Press Fails Public

The mainstream media has done a poor job telling you the truth about appointed Ada County Commissioner and candidate Dave Case. For example:

• Case broke the law when, as a classified employee for the State of Idaho, he filed to run for partisan elected office.

• Case broke the law when, as a Parole Hearing Officer for the State of Idaho, he used his state-issued credit card (P-card) for personal use.

• Case broke the law when, as a Parole Hearing Officer for the State of Idaho, he misused the strictly regulated National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer for personal purposes.

• Case voted for a trash rate increase for Republic Services in unincorporated Ada County that was not mandatory or warranted. He did so without asking a single question. He failed to disclose at the time that he had taken a $1000 campaign contribution from the company.

• Case approved not only a 2 percent salary increase for himself just months after taking office but, at the same time, approved a 1.5 percent bonus for himself – dollars that had been allocated by the Board for longer-term employees who had seen few or no salary increases during the four years of recession.

• Case claims to be a Republican but in one of the biggest partisan races in the state, in 2010 supported Congressman Raul Labrador’s Democrat opponent.

• Case wrote on his campaign website that he supports “Transparency in Government” saying, “Public trust is accomplished by the work of the people being conducted and discussed in open public forums. Not behind closed doors. I promise to conduct the business of the people on the record and in front of them.” Yet, on a nearly daily basis, Case hides behind his closed office door. I have photos to prove it.

• Case violated the Idaho Open Meeting Law, which he admitted in a public hearing on the so-called “rooster ordinance” at which he glibly proclaimed, “I kind of got in on this ordinance at the tail end of it but I have talked to quite a few of you who have called or stopped me in the halls and chatted with me. I do appreciate your testimony and everything and your comments and they were well taken.”

• Case was never cleared in the wrongful death of a Payette County Sheriff’s Deputy. The case was eventually settled due to extenuating circumstances surrounding the deputy’s widow, but the officers involved (Case included) were never cleared. Read the Idaho Supreme Court cases and decide for yourself.

Dave Case has made numerous unfounded allegations about my Board colleagues Fred Tilman, Rick Yzaguirre and me but it is Case whose unethical and unlawful behavior should disqualify him from holding public office.

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Idaho Statesman’s Accuracy Stinks

Here is a point-by-point critique of the Idaho Statesman’s August 17 editorial:

“Hidden Hollow Energy faces a bind, resulting in part from the Dynamis dealings.” Not true.

Fact: Hidden Hollow Energy’s problem is with DEQ, NOT Dynamis or Ada County. HHE wanted the county to spend approximately $1.5 million on a scrubber that they need in order to comply with their DEQ permit. We do not need a scrubber to comply with our DEQ permitting requirements, so we declined. Our contracts with HHE make no assertions about the quality of gas being provided, only the quantity.

“Hidden Hollow, which has produced energy from landfill methane gas since 2006, has built a second pair of engines to convert gas into electricity. But those engines aren’t running.” Not true.

Fact: Hidden Hollow Energy has never even installed the second set of engines at the landfill.
“When the company failed to meet deadlines for startup, Idaho Power voided its contract to purchase electricity from the new engines, levying a $144,000 fine. Hidden Hollow and the state Department of Environmental Quality are embroiled in a dispute over hydrogen sulfide emissions from the plant.” TRUE! Note: Hidden Hollow Energy has a problem with Idaho Power and DEQ, NOT with Ada County or Dynamis. In fact, Ada County even agreed to allow HHE to use the landfill boundary as its footprint for permitting purposes. DEQ rejected that proposal from HHE.

“But this dispute centers largely on Dynamis. In a $30 million tort claim, Hidden Hollow argues that the county’s commitment to provide trash to Dynamis has, in turn, jeopardized Hidden Hollow’s access to methane.” Not true. While this is the argument made by HHE in their tort claim, Statesman editorial page editor Kevin Richert never contacted the county to verify whether it is true.

Fact: Last Friday, I provided to Idaho Statesman publisher Mike Jung a graph showing that even by HHE’s OWN calculations, they have more than enough landfill gas to power all four engines even after Dynamis is up and has been running at full capacity for years to come! HHE’s graph inaccurately reflects the amount of landfill gas available today, a fact that I pointed out to HHE’s attorneys in a meeting some time ago. They acknowledged that I was correct! Unfortunately, that meeting was held in executive session, at HHE’s request, and so was not recorded; however, there were many people present who can confirm my statement.

