You might have noticed a series of new green newspaper boxes in the Downtown Boise area in recent months. Some of the boxes went up in a former urban renewal district that has been closed for a year, funded in part by the city’s urban renewal agency.
As BoiseDev reported last month, the Capital City Development Corporation provided $90,000 in funding to the City of Boise for the boxes in the former Central District urban renewal area. That reporting prompted several questions from readers.
That CCDC Central District formally closed in September of 2018, and all excess dollars were returned to the Ada County. State law limits the timeframe for urban renewal districts in Idaho. At the time the downtown Boise Central District started, the limit was 30 years.
In a news release at the time of the termination, CCDC said “all Central District work ceased on or before the end of September.”
But with the deadline looming in 2018, CCDC and the City struck a deal days before the district terminated. CCDC would give the city the $90,000 to be held until the city could complete the newspaper rack project.
CCDC says funds were ‘obligated’
Agency spokesperson Jordyn Neerdaels said via email that the money was “obligated” in its termination plan.
“These, nor any other funds, were set aside with the city or any other agency,” Neerdaels wrote in an email to BoiseDev. “They were formally approved and committed to the project, will be matched with city funds and expended (eventually, I understand they are a bit behind schedule) consistent with project plans.”
However, the dollars were transferred from CCDC to the City of Boise under an agreement between the two public agencies from September of 2018. The city sent CCDC an invoice for the $90,000, which the agency paid out in 2018.
The agreement, signed by CCDC executive director John Brunelle and former Boise Mayor Dave Bieter details the terms of the transfer.
“City will accept the funds into the Department of Finance and Administration operating budget and will expend all the Funds for purchase, installation and maintenance of consolidated newsstands in Boise’s Central Urban Renewal District by September 30, 2019. City will neither deposit nor sweep the funds into the City’s General Fund.”
The agreement said the funds must be spent “no later than September 30, 2019” – one year after the central district termination.
The city did not start on the project by the deadline set forth in the agreement. As of Friday, the city had not paid out the dollars for the installation to contractor Guho, an apparent violation of the agreement. Work first started on the project early this year, right before a changeover in administration from Bieter to Lauren McLean.
Moyle, McLean weigh in
Officials with the new administration told BoiseDev they are looking into the agreement and trying to understand what took place
“Downtown sidewalk accessibility is a serious and on-going issue, and I know these newsracks are trying to address one aspect of access and sidewalk clutter,” McLean said. “That being said, these were agreements made by the previous administration and CCDC, and I certainly have questions about the process. It was an attempt to meet accessibility concerns. The reason behind the decision to change the boxes was a good one. The process got messed up.”
Idaho State Rep. Mike Moyle, a frequent critic of the use of urban renewal also dinged the practice.
“I think if what you say is true in my opinion it is just another example of URA abuse,” he said. “They are out of control in many areas of the state.”
In its news release, CCDC said its “not-quite final Central District balance is $661,378.41, wich CCDC will return to the country (sic) for distribution to the taxing entities.”