Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dave Case Sworn In to Replace Commissioner Vern Bisterfeldt

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 9:57 AM

Dave Case, left, with his daughter Makyla, center, and Ada County Clerk Christopher D. Rich, right.
  • Andrew Crisp
  • Dave Case, left, with his daughter Makyla, center, and Ada County Clerk Christopher D. Rich, right.

Dave Case, the man hand-picked by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to replace the outgoing Vern Bisterfeldt as Ada County commissioner, was officially sworn in at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, May 29.

While that procedure was performed first thing that morning by County Clerk Christoper D. Rich, the process was repeated in a first-floor Ada County Courthouse meeting room at a meet-and-greet. Case will hold BIsterfeldt's seat for the remainder of his term.

"If I win the general, then I'll sit for four more years. That's the hope; if we win. It's all about the win," said Case.

At the front of the room, Case and Rich stood opposite one another, separated only by a Bible held by Case's 17-year-old daughter, Makyla. After finishing the ceremony, Case mingled in the crowd.

On the opposite side of the room stood his Republican primary challenger and incumbent, Sharon Ullman. Case won out against Ullman in the primary, but now will sit with her until both their terms end in January.

"All day long, we were up in a meeting today, I thought it went real well," said Case. "We're both professionals and we're going to do our jobs. I'm a professional—and I hope that will continue."

Ullman left not long after the ceremony, but before she did, Boise Weekly asked if it would be difficult to sit next to her opponent until January.

"No, things are going great," said Ullman.

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Tuesday: Day of Gem State Bomb Scares

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 9:33 AM

A unique magazine promotion evolved into a full-blown bomb scare in Pocatello on Tuesday.

Forty employees were ordered out of the U.S. Courthouse in Pocatello Tuesday and a one-block perimeter around the building was cordoned off after the discovery of a magazine embedded with a small electronic device prompted a security alert.

A bomb disposal team sent a robot to the scene, which removed the parcel. But the item was harmless, consisting of a tiny electronic musical device inserted into a popular magazine.

The incident lasted four hours and the courthouse remained closed for the day.

Meanwhile, Highway 55 between Eagle and the Avimor subdivision was shut down for more than three hours Tuesday because of another bomb scare.

A motorist told police that a "bomb-like device" was spotted alongside the highway. Hundreds of vehicles were diverted away from the north-south road while another bomb-detecting robot determined that the device was used computer equipment.

And Idaho law enforcement had to deal with yet another potentially explosive situation on Tuesday, this time in Lewiston.

According to the Lewiston Tribune, a bomb squad returned the scene of a Lewiston home after the discovery of a box of dynamite, the second such discovery in as many weeks. Law enforcement had already found a container of explosives of May 15 (Primary Day), which resulted in the displacement of a nearby polling location. Lewiston police said the homeowner (now deceased) had collected explosives over several decades.

The bomb squad was expected to continue combing through the property to see if there were anymore dangerous discoveries.

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Solar Panel Manufacturer To Shutter Nampa Plant

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 9:28 AM

Idaho's struggling economy has cast another cloud over the solar industry.

Less than a week after Hoku Materials announced it was halting construction at its Eastern Idaho location and laying off 100 employees, Transform Solar said on Tuesday that it would close its Nampa facility along with its Boise office, resulting in 250 pink slips.

Transform, owned by Micron Technology and Australia-based Origin Energy, manufactured solar panels and cells.

The layoffs are expected to occur in a series of stages, beginning in mid-June and continuing for three months until the operations are shut down.

Micron said it would offer severance packages to Transform Solar employees and would assist in finding employment within its organization at locations in Idaho, Utah and Virginia.

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Hailey Developer Posts No-Trespassing Signs When He Doesn't Get His Way

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 9:24 AM

A Wood River Valley developer wasted no time in telling the public to keep off the trails long used by hikers in Quigley Canyon.

Last week, the City of Hailey decided against an annexation of approximately 900 acres of Quigley Canyon into the city, which would have given a green light to developer David Hennessy's plans to build more than 400 homes on the site.

But this morning's Idaho Mountain Express reports that Hennessy has retaliated by blocking off Quigley trail access to the public.

