Over 100 area residents took time out of their schedules on Wednesday to meet with Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter who was in Preston for Capital for a Day.
Otter’s visit for Capital for a Day was one of many he has completed during his tenure as governor. His goal is to visit each of the state’s 44 counties prior to leaving office.
The open-house format was held in the Robinson Fair Building and the Governor and an entourage of about 12 state officials were in Preston from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. During opening remarks, the Governor said the Capital for a Day program allows residents to meet with government officials and realize state personnel are accessible without traveling all the way to Boise.
He was introduced to the crowd by Mayor F. Lee Hendrickson.
Some of the topics discussed at the open house included an access off U.S. 91 by the Preston Junior High School to help with traffic congestion, establishing a natural gas fueling station in Preston, state drug-addiction programs and the state taking control of federal lands, among others.
Brandon Roberts, who has recently built a strip mini-mall near 700 South and U.S. 91, said the Idaho Transportation Department has turned a deaf ear on pleas to open traffic access points off U.S. 91 in the general area.
“Businesses locating in my new building, a local dentist and the school district are all requesting direct access off the highway,” he said. “Refusal by the state to allow these accesses will hold hostage future business expansion in Preston. We have gone through all the processes outlined to us by the ITD and have been denied.
Roberts’ comments were echoed by dentist Darron Kelley, who has purchased property in the same vicinity, and a Preston School Board official that said there is a traffic congestion problem with pick-up and drop-off of junior high students during the school week.
“Is there any way you, as Governor, can overrule the ITD?” he asked.
Otter said he relies on decisions made by state highway officials. “These decisions are based on traffic-safety studies and I have never over-ruled the ITD on their decisions,” he said.
During a lunch break, Otter told The Citizen he plans to get brought up to speed on the local access issue and will address it with members of the ITD board.
“I hope we can find a common solution that will work for the benefit of all,” he said.
Residents with questions, in most instances, were directed to the appropriate state agencies and personnel during the day. They included: Lieutenant Governor Brad Little, Franklin County native and State Controller Brandon Woolf, Idaho Transportation Board member Dwight Horsch, Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore, Idaho Department of Water Resources Director Gary Spackman, Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke, Office of Energy Resources Administrator John Chatburn, Idaho Division of Building Safety Administrator Kelly Pearce and Jason Hancock, deputy chief of staff for the State Department of Education.
Area Legislators Rep. Marc Gibbs, Grace, and Rep. Tom Loertscher, Bone; and Sen. John Tippets, Bear Lake, also attended the event. Gibbs said he and his counterparts listened to local public concerns.
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