Canyon County's jail, fairgrounds need help

With no debt, boosting revenue could provide sound financial footing.

cmsewell@idahostatesman.comMarch 13, 2014 

The Canyon County Commissioners say they have to do something about the overcrowded, aging jail.

"The jail has problems," Commissioner Steve Rule said during the annual State of the County address Wednesday.

The county may have "several million dollars available" in unspent funds, said Rule. "We are going to have to do something," he said.

But commissioners "don't have faith in a $25 million, $35 million or $45 million bond passing," he said.

Other highlights:

• Property taxes: The county lowered its property tax levy rate by 11 percent this year. "This isn't something that counties and cities typically do, and we are really proud of this," Rule said.

• Budget: "We are completely debt-free as a county. We don't owe a dime to any organization," Rule said. About half of the county's annual $66.8 million budget goes to public safety, "which is and will continue to be one of Canyon County's top priorities," Rule said.

• Canyon County Fair: The county is trying to determine if moving the fair to the Ford Idaho Center is feasible. If not, it will need to raise $10 million to $12 million in private donations to relocate the fairgrounds to a site near U.S. 20/26 and Franklin Road. The fair will stay where it is this year and next year.

• Administration building: Construction is about one-third complete on the $6.5 million, three-story, 50,000-square-foot facility that will house several county offices. To save money, staff has been scouring government surplus sites to find furnishings for the building. "We've gotten about $40,000 worth of furniture for about $5,000," Commissioner Kathy Alder said.

• Growth: The county last year issued 564 building permits with a construction value of $48.5 million. "That's a level that hasn't been seen since before the recession," Rule said. Single-family home permits issued in 2013 were nearly double the number in 2012.

• Lake Lowell: The county is still prepared "to take legal action to clarify that the federal government does not have authority to regulate our waters," Rule said. Lake Lowell is a manmade lake created for irrigation purposes, Commissioner Kathy Alder said: "They can certainly administer the refuge lands, but the waters of Lake Lowell are not theirs."

Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell

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