Top 20 stories of 2012 — #7
#7 Former principal sent to prison
By LESLIE MIELKE
BLACKFOOT — Christopher Charles Cox, 39, the former principal at the Snake River Junior High School, was sentenced in August for one count of sexual abuse of a child under 16 years of age.
He was originally charged with three counts of sex abuse but Bingham County Prosecutor Scott Andrew said his office dropped two of the charges in exchange for Cox’ guilty plea.
Seventh District Judge Gregory Moeller sentenced Cox to not less than three and not more than 18 years in the Idaho Department of Correction.
His fines total $18,227,31. Cox must also register as a sex offender.
In February 2012, Cox was arrested and charged with three counts of sexual abuse of a child under 16 years old.
The victim was a 14-year-old eighth grader. She had confided in Cox that she had family problems.
“You have lived a double life,” Moeller said. “You have been a good son, husband and father. You have been a math teacher, principal and scout leader.
“Unveiled by this event are disturbing things that happened when no one else was watching,” the judge said. “As John Wooden said, ‘The true test of a man’s character is when no one’s around to watch.’
“In your position as a principal, you were to be a shepherd to the flock,” Moeller said. “You became a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
“You exploited her and took advantage of her; you may have been grooming other potential victims,” the judge said. “This situation was inappropriate touching, not sexual content.
“You do not fit the profile of a predator but you do fit the profile of an opportunist,” Moeller said.
“I acknowledge my guilt,” said Cox. “I was arrogant and proud.
“I did not fully appreciate the trust and responsibility given me, especially to the victim and her family,” said Cox. “I accept the full consequence of what I did.”
“You had to know [your actions] would cause harm and did cause harm,” Moeller said. “This was inexcusable behavior.
“You need help,” the judge said. “You will not be released until you get help.”
“The penalties he has put on himself will have far longer affects,” said Justin Oleson, Cox’ defense attorney. “He has put a lifetime of penalties on himself.”
In November, Cox and his wife divorced.
In December, Oleson requested a Rule 35 judgment.
Idaho Criminal Rule 35 is a statute that governs the correcting and reducing of sentences handed down by judges in misdemeanor and felony criminal cases.
“I appreciate a second chance to get a tough case right and this was a tough case,” said Judge Moeller.
Moeller let stand his original sentence in this case.
The judge did agree to strike from the record and his references the “previous sexual abuse” statements that Cox disputed.
Cox did not know of any previous sexual abuse, said Oleson.
“Given the position of trust and authority of an administrator and for the protection of society, the sentence is still appropriate,” said Moeller.
#8 Pocatello fire clean-up
By LISA LETE
POCATELLO — On June 28, 2012 the foothills west of Pocatello became a raging inferno, destroying 66 homes while damaging many more homes and properties in the Mink Creek and Gibson Jack areas, in what became known as the ‘Charlotte Fire.’ The fire was the worst, in terms of property damage, in what was a bad summer for fires throughout the state. The Bannock County assessor’s calculated property loss at $7.6 million.
Days after the fire, more than 2,000 volunteers, of all faiths from Blackfoot American Falls, Inkom, Aberdeen Pocatello and Chubbuck converged upon the charred hills in a massive cleanup effort led by the LDS Church. An estimated 14,000 hours were donated by members of the community who used hands, trucks, backhoes , chainsaws and trailers to help give the homeowners a clean place for rebuilding.
Many of the volunteers from various LDS wards throughout Bingham County recalled a time when they themselves were in desperate need of help when in the early summer of 1997, floodwaters were rising fast, threatening homes and property along a 40-mile stretch of the Snake River. Bingham County residents who volunteered to help Pocatello in their time of need said they felt it was a good opportunity to give back to a community that came to their aid 15 years ago.
An outpouring of support from Southeast Idaho communities also helped provide food, shelter and other necessities for displaced families and pets.
“The devastation, unless it happened to you, you can’t understand the horrid feeling inside,” said Meg Allen, who lost her home in the fire. “I am so lucky to live here and so lucky to have neighbors in Pocatello...in Inkom...and in Blackfoot that came to help. Thank you. Thank you very much.”
After a thorough investigation by a team of 17 investigators from local, state and federal agencies, it was determined that the fire was accidentally man-caused and that criminal negligence was not considered a factor.
