Friday, December 31, 2010

Kuna Cub Scouts thanks the community for its support

Thanks to Brian Shults from Den 5 for snapping and sharing this photo of Cameron Brazee of Kuna Cub Scout Pack 106 throwing a pie in the face of Cubmaster Steve Danell. Brazee received the honor of throwing the pie for being the top popcorn salesman in this year’s Cub Scout fundraising drive. Pack 106 raised a total of about $19,000. The boys of Pack 106 would like to thank the community for their support and for buying popcorn this year. This is Pack 106’s No. 1 fundraiser and helps keep Kuna’s only community pack in operation. And thanks to Steve Danell for being Pack 106's cubmaster. Steve is greatly appreciated by this pack.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wind turbine is being planned for spot just east of Kuna

A new feature is going to be dotting the skyline just east of Kuna.
Ted Wheeler this week is installing a 100-foot wind turbine on his farm near the corner of Eagle and Columbia roads.
Wheeler said that the installation planned for Thursday has been pushed by back a day or so.
The wind turbine will have a wing span of 30 feet and is expected to produce 20 kilowatt-hours of electricity. Wheeler said he will use the electricity for personal use and then sell any remaining electricity to Idaho Power, with whom he has a contract for the purchase of electricity.
“We expect a check every month,” Wheeler said.
Studies on his property show that the average wind speed is 12 mph. The wind turbine will begin generating electricity at 3 mph and top out at 50 mph, Wheeler said.
Wheeler purchased the wind turbine from Treasure Valley Wind and Solar, of Boise. He said the federal government subsidized 55 percent of the project and the U.S. Department of Agriculture kicked in a $20,000 grant. In the end, the project only cost Wheeler about $10,000 out of pocket, he said.
Wheeler said he asked his immediate neighbors if they had any objections, and none of them had any.
Ada County has ordinances regarding cell towers, but nothing about wind turbines, Wheeler said.
“Somebody’s got to be the guinea pig,” Wheeler said. “I guess I’ll be it.”

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's resolutions for the city of Kuna from the Kuna Melba News

At this time, I thought I’d take the opportunity to make some New Year’s resolutions on behalf of the city of Kuna. I guess you’d say that this is more of a wish list of resolutions I’d like to see the city make. So here goes.
Kuna Boys & Girls Club. Whereas a Boys & Girls Club in Kuna will serve hundreds of Kuna children and have a positive effect on their lives;
Whereas one of the top priorities of the citizens of Kuna is to provide recreational opportunities, particularly for the youth of our community;
Whereas a Boys & Girls Club will provide those recreational opportunities;
Whereas a Boys & Girls Club won’t cost the city of Kuna a dime of taxpayer dollars;
Be it hereby resolved that the city of Kuna will take a leadership role in getting the necessary approvals and entitlements for the new club within the first quarter of 2011, so that the local steering committee members can begin a capital fundraising campaign by this summer.
Downtown revitalization. Whereas any city’s downtown is that city’s identity, containing therein that city’s past and history;
Whereas a city’s downtown serves as the heart and soul of a community and serves as a community gathering place for the purpose of commerce and fellowship;
Whereas Kuna’s downtown is in dire need of beautification and revitalization;
Whereas without city action, downtown will deteriorate;
Be it hereby resolved that the city of Kuna will undertake in 2011 a study of downtown, its needs and potential projects and begin a process of identifying and researching grants that could be applied for in order to accomplish such projects.

You can read the rest of my New Year's resolutions in my Editor's Notebook in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Life lesson for my boys: Do what you love

Dear Robert and Luke,
It is important that you find what you love to do in life and then do it. Unfortunately, I have found that too many people know what they love to do but they choose a career path that is different from what they love. The other unfortunate thing I have witnessed is that some people have no idea what makes them happy or what kind of career they would like to have. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have learned very early in life what I wanted to do and then I did it.
When I was in second grade, the only thing I asked for at Christmas was a typewriter. I’ve always had a love of writing. By the time I was in sixth grade, I took a career aptitude test that informed me I should look into the field of journalism. Journalism. My goodness. Just the word, “journalism,” smacked of importance and prestige. Sign me up.
When I was in junior high, I helped start our junior high newspaper, and when I was a junior in high school, I was the editor of my school paper, “The Clinton Signal.”
Around that time, my dad and I had been going around to several colleges to decide which one I wanted to attend. In my sophomore and junior years of high school, we must have visited a dozen or more colleges — Northeastern, St. Bonaventure, UMass, Syracuse University, Pace University.
It was on our visit to Pace, a quaint campus just north of New York City, that I had an important life lesson.
Read the rest in my Editor's Notebook in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kuna, Idaho, school district seeking bids for new parking lot