“Ada County says there is no merit to this claim, and says it ‘has had no difficulty’ providing Hidden Hollow with its needed supply of methane.” TRUE!

“If the Hidden Hollow tort claim grows into a full-fledged lawsuit, attorneys from both camps could be in court arguing over the relative abundance of methane gas. Irony aside, the dispute raises more fundamental questions about Ada County’s headlong rush to do business with Dynamis. Why is the county so enamored with Dynamis — a company that, to date, is only talking about building a plant to process 408 tons of trash daily?”

Please read the previous articles on my blog to understand the Dynamis agreement timeframe and benefits. Here are links: Turning Waste Into Energy and Jobs, Not Necessarily News, and Case Closed.

“Why does the county’s Dynamis infatuation come, perhaps, at the expense of Hidden Hollow, which has been in the business for six years?” Not true.

Fact: There IS no expense to Hidden Hollow from the Dynamis project, as proven by HHE’s OWN graph. In addition, the first two engines are generating approximately $1.2-$1.3 million of revenue a year. After their initial investment of perhaps $3 million, Hidden Hollow Energy is making a boatload of money! The county receives about $250,000 out of the total revenue each year. HHE is making close to a million dollars a year just on the first two engines! Under the existing contract, the second two engines would generate a similar amount of revenue to each entity, as well.

The Dynamis project will save the county and its ratepayers an estimated $2 million a year for the first five years it is operational. In years 6-30, the county will receive 25 percent of the amount of tipping fees in place at the time on 408 tons of waste a day, with few associated costs. The project will generate $60 million or more of economic investment in the community, hundreds of construction jobs, 60 much-needed permanent jobs and enough locally-generated power to serve 20,000 households (or the equivalent in commercial users) per day.

Given that the Statesman is concerned about the two million non-tax landfill dollars (but NOT the $81 million we’ve saved for Ada County property taxpayers!) the best way to ensure that it is returned to the county is to move forward with the project. In addition, Dynamis is based in Eagle, Idaho, right here in Ada County. HHE is based in White Plains, New York. “Buy Idaho” should not just be a slogan!

“Shouldn’t the county put first things first — working with Hidden Hollow, a company that already pays the county $250,000 in annual royalties, as opposed to Dynamis, which still owes the county $2 million?” Note the potential benefits of the Dynamis project as compared to the HHE project. Also note, again, that these two projects are NOT mutually exclusive EVEN according to the graph supplied by the HHE folks themselves.

If you are not yet convinced by this large body of evidence that Ada County and Dynamis are just scapegoats for HHE’s problems with DEQ and Idaho Power, then here’s the clincher: The first agreement between Ada County and Dynamis was signed on June 30, 2010, and a news release issued about the project that same day, MORE THAN SIX MONTHS BEFORE Hidden Hollow Energy 2 signed the agreement with the county for the second two engines at the landfill. The county signed the agreement with HHE2 for the second two engines on February 22, 2011. If HHE now believes the Dynamis project will critically reduce the volume of available landfill gas, then it appears the blame lies with them, and ONLY them, for their failure to do their due diligence prior to signing the contract with Ada County for the second set of engines.

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Read the Real Result

The following Guest Opinion was submitted to the Idaho Statesman in response to an editorial written by Kevin Richert. I hope you will take the time to read the two Idaho Supreme Court decisions about which I commented on my Facebook page. You can find them at the following links: Kessler Decision 1 and Kessler Decision 2. The killing – which if you will read closely you will see really was an assassination - of Bobbie Kessler by five ISP troopers has been completely misrepresented by the newspaper, which should come as no surprise to anyone.

In 1992, Payette County Reserve Deputy Bobbie Kessler was accused of – but never tried for — some serious crimes. He never had the chance to stand trial for a determination of his guilt or innocence.

Instead, Bobbie Kessler was killed by five Idaho State Police troopers in a plan so ill-conceived that “a recognized police expert in more than 400 cases,” testified that, “the plan for taking Bobbie into custody was so tactically flawed that the adverse outcome was more probable than not.”

I referred to the event as an “assassination” on my personal Facebook page. Just like the Idaho Statesman does, I used strong words to capture people’s attention, hoping they would read the ensuing Idaho Supreme Court decisions and judge for themselves. If you do so, you will likely agree it is an apt description.