New signs at the trailhead read, "We are sorry but due to the city of Hailey's recent denial of our annexation proposal, we can no longer provide public access to this property." Additionally, Hennessy hired a backhoe operator to dig a 100-foot-long, 2-foot-deep trench along Quigley Road. But local officials immediately ordered the digging to stop and the trench to be filled.

Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle told the Mountain Express that Hennessy's plan to close the trails was "sad."

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Idaho Supreme Court Upholds Verdict Against Land O'Lakes For Cattle Deaths

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 9:21 AM

The Idaho Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Land O'Lakes was at fault for a bad batch of milk replacer that led to the deaths of more than 100 calves at a Magic Valley ranch in 2005.

This morning's Twin Falls Times-News reports that the high court ruled in favor of J&J Ranch , which had successfully sued Land O'Lakes. Ranch owners Jesus Hurtado and John Reitsma initially won $150,000 in damages. But Land O'Lakes appealed and in a second trial, damages were reduced to $50,000, and were reduced again by another 40 percent. Land O'Lakes appealed a third time, to the Idaho Supreme Court, asking to overturn the verdict or order a new trial.

The Times-News reports that the high court upheld the verdict, saying that the trial had produced "substantial and competent evidence" that the the milk replacer made by Land O'Lakes was at fault. But the court also denied a request by the ranchers to add attorney fees to its judgment.

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The Family That Stays Together ... Pays More to Fly

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 9:17 AM

More airlines are increasingly charging passengers extra for a window or aisle seat, leaving families who want to sit together paying extra. The move—a bid to boost revenue—was also designed to reward frequent travelers, who don't have to pay extra for the seats.

Passengers must increasingly reserve the select seats in advance at a cost of $25 or more each way.

The Oregonian cited a Jan. 3 tweet from American Airlines that served as an announcement of sorts for the new policy:

"To ensure seats together, preferred seats is a great option. Customers can purchase starting at $4."

The tweet linked to a section on American's website about how to secure seats together for extra money. The Oregonian cited airline industry consultant Robert Mann as saying carriers were increasingly reserving aisle, window and other choice seats for those willing to pay extra, while others block off a section of the plane for elite frequent fliers.

The change is among a number of policies implemented by U.S. airlines recently that have been criticized as family unfriendly. Last month, United Airlines ended its policy of allowing families traveling with small children to board early.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Five Wives Vodka Banned by Idaho State Liquor Division

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2012 at 4:38 PM

A brand of vodka distributed by Ogden's Own Distillery in Utah dubbed "Five Wives Vodka" has been banned from sale in the state of Idaho.

The Huffington Post and Associate Press report that the Idaho State Liquor Division took issue with the name, calling the moniker "offensive" to a segment of Idaho's population.

"We feel Five Wives Vodka concept is offensive to a prominent segment of our population and will not be carried," wrote deputy director Howard Wasserstein in a letter addressed to distributor Elite Spirits here in Boise.

The Huffington Post reported:

Steve Conlin, partner and vice president of marketing at Ogden's Own Distillery, the producer of Five Wives Vodka, found the Liquor Division decision to be "extremely misguided" if based on religious concern. “We can only presume he means Mormons," Conlin says in a press release emailed to The Huffington Post, “Though that makes little sense as they allow Polygamy Porter from Wasatch Beers of Utah to be sold. We’re a little dumbfounded by it all." According to the U.S. Census, 27 percent of Idaho's population are members of The Church of Latter-day Saints.

However, the liquor was approved for distribution in Utah, which has a large LDS population, as well as in neighboring Wyoming.

The distillery is now offering "Free the Five Wives" T-shirts for sale to push Idaho to reinstate the liquor.

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Boise Masonic Temple Gets An Orchid; Destruction of Linger House Gets An Onion

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2012 at 4:36 PM

Nancy Richardson of Preservation Idaho hands the Orchid Award to Brian Reczek, president of the Masonic Temple Asssociation of Boise.
  • Sarah McGuire, Everhart Photography
  • Nancy Richardson of Preservation Idaho hands the Orchid Award to Brian Reczek, president of the Masonic Temple Asssociation of Boise, on May 19.

