Monday, September 28, 2009

Such a deal I have for you

As you are no doubt aware, ACHD has a ton of property that it owns. These are legacies of projects where ACHD bought an entire property, rather than just a portion of the land necessary for the road project. That was not all bad, however, since sometimes the roads go so close to the house/building as to render the property uninhabitable for the poor souls.

Sometimes though, ACHD would buy property it didn't even need such as one of the three medical buildings on the corner of Ustick and Maple Grove Rds. This building was tucked in the back of the little office park, could have remained open and operational, was purchased for $700,000 and today remains empty.

But I digress.

We have a new direction under the aegis of Chanon Romo and his crack right of way team. No longer satisfied with acquiring properties and holding on to them forever or until the price comes up to what was paid for it (amounting to forever), ACHD has embarked on a program to divest ourselves of this property thereby returning it to the property tax rolls. It's taken a little while to clean up the property records from past regimes to make sure the reconfigured property is correctly described in the Assessor's records. Apparently things were pretty lax until the last year or so.

There are three properties which will be coming up for public hearing and auction within the next few months.

These are 1225 N Maple Grove Rd which is vacant, 1015 N Maple Grove Rd which has a house on it and 3180 N Linda Vista Lane which also has a house on it.

With the down market, these should go for a song. And there will be more properties to come - watch for them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Welcome to the 21st Century

ACHD took a big step recently in becoming more streamlined and cost effective by signing a contract with Dyna Parts LLC (NAPA Auto Parts) to provide parts for equipment.

ACHD has a maintenance department that services all ACHD's equipment, including the Commuteride vans. Those pieces of equipment run through a lot of parts to the tune of $750,000 a year! Currently, the department has $300,000 in inventory, however, there usually is something missing, I would surmise, since a significant amount of time is spent picking up parts from various dealers who won't or can't deliver in time.

This contract is supposed to allay all that. The inventory will be taken down to a just in time situation, delivered by NAPA. Mechanics can stay in the house and on the job. This should save about $80,000 to $100,000 a year.

Idaho Power has used this system for 10 years and it's obviously worked well for them.

Kudos to Mike Brokaw, Rich Girard and the Maintenance Department for seeing a good idea and going for it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

You'll never see this in the Statesman

-and you may never want to because this is truly the casing of the sausage making that is government. However, this is what we did at our ACHD Commission meeting yesterday so I think it's worth reporting on (you can tell not that much is going on in the ACHD world can't you?). We, of course, get no media coverage of our meetings. I wonder, if the media doesn't deign to cover something, did it really happen? Not according to them, I guess.

We had a design review application for the NE corner of Maple Grove and Fairview. This is basically a landlocked parcel with no access to Maple Grove. Since the Jackson's Texaco was removed a number of years ago when this intersection was widened, the remaining convenience store was closed because of poor numbers and a little used car lot lasted all of about a month. Now a loan store is planning on going in there. Good luck to them.

One of the requirements was they put a median (actually one of those long curbs painted yellow) in for about 220 feet from the intersection east in order to prevent drivers from trying to take a left hand turn across the five lanes of traffic in front of this location. The applicant was fighting paying for the median, arguing, successfully it turns out, that ACHD should have put the median in when the intersection was being constructed.

My big issue was access to Maple Grove. We are undertaking a huge study on access management on the Fairview corridor from Orchard to Linder Sts where cross accesses and backage (behind buildings) roads are key. If there is no access to Maple Grove, there is no way to control access to Fairview in this area and then Fairview will stay a ploddy road instead of a "mobility corridor". Well, it turns out that this intersection was constructed with federal funds and in their wisdom, the feds say that if you purchased an access and closed it, although circumstances may have changed or even common sense is sparked, then you have to pay them back for the difference in the valuation of the land with access vs without access.

It turned out that other Commissioners thought access to Maple Grove was a good idea also, but the most we could do was encourage the City of Boise to require the property owner via the applicant to explore with ACHD, opening up this access.

And we all agreed that, by granting an access off Fairview to these properties so close to a major intersection, ACHD should have foreseen the need for a median to keep unsafe left hand turns from being made. Ergo, ACHD will install the median.

It was actually a fairly interesting and lively discussion with good Commissioner participation, as discussions of this topic go. For the staff report, you can go here. If and when the video is up, I'll link to that as well for anyone other than the two viewers who already watched it on television. You can watch the video here. Just scroll down to item 3 and click watch video.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

East Park Center Bridge

Finally, after about 12 years since first being conceived, the East Park Center Bridge will soon be opening. There will be the big deal grand opening ribbon cutting held sometime later in September. I'll let our well staffed PR department get out the word on the exact date and time.

This bridge cost Ada County taxpayers $14.5 million in construction costs and an additional $4 million in right-of-way, design, etc.

That cost doesn't seem like that much right? I mean, it is a bridge and these things usually cost a ton of money. However, it didn't have to be like this.

In 1997, Harris Ranch was willing to pay for the construction of the bridge, at that time estimated at about $6 million. In return, ACHD was going to repay them with the impact fees emanating from development in the Harris Ranch area and surrounds. I remember sitting in joint meetings between the ACHD Commission and the Boise City Council discussing this very thing. ACHD also needed to help Harris Ranch with the Corps of Engineers process and I believe there was movement to an agreement on that as well.

Unfortunately, the ACHD attorney at the time, decreed that impact fees could not be used for this purpose (of reimbursement) and the then Commissioners went along with that opinion. Note this attorney is long gone. ACHD, in effect, wanted Harris Ranch to build the bridge as an exaction along with paying impact fees.

Harris Ranch then walked away and sacrificed increased building lots which would have been allowed with the new roadway capacity generated by the bridge.

What's the big deal you say, since the bridge is built? Well, the taxpayers funded the bridge for $18.5 million instead of having the developer build it with ACHD reimbursing out of impact fees generated by the developer. In other words, no tax dollars spent under the first idea - $18.5 million in tax dollars the way it ended up. Well to be fair, some of the $18.5 million came from impact fees (mostly from Harris Ranch). However, since the impact fee fund is negative $26.3 million and climbing every quarter, I'd have to say that a lot of tax dollars went into the funding of this bridge which was totally unnecessary.

While I'm glad the bridge is finally built - it sure is a dumb way to run a railroad. Hopefully, this mistaken scenario won't ever happen again, for any project.

UPDATE: Our well staffed PR department is sending out postcards. September 29, 2009 is the date. 10:30 am is the time. Location - at the bridge.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cancel a project?

My anonymous "fan" once again has weighed in and it's so cool that someone feels strongly enough to comment.

The latest question is, when am I going to make the hard decisions and cancel a project rather than cut $1 million from lobbyists, public relations and non-litigating lawyers. The answer is, I'm not going to advocate cutting a project.

Why? Because those large projects are where we actually use outside contractors - contractors that provide jobs to workers in Ada County who do NOT work for government. We often use contractors on small projects as well, and those contractors also employ workers. With an unemployment rate of 9.4% and a jobless rate of over 16%, I think it's important to keep those projects on track.

The one exception to the big project construction is the Three Cities River Crossing. However, this now $80 million plus project will never get off the ground anyway and spending money on acquiring right-of-way doesn't really contribute to employment growth.

I still think the "fan" is wrong to say that since the million is spread so thin, that we should not worry about the taxation. Instead of slamming me, perhaps he/she would have done us all a better service by asking the County, the cities, the School Districts and the myriad other taxing entities on our tax bills to cut 3% from their property tax budgets.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Not That I Condone Vandalism

But this is pretty clever.

And please don't try this at home or on your street.