Instead of encouraging readers to review the cases and judge for themselves, the Idaho Statesman’s Kevin Richert whitewashed the role of current Ada County Commissioner and then ISP Officer Dave Case in the killing of Deputy Kessler.

Case was one of five officers who concocted the plan to arrest Kessler that was destined to end badly. These officers had Kessler called to duty – when he was 100 percent certain to be armed – and trapped him like a rat by locking the door of the Payette County Courthouse behind him. They wore camouflage gear, instead of uniforms, held up a submachine gun, and told him he was under arrest.

The Statesman reports that Case did not draw his weapon, yet, Case and another officer were armed with police-strength pepper spray. They initiated the physical altercation with Kessler, dousing him with a can-and-a-half of “Cap-stun,” enough, according to a quote from the Supreme Court decisions, to “bring God down.”

Bobbie was a Vietnam combat vet who “had military experience as a member of the special forces.” Not surprisingly, he fought back, but Bobbie Kessler never once fired his gun. Nonetheless, once the clash started, Kessler was shot multiple times, until he lay dead on the cold hard floor of the old Payette County Courthouse.

Deputy Kessler’s widow sued Payette County, the State of Idaho and the ISP officers for wrongful death. Jim Jones, now on the Idaho Supreme Court, represented Mrs. Kessler.

Although Mrs. Kessler’s claims were initially dismissed by the trial court, the 1996-97 Idaho Supreme Court concluded that the trial court incorrectly dismissed “claims for negligent planning and execution of the arrest, and for negligent supervision,” and “civil rights claims against state law enforcement officers as individuals.” Mrs. Kessler was awarded costs.

The importance and implications of this decision should not be downplayed. Again, contrary to the Statesman’s reporting, the Idaho Supreme Court found that the wrongful death lawsuit against the officers AS INDIVIDUALS should NOT have been dismissed.

The case went back to trial, at which time a settlement was reached. THE FIVE OFFICERS INVOLVED WERE NEVER CLEARED IN THE WRONGFUL DEATH CASE.

Statesman editor Kevin Richert excused Dave Case’s involvement and actions without providing the rest of the story. I wonder if Richert even read the Supreme Court decisions before weighing in.

For bringing this 19-year-old homicide involving Ada County’s newest commissioner to your attention, I was compared by Richert to Brent Coles, John McGee, John Bujak and Larry Craig – all four of whom have faced serious criminal charges. I haven’t been charged with, or committed, any crimes.

Dave Case has repeatedly hurled blatantly false accusations of legal violations at my Board and me; yet, Case enjoys immunity from Statesman criticism. Statesman readers should be outraged by the paper’s blatant bias.

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Case Closed!

Since 2006, Ada County has spent almost $31 million digging giant holes at the landfill, so we can dump our waste into them and wait for it to decompose. In contrast, we have spent $2 million to purchase site-specific plans for the Dynamis waste-to-energy facility, money that the county will receive back, for the purchase of those plans, before construction starts. There are naysayers who do not understand the science, technology, and landfill purchasing laws, but the project is sound.

Idaho Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell just won the Idaho Press Club’s First Place Award for Environmental Reporting in a Daily Newspaper for her February 15, 2011 article, “Garbage in, electricity out” that tells the story of Dynamis Energy, the Eagle, Idaho, company with whom Ada County has contracted to design a waste-to-energy facility at our landfill.

My opponent would very much like for you to ignore my lengthy record of accomplishments (please see www.sharonu.com) while he talks trash about our Dynamis waste-to-energy project. Yet, he has never taken the time to meet with the Dynamis folks to even attempt to understand the technology or the project. It’s obviously easier for him to cast aspersions about the project (and me) when he is ignorant.

The $2 million dollars we have invested in the Dynamis project are not tax dollars. The landfill does not use tax dollars. It is a self-supporting enterprise fund, solely funded through landfill revenue. In contrast to this expenditure, please keep in mind that Ada County has not taken the allowable three percent property tax increase for six years now. We have left nearly $60 MILLION ($59,982,187) in taxpayers’ pockets, most recently on a 2-to-1 decision. My opponent has been endorsed by the one commissioner who wanted to raise your property taxes. It’s no wonder he wants to try to divert your attention elsewhere, but let’s go ahead and indulge him for a few minutes by looking at his assertions regarding Dynamis.

