It’s all about finding a balance

Our City
by A.F. Mayor Marc Beitia

For me at least, it is all about finding a balance when everything is in a state of flux. Change, it is the constant, how one chooses to manage or deal with change is often the variable. For some the preferred path is to watch and wait, others react and hope for the best, while some anticipate, plan and implement before change has a chance to have a negative effect. I have found myself in all three of those positions. By now you probably know which one I prefer.

Rare is the time when I can find the right balance by myself. Sally does a great job of balancing me out on the personal side; although my lack of fishing lately is threatening to tip over the apple cart. Finding a balance at school is not as straightforward as it once was and honestly, at times seemingly impossible. If it weren’t for the outstanding folks I work with at the city, things here would be tenuous at best.

The rain event of two weeks ago once again highlighted the inadequacies of our storm water infrastructure and caused damage throughout town. As I met with Bryan Phinney and Jeanne Bailey of Keller Engineering, Superintendent Whited and Clerk Herndon this week to discuss solutions, I was disappointed to learn I had been correct in my guesstimates of the cost of solutions. If you recall in last week’s ramblings I tried to explain the causes of the back pressure and surcharging on the system from Fort Hall and Van Buren to Oregon Trail extending down most of the way through the golf course.

Without surveying, engineering, and bidding the estimates of Bryan and Jeanne were very similar to mine. The partial and temporary “fix” would cost over $10,000. The permanent and lasting solution would cost over $1,000,000. So where does that leave us? During this Wednesday’s City Council meeting, that issue will be open for discussion by the council members. The good news is that there is a way forward through low interest loans. The bad news is the loan would have to be paid back. To add more bad news on top of that, ask yourself where does the money come from to pay off the loan. Yup, you guessed it, either users’ fees or a slight increase in taxes for some. Sorry! But wait please! Neither of these will happen without your consent and that of the city council, so please don’t panic. Right now it is just an item of discussion.

To briefly explain further, a local taxing district, paid by only those whose property’s storm water contributes to the flooding, roughly two-thirds of the properties in town, could be established to levy the funds necessary to pay off the loan. Or, Idaho Code provides for the implementation of a storm water user fee by cities that everyone pays, similar to our water, wastewater and sanitation fees.

As we started talking about increasing taxes and user fees I could see that Robyn was not at all comfortable. She hears the stories and pleadings almost daily as many of our citizens struggle day to day and paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet. I don’t want to raise taxes or user fees either; but a balance has to be found, for it is not fair, in my mind at least, that every time we have a major rain event the same properties suffer the inadequacies of our infrastructure.

While Robyn explained the plight of many of our citizens, my mind was racing to find a solution that could help those most in need of relief from the total amount of the fees assessed by the city. The county has a program I believe they call the “Circuit Breaker.” This program provides a certain level of payment relief for those who can document their difficult financial status below a specified level of income. I am sure it is much more involved than that, but as I understand it that is the premise of the program. I have asked Robyn to place the discussion of a similar program that could be offered by the city on Wednesday’s agenda.

She would never think it much less say it, but Robyn Herndon is the cornerstone on which the successes of the city have been anchored these past eight or so years. While working closely with her for the past two years, I have learned she has a way of letting me know without saying anything directly, “Whoa back mister, your fantasy wagon is out of control.” She provides my balance in almost all city matters. The next time you see her tell her thanks; she earns it every day.

Those of you who use the community center will be pleased to know that work will begin within the next week to ten days to finish the Horseshoe parking area. The area will include a planting strip similar to Idaho Street between it and the parking lot of US Bank, a grassy area, retaining curbs, and enhanced paving to help minimize the flooding to the properties adjacent to the alley.

For those of you who have been waiting for art in the downtown, it is within sight. Doug Warnock and his students will begin working on nearly a dozen pieces this fall. I am excited about all the pieces; but I am particularly anxious to see the six foot by three foot bronze Bald Eagle and the three foot bronze Snake River cutthroat trout weather vane. If you are interested in contributing pieces or funding to the downtown art, please speak with Superintendent Peirsol, Robyn, or me.

If you find yourself over by the American Legion building on the 200 block of Idaho Street, check out the memorial sidewalk built by Mark Scherer, Karl Kozain and Dusty Whited of the street department. The granite pavers there are intended to be engraved to memorialize our local veterans. Talk to the folks at the Legion for details. Great job street crew! It is way cool!

The other way cool thing about our American Falls is the way we all work together for the betterment of the whole. No, everybody does not always agree; but in the things that affect us all, the majority always has come to consensus. There is a balance here and a certain lack of bickering as we work to find and implement equitable solutions to the changes and challenges that are a part of our community.

Until next week…

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