Kuna school board members on Tuesday night voted unanimously to go out to bid for a new 120-space parking lot between the support services building and Teed Elementary.
The new parking lot could be used not only for staff parking at the support services building and the elementary schools, but it would come in handy for school programs, when cars line both sides of Porter Road for its entire length.
The parking lot could also be used for sporting events, particularly Friday night football games.
District project manager Layne Saxton informed school board members that he has about $380,000 in the 2007 school bond measure with which to work on the new parking lot as well as a new parking lot at the middle school.
Saxton said he estimates the Porter Road parking lot will cost anywhere from $130,000 to $170,000, leaving about $200,000 or more to redo the middle school lot.
Building a new parking lot at the support services building became more acute this year, as the school district moved several administrators, including the superintendent, assistant superintendent, business manager and human resources officer, to the support services building, which also serves as the “bus barn” and transportation center.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Let's consider sugar beet juice as a de-icer in Idaho

Here’s a little tidbit I came across when I was visiting family back in New York. The New York State Thruway Authority is using sugar beet juice as a de-icing solution. Apparently, sugar beet juice boosts the de-icing power of road salt.
The Thruway’s Syracuse Division launched a pilot program this winter to test the effectiveness of sugar beet juice mixed with liquid brine and salt, according to a story in the Oneida Daily Dispatch. The Albany area experimented with the mixture last winter with success, according to the story.
What does this have to do with Idaho?
Idaho just happens to be the No. 2 producer of sugar beets in the country, accounting for 19 percent of the total U.S. production, according to the 2009 numbers from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. There were 163,000 harvested acres of sugar beets in Idaho in 2009, producing a total value of $235 million.
And in case you’ve never noticed those trucks carrying what looks like potatoes on steroids, those are sugar beets, and our local farmers in Kuna and Melba produce a lot of them.
An increase in the demand for sugar beets could be a huge boon to Idaho agriculture and to the local economy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Community newspapers continue to show strong readership, community reliance

The Kuna Melba News is a member of the National Newspaper Association, a trade organization that represents the country's community newspapers, both dailies and weeklies. Nicola and I find that our NNA membership is invaluable. Below is one of the benefits of being a member. It's a story from the National Newspaper Association about a community survey of the effectiveness and importance of community newspapers.

COLUMBIA, MO — Communities served by community newspapers continue to demonstrate heavy reliance upon their local papers for news and information. Seventy-three percent say they read a local newspaper at least once a week.
Readers also say they read most or all of their community newspapers (78 percent), and of those going online for local news, 55 percent found it on the local newspaper’s website, compared to 17 percent for sites such as Yahoo, MSN or Google, and 26 percent for the website of a local TV station.
The results are reported by the National Newspaper Association, which has just completed its fifth readership survey on the patterns of community newspaper readers. Working with the research arm of the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism, NNA tests reactions of people living in smaller communities served by local newspapers.
The Kuna Melba News is an active member of the National Newspaper Association.
Since 2005, NNA has done research on how people read and what they think about their local newspapers. Results have been fairly consistent over the years, though the surveys have focused more tightly on small communities during the five years. For the 2010 survey, readership for towns with newspapers that have circulations of 8,000 or less were sampled. The community size has not significantly affected outcomes. The surveys show that community newspapers have remained popular.
The early data indicate that the positive findings are consistent with the earlier surveys:
• 73 percent of those surveyed read a local newspaper each week.
• Those readers, on average, share their paper with 3.34 persons.
• They spend about 37.5 minutes reading their local newspapers.
• 78 percent read most or all of their community newspapers.
• 41 percent keep their community newspapers six or more days (shelf life).
• 62 percent of readers read local news very often in their community newspapers, while 54 percent say they never read local news online (only 9 percent say they read local news very often online).
• 39 percent of those surveyed read local education (school) news very often in their newspapers, while 67 percent never read local education news online.
• 30 percent read local sports news very often in their newspapers, while 67 percent never read local sports online.
• 35 percent read editorials or letters to the editor very often in their newspapers, while 74 percent (nearly three quarters) never read editorials or letters to the editor online.
Public notice
Even though state and local governments are debating the best way to transmit public notice, those readers surveyed said newspapers remain the best way to receive such notices:
• 75 percent think governments should be required to publish public notices in newspapers, with 23 percent reading public notices very often in their newspapers.
• 71 percent have Internet access in the home, but 66 percent never visit a website of a local government.
• Of those with Internet access at home, 89 percent have broadband access.
The local community newspaper is the primary source of information about the local community for 49.3 percent of respondents. The next best source runs a distant second: friends and relatives for 18 percent of respondents and TV, 16 percent. Readers are nearly seven times more likely to get their local news from their community newspapers than from the Internet (7.7 percent). Less than 6 percent say their primary local news source is radio.
Established in 1885, NNA is the voice of America’s community newspapers and the largest newspaper association in the country. The nation’s community papers inform, educate and entertain nearly 150 million readers every week.
Sampling methodology
The 2010 survey was based on 670 telephone interviews completed with residents that lived in areas where the local newspapers had a circulation of 8,000 or less in the U.S. in August and October 2010. Please note that this sampling methodology differs from the survey conducted in 2009, which was based on 500 telephone interviews completed with residents that lived in areas where the local newspapers had a circulation of 15,000 or less. Because of this new methodology, the 2010 survey had the highest percentage of non-daily newspaper readers (66.2 percent), compared to previous years. This may explain the reduction in the percentage of visits to newspaper Web sites (from 63 percent to 55 percent) between the two years (2009 and 2010) as the number of non-daily newspapers that have a functional website serving small towns and cities may be lower than that of daily newspapers. Further, in the 2010 survey, cell phone numbers were included in the sample, compared to landline numbers only in the past four years. As a result, the average age of the 2010 respondents (51.2) was younger than those in previous years (56.1).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kuna High School to host public showing of "Laserfest" Dec. 15