• My opponent claims we violated the Idaho Open Meeting Law. It is not a violation of the Open Meeting Law for commissioners to meet individually and talk with constituents when there is no contract or issue or application under consideration. Given his lengthy career in corrections, my opponent’s ignorance of the law is concerning.

• My opponent claims we violated state purchasing law. By his own admission, my opponent has read my blog post that clearly states the facts regarding landfill purchasing law, and I have explained the applicable code in person. Even though he has been presented with the facts of the law multiple times, he continues to insist that our actions were contrary to the law. He either fails to understand the law, or he is attempting to willfully mislead the voting public. I have even quoted the applicable law at the end of the same blog post, but still my opponent doesn’t get it. We actually went over and above the legal requirements for landfill purchasing by putting out a Request for Expressions of Interest and, before deciding to contract with Dynamis, had received SEVEN (7) responses. I will continue to take the legal opinion and advice of our elected Ada County Prosecutor and his Chief Civil Deputy (who have a combined total of over 60 years of legal experience) OVER that of my political opponent who has no experience.

• My opponent claims there was a conflict of interest when I worked with our attorney to negotiate the agreement with Dynamis and then was one of three commissioners to approve it. If only we could be so lucky as to have ALL of our elected officials aware of what they were signing onto before they did so, the world would be a better place. (Case in point, Commissioner Vern Bisterfeldt signed both copies of the Dynamis Franchise Agreement, because he routinely signed documents he had not read, although he has voiced nothing but disdain for the project. After it was pointed out to him what it was that he had signed, he insisted that new signature pages be created.) Most of the new contracts presented to the Board for review and approval are written with input from the commissioners. By suggesting that my actions constituted a conflict of interest, my opponent is demonstrating his complete lack of understanding of the responsibilities of the office for which he is running and the appropriate processes through which county business is conducted.

• My opponent claims we should have held hearings before moving forward on this project. The Dynamis project is contingent upon meeting certain funding deadlines and would have been offline altogether if the process was slowed down any further. This project constitutes an ancillary use to the landfill, just like the Fortistar gas-to-energy project, for which hearings were also not held. Interestingly, last summer, we held a public budget hearing on our $193 MILLION county budget and not a single member of the public showed up to testify, not even my opponent or his running mate. This newfound concern over $2 million of the county’s non-tax dollars is solely politically motivated.

• My opponent claims that he doesn’t think the technology will work. Perhaps he will share with us the credentials he holds to make such an assertion? Or perhaps he can even just try to provide us with a sound scientific or technical argument? I happen to know a man with a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wyoming, THE campus where research on the relevant processes was done. I didn’t know this gentleman at the time we signed the contract, but when questions arose about the project, I had him review the design and engineering documents in their entirety and pronounce it sound. In the interest of full disclosure, my expert, Joe Coones, now also happens to be my fiancé. He certainly would have brought to my attention any problems with the technology, had they been there, and he did not. Last week, when I attended a meeting of the Hidden Springs Homeowners’ Association, I mentioned that I had brought an expert with me who could speak to the history and evolution of the technology, but the highly biased moderator did not allow him to speak.

• My opponent claims we should have demanded a performance bond. That would have been nice, but performance bonds are not available on a design project, as this was. Other company assets guarantee Dynamis’ performance.

• My opponent claims we should be working more closely with Republic Services (which already has a trash hauling monopoly in our area – watch for their rates to rise accordingly in the very near future) to recycle trash the old-fashioned way, by pulling things out of it and trying to reuse them. I would rather lead the community into the 21st Century and recycle our waste the cleaner, more efficient way, while producing enough power to serve from 20,000 – 22,000 households a day, while saving a huge amount of space at the landfill, saving money, creating hundreds of construction jobs, 60 permanent jobs, and facilitating tens of millions of dollars of economic investment in our community.

This is NOT new technology, but Dynamis’ engineers have taken what existed and improved upon it. The Wall Street Journal (Los Angeles Waste Management) gets it: “The preferred mode in Europe is to build not a few hugely expensive incineration behemoths but a larger number of smaller, community-based utilities that burn trash to provide electricity and heat through underground conduits. The technology in the newest plants limits toxic emissions of dioxins, a major issue with incinerators of the past, to levels similar to a backyard barbecue’s.” Speaking of emissions, although some folks have expressed environmental concerns about this project, it must necessarily operate within all of the parameters established by EPA and DEQ, as well as meet all permit requirements.

