Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 18° Clear

Eye On Boise

State building repair, renovation backlog nearly half a billion dollars

The state's building alterations and repair backlog is up to nearly half a billion dollars, Tim Mason, administrator of Idaho's Division of Public Works, told JFAC this morning, a figure Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, called "mind-boggling." Mason said, "We're allocating $17 million against $80 million of requested projects. ... The actual backlog of alteration and repair is probably approaching half a billion dollars." Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, asked Mason how much of that is "of a critical nature." Mason said he estimates that of the $80 million in requests, about half are critical. "I think if we were able to come down $40 million, we would be taking care of the serious problems," he said. Mason, who's currently the president of the national association of state public works administrators, said, "The alteration and repair problem that we're addressing isn't really much different than other states. ... Everybody's dealing with the same problem."

Mason said Idaho goes through a two-step process to determine which building alteration and repair projects to fund: First, it looks at how much money is available from the Permanent Building Fund, and then it looks at priorities provided by agencies.

Gov. Butch Otter is recommending just $5.15 million in construction projects next year from the Permanent Building fund, with the largest at $1.5 million. The five are:

  • $1.5 million for infrastructure repairs at the Capitol Annex, which still would leave another $2.5 million in work before the building is habitable. "It's a multi-year project - it's only a multi-year project because we can't fund it all at one time, and so we're doing it kind of piecemeal," Mason said.
  • $1.5 million to upgrade the fine arts building at Lewis-Clark State College, which was funded last year at $1.7 million, but then all but $200,000 was pulled back so that only design work could proceed.
  • $1 million to renovate the basement of the education building at Idaho State University, which was funded at $1.1 million last year but then cut to $100,000 for just design work.
  • $650,000 to remodel the military division's readiness center in Emmett, which the federal government will match with another $650,000.
  • $500,000 to replace the military divisions communications tower on Schaefer Butte. "That's a vital link in the state's communications microwave infrastructure," Mason said.

The state's Permanent Building Fund, established in 1961 to fund state building construction, renovation and repairs, is funded by a $10 head tax on all Idaho income tax returns; $5 million a year from sales taxes; a slice of cigarette taxes; a third of Idaho's beer tax proceeds; and half of state lottery earnings. It is overseen by a five-member council chaired by Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo.

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.

Follow Betsy online: