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Eye On Boise

Fri., March 1, 2013, 11:40 a.m.

Idaho to return mansion to Simplots

Idaho's official, but vacant, governor's residence, the former home of the late billionaire J.R. Simplot (Betsy Russell)
Idaho's official, but vacant, governor's residence, the former home of the late billionaire J.R. Simplot (Betsy Russell)

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho aims to return the hilltop mansion to the Simplot family in a tentative agreement over the would-be governor's residence-turned-money pit that remained vacant even as maintenance costs skyrocketed. That's according to a resolution being considered by Idaho Governor's Housing Committee Friday at a meeting in Boise. J.R. Simplot, the deceased billionaire who built his agricultural empire, in part, on french fry sales to McDonald's, donated the home in 2004. But fund to maintain the mansion has dwindled to $900,000, from $1.5 million in 2005. According to the resolution, Idaho is "very grateful" for the gift but believes it's in the best interest of the state and the Simplot family to return it. Simplot's heirs originally insisted Idaho keep the place, but now are amenable to taking it back.

Here’s more: The Governor’s Housing Committee voted unanimously in favor of the resolution today. “It’s been a pretty divisive and combative issue for a while, because of the ongoing expense to maintain it,” explained Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, the committee chairman. “The governor doesn’t want to live there, and yet we had this wonderful, generous gift from a family.” The five-member committee, which includes four lawmakers and state Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna, asked Winder after its last meeting to visit with the Simplot family.

He did so, he said, and “everybody came to the same conclusion: That it’d be best to unwind the original gift and convey it back to the family.” The process may take some time, Winder said, but the state will pursue it expeditiously. Click below to read the full resolution; you can read a full report here  from AP reporter John Miller.

"Whereas, The Simplot family and the late J.R. Simplot and his wife Esther, very graciously gave the State of Idaho the property in Boise City known as the Idaho House; and

Whereas, The State of Idaho and the Governor's Housing Committee is very grateful for the gift; and

Whereas, As times have changed the parties to the gift, the State of Idaho and the Simplot family and Simplot Company agrees that circumstances have changed and it is in the best interest of both parties to reconvey the gift;

Now therefore be it resolved, The Governor's Housing Committee (IC 67-455) wishes to reconvey the subject property commonly known as the Idaho House back to the grantor and intends to set in motion all and any necessary documents to reconvey the real property, easements and water rights to the grantor or their assignee; and

Now therefore be it further resolved, The Governor's Housing Committee authorizes its Chairman Senator Chuck Winder, with the assistance of the Idaho Department of Administration, to work with the grantors to complete a mutually beneficial and timely reconveyance and to provide a timely report to the committee."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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