GUEST OPINION BY
By Marisa Keith
The highly publicized Ada County Highway District vehicle fee increase on the November ballot suggests that the agency needs more revenue to maintain and construct the county road system. However, there are other plans in the works at the agency that seem to suggest that the bank account may not be as low as the public is being led to believe.
A recently created ACHD Community Watchdog group has been gathering information about a new multi-million-dollar administration building as well as a temporary five-year lease for office space to be used during the construction period.
ACHD either has more cash on hand than they wish to reveal or they will be returning to voters seeking construction funds through a bond request.
In 2016 ACHD Commissioners approved a contract with the architecture firm CSHQA for over $1.3 million dollars. In a public record request earlier this month it was discovered that already over $630,000 has been spent on multiple architectural drawings, engineering, title work, and soil testing. Total cost for the building has been difficult to determine as this project has not been discussed at length at public hearings, or during the recent budget adoption, nor is cost discussed in the upcoming Single Integrated Operational Plan which is on the regular agenda for Wed. October 17th at noon.
One ACHD representative stated it might be about $5 million, but a 2015 memo estimated costs between $10 and $12.8 million not including property acquisition. If the recent Boise Fire Department failure to comply with their bond approval terms is any indication, costs are likely to be significantly more.
ACHD is also considering a lease for the 17,711 sf second floor of the CSC building at 1301 N. Orchard. This five-year lease will cost $301,087 a year with an increase of 3% in years 2-5.
Little is known about where the money for this project is coming from. The FY 19-20 budget has one line that shows $1.4 million being set aside for professional services and construction, and in some memos there is a reference to the future facilities fund.
At the ACHD meeting last week the Commissioners declined to sign the lease until after the November election. Two commissioners are up for re-election and they felt that whoever fills their seats should decide if it is appropriate to spend that amount of money. Safe cover to avoid discussion during pending vehicle fee increase.
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