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the laser and enjoy illuminating science demonstrations at "Laserfest" on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 7 p.m., at the Kuna High School auditorium, 637 E. Deer Flat Road.
Idaho State University physics professor, Dr. Steve Shropshire, will present the free show titled “Lasers, Light, and Illusions."
The show will feature multi-colored lasers, light pipes, color mixing lights, amazing illusions with smoke, reflections, and shadows, and many other demonstrations, finishing with a laser light show set to music. All ages are welcome.
There will be some loud noises, which may be startling to small children. The demonstration show is funded by the American Physical Society and Idaho State University.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A right and a need to know salaries of Kuna public employees

Like many people across the country, I read with great dismay the news story over the summer about the city of Bell, Calif., paying its city manager over $800,000, its police chief $457,000 and city council members nearly $100,000 for the part-time positions.
My very first reaction was, “They must not have a weekly newspaper keeping watch on their budget.”
Over the past four years, I’ve covered the budgets of the city of Kuna and the school district, and to a lesser extent, the Kuna Library District and the Kuna Rural Fire District. I’ve had in my possession the list of salaries of city of Kuna employees, and I’ve typically published the salaries of new employees as they’re hired. However, I’ve never run the full list of city employee salaries.
Earlier this year, when the Kuna school district was looking for $2.6 million in budget cuts, I published a list of all school district administrator salaries and a breakdown of the salaries of all the teachers in the district.
But as I read the stories about Bell, Calif., it occurred to me that I hadn’t looked at all of the salaries of every employee in Kuna, such as the library director, the police chief or the fire chief.
Of course, I wasn’t expecting anything egregious. The entire annual budget for the library district, for example, ($634,000) is less than the annual salary of Bell’s city manager.
This week's issue of the Kuna Melba News contains a story and a full list of all public employees salaries in Kuna.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Congratulations to the Kuna Middle School wrestling team

Congratulations to head coach Wade Palmer and the Kuna Middle School wrestling team for winning its 30th consecutive district championship.
The Kuna Middle School wrestling team this weekend continued its unheard-of winning streak by winning its 30th straight district championship.
Kuna competed against 12 other teams on Friday and Saturday at Kuna High School.
Kuna fought back from a loss early in the season, to not only win the district championship, but do so in convincing fashion. Kuna completed the district tournament with 24 individual placers scoring 505 points, while Mountain Home placed a distant second with 316 points.
In addition to Mountain Home, Kuna competed against East Valley (Nampa), West (Nampa), South (Nampa), Vallivue, Sage Valley (Caldwell), Lone Star (Nampa), Emmett, Middleton, TVCS, Jefferson (Caldwell), and Syringa (Caldwell).
Undefeated district champions for Kuna were Dusty Jones, Ryland Egeland, Jake Lords and Sean Wheaton (in the photo above).
Other district champions were Mikhail Kidd, Spencer Heindel, and Jonah Minnick.
Tanier Jaramillo was Kuna’s only Runner-up Champion
Placing 3rd were Brady Barosso, Kasey Fow, Jordan Wick, Zach Villanueva, and Anthony Gress.
Finishing in 4th place were Brady Davenport, Cohlton Loftis, Brayden Ball and Elijah Minnick.
Fifth-place finishers were Hunter Shull, Matt Burger, and Adres Rodriguez.
Sixth-place finishers were Jace VanAntwerp, Micheal Hudon, Zared Kile and Jesse Novak.
Head Coach Wade Palmer said he is very proud of this championship team for two reasons. One is that they completed three decades of championships. Two is how this team stayed together and battled back from a mid-season loss.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Are we spending too much on education in Kuna, Idaho?

