February 4, 2011 in City

Idaho plans to keep governor’s mansion

Associated Press

BOISE – Lawmakers on Thursday rejected a proposal to sell Idaho’s long-empty governor’s mansion to help the cash-strapped state parks system.

Rep. Grant Burgoyne, a Boise Democrat, introduced the legislation in the House State Affairs Committee, where lawmakers refused to print the bill.

The money tied up in the hilltop mansion does nothing for the state, Burgoyne argued, while Idaho’s park officials explore corporate sponsorships to stay financially afloat.

“We have chosen to keep the governor’s mansion, and we have state parks that are going to have corporate logos on them,” Burgoyne said after the hearing.

Gov. Butch Otter has eschewed living in the hilltop mansion that was donated to the state by the late french fry billionaire, J.R. Simplot. Otter resides at his ranch west of Boise.

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.

About $1 million remains in a fund to maintain the house, but the money has been dwindling due to exorbitant watering and mowing cost. The water-guzzling, electricity-devouring hilltop mansion is vacant but still costs the state about $120,000 in yearly upkeep.

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