APRIL 29, 2010

Idaho says no go on free rent

By Alannah Allbrett

   Paul Pippenger, of Valley Enterprises has offered free rent for the period of a year to Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW), for both the Orofino and McCall offices which have been occupied for 14 and 10 years respectively. But, as of Thursday, April 22, IDHW has respectfully declined the offer.

   Pippenger said he would continue to pay the property tax and insurance on the buildings. Health and Welfare would need to take care of the utilities only.  Electricity, water, and janitorial services for the 7,000 square foot Orofino office are approximately $18,000 per year.

   Dick Schultz, Assistant Director, said that they were appreciative of the offer of free rent on the buildings, but they were unable to accept. Richard Armstrong, IDHW Director, was unavailable for comment.

    Health and Welfare spokesman, Tom Shanahan gave a figure of about $10,000 for running the telecommunications services and said that in McCall it amounts to approximately $28,000. Shanahan said, “In Orofino, we’ve figured out how to locate our remaining people at State Hospital North, where we already have data connections and janitorial service. There are no overhead costs. We’re aiming for the same thing in McCall.”

   Of the 19 employees at the Orofino office, four will be laid off. Six will remain in the area. Seven will be reassigned to the Lewiston and Moscow offices. Two employees handle infant/toddler caseloads and will continue to do so by telecommuting and splitting their time between Orofino and Lewiston doing home visitations.

   In McCall two of five employees will remain in town. Two have been offered positions in Boise, and one is retiring.

   Both of the existing buildings were custom made to IDHW’s specifications and built on speculation. Pippenger said he had to tear down existing facilities as well as bid against other contractors to build the facilities. At the time he secured loans for the buildings, he and the lending institution were told that the minimum occupancy by a state office was 23 years. “The state has a boilerplate lease,” said Pippenger, “that allows them out of a lease if something in the state legislature changes.” “They can give 90 days notice and be gone,” said Pippenger.” “We have a large payment due in October for the facility in Orofino.”

   Pippenger stated that he contacted Roger Madsen, the Director of Idaho Department of Labor, who shares the building in McCall with Health & Welfare. Madsen told him they had no intention, at this time, of vacating the building. That facility was built with a common room in the middle, which is shared by both offices. It is unknown what will happen to the other side of the building when IDHW vacates.

   Paul and Lee Pippenger feel that Orofino has been good to them, and they hate to see local people laid off and others transferred to Lewiston. They do not want to see the associated business income taken out of this area or people in need being forced to drive long distances for services. Clients in McCall would have to drive 110 miles to Boise to receive services.

   Pippenger receives no tax break for relinquishing rental monies and stated that the offer remains open for free rent. “If they are going to stay empty for a year, I’d rather keep them open to keep all those employees and clients in Orofino and McCall.”