It is apparent from a recent New York Times article that Ada County, Idaho, is ahead of New York City, New York, in implementing clean waste-to-energy projects.

You should be proud you live in Ada County, Idaho, where we are constantly looking for ways in which to operate more efficiently and effectively. Let’s not return ourselves to the dark ages by electing my opponent and his running mate, neither of whom has even bothered to take the time to meet with Dynamis and learn firsthand about the technology and the project. Ada County deserves leaders with vision, the ability to understand the laws of the state, and the ability to make good decisions.

For more information about the Dynamis project, I invite you to read about it in earlier posts on my blog at Turning Waste Into Energy and Jobs  and Not Necessarily News.

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Defending Your Dollars

Next week, I will file to run for re-election to the Board of Ada County Commissioners in the Republican Primary. Why should you care? You should care because my re-election to this Board can have a significant impact on your property taxes. During the three years I have been back in office, here are some of the things I have accomplished on your behalf:

  • I told you I wanted to leave more of your money in your pockets and I have. Working together with my colleague, Commissioner Rick Yzaguirre, we left the allowable three percent property tax increase on the table for the sixth year in a row. Prior to taking office again in 2009, I had repeatedly stressed to the Board the importance of spending our public dollars wisely and only spending those dollars that were truly needed. Our statutory responsibilities are becoming even more challenging as the economy falters and obligatory costs, such as for indigent medical services, increase. Nonetheless, over six years, county property taxpayers have saved nearly $60 million, more than $43 million of which has been in the last three years alone.
  • I lobbied heavily in support of negotiating an agreement with Capital City Development Corporation (Boise City’s Urban Renewal Agency) to take over operation of what was the ridiculously expensive parking at the courthouse. It took the county a year to work out the deal, but the mission was accomplished. We were then able to cut prices from $2.50 per hour with ten free minutes, to $1.00 per hour with the first hour free.
  • Despite the reduction in parking costs at the courthouse, we still had over 3000 people jaywalking (down from 4000) each week across five lanes of traffic in front of the courthouse – sometimes with infants and young children in tow. For two years I lobbied to get a much-needed signalized crosswalk in front of the Ada County Courthouse. February 28 of this year, thanks to a partnership between Ada County, the Ada County Highway District, and the Idaho Transportation Department, that crosswalk becomes a reality.
  • The county is statutorily obligated to pay medical bills for people who are uninsured and don’t otherwise have the income or means to pay their own bills. The Indigent Services department’s budget is about $12 million and has grown significantly the past few years, with so many people out of work. I believe there is a more cost effective way to provide medical services to this population than through costly Emergency Room visits. I have worked with Idaho State University, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, and the Central District Health Department to provide free preventive health screenings in the community. The screenings are conducted by ISU students with faculty oversight. We have now added the Garden City Community Clinic and Family Medicine Residency as community partners, so when health problems are discovered at the screenings, the patient can access necessary preventive care and treatment, where personal responsibility for one’s health is stressed. For an investment of less than $150,000, lives have been saved. We have a biostatistician working to calculate savings to taxpayers. For my vision and role in setting up this more cost-effective preventive care program, I was honored with an Idaho Health Care Heroes Award, as a Health Care Innovator, by the Idaho Business Review in 2011.
  • I had the honor of serving as Chair of the Hazard Mitigation Plan Steering Committee, in which 21 separate taxing districts in Ada County came together to create a new Hazard Mitigation Plan. Our completed Hazard Mitigation Plan received high ratings from FEMA.
  • I periodically contribute to this blog and my Facebook page, to keep people informed about what is going on in Ada County.
  • Finally this year, I obtained the necessary second vote for the county to take over the provision of Misdemeanor Probation services in Ada County. The Ada County Sheriff’s Office will take over management of the program when the current contract ends on September 30 of this year. Although I believe in limited government, one of the tasks that is reasonably performed by government is protecting public health and safety. Putting this program under the Sheriff, who already runs the work release center, community service program, Sheriff’s Inmate Labor Detail, and other alternative sentencing programs, makes more sense than having it done by a controversial private sector contractor.

For me, this election is about running on my record – the things I have accomplished on your behalf during the time I have had the honor and privilege of serving as your Ada County commissioner. I hope you will support me in my re-election efforts. Thank you!