Boise's iconic Masonic Temple was singled out as one of Idaho's so-called "orchids" on May 19 in a unique ceremony showcasing the Gem State's monuments to historic preservation. Unfortunately, the ceremony also included an "onion" to mark the demolition of the century-old Linger House in Idaho Falls.

The 91-year-old Masonic Temple, at the corner of 10th and Bannock streets, also played host to the 35th annual Preservation Idaho Orchids and Onions Awards Ceremony. The temple was the 2012 recipient of the Heritage Stewardship award, acknowledging the institution's dedication to preservation.

The Idaho Historic Preservation Council decided to honor the temple, even though no application was submitted on the building's behalf. Dan Everhart, the treasurer of the board of Preservation Idaho, said an exception was made for the Masonic Temple for its commitment to history.

While the orchid award was the highest distinction awarded by Preservation Idaho, the board also gave its annual onion, for the demolition of the Linger House in Idaho Falls.

“There was really no obvious necessity for getting rid of the Linger House ... just to put in surface parking," said Everhart. "It’s the ultimate insult when that demolition is for parking.”

The full list of the 2012 Orchid and Onion awards recipients can be found at

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Boise State Study: Climate Change Could Decrease Aquifer

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2012 at 3:31 PM

Two Boise State researchers warn that climate change could lead to "a significant decrease to the aquifer for the Boise and Spokane rivers' basins, resulting in an even broader impact to Treasure Valley residents who depend on the basins for drinking and irrigation.

“Essentially, this is going to shift the hydrology of the basin and that is going to affect wildlife, wildfire possibilities," said Boise State civil engineer researcher Venkataramana Sridha, who authored the study with colleague Xin Jin. "I would also say that it is going to have an effect on the flows of the river, and depending on how it is managed, for rafters and recreational purposes.”

Sridhar and Jin concluded that between 2010 and 2060, the Treasure Valley's changing climate patterns could increase temperatures two to four degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, precipitation rates are expected to change, ranging anywhere from a 3 percent decrease to a 36 percent increase. The changes would dramatically impact snow-melt timing, stream flows and aquifer recharge sequences.

“It is going to have an effect on hydrology of the basin scale as well, and then it will also have an effect on the recharge,” said Sridhar. “So we are talking about increased snow in the form of rain, which will probably have less time for infiltration which will mean less time for recharge.”

If snow-melt occurs earlier than usual, Sridhar said the Treasure Valley could see less moisture in the later part of the year and drier soil in the later parts of the growing season. This, in turn, would increase the potential for wildfire and drought.

Although the new research projected a 50-year time frame for climate change and its effects, Sridhar said that the changes in climate are already affecting the Treasure Valley.

“I think we are already seeing that shift occurring right now,” Sridhar told Citydesk. “The last few years, the melt was actually happening faster and earlier, even if you think of what we saw this year and probably even last. We had more flows in the early part of the season and they had to really effectively manage the water to keep it at a safe level. So we are seeing the effect already and it might really be adding to this in the future.”

Sridhar said that this snow melt shift of about two to three weeks earlier, with the peak coming in April instead of May, will mean less time for water storage resulting in a possible shortage.

“Effective management will be the key instrument to manage this scenario,” Sridhar said.

Sridhar and Jin’s study results can be found online in The Journal of the American Water Resources Association.

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Boise Housing Inventory Hits 10-Year Low

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2012 at 1:01 PM

The Treasure Valley is bucking the national trend of declining home prices.

The closely watched Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller composite home price index revealed that prices in the first quarter of 2012 fell 1.9 percent, but home prices showed a 5.1 percent increase compared to the same period in 2011.

"The Boise housing market is bouncing back faster than I expected," said Mike Turner of Front Street Brokers. "The inventory of homes for sale in Boise is at a 10-year low, and demand for housing is up 26 percent since bottoming out in 2008."

Meanwhile, consumer confidence cooled in May to its lowest level in four months; the third month of declines. The monthly Conference Board report indicated that consumers' view of the labor market soured with 41 percent saying jobs were hard to get—up from 38 percent the month before—while only 8 percent said jobs were plentiful.

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