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Preston
Daniel Wendt to be new Pioneer principal

Preston School District has hired Daniel Wendt to fill the position of principal at Pioneer Elementary. Scovill resigned earlier this year to take a job in Utah.

Wendt comes to Preston from Idaho Falls, where he was the superintendent of Taylor’s Crossing Public Charter School. He started his teaching career in Dubois, Idaho, teaching accounting and computers and coaching volleyball and basketball. He moved back to Montana to be closer to family and spent several years as an accounting teacher and district computer coordinator. He became a high school principal in Cut Bank, then went on to being the superintendent in Troy, Montana.

He returned to Idaho as the sole administrator for Taylor’s Crossing Public Charter school, where he has had many accomplishments, including establishing a new athletics program in the school.

Realizing that he wanted to spend less time in the board room and more time with teachers and students, he decided to pursue his favorite part of the Taylor’s Crossing job — being an elementary principal.

Wendt “loves the students and the amazing teachers, and he has been very impressed with Pioneer Elementary School so far. He’s looking forward to building on all the great programs” and working with the staff towards continual improvement, said Preston School District Superintendent Marc Gee.

He looks forward to getting to know the staff, and “he loves connecting with the students and telling imaginative stories. He reveres great teachers and works hard to support them in every way,” said Gee.

Wendt and his wife, Judy, were both born and raised in Montana — each on different sides of Glacier Park. Together they raised nine children and enjoy 31 grandchildren. He loves the community feeling of smaller towns, and looks forward to becoming involved in Preston, said Gee.

“We are excited to have Mr. Wendt joining our team for the coming year. He has years of experience and we look forward his contributions to the school and students,” said Preston School District Superintendent Marc Gee.

He and a committee of pioneer teachers and Lance Harrison interviewed eight candidates form a pool of 30 applicants for the job in early March. The committee unanimously chose Wendt to fill the position.


Senior love

PHS Senior Class President Shelbie Hull said she wanted to give the seniors positive encouragement through all the sadness/negativity about not having their senior year go as planned. So she organized some of her classmates to send a message to the rest of her class. ”I asked a few seniors who I knew were positive examples that would help brighten others’ day. They were so willing to help,” she said. She loved seeing how the gesture “made so many seniors come together and show their love for our school, either by helping me out or posting it to their stories,” she said.


Preston
top story
For print FC CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

As things change daily due to the effect the coronavirus has in our FRANKLIN COUNTY community, they will be posted here. Please contact us (208-852-0155 or copy@prestoncitizen.com) if you have an event that has been postponed or canceled or, if you need help or have ideas or services that can help others. We will share them here on a daily basis.

Monday, April 20

• Idaho is reporting 1,672 verified cases of COVID-19 and the number of deaths is 45. No cases have been confirmed in Franklin County. Other counties with confirmed cases include Ada (570), Adams (1), Bannock (5), Bingham (3), Blaine (470), Bonner (4), Bonneville (16), Camas (1), Canyon (181), Caribou (1), Cassia (10), Custer (2), Elmore (21), Fremont (2), Gem (9), Gooding (7), Idaho (3), Jefferson (4), Jerome (36), Kootenai (51), Latah (3), Lincoln (17), Madison (5), Minidoka (7), Nez Perce (22), Owyhee (4), Payette (9), Power (2), Teton (7), Twin Falls (105), Valley (2), Washington (1).

• Cache County‘s confirmed cases of COVID-19 are at 40.

Thursday, April 16

• Idaho is reporting 1,655 verified cases of COVID-19 and the number of deaths is 41. No cases have been confirmed in Franklin County. Other counties with confirmed cases include Bonner (4), Kootenai (50), Latah (3), Nez Perce (22), Idaho (3), Adams (1), Valley (2), Washington (1), Payette (9), Gem (9), Canyon (181), Owyhee (4), Ada (567), Elmore (20), Camas (1), Blaine (469), Lincoln (16), Minidoka (7), Gooding (6), Jerome (36), Twin Falls (98), Cassia (10), Power (2), Bannock (5), Caribou (1), Bingham (3), Bonneville (16), Custer (2), Fremont (2), Jefferson (4), Madison (5), Teton (7).