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The Business Case for Hiring Tobacco-Free Employees

The following guest opinion was prepared by Central District Health Department Executive Director Russ Duke, with small contributions by me. We have submitted it to the local papers for publication but I have not yet seen it appear.

In December 2011 the Central District Health Department (CDHD) announced that it will no longer hire anyone testing positive for nicotine use. The decision was made by the Board of Health because of the irrefutable evidence linking tobacco use with premature death and chronic diseases, but also because it made good business sense. Now Ada County is instituting a similar policy for its new hires.

Since there is no way to differentiate tobacco use from nicotine replacement products, CDHD chose the tougher standard. Ada County will do the same. Nicotine replacement is designed to be a bridge to becoming tobacco-free, not an on-going habit.

The health argument against tobacco is powerful. For those of age, tobacco use is perfectly legal. It is a personal choice, but one with grave consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says smoking is a primary cause of at least 30% of all cancer deaths, and is responsible for nearly 80% of the deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and for early cardiovascular disease and deaths. For every smoking-related death another 20 people suffer with smoking-related disease. Smokeless tobacco products are really no safer; they are known to cause cancers of the oral cavity.

Clearly tobacco use is linked to higher health care costs. The CDC puts a $3391 annual price tag on each employee who smokes: $1760 in lost productivity and $1623 in excess medical expenditures. An American Cancer Society study of health care utilization showed that employees who smoked had more hospital admissions per 1,000 (124 vs. 76), had a longer average length of stay (6.47 vs. 5.03 days), and made six more visits to health care facilities per year than nonsmoking employees.

We are not only government agencies, but also employers. As such, we are tasked with protecting public health and safety while watching the bottom line. Since employers pay the largest share of the cost of employee health insurance, they (we) have a vested interest in reducing those costs. Every dollar we save on health insurance is a dollar we can use to fund other services to the community, or return to our taxpayers.

Tobacco users are absent from work more often. Smokers miss a little over 6 days of work a year due to sickness (including smoking related acute and chronic conditions) compared to their nonsmoking counterparts, who average just under 4 days of missed work a year.

Tobacco users are less productive. A full time job is considered 2080 hours per year. If a smoker uses just two percent of that time on cigarette breaks, it amounts to about a week of unproductive time away from his job. The more someone smokes, the less productive they are.

Smoke-free policies reduce smoking. When workplaces ban smoking they increase the number of employees who quit smoking altogether. This is followed by improved employee health, greater productivity, less absenteeism and lower costs for health insurance.

You will hear some people comment that the overweight and obese also increase the cost of health care, so why not ban them from being hired? First of all it is illegal. Second, a person’s weight is affected by many variables, some of which are out of their control, like genetics, environment and income. A person doesn’t choose to be overweight, yet everyone using tobacco products is making a conscious choice to do so.

Hiring tobacco-free employees contributes to the bottom line in dozens of ways. But at the end of the day, it also contributes to the health and longevity of our greatest resource, our people.

Russell Duke
Director Central District Health Department

Sharon Ullman
Ada County Commissioner

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Quorum Questions

I must apologize for having not written anything lately for my blog. It has been challenging to find time to write.

As you might have realized by now, there is rarely a dull moment in the life of an Ada County commissioner! I have been working on some deadline-sensitive projects and Commissioners Rick Yzaguirre and I are keeping the county running even with Commissioner Vern Bisterfeldt’s extended absence.

With a three-person board, it can be a challenge to function when one member is chronically absent or becomes impaired and is unable to do their job, due to the potential lack of a quorum if either of the other two people cannot be present. Last week, because Rick was out of town, we had to reach him by telephone several times in order to have our necessary two-commissioner quorum to hold hearings and conduct county business.

Next Tuesday morning, Rick will be tied up interviewing candidates for an open judgeship. Hopefully, Vern will be better next week and able to return, but we are moving the bulk of our regularly scheduled Open Business Meeting from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the likely event he will not be back. Rest assured that Rick and I are committed to getting the job done and keeping the county on track.

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Not Necessarily News?

Last Thursday, I received the following inquiry from a reporter at the Idaho Statesman:

“This is from Boise:

“’The City is not a part of any agreement that exists between Ada County and Dynamis. Up to this point, Ada County has not approached the City about the Dynamis project. Idaho Code (31-4407A) lays out a specific process by which a County must engage municipal participation in funding and operating a solid waste facility. Our understanding of the Dynamis facility is it will operate off of waste streams under control of the County (unincorporated areas) given the fact that we have not received any notice of intent to have municipal participation in the project.’

