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Local News Twin Falls City Council

City Council Ready for a Raise?

A public hearing will be held at City Hall on Monday, August 23, 2021 at 6pm to hear the citizens’ concerns and opinions about the budget.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)
  • Shawn Barigar’s occupation of both the city council seat & presidency of the Chamber of Commerce forced him to abstain from a council vote
  • 6 police officers were awarded with certifications
  • 3 police officers were promoted in rank
  • 2022 Budget proposal: 
    • Library: $2,156,602 or +8.53%
    • Police: $11,137,665 or +5.98%
    • Fire:  $5,896,810 or +5.78%
    • Council will consider giving themselves a raise for the first time since 2008
  • The council did not ask about large expenditures
  • Watch the recording of the meeting yourself to check our facts

City Manager Travis Rothweiler allowed the chiefs of fire & police to present their proposed portions of the budget in a session that was mainly focused on the first deep-dive into the proposed 2022 Twin Falls city budget. Councilman Shawn Barigar abstained from voting on an agenda item to be approved from the minutes from last week before the budget presentation. His reason: the fact that he occupies a position on the city council as well as the presidency of the Chamber of Commerce caused a conflict of interest because Mr. Barigar was an applicant on one of the applications being approved. Mr. Barigar has occupied positions on both the city council and the chamber of commerce since 2004. 

Police Officers Honored

Police chief Kingsbury presented six of Twin Fall’s finest with earned certifications, as well as to promote three officers to new ranks. The budget discussion kicked off shortly thereafter, with city manager (an unelected position in Twin Falls) Travis Rothweiler introducing his proposed budget to the city council. Mr. Rothweiler has chosen to present the budget over the course of eight weeks’-worth of council meetings, breaking the overall budget up into focus areas. Most cities in Idaho spend two council meetings at most on budgetary meetings. 

City Library Budget

Tara Bartley, the director of the Twin Falls public library who approved (and later chose to re-approve) the LGBT display in the children’s section of the library, presented her department’s portion of the budget. After blaming COVID-19 for the drastic reduction in services executed over the past year, Ms. Bartley admitted that the library has seen record low circulation in their media since October of last year. The library budget for 2022 includes a new air circulator (the current one was installed in 1991) and sidewalk improvements. With thirty-seven employees and new services being fabricated to address peoples’ fears related to COVID-19, the library’s portion of the budget is being increased by over 8.5%. No mention was made of why the library’s budget wasn’t reduced to reflect the reduction in services it provided in the past year. If you wish to comment on the library’s budget requests, you can email Ms. Bartley.

Fire Department Budget

Fire chief Les Kenworthy presented the fire department’s portion of the budget. After a record year that saw the approval and commencement of building a training center and several fire stations, the fire portion of the budgeted amount increased by 2.38% to almost $6,000,000. The expenditures presented by Mr. Kenworthy were a new fire engine (the one being retired has the equivalent of 700,000 miles on it and a cracked frame) and new equipment. Representatives from the fire department asked for new oxygen tanks & apparatus because the new ($1,700,000) ladder truck purchased in 2020 requires the upgraded equipment. 

Police Department Budget

Police chief Kingsbury introduced the portion of the budget allotted to his department and allowed officers to present the details to the council. Since the code enforcement bureaucracy was folded back into the police department in recent years, animal control’s budget is rolled in together with the police department. The animal control wing of the department requested $80,000 for a new vehicle. The truck being replaced is a 2016 with over 100,000 miles on it, and the gentleman presenting this portion of the budget complained that it only has one kennel in it with poor ventilation for the animals. Almost $100,000 will buy the department 6 air conditioned and heated state-of-the-art kennels for stray animals. According to the presenter, this new vehicle will reduce response times by animal control, but no method of measurement was presented to verify that claim.

The bulk of the police department’s expenditures will be going to new training, equipment, and a small renovation to the women’s locker room of the police department. Among the new equipment are vehicles, radios, a long-term evidence storage refrigerator, and a program that actively works to disguise the home addresses of police officers on the internet. The department expressed a desire to keep up with policing standards by proactively enrolling in intensive training programs. 

Raises for the council?

In perhaps the most unexpected comment of the meeting, retiring mayor Suzanne Hawkins brought up the idea of a raise for the future City Council. Councilman Greg Lanting (also retiring this term, after almost twenty years on the council) lent his agreement, opining that he felt the council had not received a raise since the 1990s. The last official pay increase for the Twin Falls City Council was passed in 2008 and went into effect in 2009. No mention was made of the fact that many city council positions across the nation are unpaid, and the men and women who fill those positions consider it an honor and privilege to serve for a time rather than turning that service into a secondary source of income. The city council asked very few questions, none of which addressed the increases in spending.

For those of you who find any of these details disturbing, or who wish to comment on the budget proposal for FY 2022, please show up on Monday, August 23, 2021 at 6pm for the public hearing to voice your concerns.

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