“We do believe that this fire was man-caused, although we do not have the exact cause on how that was done. There are four places where it may have started. We do not see any criminal intent.” said Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen.
Nielsen said that the case has been closed; however, if new evidence comes to light that shows criminal negligence, it will be reopened.
Six months later, some planting and re-seeding projects have been completed in the area and some property owners have been able to rebuild in time to celebrate Christmas in their new homes.
#9 Leavitt put to death
By BOB HUDSON
BOISE - Nearly three decades have passed since the mutilation and murder of 31-year-old Danette Elg of Blackfoot. Her body was found July 21, 1984.
At 10:25 a.m. on Tuesday, June 11, 2012, Richard Albert Leavitt died for her murder.
"Was justice served?" a reporter asked former Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney Tom Moss. He had successfully argued that Leavitt was guilty of murder during Leavitt 's 1985 trial.
"Yes," Moss said in answer to that question during a press conference following the execution. "Do you want more? Yes, I think justice was served."
Moss said he was not in the execution chamber, but said he received a hug from Elg's sister, Jalyn Valymn, after she had witnessed the execution with Elg's Richard Bross.
J. Scott Andrew, the current Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney, said the various court proceedings were "a huge rollercoaster" for Elg's family.
"Tomorrow they don't have to wonder" about Leavitt 's possible next legal move which kept him alive for 27 years after a Bingham County jury convicted him of the murder.
Andrew has been involved with the case for the past dozen years. He has reviewed the evidence and prepared for the possibility of a judge's order for a re-trial or a re-sentencing during that time.
"It has been a thorn in my side," Andrew said after he witnessed Leavitt 's execution on behalf of the people of Bingham County.
"I know it's a huge sense of relief for Danette's family," he said. "Her sister was clearly the most relieved to have it done."
Now, Andrew said, his next step will be to return Danette Elg's personal effects which have been kept separate from other evidence.
Throughout the 28 years since Elg's death, Leavitt has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence. He did so again on Sunday when he spoke to a television reporter from Boise by telephone.
When a reporter at Tuesday's press conference asked Moss if the fact that Leavitt never admitted to the crime weighed on him at all, Moss replied, "that doesn't weigh anything with me.
"This case, over the years, has been looked at under a magnifying glass," Moss said. "A trial was held. Twelve jurors heard the evidence for two weeks " Leavitt had visitors until about 9 p.m. on Monday.
He met with his attorneys in his cell on Tuesday before his escort team arrived to take him to the death chamber.
"Mr. Leavitt received several sedatives throughout the night," noted Brent Reinke, director of the Idaho Department of Correction during his initial briefing on Tuesday morning.
When he arrived in the death chamber, Randy Blades, warden of the Idaho Maximum Security Institution, read the death warrant which 7th District Judge Jon Shindurling signed in mid-May. At 10:08 a.m. members of the medical team inserted IVs into Leavitt 's arms, beginning administration of the lethal drug. Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg pronounced Leavitt dead 17 minutes later.
Four members of the media witnessed the execution as surrogates for the public.
"Everything seemed to go very smoothly," said Ruth Brown of the Idaho Falls Post-Register.
"I've never experienced this kind of quiet," said Scott Logan of KBOI-TV of the atmosphere in the death chamber. "I was struck by the military precision of his escort team."
John Funk of the Idaho Press-Tribune in Nampa added, "I was struck by the antiseptic smell, like a dentist's office."
Rebecca Boone of the Associated Press noted, "Mr. Leavitt did not make a final statement."
So the case which dominated the front page of the Morning News for a couple of months in 1984 and 1985 finally came to an end.
#10 City loses two councilmen this year
By LISA LETE
BLACKFOOT — It was a tough year for the City of Blackfoot with the loss of two stellar city councilmen Farrell Cammack and Butch Hulse.
Cammack who was the longest running city councilman in Blackfoot's history, died May 29 after a long battle with cancer.
Councilman Cammack, who served the city right up to his death, had been re-elected to another four-year term last November and it would've been his 17th year of service to the city.
Upon hearing of Cammack's death, Blackfoot Mayor Mike Virtue said, "He was a repository of invaluable historical city knowledge.The city lost a strong advocate and I have lost a good friend."
In August, Virtue appointed Robert Barton Brown to complete Cammack's term of office on the council.