• Cache County‘s confirmed cases of COVID-19 remain at 38.

Thursday, April 16

• Idaho is reporting 1,609 verified cases of COVID-19 and the number of deaths remains at 41. No cases have been confirmed in Franklin County. Other counties with confirmed cases include Bonner (4), Kootenai (48), Latah (3), Nez Perce (22), Idaho (3), Adams (1), Valley (2), Washington (1), Payette (10), Gem (9), Canyon (179), Owyhee (4), Ada (548), Elmore (18), Camas (1), Blaine (467), Lincoln (15), Minidoka (6), Gooding (6), Jerome (35), Twin Falls (89), Cassia (10), Power (2), Bannock (5), Caribou (1), Bingham (3), Bonneville (16), Custer (2), Fremont (2), Jefferson (4), Madison (5), Teton (6).

• Cache County‘s confirmed cases of COVID-19 remain at 37.

• The Idaho State Board of Education today approved minimum criteria for public school districts and charter schools to use in deciding whether to resume normal operations prior to the end of the current school year. Preston School District to make an evaluation closer to April 30.

Wednesday, April 15

• Idaho is reporting 1,587 verified cases of COVID-19 and 41 County. No cases have been confirmed in Franklin County. Other counties with confirmed cases include Bonner (4), Kootenai (48), Latah (3), Nez Perce (20), Idaho (3), Adams (1), Valley (2), Washington (1), Payette (10), Gem (9), Canyon (179), Owyhee (4), Ada (540), Elmore (18), Camas (1), Blaine (463), Lincoln (15), Minidoka (6), Gooding (6), Jerome (33), Twin Falls (87), Cassia (9), Power (2), Bannock (5), Caribou (1), Bingham (2), Bonneville (16), Custer (2), Fremont (2), Jefferson (4), Madison (5), Teton (6).

• Cache County has confirmed 37 cases of COVID-19.

• Gov. Little extends stay at home order until April 30, but loosens restrictions allowing non-essential businesses to now offer curbside and delivery services. (See related article: Gov. Little extends stay-home order with modifications)

Tuesday, April 14

• Idaho is reporting 1,461 verified cases of COVID-19 and 39 deaths. No cases have been confirmed in Franklin County. The state is again reporting the number of cases per county. No cases have been confirmed in Franklin County. Other counties with confirmed cases include Bonner (4), Kootenai (45), Latah (3), Nez Perce (20), Idaho (3), Adams (1), Valley (2), Washington (1), Payette (9), Gem (9), Canyon (167), Owyhee (4), Ada (530), Elmore (18), Camas (1), Blaine (458), Lincoln (15), Minidoka (6), Gooding (5), Jerome (30), Twin Falls (79), Cassia (9), Power (2), Bannock (5), Caribou (1), Bingham (2), Bonneville (16), Custer (2), Fremont (2), Jefferson (4), Madison (5), Teton (6).

• Cache County has confirmed 36 cases of COVID-19.


Preston
Franklin County busy sending out absentee ballots

Franklin County clerks, as well as staff from other departments, have been busy getting absentee ballots out to Franklin County residents, said Commissioner Dirk Bowles. As of Friday, April 17, the county has received 1191 requests for the ballots, said county clerk Camille Larsen. Usually, the county processes 200-300 absentee ballots.

“Its just crazy times. I never in my wildest dreams thought we’d do this,” she said, “but if it saves one life, then it’s worth it.”

Larsen said the county will be reimbursed by the Idaho Secretary of State’s office for any additional expenses the voting process will incur due to the COVID-19 virus’s disruption to the election process.

Each of the county’s departments has been requested to “watch their budgets,” said Bowles. “I am worried about budgets.” The commissioners think sales taxes will be down — if not his year, then likely next year.

