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Simplot mansion cost Idaho almost $1 million

A giant American flag, recently removed from the hill where the Simplot mansion stood, will be replaced once the demolition of the house is done, Simplot spokesman Ken Dey said.
A giant American flag, recently removed from the hill where the Simplot mansion stood, will be replaced once the demolition of the house is done, Simplot spokesman Ken Dey said. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

Take a look at the state of Idaho's maintenance and utility bills for the Simplot mansion, and you'll see why the Simplot family is demolishing the house.

It's an expensive property, even when it's free.

After the Statesman reported last week that the Simplot family had begun demolishing the mansion, a few readers asked me how much the state had spent on it during the nearly eight years it was in Idaho's possession. I didn't know, so I asked the good folks at the Idaho Department of Administration.

Here's their response in chart form (Hover your mouse over the bars to see dollar figures for each category.):

You can see that "Repair and maintenance" is the biggest cost, accounting for more than half of the total upkeep bill of $930,586.94. Utilities and landscape costs were the next biggest items, totaling more than $370,000.

The state covered these costs from the Governor's Residence Fund, which is managed by the Governor's Housing Committee, Department of Administration CFO D. Keith Reynolds said in an email. Some of the money in the fund — $221,000 — came from the sale of the former governor’s residence in the North End. The state also moved $778,800 into the residence fund from its Permanent Building Fund.

The Simplots donated the mansion and surrounding land to the state on Nov. 1, 2005. Idaho returned the property to the family June 24, 2013. Simplot spokesman Ken Dey said none of the family members wanted to live in the house, so they decided to tear it down.

Even after demolishing the house, some of the costs the state paid — utilities, landscaping — will still apply. But the family will spend a lot less on a bare piece of land than on a vacant mansion. On top of maintenance costs, they have to pay county property taxes, which have totaled almost $110,000 over the past two years.

Some people have suggested using the house to shelter homeless people or for some other charitable purpose. I'm guessing anything like that would require a ton of rehab work just to make the mansion a suitable space. Then you’d have the cost of liability insurance, which could be an absolute killer.

Yes, destroying the house feels wasteful. But I’ll bet spending around $100,000 a year on an empty house does, too.

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