Councilman Hulse, who aspired to be Blackfoot's mayor someday, died of a congenital lung disease on Oct. 5 while awaiting a lung transplant in Salt Lake City.
Hulse, a Blackfoot native, loved Blackfoot and shared his enthusiasm for the city by taking an active role in the community with the Chamber of Commerce, Bingham Economic Development and organizing 'Music in the Park.'
In 2007, Hulse ran against [Mike] Virtue for Mayor. "He was a gentleman in every way during the campaign,' Virtue recalled. Hulse was proclaimed Honorary Mayor of the City on Oct. 1, 2012.
A replacement for Hulse will be named in January 2013.
Hundreds gathered at Hulse 's funeral service at Hawker Funeral Home, where he was proclaimed Honorary Mayor of the City of Blackfoot for Oct. 12, 2012.
Besides being commemorated for his love of the city and the many good things he did for Blackfoot, Hulse was remembered by friends and family for "his charisma, his optimism and his goodness."
Terry Hopkins, Hulse 's friend from Blackfoot High School's Class of 1965, reminisced about her long-time friendship with Hulse , fondly recalling the pink, white-top convertible, with no heater, that he drove in high school.
"He was always Mr. Optimistic and had so much charisma," she said. "He always landed on hiis feet. If he didn't have a job, he created one."
Professionally, Hulse was a hairdresser who once worked with famous hair stylist Paul Mitchell. He ran Trios Hair Salon on Meridian Street in Blackfoot for a number of years saying he "loved to make the ladies look good."
"The Class of '65 is like family. When we lose one of our own, it's like losing family," Hopkins stated, addressing Hulse 's widow, "Paula [Hulse] you will always remain part of our family."
Hulse 's friend of 12 years, Gordon Wankier, also spoke of Hulse 's optimism and zest for life, saying, "He was so full of life so full of 'let's get something done.' "
"He had so many projects going," Wankier went on, specifically mentioning Blackfoot's Music in the Park. "Butch got this going for our community and what a wonderful way for people to spend a summer evening with family and friends."
"Butch made me a better person. He was kind and unselfish and always thought of others before himself."
Hulse, who served in the Army as a medic during the Vietnam War, received full military honors at his funeral by American Legion Stewart Hoover Post #23.
Blackfoot city employees gathered at Jensen Grove Park on Aug. 9 for their annual summer picnic but not without stopping to remember friend and colleague, longtime city councilman Cammack , who lost his battle with cancer in May.
Virtue, along with friends and family members, were visibly moved and wiped away tears as the mayor talked about the loss of Cammack this spring.
"We miss him," Virtue said, speaking directly to Cammack 's widow, Jylene.
"We miss him and he will not be forgotten." Virtue presented Jylene with a plaque for her to take home, while unveiling a permanent plaque installed at the Jensen Grove picnic shelter in Cammack 's memory.
#11 Lipovac survives recall effort
By LESLIE MIELKE
BLACKFOOT — Blackfoot School District trustee Peter Lipovac retained his position as Zone 1 trustee in a recall vote on Aug. 28. Electors voted to retain him by a count of 101 for the recall; 180 against it.
By precinct, vote totals were Blackfoot precinct 4 (Stalker Elementary)-for the recall 52 votes; against the recall 13 votes.
Blackfoot Precinct 6 (Blackfoot Performing Arts Center)-for the recall 3 votes; against the recall 3 votes.
Fort Hall 20 (Fort Hall Elementary)-for the recall 28 votes; against the recall 135 votes.
Absentee votes-18 votes for the recall; 29 votes against it.
In percentages, 35.9 percent votes for the recall; 64 percent voted against it.
The total number of registered voters in Zone 1 was 1,283 voters. The percentage of electors who voted in Zone 1 was 21.9 percent.
"I thank everyone who helped in the campaign; who stood behind me and the Zone 1 efforts, said Lipovac.
"Now we can move ahead without these needless and useless distractions.
"I appreciate all the people who got out to vote, the people who got behind me and the Shoshone-Bannock tribes, he said. "These are the people who believe in what we are trying to do."
William Kniffin started the recall petition.
"A big thanks needs to be given to all the election officials who worked so hard to make this process run so smoothly," said Kniffin.