But for now, department personnel are busy trying to keep business moving along while trying to comply with Gov. Little’s guidelines to keep meetings to less than 10 people, directing people to conduct as much business as possible online, and helping those who can not, one at a time.

Department employees have even abandoned break rooms, having their lunches in the equipment they run, said Bowles. Ten people attended the last commissioners meeting.

“I am hoping that on (April) 30, things are good and we can move to the first phase of opening the county,” he said. Representatives of Franklin County Medical Center, the Southeastern Idaho Public Health department and both school districts were meeting every day for a while to determine where preparations were needed. AS these preparations have been made, those meetings dropped to three times per week, and are now down to once a week unless something comes up, he said.

Regarding a recently reported concern that Idaho’s border counties wanted lottery sales banned within their boundaries or not, Bowles said Franklin County fielded no concerns from local lottery vendors, and commissioners did not address the issue.

The county received a $30,000 COVID-19 relief grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said Bowles.

“We are not changing anything (regarding operations), but those funds will be nice on the county budget. That will cover operations of the airport for a year,” said Bowles. FAA funds are usually not available for maintenance costs, he said.


Preston
City Council toughens up on spring cleanup

The Preston City Council had its first virtual public meeting on April 13 in keeping with Idaho Gov. Brad Little stay-at-home order and went through several major items of business, topped by an order to a put a lien on a new home to force infrastructure requirements be met.

The council, broadcasting on Facebook Live, also announced tougher requirements for its annual spring cleanup, which began this week, and reported successful refinancing for a lower interest rate on its water-project bond.

The infrastructure issue involved a new home on 800 South built by Shane Selley, who the city says failed to adequately repave his section of the residential street after putting in a sewer line.

Speaking to the council online over Zoom, Selley argued he was not properly informed about the paving requirements in multiple interactions with the city’s previous administration. Councilman Brent Dodge offered documentation to the contrary, and Councilwoman Allyson Wadsworth argued that granting any exception for Selley would be unfair to other people building homes in Preston who have adhered to the same requirements.

“There is a process, codes, things that are set that need to be done, and I feel like … there comes a time when we have to unfortunately enforce what is done,” Wadsworth told Selley. “It’s not personal. We tried to work with you last fall to get you the best deal possible. I wish you would have come sooner.”

In the end, the council voted unanimously to redo the roadwork and pass the cost on to Selley, enforced by a lien on his property. As a consolation, the council agreed to provide terms to the property owner on interest rates and other details, but these were not settled in the meeting.

In other business, the City Council formerly approved Preston’s annual spring cleanup, which had earlier been delayed, and Mayor Dan Keller stressed new rules and enforcement of old rules that he says have been increasingly violated by some people in recent years.

“It’s kind of gotten out of hand,” he told the Preston Citizen after the meeting. “The clean-up is only supposed to include limbs, trimmings, trees. It’s not supposed to include basic garbage or chemicals, and we’ve even had reports of people from other communities dumping off garbage on our streets to be picked up. That’s not the purpose of it. So I’m going to have to be bad guy.”

Keller said in addition to limiting the clean-up to organic refuse, the city this year will strictly enforce deadlines and have crews drive by each home only once during the designated pick-up weeks. For homes north of Oneida Street, this began Monday and runs through Thursday. For homes south of Oneida Street, the pick-ups will be from April 27 to 30.

Near the end of the April 13 meeting, Keller announced that the city will realize a savings of $135,000 as a result of refinancing Preston’s debt on its water-system improvement bond.

The $4 million bond has been paid down to $2.8 million, and the refinancing has brought the interest rate down from 3.25% to 1.97%.


Preston
Half of Franklin County has responded to census

About 64 million households across the nation are receiving paper questionnaires in the coming days as the U.S. Census Bureau continues to collect responses for 2020. The State of Idaho currently has a 52.1% response rate with Ada County leading at 63%. Franklin County is close behind at 56%.

The public can still respond online or by phone, or they can return the paper questionnaire by mail in the enclosed envelope. Census takers will follow up at a later date with all households that do not respond on their own. Responses on the census should cover the number of people living at that address as of April 1.