At a time when the City city of Boise is running a $4 million budget deficit, plans are in motion to spend a $900,000 windfall the city has received from the Union Pacific Railroad (UP). According to the Idaho Statesman, UP has paid the city $915,349 for allowing the railroad to store its idle rail cars on the city’s spur line. UP pays $40,000 per month for the use of the spur line.
The city plans to use the money for economic development. Of the total amount, $500,000 will go to for maintenance and renovations to the spur line itself. It’s an 18-mile stretch of rail that the city has owned and not used since 2000, but according to John Brunelle, with the city’s economic development team, most of the work needs to be done on a two-mile stretch near Gowen Road. “The section nearest Boise … needs some ties replaced. None of the track needs to be replaced, but there’s some welding and joint repair needed, and the ballast, the (gravel and rock) bed of the track needs some shoring up.”
Brunelle said that work is needed only in about a one and a half mile stretch of the spur. The remainder of the work will be weed killing along the entire 18-mile length of the track. The work would be performed by Boise Valley Railroad, a division of Watco Companies, Inc.
According to Adam Park, spokesman for Mayor Dave Bieter, some of the funds will be used to create a “foreign trade zone” around the Boise airport, which he describes as an entity that allows businesses to import and export goods without having to pay the normal customs fees each time. “For instance, if you were a business that sold your goods overseas, you could have the materials used to create those goods brought in and not have to pay the tariff until it’s shipped out again.”
The city will also spend some of the windfall to renovate an empty city building, converting it into a “green” business incubator. According to Entrepreneur.com, a business incubator is “An organization designed to accelerate the growth and success of entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services that could include physical space, capital, coaching, common services, and networking connections.” A number of business incubators are currently in operation in the Treasure Valley, including The WaterCooler in Boise and The Ground Floor in Meridian.
A state legislative candidate from Garden City says with the city running a $4 million deficit, the $915,000 should go to closing at least some of that shortfall. Ralph Perez, a Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives in District 16, thinks it’s irresponsible of the city to spend the money. “If they (the city) receive additional funds, from whatever means, those funds should go to balancing the budget, not finding a way to spend money we don’t have.”
District 16 includes Garden City and northwest Boise. Perez, who’s unopposed in the upcoming Republican primary, thinks his would-be constituents could face increased taxes if the city doesn’t control its spending. “The city should live within its means. Those monies should be used to offset any current deficit they have, not looking for new ways to spend it, regardless of what feel-good projects the city may or may not believe it can do to help the economy.”