A snap decision would be no cure for Idaho's mansion headaches

Here's a draft of our Tuesday editorial.

The gift that keeps on giving, the J.R. Simplot mansion has provided Idaho plenty of headaches over the past eight years.

Now, Idaho is in a no-win situation: figuring out what to do with an unoccupied and all-but-unused mansion. The decision falls to a five-member governor’s housing committee: Sen. Chuck Winder and Rep., Max Black, both R-Boise, Sen. Les Bock and Rep. Phylis King, both D-Boise, and Administration Department Director Teresa Luna.

Let’s hope, for their sake, that committee members have ample aspirin at hand.

The Simplot headache. Simplot helped engineer the donation of the mansion in 2004. Now, the surviving members of the potato baron’s family have no interest in taking back the 7,100-square-foot home.

That leaves the committee two options, and neither are ideal. The panel can hang onto the mansion, despite the lack of an obvious plan, while the state continues to incur the maintenance costs. Or, the panel can put the mansion on the market — and, in the process, risk alienating one of Idaho’s most influential families.

Mission headache. It’s been well documented that Gov. Butch Otter, Simplot’s former son-in-law, has never had an interest in living there. Likewise, other recent governors and gubernatorial candidates have shown scant interest in living in a publicly owned mansion — or accepting a monthly housing allowance from the state. (Otter no longer takes the housing stipend.)

Is the notion of a governor’s mansion an anachronism? Or should the state maintain the Simplot mansion for entertaining and events now and, perhaps, as a residence for a future governor? Answering that question requires looking into the future, no easy feat.

Public relations headache. The committee gave Idahoans a chance to weigh in last week. Only six people testified, all but one in support of unloading the mansion. Not exactly a large sample size.

Like the mansion, perched conspicuously on a hillside overlooking Bogus Basin Road and Downtown Boise, the mansion decision will be a high-profile call, one that will get scrutiny beyond its overall budget implications.

Budget headache. Idaho is not getting a free ride on the mansion. This year, the cost of maintaining the mansion and the 37-acre grounds will run a projected $177,400.

The one bit of good news: Idaho’s mansion maintenance fund, while dwindling, remains at about $900,000. That gives the state a five-year cushion. That provides time to look at the options — including a possible sale.

There’s no need to unload the mansion in a hurry. That would be a snap decision, one that could bring on its own set of headaches.

Don't get into a hurry

Really, Kempthorne didn't show much of an interest in taking the housing allowance? I heard he took it, and then more when he moved his post 9-11 security team in next door. If memory serves me correctly, Butch took the allowance until the mansion was ready. Phil Batt sold his Boise home to the state to eliminate the monthly allowance, then found out he couldn't buy it back when it became surplus property at the end of his term.

Kempthorne may have accepted the mansion but it wasn't deemed ready to be lived in until Butch was governor. Just because he would rather live in his own home, doesn't mean the next governor won't want to occupy the house on the hill.

Idaho is a large state, with capable people in many areas that could be governor. We shouldn't limit the Governor's chair to those with homes in Ada County, or the ability to buy a home in Ada County.

Keep the mansion. The cost isn't that much more than the the housing allowance provided former governors. The next governor (and all that follow) can live there or provide their own home, at their own cost.

Kempthorne's housing cost

Kempthorne's housing cost the state double because his security had to rent an adjacent townhouse in River Run in order to provide security to him. As I recall Otter never took the housing allowance or if he did it was for only a short short period of time. Kempthorne and his side kicks thought it was a great deal and fit right in with King Dirk. We taxpayers got screwed on the deal and you can bet JR enjoyed some laughs.

Get rid of the albatross.

maybe Winder

can use the mansion for ultrasound demos instead of using the hallways at the state capitol.

Five years to make a

Five years to make a decision whether to keep or sell the mansion? What is the Statesman thinking? Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in two days, and it was signed, sealed, and sent to King George within the week. If the Statesman editorial board had been advising the Founders, they would have urged them to take more time to think this over, because we don't want to hurt the King's feelings, and we just aren't sure this is going to have a positive outcome for the colonists.

To summarize the editorial, the Simplot family doesn't want the house back, none of our governors to date have wanted to live in the house, only six members of the general public cared enough about this decision to attend a public hearing, five of whom said sell, it is costing the taxpayers $177,400 a year to keep the grass green and the pipes from freezing. What on earth makes this a difficult decision?

Put the house on the market and pray you get a reasonable offer within five years, instead of waiting five years for the $900,000 maintenance fund to dry up. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

"Winter is coming"

and as Boise-ans and Idahoans have a giving and compassionate nature, how about turning the mansion into a homeless shelter. If the next governor wants to live there then the homeless could be moved back to the streets until it is vacant again.

The homeless folk could do most of the maintenance, mowing, painting and basic upkeep. Of course, no panhandling would be allowed in this area, the homeless could be provided a bus to transport them downtown for their regular day jobs.

Risk alienating Simplot Family...is that truly a concern?

Has any family members come forward to express that if the state disposes of the property they will be offended? And if so, what would be the fallout? If they are truly rational they will see themselves that it makes no sense from a financial perspective for the state to keep this monument to their paternal namesake's ego.

"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government." Neil Peart

Roundhouse

Restaurant and gondola base for trips up to Bogus Basin's Simplot Lodge.

That, and,

terrace the hill and plant crops. Or fence it and raise goats.

terrace

potatoes of course.

Rent it! You already OWN it?

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