Driggs hopes to grant school utility connections now, for paving and annexation later
While the site of the new Driggs Elementary School is not within Driggs city limits, the school district needs approval from the city for water and sewer connections in order to receive its building permit from the county. That inspired some discussion at last week’s Driggs City Council meeting as the council members weighed the approval.
The property owned by the district, which includes the high school, middle school, and future DES, is an island of county land within the city. An unpaved road, LeGrand Pierre Ave, connects the building site to Shoshoni Plains, a city neighborhood. The council members and city staff debated requiring annexation and road improvements as criteria for hook-up approval.
Delwyn Jensen, the school board member who is tasked with negotiating contracts for the bond, said he did feel it appropriate to enter into a development agreement with Driggs and agreed that annexation and road improvement were priorities, but asked that those be considered separately from sewer and water hook-ups.
“We’re not going to outlay $13 million on a building then not have a good way to get to it,” he said about paving LeGrand Pierre Ave.
He also recalled being on the Driggs Planning and Zoning Commission over a decade ago along with council members Ralph Mossman and August Christensen, and that even then annexing the island was on the table.
“It’s something I’ve been advocating for most of my time here in the valley,” Jensen said.
Garett Chadwick, the district architect, addressed the concern that has been raised by both the city and the county that the district didn’t budget for fees. He explained that during the bond process, the district has to come up with a dollar amount to present to voters before plans are drafted. The $37 million that came to a vote last November included a chunk of money earmarked for soft costs including applications, fees, and permits.
“There are just too many variables so we budget for generalities,” Chadwick said. “We had to ask for money from taxpayers prior to having anything. It’s kind of an odd process in Idaho. There’s a lot of guessing and cost estimating we had to do.”
The council members agreed they didn’t want to hold up or sabotage the building process for the district.
“I think we need to participate,” council member Wade Kaufman said. “Here we are sitting at this table and it is contingent on us. The county is waiting on us to say yay or nay. This is not a yay, nay or maybe question, this is a yes.”
The subject of discounting or waiving connection fees was broached, but council members felt that Driggs taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize a county school. They agreed to consider charging in-city rates for connections, which would save the district around $15,000, but tabled that discussion for later. They also decided to postpone the conversation about annexation and road improvement in the interest of helping the school district receive its building permit before the construction season ends this year.