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‘Quite an eyesore’: Ada County opts to use APRA funds to remove Les Bois stables, considers other county projects


Ada County is taking the next step to say goodbye to horse racing for good.

Earlier this week, Ada County Commissioners voted to approve $550,000 in American Rescue Plan Funds to remove the horse stables at the now-defunct Les Bois horse racing track at the Ada County fairgrounds. The decades-old, deteriorating structures have been decaying for years since the track was mothballed. The county fenced them off from public access near the Greenbelt to prevent trespassing.

Officials wanted the buildings gone for years due to worries they would be washed out in a flood and carried into the river, polluting the waterway and potentially causing a jam in the flow if the stall doors got stuck under one of the nearby bridges.

“They are quite an eyesore,” Expo Idaho Director Bob Batista told the commissioners.

Photo: Joe Jaszewski/Special to BoiseDev

[Photo essay: With a new future to come, aging Expo Idaho horse barns give glimpse into the past]

The stables date back to before the Federal Emergency Management Agency designated the area a flood plain, preventing anything new from being built in the area. This means the county could refurbish the stables, but can’t build anything new there. By removing the buildings and remediating the soil beneath for any lead paint or other contaminants, it paves the way for Lady Bird Park to be eventually relocated along the Greenbelt and additional green space in the area.

The planning and discussions for the redevelopment of Expo Idaho are ongoing. Last year, Ada County hired the Urban Land Institute to study the site and propose a plan for how to redevelop it after a year-long citizens advisory committee put together a series of suggests for how to spruce up the largely underutilized 260-acre site.

Landfill upgrades, Turf Club roof also on the table

Commissioners also approved several other projects with their first batch of $46.7 million in APRA funds and opted to consider others.

For years, the Expo Idaho roof has been patched multiple times and is in dire need of replacement, Batista told the board. He originally pitched for the county to use $2.5 million in APRA funds to replace the Expo Idaho roof and the roof of the smaller nearby Turf Club, but Commissioner Kendra Kenyon said she would prefer to only approve $2 million for the Expo Idaho roof and talk more about the future of the Turf Club.

“I know the Expo building will be there and continue on as we revitalize the site, but I am not so sure about the Turf Club and where we stand with that,” Kenyon said. “I need a little more information about that.”

Expo Idaho
The Expo Idaho site in Ada County houses the Western Idaho Fairgrounds, Les Bois Park, Memorial Stadium and other facilities. Its future is being debated. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev file

Kenyon also had questions about two proposals from Ada County Landfill staff to use ARPA funds to pay for two water treatment projects at the landfill. The first, estimated for $4.5 million, would improve the landfill’s cleanup and treatment system of material leaking out of an unlined cell of the landfill. The second project would install a water treatment system to remove pollutants from leachate, which is polluted water passing through landfill waste. It is currently collected and evaporated in pools, but landfill staff said by installing the new system for $5.5 million it could cut down on water costs and make the water reusable instead of letting it sit.

“It’s the first time this has come before this board and it’s the first time we were doing it for the first time,” Kenyon said about the two “technical” projects. “I would like to better understand what the current problem is and what we’re trying to solve and how we’re going to solve it first.”

‘Let’s do it right’

Staff from the Ada County Juvenile Detention Center proposed a project to refurbish the outdoor recreation area for the residents of the facility to improve safety and make it a more usable space, instead of the current cage-like area the kids and corrections staff have to use now. Kenyon said she was very supportive of the project, but wondered if the county couldn’t do a bigger look at the juvenile facility as a whole and make more improvements beyond just the outdoor area being proposed.

“If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right,” she said. “I’m really supportive of this project and anything we can do to help their users feel they have hope and are doing well. I really want to make sure we’re looking at this as holistically as possible with the opportunity we have here with ARPA funds.”

Other projects with the green light included:

-$100,000 for personal protective equipment for Ada County staff
-$750,000 to install a HEPA filtration system in the new Ada County Coroner’s building
-$3 million for improving a section of Greenbelt damaged by floods in 2017
-$15,000 for COVID-19 home test kits for Ada County staff
-$650,000 for the refurbishment of the walking path at Barber Park
-Funds for signing bonuses and retention pay for drug court counselors and operations staff

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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