Boise shakes up bond proposal, per public input

The City Council would split the plan in two, take out money for a police station and add funds for construction.

sberg@idahostatesman.comSeptember 5, 2013 

The council will decide Tuesday whether to put separate bond measures on Boiseans' Nov. 5 ballot.

One bond would authorize the city to borrow about $17 million to upgrade four city fire stations and build a fire training facility.

The other would put $5.5 million into West and Central Bench parks and $10 million toward open space purchases in the Foothills and potentially other areas around Boise.

Notice anything missing? That would be $1.95 million for a Central District police station — an item Mayor Dave Bieter wanted in the bond as recently as last week. Bieter said he changed his mind for two reasons.

First, the city has yet to identify a specific location for the Downtown station. Second, Boise's police-impact-fee account, which would cover half the station's total $3.9 million cost, hasn't accumulated enough money.

"I stress that this project must and will be built," Bieter said in a memo to the City Council and staff. "My recommendation simply calls for it to be funded at a later date using existing city revenues."

In an email Wednesday to the Statesman, Police Chief Mike Masterson didn't comment on delaying the Downtown station except to say the department remains committed to the project as part of its "strategic plan for providing the most efficient, effective police services well into the future."

The mayor's decision to back a split bond was also a recent development. He originally said it made more sense to have an all-inclusive bond than ask voters to decide on multiple measures.

Three open houses, a Saturday morning spent with constituents and comments at City Hall convinced his team voters want the ability to choose among proposed expenditures.

"I'm definitely happy that they've changed their tune on that," said Ron Marler, president of the West Bench Neighborhood Association. "I thought that before it was a bad idea. Now that we've dropped the one and split the remaining two items up, I'm more inclined to vote for one of them and against one of them."

Marler said he's likely to vote against the parks and open-space bond and for Fire Department upgrades, assuming Boise puts them on the ballot. "It has more of direct impact on my direct neighborhood," he said. "The parks, even though it's the West Bench, it's a little bit out of my West Bench neighborhood."

Click here for a description of the specific park projects that would be funded.

Both measures would require a two-thirds majority to pass.

Another change to the bond proposal is adding roughly $547,000 to the Fire Department measure to prepare for expected construction cost increases.

"As Boise's economy continues to rebound, construction costs will likely increase to levels that exceed earlier estimates," Bieter said in the memo. "While this is certainly a good indicator for our local economy, it also would increase project costs."

City staff will pin down the exact amount in time for next Tuesday's final council vote, spokesman Adam Park said.

Taken together, the construction cost increase and removal of the police station would reduce the total bond package from almost $34 million to $32.43 million, according to the mayor's numbers. Instead of $13, the average Boise homeowner's taxes would increase by $12 per year if both bond measures pass.

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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