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Up for vote — Citizens to decide on various bonds in southeast Idaho

Pocatello

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An illustration detailing the potential lower entrance of the Power County Hospital District in American Falls. | Courtesy photo

POCATELLO — Voters in southeast Idaho can expect to find several bonds on their ballots this election.

Folks in Power County will vote on a pair of bonds: a $15.25 million bond to improve the Power County Hospital District and an $8 million bond to secure water rights held by Magnida.

The $15.25 million bond would help expand and renovate the 55-year-old structure, which has had only small renovations and updates since its construction in 1961. Improvements include a major remodel and an addition to the existing hospital that adds approximately 15,000 square feet. There are planned updates to the heating and air conditioning units, electrical systems and medical systems. An updated emergency area will provide better patient care, and a helipad accessible from the hospital’s second floor will allow for smoother accessibility. Also included are private patient rooms with private bathrooms in the nursing home, a new physical therapy building and a parking garage.

Considering a new building would cost approximately twice what’s being asked, Dallas Clinger, CEO/administrator of Power County Hospital District, is encouraging folks in Power County to vote in favor of the bond.

“We have to put some money into it at some point,” Clinger said. “You can’t continue to exist in a building that continues to deteriorate. … Health care is a critical part of our lives whether we like it or not. Sometimes we need it more than other times, but eventually we’ll all need it. And if we’re not continually improving our infrastructure, eventually it comes to a point where it’s no longer useful.”

Including interest, the total repayment of the 20-year bond is anticipated to be $20,753,106.11.

The hospital bond cost to homeowners is $1.20 per $1,000 of assessed home value with a homeowners exemption. For example, for a homeowner with a home valued at $100,000, that homeowner’s payment would be about $5 per month.

“We haven’t really put anything into the building in the last 55 years,” Clinger said. “It really needs to be brought into the 21st century, especially with some of the changes in medicine we’re experiencing.”

Power County voters will also vote on an $8 million bond that would be used to buy water rights held by Magnida, a company that was looking to build a new fertilizer plant in Power County.

After Magnida was unable to secure $900 million in financing for the new plant, the company is seeking to dispose of the project’s assets. The water rights would be for about 6,000 acre-feet of water.

“Our No. 1 goal here is for economic development,” said Power County Commission Chairman Ron Funk during a county commission meeting in late September. “… We wanted something in place if another company comes along and needs that water.”

If the bond passes and Power County acquires the water rights, Funk says Magnida would be given the first option of re-obtaining those rights if the company manages to secure funds for the fertilizer plant in the future.

The 30-year bond has an anticipated interest rate of 3.17 percent per year. The total amount that’s expected to be repaid is $12,692,239.

Citizens of Caribou and Bear Lake counties will be asked to vote on a $6.5 million bond for repairs, renovations and new construction at Tigert Middle School in Soda Springs. Plans include the acquisition, construction, furnishing and equipping of a new gymnasium and a new classroom wing.

Costs also include the demolition of existing structures and the lighting, heating, ventilation and sanitation facilities and appliances necessary to maintain and operate new structures. The total amount to be repaid over the life of the 10-year bond — based off 1.72 percent interest per year — is an anticipated $7,169,539.

For the third time in two years, residents of Bear Lake County will be deciding on the construction of a courthouse in Paris, about 10 miles southeast of Montpelier. The anticipated interest rate on the $4.1 million bond is 3.25 percent per year. The total interest anticipated to be paid over the 20-year life of the bond, based on the anticipated interest rate, is $1,507,934, bringing the total amount to be repaid to $5,607,934.

The current courthouse was built in 1885, is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and has issues in its electrical system. The majority of voters — 66.24 percent — supported a May 2015 bond to build a courthouse, but it failed to reach the required supermajority of 66.6 percent. Before that, a November 2014 bond had the support of 58.3 percent of voters.

There are two smaller bonds in the Bear Lake County city of Bloomington: a $430,000 water system facilities bond and a $230,000 sewer system bond. The $430,000 bond would be used for improvements to the domestic water system facilities in Bloomington.

The interest rate anticipated on the proposed bond is 2.25 percent. Based on that interest rate, the total anticipated interest payment over the life of the bond is $654,399. The $230,000 bond would be used for improvements to the sanitary sewer system facilities of Bloomington. Based on the anticipated interest rate of 2.25 percent, the total interest repaid would be $350,027. The bonds’ terms may be less than but shall not exceed 40 years.

The Bingham County city of Groveland also has a bond on the ballot — a $220,000 water and sewer improvements bond. The city’s current water system is 31 years old and has no backup system. Based on the anticipated interest rate of 2.5 percent, the total repayment of the 20-year bond is expected to be $279,788.73.

Per the Idaho Constitution, in order for bonds to pass, votes in favor must reach a supermajority of 66.6 percent.

This article was originally published in the Idaho State Journal. It is used here with permission.

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