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Eye On Boise

Ekern resigns, Bower back on board

A month after a state study found serious problems with morale and communication at the Idaho Transportation Department, department Director Dave Ekern has resigned. The state Transportation Board today selected former department Director Dwight Bower, who headed the department for nine years until his retirement in 2002, as the interim director.

Gov. Jim Risch, in an impromptu press conference at his office, said he’d met with both Bower and board Chairman Frank Bruneel. “Both of them share the passion that I have to move the GARVEE bonding method of highway construction forward,” Risch said.

Idaho is in the early stages of a program to build roughly 25 years worth of highway projects in 10 years, using Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles, or GARVEE bonds, a financing method Congress created to allow states to borrow against future federal highway funding allocations. Risch said the first GARVEE project breaks ground tomorrow morning, on Highway 30 near Lava Hot Springs in Eastern Idaho, and five more are in the works.

“My objective is to move the department forward,” Risch said. “You always hope that everything you do improves the morale of the department.”

Ekern, who had held the post since 2003, said in a statement, “I have recently been approached with two potentially significant career opportunities and do not think it is appropriate to pursue these negotiations while fulfilling my duties as director.”

Ekern is using vacation time and will leave the state payroll on Aug. 25th. Bower will start work as interim director Sept. 5th. Until then, the department’s deputy director, Charlie Rountree, will oversee daily operations. ITD has 1,834 employees and an annual budget of $500 million. Ekern’s annual salary was $130,000.

Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.