountain Power’s sister company, MidAmerican Energy restore electricity.
Beginning at 8 a.m., on Aug. 10, the storm gathered strength and swept across Iowa and Illinois with wind gusts up to 120 miles per hour in some places. It blew itself out around 7 p.m. At 55 miles per hour, the storm travelled 770 miles in 14 hours, leveling some of the nation’s richest corn crop country and breaking off trees in its path. Iowa reports that 43 percent of its corn crop, more than 10 million acres, was damaged. Trees fell on houses and in power lines and power poles were snapped.
As of Aug 26, a post from the City of Cedar Rapids noted that 25,543 truckloads of debris (approximately 58,872 tons) had been hauled away from that city’s streets.
The massive amount of trees uprooted, snapped or split and lying on homes ad automobiles made an impression on Campbell. Bunn noted that the corn fields were “just flat.”
“When we left Des Moines, I heard on the radio, there was only 200 people out and when we arrived, there were 60-80,000 people out,” said Campbell.
Fighting the heat and humidity was the hardest part of the job, said both Campbell and Bunn. “We weren’t used to that humidity. It was also a challenge to understand the MidAmerican Energy’s system and to be able to reach the areas they needed to get to,” said Campbell.
“It was good to get out of our comfort zone and help some people at the same time,” said Bunn.
The best part of the job, beside the adventure of working in a new area, said the men, is the gratitude and friendliness the people of Iowa showed them.
“I was struck by how nice the people were. They’d come by and stick a hand out and say, ‘thank you for helping us.’ Some people would leave water in coolers for us. One older lady came out and gave us cookies. They are just very nice people, and at that point all these people had been out of electricity for four days. They were still just nice as nice.
Without electricity, Campbell said, people lost a lot of food they had stored in refrigerators and freezers. “One gentleman lost $600-$800 of insulin,” he said. The experience showed him that “when we are going through tough times, we can still be decent people, because those people were.”
At the Franklin County Commissioners meeting on Aug. 24 the first item of business was a proposal by Dean Stutzman to change phone service providers. The commissioners said they would consider it due to a cost savings.
Troy Moser presented his report on the cost for a new cell at the landfill and how it would extend the life of the current location. Much of the groundwork has already been laid due to a previous project making the extension very cost effective. He also discussed the need for a different way to process cardboard as it is no longer recycled. The commissioners approved the plan for a new cell.
Moser was joined by members of the Forest Service and Tom Brown, a road engineer with the Forest Service, who discussed with the commissioners the newly signed Great American Outdoors Act and how they expect it to benefit Franklin County. The commissioners agreed to have Moser work with the Forest Service on improving existing roads in the county as well as the Forest Service roads that connect to them.
The next item was a discussion with Stacy Rindlisbaker about moving the county to a new insurance program. Some of the benefits include lower cost and the ability to use the Franklin County Medical Center as a primary care provider. The commissioners approved the change.
The Commissioners then began the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Hearing and the balanced budget was approved.
Commissioner Bowles thanked county clerk Camille Larsen for her work. The mosquito abatement program budget was also approved.
Randy Henrie came before the commissioners to discuss the need to change a handful of addresses in Riverdale that were wrong. He noted that some residents are requesting the county cover any fees related to changing their address. The commissioners approved compensation not to exceed $50 for those affected.
A presentation was then given by Major Shaw Allen of the Idaho National Guard’s 101st Civil Support Team. He described the assistance and training they can provide to local authorities and emergency services.
Superintendent Spencer Barzee then addressed the commissioners and thanked them for their previous help. He requested approximately 2,500 cubic yards of gravel on which to build more classrooms and a multi-purpose room for the elementary school once plans are completed. The multi-purpose room will be used as a cafeteria and gymnasium. The gravel donation was approved by the commissioners.
The West Side School District has been juggling lunch schedules throughout the district with its growing population. On average there have of 16-20 new elementary students per year over the last six years.
“We’ve grown 200 students since 2013, which is a whole school,” said Barzee. That is 31 percent growth over seven years, or 4.5 percent annual growth. The district hopes to begin the project within the next couple of years.
Concerned citizens took the Franklin City Council to task on the mosquito abatement program Wed., Aug. 12.
Ron Wilkinson expressed the main issue when he stated, “I hate to see it cut back even five minutes.”
Mayor Hawkes admitted the city had cut back a little, but people called in and the program ramped back up immediately. The city sprays for mosquitoes on Thursdays and Sundays, complimenting the county testing and treatment on Tuesdays. Councilman Keith Porter expressed concern that the spray kills honey bees in addition to other insects according to the hazmat label. He also pointed out that organic farms don’t allow it due to the filtration into the feed and milk of their cattle. Porter stated that he doesn’t like mosquitoes either, but stressed that the city use wisdom in its administration of the abatement products. Hawkes assured the group that there was definitely a need for abatement, but they should take Porter’s comments into consideration.
Shannon Eggleston introduced the council to her coaching business, Nurture Your Ambition, LLC. Applying for a business license, she explained that she has been trained to help people discover their talents and direct them into careers best suited for them. She has a website and will handle most of her business online out of her home. Her training and expertise will qualify her for an ACC credential from the International Coaching Federation. Eggleston’s request was approved.
