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.
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