I have been reading with great interest the fiscal travails of my former school district, the Clinton Central School District, in upstate New York. Much like everywhere in the country, schools in New York state are feeling the financial crunch of economic recession. And New York state government is about as dysfunctional and out-of-control as you can get.
Let me point out a couple of observations, as they pertain to the financial difficulties of the Kuna school district.
The Clinton school district is less than half the size of the Kuna school district, with less than half the students (1,500) and only three buildings: an elementary school, a middle school and a high school.
However, Clinton’s annual budget is about $24 million, the same as the Kuna school district’s budget. The local property tax levy is about $13 million.
Even more striking is the fact that the Guilderland school district, near Albany, for which Clinton’s superintendent left to go work, is a little bigger than Kuna (5,500 students) but has an annual budget of $88 million — more than the annual budget for the Ada County Highway District.
Now let me say that these school districts perform very well. Clinton has a nearly 100 percent graduation rate, a low student-teacher ratio at 12.4-to-1, 88 percent of students graduate with a Regents diploma, 68 percent with an advanced Regents diploma, and nearly every student goes on to either a four-year or two-year school of higher education (131 out of 142 graduates in 2006). So we’re not talking about “the failed education systems of back East that simply throw money at the problem,” as some Idaho state legislators suggest.
Yes, they’re throwing money at the problem, but apparently a lot of that money is finding the mark and sticking.
I do believe, however, that there’s a breaking point at the top end of the funding spectrum. Spending $16,000 to $18,000 per student seems excessive and I fear there is no end in sight.
But just because some school districts “back East” or in California appear to be out-of-control in their spending, let’s not therefore conclude we’re spending too much on our schools here in Idaho. By comparison, Kuna spends about $4,800 per student.
Just as I believe there’s a breaking point at the top end, I believe there’s a breaking point at the bottom end, and I believe we’ve crossed it in Idaho.
I have to scratch my head at people who suggest we should cut public education even more.
But that’s exactly what’s going to happen next year, when the state Legislature reconvenes to find nominally improved budget numbers, nearly empty rainy day accounts and dried-up one-time sources of revenue.
Last year, the state cut public education spending by $128 million, or 7.5 percent, resulting in a decrease of about $1.9 million in Kuna. Next year, it promises to be even worse, with little chance of any more federal stimulus money and a state Legislature that vows we can’t tax our way to prosperity.
Further, a $1.1 million supplemental levy passed by Kuna voters expires this year. Unless we are willing to accept a dramatic and drastic change in our school system (i.e., get rid of sports, eliminate busing, eliminate lunches, close schools), I predict we will see a request for another supplemental levy in the spring. And I suspect it might be more than $1.1 million.
My hope is that if it comes to that, the Kuna school district does a more thorough job of explaining and detailing the budget to the public. If for nothing else than to help the public understand what a dire situation we’re in.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What I did on my Thanksgiving vacation

The McIntosh family took a 10-day vacation over the Thanksgiving holiday to visit family back East. We spent a few days in Boston visiting Nicola’s family members then we drove to upstate New York to visit my family just outside of Syracuse.
During our trip, we went to my hometown of Clinton, a quaint New Englandy village of about 1,200 people that hosts a Shopper’s Stroll each year on the Friday after Thanksgiving. There’s also a night parade through the village, and an estimated 8,000 people showed up.
In the weeks leading up to our visit, I was reading in my hometown paper with great concern about the closing of McHarris Gifts, a seemingly immovable institution on one of the most iconic corners in Clinton. In particular, it has always been a don’t-miss stop on the Shopper’s Stroll. With the store closing, it seemed Shopper’s Stroll just wouldn’t be the same.
Then came the story shortly afterward that a group of 30 local artists and craftspeople decided to turn the shop into an artists cooperative, calling it Artisan’s Corner. One of those artists is Lynn Hall, or Lynn Whittemore, as I knew her when we graduated from high school together some 21 years ago. I had the great fortune of running into her on the grand opening day of Artisan’s Corner during the Shoppers Stroll (really not a difficult feat, running into people you know in a small village). She told me that each of the artists pays $100 per month toward the $3,000 monthly rent and agrees to work in the shop one day per month.
Each artist has ample space to display their work and provide racks and shelves to sell their wares. The mix of items was impressive. As expected, there were paintings and drawings and photography. But more surprising were such items as handmade soaps and candles, quilts, mittens, scarves and hats, lampshades and bases, handmade wooden anniversary banks, pottery, jewelry, glass sculpture and goblets and even locally handmade Windsor-style chairs.
Just like old times, people were streaming in and out of the store all day and into the evening, as vendors outside on the packed sidewalk provided hot cider and roasted chestnuts and a brass band played Christmas songs. I, myself, purchased a $25 print of a village scene painted by Lynn. She was well on her way to making rent that month, and that was within the first hour of the store’s grand opening.
It made me wonder if there might be a small contingent of Kuna artists and craftspeople who might be able to put together an artists cooperative in downtown Kuna.