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Health & Welfare Arrogance

There is a behind the scenes story circulating around Nampa about Health & Welfare (DHW) attempting to have their land rezoned where the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center (SWITC), Department of Juvenile Corrections Detention Center (JCC-Nampa), Job Corps, and both Centennial and Ridgecrest golf courses sit in order to sell it. DHW requested a rezoning of this land from agriculture to mixed use which would allow their development plan to proceed with the goal of increasing the potential for selling the land at a higher price.

There has been much consternation and objection from Nampa citizens about this attempt. But let’s start at the beginning.

In 2011 legislative discussions began about the reduced need for the SWITC and moving it to a private managed care model at another site. In the discussions it was proposed to “…develop a plan to sell or use the surrounding land and buildings.” (Committee minutes, 2/14/2011 page 72). Ok, this sounds reasonable.

Another committee discussion on this issue took place on 2/22/2011, page 82. HCR 9 was presented for “…legislation that directs the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare (DHW) and the Department of Administration (DOA) to review and develop a plan for privatizing the Idaho State School and Hospital (ISSH) for managed care.” Notice that this discussion clearly states DHW and DOA were to develop a plan, not proceed with a plan. The minutes go on to state, “The bill further directs the Department of Administration to develop a plan for either the use or sale of the buildings and 646 acres of land surrounding ISSH, as financially benefits the state.” That seems pretty clear, DHW and DOA work on a plan, not spend money on a plan, with the DOA in charge of potentially selling the buildings and land. Two later bills changed the name from ISSH to SWITC.

In the last paragraph of the meeting the intent of HCR 9 is clear. It “…reiterated that this bill directs the DHW and Department of Administration to take a look at providing the Legislature with information on what to do with the ISSH’s patients, land, and hospital.”, and “This legislation doesn’t force any changes, it merely requests the two entities look at options for savings to the state.” In spite of this clarity DHW has managed to move this into a full blown atrocity.

HCR 9 itself clearly states how this proposal would work, that the DOA would develop a plan to sell the buildings and lands, DOA & DHW would develop requests for proposals with interested parties, AND both were to bring a report outlining such proposals to the legislature or possibly draft legislation to implement the proposals.

No evidence can be found that any proposals were presented to the legislature. Instead, DHW took it upon itself to engage the services of The Land Group to create a development plan. DHW did not ask Nampa citizens if they wanted this type of development, especially given citizens have since expressed concern this area is already overcrowded with heavy traffic patterns and multiple commercial businesses. The golfing community was not asked about having a major renovation and reduction in their golf courses. DHW just waltzes in with their grand notion of what they think Nampa should look like after wasting taxpayer money for the cost of hiring a firm to design it. Rezoning was approved by the Nampa Planning and Zoning Commission but this decision has not been either approved or denied by the Nampa City Council, deciding instead to put the decision on hold.

It does not appear that either the DHW or the DOA followed the HCR 9 guidelines. Did either present this to the legislature or was it all decided behind closed doors? The DOA role was never brought up in the public hearings. Even before any public hearings were held, without any final decision being made about rezoning or the land being sold, DHW decided to proceed with a request for qualifications to build a new SWITC, not even knowing where it would be built! Who runs this place?

Another big aspect to this is the arrogance of bloated government bureaucracies, to the point where the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing. State Statute Title 56, Chapter 10, 56-1004(2) states DHW is empowered “…to dispose of, by sale, lease or exchange, any property which in the judgment of the department is not needful for the operation of the same.” Yet, State Statute Title 67 Chapter 57, 67-5709A clearly outlines the procedure that must be followed for state administrative buildings and land to be sold, by the DOA. Who runs this ship?

The original committee minutes and HCR 9 were clear as to intent and what the process should be for shifting SWITC to managed care. The DHW and DOA must go back, develop “proposals”, work with the legislators in the Nampa districts so citizens have representation in this process, present those “proposals” to the legislature for approval BEFORE spending taxpayer money or putting requests for qualifications out, and then if necessary write legislation that truly represents what Nampa citizens want built in their community. It is not up to DHW how Nampa should look. And while they are at it, maybe they should also consider refunding the wasted money to taxpayers in Nampa.

This is just another example of bureaucracies that are out of control, which do not see citizens as having any role in decisions they make, and why citizens must become more engaged with government officials to keep them in line instead of waiting until after the fact when chaos has ensued.