2017 Year in Review: Story #8: BMH saves Blackfoot water towers

Staff Writer

Editor's note: For the rest of the year, we will be counting down the biggest stories of 2017. The stories were selected through a combination of votes in our newsroom and reader votes on our website at www.am-news.com

Our #8 story has a happier ending than most stories on our list.
In August, citizens learned that the City of Blackfoot was accepting bids to remove two iconic water towers, and many were not happy.
Chase VanOrden, one of the four men who ran for Mayor of Blackfoot, started an online petition that got hundreds of signatures overnight (It now has more than 1,000). VanOrden and others used the petition and social media to rally residents and appeal the decision made by the city council.
One of them, Doni Wixom, shared a Facebook post in a group called "You grew up in Blackfoot, Idaho if you remember……", saying that Blackfoot Mayor, Paul Loomis "was kind enough to say if a group would like to get together, he would be happy to put it on the council agenda and they would listen to what we have to say about it."
Then, at the city council meeting, Bingham Memorial Hosptial came through for those hoping to save the water towers.
As countless citizens stood up and pleaded for more time to save the two empty towers, Mark Baker, representing BMH, took the podium and gave those in opposition of tearing down the towers what they wanted, time and hope.
"I am here on behalf of Bingham Memorial Hospital. We would be willing to take on the liability and cost of the towers (following a structural analysis)." Baker stated, which was followed by an eruption of applause in the entire room.
Mayor Paul Loomis and the city council then passed a motion and postponed moving forward with the removal of the towers for 90 days, in order to give Bingham Memorial time to hire a third-party engineer to do a structural analysis of the towers.
BMH recently issued the following press release:
On Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, at the Blackfoot City Council meeting, the City Council voted 4-0 to approve the sale of the towers to BMH.
“The Blackfoot water towers are iconic landmarks that mean a great deal to people of Blackfoot,” says Jake Erickson, CEO of BMH. “The public outcries about the potential to have the water towers demolished this past summer got my attention. I knew immediately there was something we could do to turn this into a positive situation for the community.”
BMH commissioned a structural analysis by the firm Harper Leavitt Engineering (HLE). HLE determined that the water towers are currently structurally sound and not at risk of structural failure. In addition, because Blackfoot is in a high-desert environment with low humidity and a noncorrosive atmosphere, the towers will continue to safely serve as historical landmarks for many years to come.
BMH does not plan to make any aesthetic changes to the towers until after the winter. However, BMH is planning to seek public input through a community-wide collaboration.
“Because of its proximity to our hospital campus, we plan to paint the north tower green and refresh the wording to say, ‘Welcome to the City of Blackfoot,’ on one side and ‘Welcome to Bingham Memorial Hospital’ on the side that faces the hospital campus,” explained Mr. Erickson. “For the large, south tower, we want the community to help us decide how it should look.”
In the New Year, BMH will launch a website where the public can submit their ideas. After the submission period, a panel will help narrow the ideas down to two to three choices. These choices will then be shown to the public for a final decision.
“This is a great opportunity for our community to come together and create something really amazing,” says Mr. Erickson. “Blackfoot is the headquarters for Bingham Healthcare and this community has supported our growth throughout the years. We believe Blackfoot is a great place to live, work, and play just like we know that Blackfoot is a place for world-class healthcare. And we believe that with the community’s help we can create a world-famous landmark for travelers to enjoy from all over the world.”
More details will be given as they become available.