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Casper announces grand opening of Bonneville hotel in State of the City speech

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Mayor Rebecca Casper delivers her State of the City address. | Mike Price, EastIdahoNews.com

IDAHO FALLS — Mayor Rebecca Casper announced the grand opening of the renovated Bonneville hotel during her State of the City address Thursday night.

“Later this month, city residents will have the opportunity to experience the grand opening of the newly renovated Bonneville Hotel Property,” Casper said. “The newly refurbished edifice will retain all of the dignity of its namesake.”

Casper spoke about a variety of issues during her speech and stressed the importance of being prepared for growth in 2020.

“As we look to the future, we know that housing will continue to be a concern for current and future citizens. We do not have a large enough supply of homes to meet demand which then drives up the value of property and prices,” she said.

Casper elaborated that wages aren’t keeping pace with the rise in property prices making home affordability more difficult.

“The city cannot and should not resolve all of these problems, but we can help,” she said.

She announced that in February a team of community members, including planners, a realtor, a homebuilder and others, will attend a workshop that will teach them new housing strategies for the city.

“Their education will help us generate a citizen-oriented, funding-conscious, smart strategy for managing Idaho Falls’ response to this stressed national housing market,” the mayor said.

Housing isn’t the only issue Casper discussed in her speech. Among other things, she spoke about the plans to build a new police station.

“Today, we have officers and equipment staged in eight different places throughout the city — some leased, some borrowed, some loaned. This piecemeal configuration creates a host of serious issues,” Casper said.

She said the city council will seek to develop the stockyards property along Northgate Mile for the purpose of constructing a new police station.

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“This site was selected for the community’s much-needed law enforcement complex. I will be encouraging the council to opt for the financing option that results in the least overall expense for the city,” she said.

She acknowledged that keeping the cost down will mean the city has to begin construction quickly.

“In the current market, construction inflation is a significant cost driver,” Casper said.

She also spoke about the upcoming expansion to the Idaho Falls Airport, a two-year project that will begin this spring.

“We will increase the TSA footprint, add new features to our lobby and build three additional gates — doubling our capacity to serve passengers,” Casper said.

The expansion comes after a year that saw a significant increase in travelers coming through the airport.

“2019 was a record-breaking year with over 350,000 passengers traveling through our airport — a full 10 percent increase over 2018,” Casper said.

To close her speech, Casper lauded the city council, city staff and local volunteers.

“We are fortunate to have council members who care, directors at the top of their fields, talented and committed staff and citizen volunteers who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and problem-solve. I look forward with great enthusiasm to the coming year,” she said.

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