As the meeting was held the week of the 4-H/FFA Market Animal Sale, the city voted to donate $150 toward the program.
An Aug. 25 accident in the intersection of State Street and Oneida illustrates a problem facing drivers along Preston City’s two main streets: the danger of same-direction traffic when turning.
Preston Police officers responded to a traffic accident in which a 1983 Peterbuilt semi had hit a 2008 Mazda, which was being drug under the semi’s trailer.
Both vehicles were southbound making a right hand turn west onto Oneida from State Street. The semi was in the traffic lane and the Mazda was in the space between the traffic lane and the sidewalk.
Jessy Wanner, who was driving the semi, told officers that when the light turned green, he turned, felt that he had made contact with something, then noticed the Mazda underneath his trailer.
Thelma Rowley, who was driving the Mazda, said she pulled up behind two other cars, which made the turn west safely, and as she followed them her vehicle was struck.
“I just keep thinking, ‘Stop! Stop!’” she said.
The semi sustained damage to its rear tire and landing gear on the passenger side.
The Mazda was totaled due to the damage is sustained. Rowley was cited for passing on the right when not permitted or safe.
Rowley, who said she is not going to fight the ticket, said she is more interested in making sure something is done to prevent the same accident from happening again.
“Something has to be learned from this. It’s not a good intersection at all,” she said.
The problem, she said, is because local traffic uses the “bike lane” between the traffic lane and the sidewalk as a turning lane, it is not safe to turn right from the traffic lane at the intersection.
“I was in it the next day and I was afraid to turn right for fear someone would come up behind me and t-bone my car,” she said.
When the current lane configuration was completed in Preston 2018, the fact that a solid line had to be crossed to turn was noted by drivers. Then Preston Police Chief Mike Peterson said drivers would not be cited for crossing the solid line to turn right.
Current police Chief Dan McCammon said, regarding the right hand turn, that the Idaho code says turns should be made as close the curb as possible. “Drivers must be aware of what is going on around them,” he continued.
He feels the intersection is “quite safe,” and that “there are not too many accidents there.”
“As with any driving you’ve got to pay attention,” he said. The code says that drivers should pass on the right only when it is safe to do so. If you’ve got a semi sitting there with a turn signal on, that’s not safe,” he said.
“Really, nothing has changed as far as the rules of the road (Idaho traffic law) from the previous lane configuration to the one we have now,” said Chief McCammon. “The person making the turn has to make the turn safely. It is not just dependent on the way the lane is marked.”
According to Preston Police records, the number of accidents in Preston have dropped since the lane diet was put in place.
In 2015 there were 106 accidents, 22 of which were on State Street and five at the intersection of State and Oneida.
In 2016 there were 114 accidents, 21 of which were on State Street and two at the intersection of State and Oneida
In 2017 there were 131 accidents, 14 of which were on State, and zero at the intersection of State and Oneida
In 2018 there were 112 accidents, 10 of which were on State, and one at the intersection of State and Oneida
In 2019 there were 91 accidents, 16 were on State Street, and one at the intersection of State and Oneida.
Preston Mayor Dan Keller said the situation would be discussed in the next city council meeting. “At the minimum, there needs to be more signage,” he said.
Information on several thefts and attempted thefts in Cache County and Franklin County was found following two arrests made on Aug. 23.
In a routine patrol of the Bear River Massacre Site pull-out at milepost 13 on HWY 91, a Franklin County Sheriff officer discovered Brandon Ames, 35, and Jimmy Martin, 43, with a black SUV hitched to a trailer and acting suspiciously. A check of their identification revealed that Ames was wanted on a felony warrant from Bannock County.
Martin and the vehicle matched a description of a person who was reported as having attempted to steal an ATV on Aug. 21, at 800 North 1000 East, Preston. At that time, the suspect had abandoned the effort when confronted by the reporting person and left in the black SUV.
When back-up assistance arrived from the Preston Police Department, Ames sped away, nearing colliding with another patrol car that was about to enter the driveway to the site. A chase north on HWY 91 ensued and traffic in the oncoming lane had to move out of the way as it wove in and out of both lanes of traffic. When smoke and sparks began appearing underneath the black Lincoln Navigator Ames was driving, speeds decreased until Ames exited on 7200 North and drove to a home on 2600 East. At that point, he exited the vehicle and officers arrested both him and Martin.
As officers investigated the vehicle and the trailer it was pulling, they recovered drug paraphernalia, hydrocodone, methamphetamine, and heroin, as well as several stolen items. Among them were two dirt bikes confirmed stolen over the weekend from Cache Honda Yamaha in Hyde Park, Utah.
The enclosed trailer was confirmed stolen from JM Mechanical over the weekend in Hyde Park, Utah. It is suspected that the tools were stolen as well.
Ames was charged with felony attempt to elude an officer, felony of possession of a controlled substance, felony possession of stolen property, misdemeanor possession of burglary tools, and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to use.
Martin was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, felony possession of stolen property, misdemeanor possession of burglary tools and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to use.
They were both booked into the Cache County Jail; Ames with no bond, and Martin with a $50,000 bond. Martin has since posted bail and been released.