“So, basically, Boise trash will not be delivered to the Dynamis facility?

“Who owns trash delivered to the landfill? Does 31-4407A apply to a new facility within an existing landfill?

“I am working on a story for Tuesday.”

I was told the quote from the city came from Public Works spokesman Vince Tromboli.

Here was my response:

The City of Boise is not reading the code the same way the county does. In fact, it doesn’t appear they are even being consistent with themselves.

In 2005, the City of Boise was invited to be heavily involved in the county’s decision to open the North Ravine Cell at the landfill site. I have provided to you a copy of the October 25, 2005 letter from Mayor Bieter to Commissioner Yzaguirre stating, “City staff members, the Public Works Commission, and the City Council have reviewed the feasibility study and the county’s request for the city’s participation in the new landfill site. Based upon that review process, it has been determined to be in the city’s best interests to participate in the North Ravine Landfill Cell.”

Although the city was involved in the discussion before the county expended over $20 million to open the North Ravine Cell, they have not been involved in a review of projects to remove solid waste from the waste stream that would otherwise be buried, such as our Household Hazardous Material Collection Facility or our wood recycling program. These are programs through which we keep unnecessary pollutants and/or volume of waste out of the landfill, just like the Dynamis project is intended to do.

In 2006, the contracts for construction of NRC 1 were issued. Costs included: Engineering: $5,085,300; Owner’s Rep: $120,000; Construction: $15,814,264. NRC 1 Total: $21,019,564.

NRC 2 contracts were issued in 2009, including: Engineering: $1,700,000; Construction: $8,090,525. NRC 2 Total: $9,790,525

Total for both phases of the North Ravine Cell: $30,810,089

In 2009 and early 2010, our (now-retired) Landfill Director Dave Neal came to the Board on several occasions requesting that we consider raising rates at the landfill. Although the Ada County landfill is a self-supporting enterprise fund that does not utilize property tax dollars, we were all opposed to raising rates, and suggested that Mr. Neal find a better way to make ends meet.

Mayor Bieter, in his October 2005 letter went on to say, “The city is also interested in providing for options and alternatives for solid waste disposal and increased waste reduction, diversion, and recycling programs. We consider such alternatives to be a critical component of a sustainable, environmentally and economically responsible approach to solid waste management in a fast-growing community.”

Once waste is delivered to the landfill, it is under the control of the county. We continually seek ways in which to serve all county residents who are ratepayers at the landfill (including those who live within the incorporated cities) more effectively, more efficiently, at the lowest possible cost. We are happy to know that the Mayor and City of Boise are thinking along the same lines as the county and, based on Mayor Bieter’s 2005 letter, we expect they will be fully supportive of the Dynamis project.

Thus far, I have seen no story in the Statesman.

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Turning Waste into Energy – and Jobs

It has come to my attention that a disgruntled former employee is likely working with Commissioner Bisterfeldt to accuse the Board of Ada County Commissioners of having violated the Idaho Open Meeting Law nearly a year-and-a-half ago with regard to the Dynamis project. We have not done so.

Here are the facts: In 2009 and early 2010, our (now-retired) Landfill Director Dave Neal came to the Board on several occasions requesting that we consider raising rates at the landfill. Although the Ada County landfill is a self-supporting enterprise fund that does not utilize property tax dollars, we were all opposed to raising rates, and suggested that Mr. Neal find a better way to make ends meet.

Commissioner Fred Tilman came to me in May or June of 2010 and informed me that he had met with representatives of a local company that potentially had an innovative solution to some of our landfill issues. He and Rick Yzaguirre had already met with them and suggested that I meet with them to learn more about their company and how they might possibly reduce our landfill costs. Fred, Rick and I each met with representatives of Dynamis during May or early June of 2010.

Although the Ada County Landfill is subject to different purchasing laws than the county in general (see below,) I asked that the county put out a Request for Proposals for renewable energy projects. On June 18, 2010, a Request for Expressions of Interest went out. There was no deadline for submission of proposals, and we remain open to the possibility of co-locating other renewable energy projects at the landfill site. I believe that a solar project, to complement our current gas-to-energy plant and the future waste-to-energy project, would be an excellent fit. To date, I believe the county has received about a dozen proposals, including a formal written proposal from Dynamis.

