December 18, 2013 in Idaho

Idaho mulls fate of furnishings from never-used governor’s mansion

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Betsy Russell photo

Idaho’s hilltop governor’s mansion, former home of the late J.R. Simplot, has remained unoccupied since it was donated to the state in 2004. No Idaho governor has lived there.
(Full-size photo)

BOISE - There likely won’t be a governor’s yard sale, but Idaho is quietly moving to sell off the furnishings that filled its never-occupied governor’s mansion.

“The basic supposition, really, is that there’s no interest in a governor’s home owned by the state,” at least among recent governors, said Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, who chairs the Idaho Legislature’s governor’s housing committee. “So we thought it’d be best to develop a plan to dispose of the furnishings.”

The furnishings, which include two bedroom sets, dining furniture, wall art, kitchen supplies and more, were carted out of the hilltop home before it was handed back to the Simplot family on July 1. The goods now sit in two “pods” at a Boise storage facility, where they’re being kept at a rental cost of $318 a month. “It’s in a climate-controlled, secure facility,” said state Department of Administration spokeswoman Jennifer Pike.

The state spent $100,000 in donated funds on the furnishings. Some items, mostly banquet tables and catering supplies, have been moved to Gov. Butch Otter’s ranch in Star, so he can hold official events there that earlier would have been held at the mansion. The items in storage are now valued at roughly $70,000.

Now that lawmakers have decided to get rid of them, the question is how they can do it. Asked if a yard sale is an option, Pike laughed. “That is a very good option – I will add that to our list,” she said.

The big question, which the lawyers are checking on now, is whether state surplus property disposal rules apply, or other rules pertaining to the donated funds.

Idaho has struggled with the governor’s housing issue since its previous governor’s home in Boise’s North End fell into disrepair in the 1980s, prompting then-Gov. Cecil Andrus to refuse to live there. Plans were drawn up for a new mansion on state-owned foothills property overlooking the state Capitol, but it never came together.

In 1990, the former governor’s home was sold, making Idaho only the sixth state with no official governor’s residence.

The 2004 donation to the state of the late billionaire J.R. Simplot’s landmark home for a governor’s mansion was billed as the solution, but no governor ever moved in. Current Gov. Otter is Simplot’s ex-son-in-law.

Facing maintenance costs of $177,000 a year – in part to keep the home’s 37 acres of sloping laws watered and mowed – the state gave the house back to the Simplot family last summer.

Idaho now pays its governor a $4,500-a-month housing stipend. Otter stopped receiving the stipend in 2009 when the Simplot home was remodeled and opened, but began receiving it again June 1, when the home was closed and removal of the furnishings began.

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