"As for Mr. Lipovac, even though he survived this recall, I think this process sent a clear message not only to him but to all of the board members," he said. "From now on, I hope school board members will stop and think if their decisions are benefitting all the students they
represent and not just pushing their own agenda."
# 12 P&Z ordinance controversial
By Lisa Lete
BLACKFOOT - Tempers flared between county residents and county commissioners following a 'standing room only' work session on Nov. 14 The commissioners unanimously approved wording changes to the controversial planning and zoning ordinance. The ordinance will be in effect at the first hearing of the new year on Jan. 9, 2013.
Work on the countywide zone ordinance started in 2007 and affects the property rights of local residents. The ordinance presents guidelines for residential and agricultural subdivisions and provisions for how to appeal to those guidelines. It contains zoning guidelines for energy development such as windmills and other developments.
Commissioner Ladd Carter said, "This is not a perfect ordinance. It's a work in progress. We can't see into the future what will come our way."
When some of the attendees became vocal against the decision, commission chair Cleone Jolley sternly informed the group that "anyone who disagrees with the decision can appeal to district court."
Bingham County resident Jay Cornelison said adamantly, "The county residents are not happy. We are headed for a dictatorship and we're bringing it on ourselves."
Lona Murdock became visibly angry, stating, "The people have said 'we don't want this!' You've changed the wording when everyone told you 'no.'"
Murdock and others agreed that property needs to be protected and there should be guidelines, but not major restrictions.
"The ordinance is restrictive and does not protect our rights they (the county commissioners) are not listening to us," Murdock added.
Rumblings among the group alluded that money would be pooled by interested county residents to appeal the decision in court.
The entire ordinance is available at http://www.co.bingham.id.us/planning_zoning/planning_zoning.html
#13 Blackfoot man charged in fatal crash
By JEN ANDRUS and LESLIE MIELKE
BLACKFOOT — The Bingham County prosecutor charged a Blackfoot man with vehicular manslaughter following an accident on Aug. 3.
Approximately 9:40 p.m. that night, the Blackfoot Police responded to a two-vehicle accident in the area of East Harmony and Rich Lane. Brent J. Hansen, 36, of Blackfoot died as a result of the accident.
According to the police report, Hansen and his 6-year-old daughter were on a motorcycle which collided with a vehicle operated by 41-year-old Kenny C. Struhs.
Hansen‘s daughter was injured in the accident and was transported to Bingham Memorial Hospital.
According to LaDawn Walker, Hansen‘s sister, the 6-year-old suffered a broken arm in the crash. Hansen was transported to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls where he succumbed to his injuries. Hansen left behind five children ages 9 years to 4 months and his wife.
Following the investigation, Struhs was arrested for vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
Struhs appeared before Seventh District Judge James Martsch.
Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Andrew said Struhs has been charged with vehicular manslaughter that alleges he was under the influence. Struhs was also charged with leaving the scene of an accident that caused injury or death. His bond was set at $250,000.
Struhs is currently in the Bingham County Jail.
#14 Layoffs at INL
By LESLIE MIELKE
IDAHO FALLS — On Feb. 9 Officials with the Idaho National Laboratory announced the need to cut their workforce.
As many as 185 workers working with Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) lost their jobs.
The main impact of these personnel cuts affected the administration and support of people working for BEA, said Mark Holubar, Director of Human Resources and Diversity. People working for the Idaho cleanup group with CWI and Idaho Treatment Group, were not be affected by these cuts.
The INL says they laid off employees on a voluntary basis at first then determined which additional cuts were made.
Employees were informed of the layoffs about 11 a.m. that day.
Voluntary termination occured in the middle of March and involuntary layoffs occured at the end of that month.
Those who lost their jobs got a severance package.
“This is a difficult day,” Holubar said. “We know this will impact families and the community.”
The cuts were part of a cost-reduction effort site-wide.
“In recent months, budget reductions and cost cutting efforts have been done in each department across the lab,” Holubar said. “We have scaled back and postponed investments. The investments we kept help to keep the lab competitive.
“We also received a strong endorsement from the Dept. of Energy and the Office of Nuclear Energy,” Holubar said. “Our congressmen have done a great job in respect to this institution.
“[INL] received a slight increase in our budget on the nuclear side,” Holubar said, “however, this only makes up 45 percent of our budget.
