The waters get muddier. We visited ACHD and viewed their computer maps which are used to determine right-of-way and property ownership. According to the ACHD maps,the roadway behind the private gate is owned by ACHD.
NOTE–Check the comments below. GUARDIAN Reader Emonn Harter did some cursory on-line research and reports “the property owners served by Thomas Dr. are, Charles W. Fawcett, Rebecca W. Arnold, WDM Trust, Donald C. Barksdale, and Winston H. Moore. Arnold is the ACHD commissioner for the 2nd district and also general counsel for the W.H. Moore Company.”
UPDATE–11/13/18 GUARDIAN readers Tucker and Clancy Anderson shared the following letter they sent to the ACHD commishes today:
November 12, 2018
Ada County Highway District
Board of Commissioners
Garden City, ID
RE: Thomas Drive Bridge Project
President Baker and Commissioners,
We are concerned that an upcoming decision is being rushed thru that may need additional consideration or to allow the public input on the spending of public funds. The project in question is the widening of the Thomas Drive bridge. The agenda item for Wednesday’s meeting does not even have a link to a packet with additional info. Additionally, this project seemed to be added suddenly and does not show up on the ACHD Integrated Five Year Work Plan.
If you are not familiar, this bridge is served by a narrow road that crosses the Ridenbaugh Canal. As you cross the bridge you are met with No Trespassing signs that were posted by ACHD. Once you are across the bridge, there is a T-intersection that has gates on either leg with a multitude of signs warning that this is private property beyond the gates. From all the data posted online, bridge reports and GIS, it
appears this bridge and the road behind the gates are owned by ACHD; yet there was a request to vacate the road in March of 2008 per info retrieved from the City of Boise website. It is unclear if this request to vacate was finalized, but as mentioned prior this road right of way still shows as public. The gate has been across Thomas Drive since at least 2010 but could be earlier based on comments from prior residents as discussed on the Boise Guardian webpage.
Regardless of the status of the road, the estimated cost to widen may not fully account for the true costs of widening the bridge. These include survey and inspection of existing conditions, design/engineering and finally construction costs. The $30,000 budgeted seems to only account for the costs to widen and not any design costs up to date. This number may not reflect the actual cost based on future capacity or current Fire Codes.
While is unclear the current need to widen the bridge, any work that utilizes public funds should plan for future capacity. This is evident on other projects when ACHD is looking past 2030 to ensure adequate capacity. In the 2040 plan, there is a future collector shown that could easily connect to current stubs that are in the subdivision to the south of the properties that are accessed from Thomas Drive.
We would hope the Boise Fire Department has weighed in on several items prior to spending the publics money. The road, turn around, gate width, access and such should also meet the current version of the Fire Codes that are currently enforced.
If the turnaround or road needed to be widened, then those
costs also should be included in the actual costs of the projects.
What is evident is who lives behind the gate. Both Commissioner Arnold and her current employer, Winston Moore have houses on Thomas Drive based on records from the Ada County Assessor. Based on prior emails that were retrieved via a FOIA request, the discussion of a bridge has been in the works since the beginning of the year, if not prior. This set of emails included Winston Moore, Commissioner Arnold (using her personal email) and Director Wong.
· Jan 12th, Director Wong visits the bridge location to meet Winston Moore and potentially some neighbors. (based on an email arraigning the visit)
· January 30th, Director Wong replies to Mr. Moore that both engineers and maintenance staff had been researching the issues of the bridge and have started to identify costs.
· June 21st, Director Wong replies to Mr. Moore that the design of the bridge is almost ready for review and it will be shared to Mr. Moore
· July 2nd Sign is in works to help keep traffic off Thomas Drive (suggestion by Moore and agreed upon by Arnold).
· July 11th signs are installed based on an email from Mr. Moore.
This use of a personal email address by a public employee should also raise concern that public business
is being conducted via a method that could be shielded from being freely available by the public for inspection via the Idaho Public Record Act.
At the very least, Commissioner Arnold should recuse herself from this vote. She not only lives on Thomas Drive, but has received campaign contributions from her employer Winston Moore, another Thomas Drive resident.
I don’t believe you have even close to a full set of facts so I will add some additional information that you may find useful.
First of all, the paved area immediately before and behind the West gate on Thomas Drive is not, and never has been, public right of way. Mr. Moore owns property behind the West gate and installed that gate. I moved to another property on the west side about 2 years ago.
The concerns regarding the bridge were raised initially by Donald Barksdale, who lives on Thomas Drive as well. Both he and Mr Moore had numerous conversations with District personnel and District personnel visited the site several times. During the course of reviewing the matter, district personnel acknowledged that the bridge was substandard even at the time ACHD constructed it. The bridge is a single lane side and moreover the public pavement beyond the bridge is not wide enough to allow some vehicles to access the propeties. One of the most important issues that came to light is that the larger fire department water tank truck that would be needed in the event of a fire cannot access the site and there isn’t room for residents to flee as fire personnel come in. There also isn’t sufficient room on either side of the bridge for maneuvering or multiple vehicles. Since there is not any public water supply (all the properties have residential wells, some are shared wells) and there are no fire hydrants on Thomas Drive, the lack of adequate access for fire vehicles is a serious public safety issue and potentially life-threatening. Normally, Director Wong has the authority to direct ACHD personnel to remedy a life safety issue and expend funds to do so up to certain limits without involving the Commission and normally the Commission would not have taken action on an issue like this one. However, in this case, Commissioners Baker and Woods (and others) for political reasons stopped the normal process and directed that nothing be done until after the election.
Apparently the City or County allowed the original developer/subdivider to plat the property and develop without adequate access and ACHD made matters worse by installing a substandard bridge. The folks who live in the 8 residences on the south side of the bridge (ranging in age from about 5 to 94) are innocent victims of government incompetence and should be entitled to have their lives protected just as any other citizens of Ada County, regardless of their race, social economic status, etc. Being proactive seems to make more sense than waiting for a tragedy (like the Oregon Trail heights fire) before taking action and risking liability to the District for failing to remedy a known life safety issue. I met with the fire department personnel and have knowledge of the access problems/impediments to adequate fire fighting.
Widening the bridge by eight feet does not result in a great bridge or great access but it would solve the fire access issues at a relatively low cost.
Regarding email, there is nothing nefarious about the use of private email. My email address and cell phone number are widely available and published (I am the only commissioner who allows publication of my cell number every Sunday in the Statesman column) so it is not unusual for me to get email at my personal email address. I do, however, for official ACHD matters, reply to such emails with a cc to an ACHD person or my ACHD email account so the the emails are captured and automatically archived by the ACHD server and easily available. I often also forward the original email to an ACHD account so that the emails are automatically archived.
I am probably particularly sensitive to fire issues as my mother recently burned to death in a house fire. Walking through the ashes of a loved one’s home and attending the funeral are life changing. Anything that can be done to prevent such tragedy is worth doing. I would hate to see politics, political paybacks, personal vendetta, personal beefs, personal bias or the likes of that put innocent lives at risk. Certainly not my call.
I am out of town and had not planned to be at the Wednesday meeting. There are some other items in your email and letter that merit further discussion. I’m happy to talk with you at any time. My cell phone number is 208-841-2530
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