In late June, our lead attorney and I negotiated a proposed agreement with Dynamis. That agreement appeared on our June 30, 2010, Open Business Meeting agenda for consideration by the full Board, and it received unanimous support and approval.

We have been very open about the Dynamis project. In fact, on June 30, we put out a news release announcing the partnership to the public.

Commissioner Bisterfeldt has refused to meet with anyone from Dynamis. He has never looked at the plans for the project and I don’t believe he even understands it.

Our landfill gas-to-energy project, a partnership with Fortistar, brings approximately a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of revenue to the landfill a year. When the Dynamis project is up and running, it will save the county (our ratepayers) about $2 million a year for the first five years it is operational. The company will employ approximately 60 people, will generate sales and income tax revenue for the state, and will employ several hundred construction workers while it is being built. It will also generate much-needed power.

Commissioner Yzaguirre and I continue to try to find ways to save money for our ratepayers and taxpayers. In a two-to-one decision, this year, Rick and I left the allowable three percent property tax increase on the table for the sixth year in a row. The cumulative benefit to our taxpayers is just shy of $60 million we have left in their pockets.

Given the numerous benefits to the state and local community of the Dynamis project, someone ought to ask Commissioner Bisterfeldt why he stated last week that he will do everything he can to cause the project to fail.

Landfill Purchasing
TITLE 31
COUNTIES AND COUNTY LAW
CHAPTER 44
SOLID WASTE DISPOSAL SITES
31-4403. Operation and maintenance. It shall be the duty of the board of county commissioners in each of the several counties to acquire sites or facilities, and maintain and operate solid waste disposal systems. Such maintenance and operation may, by exclusive or nonexclusive means, be performed through or by:
(1) Employees, facilities, equipment and supplies hired by or acquired by the board of county commissioners;
(2) Contracts, franchises or otherwise, entered into by the board to have the maintenance and operation performed by private persons;
(3) Contracts entered into by the board to have the maintenance and operation performed by another unit of government;
(4) Contracts, franchises or otherwise, granted pursuant to law by the board, for all or any part or parts of the county;
(5) Any combination of subsections (1), (2), (3) and (4) of this section;
(6) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, in order to provide for the public health, safety, and well-being, the board of county commissioners and/or another unit of state government, may determine whether solid waste disposal systems services are to be provided by means of a contract, franchise or otherwise, provided for under subsection (2) of this section, or any contract, franchise or otherwise, awarded under subsection (4) of this section, with or without compulsory competitive bidding;
(7) The board of county commissioners before entering into such contracts, franchises or otherwise may require such security for the performance thereof as it deems appropriate or may waive such undertaking.

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Update on Misdemeanor Probation

Ada County is gearing up to take over the provision of misdemeanor probation services at the end of this contract term, which is September 30, 2012. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to call or write to my Board to express your concerns and frustrations with this program.

Thank you, also, to the Boise Guardian (www.boiseguardian.com) for focussing much-needed attention on this issue and for providing a forum to allow those people who are affected by it the opportunity to interact, provide information, or just vent.

Although I would have liked to see a thorough investigation take place before my colleagues renewed the ACMPS contract, we are at least now moving in the right direction. As I have mentioned several times on the Boise Guardian, I have never supported the concept of privatized misdemeanor probation or any corrections services but have never before had the necessary second vote to terminate the contract and provide the service in-house. I believe in limited governnment, but corrections-related services are properly handled by government to avoid the profit motive and problems that are allegedly occurring at ACMPS.

Early last week, I had gallbladder surgery, so please accept my apologies if you contacted me and I did not get back to you. I have read all my e-mail and listened to all of the voice mail messages I received, but admit that the timing of my surgery did not work well with the high volume of messages I received on this issue. I want to assure you that your concerns have been heard.

To all of the people who are currently on misdemeanor probation: Please understand that I have no authority over your individual case or situation. If you have complaints about the handling of your case by ACMPS, please contact your attorney and/or the judge on your case for assistance.

If you have evidence of a problem at ACMPS that you can document, such as positive UA’s at Global during a time when you can provide PROOF that you were clean, please send a copy of this information to the Board of Ada County Commissioners, 200 W. Front Street, Boise, 83702.

Thank you, again, to everyone for helping to change the way Ada County provides misdemeanor probation services.

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