Ada Commishes Spending Spree

A good story in the Daily Paper by reporter Cynthia Sewell last week got buried thanks to the antics of Sen. Larry Craig and family.

She tells us in a positive manner the Commishes are running amok in the real estate game grabbing property all over the county for expansion of county facilities. It won’t surprise most GUARDIAN fans–or detractors–we have some concerns about what, why, and how the county is buying all this real estate. Here is what the GUARDIAN knows about at present:

–The EMS folks are taking a building at 2762 S. Featherly Way in SW Boise for an ambulance station. Before we could even pose the question, they tell us the purchase and renovation will come in at about the same price as the share of the Boise-Whitney fire station on Hollandale which then backed out of…nearly half a million dollars.

–A huge 85,000 square foot vacant warehouse on 4.5 acres near the Town Square MAll on Benjamin Lane is set to become the storage and office complex for the Election Division of the county clerk…$4.5 million.

–A new “Meridian Campus” keeps growing with skeeter and weed control facilities, EMS ambulance station end potential sub offices of various county agencies.

–The Sheriff will take over the Boise Police space on Barrister when the cops move to the new “city hall west” that Boise is creating and take additional land in the area.

–The County Commishes are also grabbing up retail space that Civic Partners has been unable to rent at the Front Street Courthouse and adjoining apartment buildings.

Most of these spaces are being acquired under the eminent domain law. Something just isn’t right about the process. We think it is probably rooted in something to do with bidding requirements–property seized can be acquired for the public need and paid at an agreed price…thus freezing out anyone else wishing to buy or sell for the same “need.” Also, there seems to be a lot of cash available for these projects.

Eminent domain is most often used for highway widening for turn lanes, safety issues, etc. This sudden rush to buy warehouses and retail space–even “lease rights” to space–just doesn’t seem proper.

The GUARDIAN obtained an executive SUMMARY of the ownership and tax status to the Courthouse and associated buildings on Front Street between 3rd and Broadway. Ownership, leasehold rights, and tax status are a nightmare which will only get worse with the latest eminent domain condemnations. There are more than 40 parcels among the courthouse, parking garage, two apartments, and the Water Building. Even a “men’s locker room.”

Boise’s urban renewal agency (CCDC) owns some buildings, the county owns the land, Civic Partners owns portions of some buildings and lease rights to some property, and the state of Idaho owns some buildings and rents space to private companies.

Because of the GUARDIAN inquiry, the Assessor corrected $80,000,000 in assessed valuation that should have been exempt. It appears only the CCDC will be affected by the change since all revenues in the area go to them anyway. We sympathize with that office since deeds are hard to find and some of the contracts are in excess of 300 pages.

Our opinion is these deals should all be in the public arena. Bids should go out for construction or rent, (“Ada county seeks bids for ____”). Citizens may not want to fund the expansion or they may want it in another location.

There is nothing wrong with bringing services to the citizens, but we fear eminent domain and question splitting the EMS station apart from a new fire station when the opportunity–and plan– was to join forces in one location.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. I believe eminent domain should only be used for situations where the government has no choice (i.e., widening or extending a road, which must be done in a certain place, or forcing the sale of a chronically dilapidated property in the context of urban renewal).

    If the government is simply aquiring space or land that is available elsewhere, they should act as any other purchaser in the open market. ED is a serious power that should only be used in cases where there is no other choice and a compelling public need.

    EDITOR NOTE–Wonk, we share your view which only adds to our suspicions. The spaces they are “taking” from Civic Partners have been vacant for about 4 years.

  2. Dave, what you reported on was very good. I almost didn’t read beyond the first sentence however.

    I have found Cynthia Sewell’s work (and I say that tongue in cheek) to be generally of little importance. This “reporter” seems to print stories by press release. She certainly could not get a job with the Guardian. She does no investigation on her own.

    Of course, neither does the Statesman for the most part. They seem to be a good fit.

    EDITOR NOTE–In her defense, we would never have known ANY of this without her reporting.

    The GUARDIAN fills in for the lack of “investigative reporting,” but we will be first to admit on this one it is a carryover from the original Courthouse fiasco, but the mess is still there. More questions than answers.

    We have yet to get an answer to the question of, “Is the county still paying for outside legal defense counsel for the staff prosecuting attorney who crafted these agreements?”

  3. Grumpy ole Guy
    Sep 9, 2007, 11:30 pm

    So, the Ada County Courthouse, which was built to last the needs of the County for decades to come is too small? Or, too filled with rentors? Or, too filled with …… ?

    Well, hell, it just doesn’t seem to have an up side, does it.

    Grumpy is as grumpy gets done to.

  4. 1. Isn’t there cheaper warehouse space available than the building by the mall?

    2. Is the County going into the restaurant business. Her article mentions putting in food service. The deli in that spot went belly up. Don’t see why the County should do that.

  5. Mike Murphy, Bull Moose Tenor
    Sep 10, 2007, 11:17 am

    Though I was pleased with the reception my Mayoral Campaign got (before it was cut short by a death) from some of the local media, I must say that the Fourth Estate does little to encourage “Mr. Smith” to become engaged in the process. The Status Quo is a friggin mess, and while I am the first to recognize that every “suggestion” of my candidacy was not a Golden Nugget, I was disappointed, as a citizen, at the scant attention the media paid to them. Nearly ALL candidates for any office have at least one Golden Nugget that can benefit their community, and I believe that the good men and women of the press can do much more to promote the democratic process that produces them. I say this not as a damnation, but as a Call to Arms. The “People” need your help. Because, until something gives… The CCDC is going to keep creating more “Pits”, sprawl will become the norm, crime and the scourge of methamphetamine will continue to grow exponentially, and the Powers-that-Be will kill The Goose, and complete the Kalifornification Boise.

  6. That building by the mall is huge and mostly office space. In fact it is a horrible layout with a huge amount of open space. There is a reason it’s been for sale for a few years. Second I recall the price on that property was lowered before and in this market I’d expect it would sell for a much lower price to a private buyer. I would think the election board would only need a half dozen offices and 5000 feet of warehouse space not enough space for a hundred workers….

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