“The rest of our budget—55 percent—comes from contracts with the Dept. of Defense and renewable energy,” Holubar said. “These departments have dropped in their business structure.”
Increases in the cost of commodities and fuel also impacted the budget, said INL spokesman Ethan Huffman.
The INL employs about 8,000 employees, including contractors. Of those, 4,200 work for the BEA.
#15 Fort Hall adds Hotel and Event Center
By BOB HUDSON
FORT HALL - Some of the people touring the Shoshone-Bannock Hotel and Event Center during its grand opening in August had good things to say about it.
"It's beautiful," said LaLyn Murray, who is bookkeeper at her husband's store, Vern's Radio Shack of Blackfoot. "The rooms are outstanding.
"And the suites, who would not want to stay in that for an anniversary or something?
"This is a place you'd refer people to," Murray continued.
She and John and LaVerne Cegielnik of Chubbuck were among those who attended the grand opening celebration.
"It's really nice," said John. "The way it's set up with the pool and spas is pretty neat.
"The only thing we didn't like is they don't have a separate place for breakfast," he added.
Nathan Small, the chairman of the Fort Hall Business Council, noted that the hotel has been in the planning stages for several years. He recalled that tribal members had once discussed building such a facility near American Falls Reservoir.
"We're finally able to get this place built," he said. He said the Tribes were unable to get local financing, but received help from the Bank of Albuquerque in New Mexico.
"This is something that we're very proud of," Small said. "A lot of this was to create jobs for our people."
The hotel features 156 rooms, restaurants, a gift shop and other amenities.
Its event center , with rooms named in honor of chiefs from the tribes' past, will seat up to 1,400 people.
# 16 EISF has record breaking attendance
By LISA LETE
BLACKFOOT — The Eastern Idaho State Fair (EISF) "Barnyard Birthday Bash" of 2012 went down in the record books as the most highly attended fair in Blackfoot's history with a new attendance record of over 224,000 visitors. This beat the record of 221,000 visitors set in 2009.
A severe rainstorm dropped seven tenths of an inch of rain on the fairgrounds on opening day, forcing the closure of carnival rides and canceling the popular horse races; however, the weather was ideal the rest of the week.
EISF manager Brandon Bird said he believes that fair-goers recognized and took advantage of the value provided by a reduction in ticket prices for grandstand events such as the inaugural Gem State Classic Pro Rodeo and the combo price on the concerts for Three Dog Night and Heart. Bird said he is planning to incorporate a similar package next year.
'It's the dedication of thousands of people that make this fair great," Bird said. "Everyone from the exhibitors to concessionaires, sponsors to employees and especially those who attended this year's event have made the celebration of our 110th anniversary something we will never forget."
Next year's fair will be Aug. 30 through Sept. 7, 2013.
# 17 Hidden Treasures burns
By LESLIE MIELKE
SHELLEY — An early morning blaze blackened the business, Hidden Treasures, a furniture store at 238 S. Emerson, on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The business remains open in two other sites in town—one north of Shelley near AgParts. Hidden Treasures 2 is downtown near Farmers Insurance.
Fifteen to 16 different fire investigators were on site two days later in the fall, said Randy Adams, Shelley Assistant Fire Chief.
The investigators were trying to determine what started the fire, he said. There was an investigator for every little thing. There was an investigator for light bulbs, one for light fixtures, another for garage door openers and any number of other items.
"They bagged and boxed up material and sent it to the insurance laboratory in Denver, Colo.," said Adams. "Investigators told us it could take from a few weeks to six months to determine what caused the fire because the lab in Denver is backed up about six months."
Fighting the blaze in October, firemen from Shelley, Firth, Blackfoot and Ammon responded. Forty guys and eight trucks were on site, said Shelley Fire chief Mike Carter.
A person spotted the fire as he/she was passing by and called 911. The call came into the Shelley fire station about 5 a.m.
When the Shelley firemen arrived on site, the front section of the business was fully engulfed, said Adams.
"We called Firth right away," Carter said. "Because the blaze was tough on the eyes, we contacted Blackfoot who sent a couple guys and a truck and Ammon who sent eight guys and a truck.
"The fire was spreading through the trestles of the building to the south," said Carter. "It was spreading to the roof above the sheetrock.
