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Simplots say they’ll help state maintain guv’s mansion

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The committee that holds the purse strings to the Idaho governor's mansion says the family of the late french fry billionaire J.R. Simplot is willing to help the state sustain the home for the next several years through a major fundraising campaign. The move could help Idaho avoid draining a fund to maintain the house and leaving taxpayers on the hook for upkeep of the water-guzzling, electricity-sucking hilltop mansion that the Simplot family donated to the state in 2004. The Governor's Housing Committee reported Tuesday that the fund holds about $936,000, which is enough to pay for about five to six years of maintenance. The committee is expected to consider a slew of options — which still could include selling the home — at a meeting later this year. Click below for a full report.


Panel weighs options for Idaho governor's mansion
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The family of the late french fry billionaire J.R. Simplot is willing to help the state sustain the Idaho governor's mansion through a major fundraising campaign, according to the head of the committee that holds the purse strings to the hilltop house.
The move could help Idaho avoid draining a fund to maintain the house and leaving taxpayers on the hook for upkeep of the water-guzzling, electricity-sucking mansion that the Simplot family donated to the state in 2004.
“They're committed to helping us keep this house sustainable through a major fundraising effort,” Republican state Sen. Chuck Winder said Tuesday during a meeting of the Governor's Housing Committee.
Winder chairs the panel, which reports that a fund to maintain Idaho's long-empty governor's mansion held $936,000 as of Aug. 31. That's enough to pay for about five to six years of annual maintenance.
The committee is expected to consider a slew of options — which still could include selling the home — at a meeting later this year.
If Idaho decides to sell the mansion, it must first give Simplot's surviving family the right of first refusal, at market prices. And if the offer is $2.1 million or less, Simplot's family could take back the place, even though Idaho has paid for six years of upkeep and used $310,000 from private donations for renovations.
Supporters of the plan to sell the mansion contend money tied up in the house does nothing for the state.
So far, no governor has ever lived there.
“I think this is a waste of money. I think in this day and age we don't need a governor's home,” said Rep. Phylis King, a Boise Democrat on the committee.
The panel is expected to meet in November at the earliest to weigh several options for the mansion.
Idaho Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna told the committee it would cost roughly $1 million to upgrade the heating and cooling system inside the house and pay for other interior work. A complete makeover was estimated at about $2.7 million.
  


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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