"We knocked holes in there to get some water to the hot spots," he said. "It took a couple hours to get it under control."
The initial fire engulfed the front of the building and then spread through the trestles to the north and south of the building.
The fire did not reach the building to the north that contained mattresses, among other items.
"We were able to get it out without any injuries," the fire chief said.
By late Thursday morning, the Idaho State Fire Marshall was onsite.
"It was sure a disappointment," said Hidden Treasures owner Odell Young. "Something like this happens to someone else, not you, you know,
"I was so impressed with the fire department—their quick response and the number of people here," Young said. "Broulim's and OK Trailer came to see what they could do to help.
"We were very fortunate," Young said.
Grandson Bo Young said he thought his grandfather "was pulling his leg" when he called him about the fire.
"I arrived about 6 a.m. and just couldn't believe what I saw," Bo said.
"People are so kind," he said. "Broulim's came with water, donuts and chicken. OK Trailer said they would bring a trailer so we could have an office and people will know we are still open."
Hidden Treasures remains open in two other sites in Shelley—one site is north of Shelley near AgParts. Hidden Treasures 2 is downtown near Farmers Insurance. The business employees 10 people.
"We're still open," said Bo.
This is the 11th year Odell Young and his son, Jed Young, have owned and operated Hidden Treasures.
# 18 Pingree couple grand marshals
BLACKFOOT - The Eastern Idaho State Fair’s board of directors named Gary and Muriel Judge of Pingree as grand marshals of the 2012 Eastern Idaho State Fair. They led the annual Fair Parade down Shilling Avenue.
“Gary and Muriel are no strangers to the Eastern Idaho State Fair and I can’t think of two more deserving people to represent us this year as grand marshals,” said George Hamilton, president of the EISF Board. “Their lifelong contributions to Eastern Idaho’s agriculture community and to this Fair have been outstanding. I can’t remember a Fair without them.”
For decades, both Gary and Muriel have been actively involved in numerous aspects of the Fair. For 33 years, Gary was the swine superintendent, a position from which he retired in 2011. The Fair has been a part of Gary’s life since he was eight years old as a 4-H youth exhibitor.
In the 52 years since, he has missed the Eastern Idaho State Fair only three times, when he was away in college.
As swine superintendent, Gary was been involved with the 4-H Market Hog Sale, ensuring delivery of the hogs and overall floor responsibility.
Through the years, he and Muriel have continued to exhibit products from their 300-acre farm, including swine and malt barley.
He has helped the agriculture exhibit areas by laying the grain sheaves.
“It is a real honor for Muriel and me to represent the Fair as grand marshals. I look forward to seeing the parade this year since I won’t be responsible for the pigs as I’ve always been in years past,” said Gary. “Every year, I enjoy the Dutch Oven cooking barbeque dinner at the Fair, so I’m looking forward to that, as well.”
Outside of the Fair, Gary is former president of the Southeast Idaho Pork Producers Association. In 1986, he was recognized as Idaho’s up-and-coming pork producer and represented the state of Idaho at the National Pork Producers Council.
For 43 years, Gary served as a 4-H leader in his community, including president and secretary of the 4-H Bingham County Council; Muriel also has served in 4-H leadership for 29 years. He also is president of the Bingham County Farm Bureau.
Originally from Coeur d’Alene, Muriel first experienced the Fair in 1974, soon after she and Gary were married. Muriel began exhibiting swine alongside Gary, and she later exhibited in the quilting and baking categories.
As a substitute teacher with an interest in educating children, Muriel has brought “fun” to the swine department. For youth, she created an educational packet with pork-related games and activities designed to teach kids about the pork industry. Alongside Gary, Muriel has been responsible for the swine department’s bookkeeping; each year, fairgoers and exhibitors enjoy her signature “Pig Sugar Cookies,” which she bakes from a favorite recipe.
“It’s such an honor for us to represent Eastern Idaho in being the grand marshals,” said Muriel.
#19 Charter high school coming
By Leslie Mielke
BLACKFOOT - The corner of Riverside Plaza has been home to the Plaza Twin Theater, Bradbury College, the Blackfoot Bookstore and before that, sports cards were traded there.
Coming Fall 2013, plans are for a new charter school, Bingham Academy , to fill the corner space at Riverside Plaza.
Fred Ball, project director for the charter high school and administrator of the Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center, said the board has received authorization from the Idaho Public Charter School Commission.
The proposed Bingham Academy would be a four-year high school with an emphasis on college and career readiness.
Greg Sigerson, chair of the Bingham Academy Founding Board, acknowledged the $199,680 check presented to Bingham Academy on Nov. 30. This three-year start grant was awarded through the Charter School Program of the U.S. Department of Education. For three years, Bingham Academy will receive this amount of money on the condition that the charter high school is approved.
Bingham Academy is the only school in Idaho to ever receive a direct federal start-up grant. It hopes to open its doors next fall.
“This is a strong indication of the solid organization and quality we will offer in our curriculum,” said Sigerson.
“We are in the final stage of presenting our petition to the idaho Public Charter School Commission for approval,” he said. “This approval is necessary in order to secure the grant.”
Money from the start-up grant can only be used for software, computers and curriculum needs, said board member Pat Kolbet.
The start-up grant will also support the administrator’s salary for his/her first year.
Kolbet wrote the application for this grant.
“I scan the federal register every few days for every grant I can find,” she said.
Nearly 700 schools across the U.S. applied for this grant, Kolbet said.
All eligibility requirements were met by 68 schools but only 18 schools in seven states received these grants. Six schools were in Oregon; Bingham Academy was the only school in Idaho to receive this grant.
An additional $200,000 grant is available from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation once the charter is authorized.
Plans are to lease space in the Riverside Plaza and to renovate the 17,000 square foot space into classrooms, locker space and a small gymnasium.
Zac Fillmore of MBA Construction in Blackfoot will be in charge of renovation.
Speaking of the need for a charter high school, Sigerson said, “I’m really doing this for my son, who is a second grader. “He is in a charter school now and I love the interaction the teachers have with my son, my wife and me.”
Brian and Angelina Thelin were two people who worked to bring in a charter school to Blackfoot.
“We started this project because I know enough people who needed it,” said Angelina Thelin.
“Parents deserve a choice,” said Brian Thelin. “One size does not fit all.”
#20 Truck crash awakens citizens
By BOB HUDSON
and LESLIE MIELKE
BLACKFOOT — Don Dewey and his wife Charlene live near exit 93 off Interstate 15.
About 2 a.m. on Oct. 3 they were awakened by two explosions.
“We thought the Sinclair had blown up,” Don said. “We thought one of their tanks had blown.”
The Deweys live about one block from the Snake River Sinclair station on U.S. Highway 26.
Don got up and made his way to Anytime Fitness where he and others watched the fire caused when two semi-trucks collided. He said several people working out at the gym had to have witnessed the explosion.
Eyewitness Alisa Coles works the midnight to 8 a.m. shift at Motel 6. She called 911 after she heard the crash and saw the explosion.
“I happened to be standing by a window when I heard a crash,” Coles said. “About 30 seconds later, there was an explosion.
“It was pretty big,” she said. “I backed away from the window in fear it might break.”
There were three fires, Coles said. The semi-truck cab was on fire. There was a fire on the embankment and the third fire looked like debris from the two semis.
“The driver who was hit, George, was brought to the motel,” she said. “ISP paid for a room for him for the night.
“The other driver was taken to the hospital with minor injuries,” Coles said.
“George said if the driver had come by five or 10 seconds later he would have been dead because he was walking alongside his truck,” she said. “He said he saw the semi hit his truck and then side- swiped the length of the trailer.
“The driver had 30 seconds to jump out,” she said. “When he was jumping out of the truck is when his truck exploded.
“It was a scary sight to see,” said Coles.
The ISP report indicated that George Riedel, 57, of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, had stopped on the shoulder of the interstate to check a flat tire. While he was calling for help, another semi, driven by Peter Spicer of Pocatello, rear-ended Riedel’s truck.
Spicer’s truck then tipped over onto the side of the road and both semis caught fire.
Spicer was taken to Bingham Memorial Hospital.
According to the Idaho State Police report, troopers and other emergency personnel responded to the fire which blocked the northbound lanes of the interstate. Those loans were closed and with traffic flowed through Blackfoot much of the day.
Blackfoot Fire Department and EMS personnel assisted ISP. at the scene and Idaho Transportation Department officials were involved in the crash investigation.