House edit: Much at stake on Hitt

The May 17 story by Post Register reporter Bryan Clark — “Ammon rejects I.F. plan for Hitt Road” — was notable for several reasons, including a concerted effort by the mayors to play nice.

“I would say it’s actually been incredibly positive,” Ammon Mayor Dana Kirkham said. “We will work this out.”

Added Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper: “I’m very encouraged.”

Here is more evidence these once-warring factions continue to seek common ground. But all those pretty words cannot disguise that the Hitt Road/Cabela’s/Ball Ventures/Idaho Falls/Ammon conundrum is very real and extraordinarily complex. Always looming is the possibility things could go south in a hurry. That’s something nobody wants because so much is at stake.

For the developer, there is a time crunch. Cabela’s wants to open its 42,000 square foot store in Ammon soon.

For Ammon, there is the positive economics of jobs created, taxes collected and possibility other retailers will follow.

For Casper, there is her campaign focus on regional economic development.

Hitt Road is the dividing line between the cities. Idaho Falls owns it, but there is an agreement to split maintenance costs. Disagreement over who has paid for what in the past invade even the most open minds because this project involves expensive road construction, the logistically tricky moving of power poles and redesign of the intersection at Hitt and Sunnyside Road.

For Ammon’s elected leadership, this is a slam dunk. For Idaho Falls, on the other hand, there is less incentive. Elected officials are asking themselves if they are willing to find millions for a project they didn’t budget for when there is so much on their own plate: a new fire station, the north loop power line and road projects in town.

Throw in escalating health care costs and Idaho Falls’ leaders, not anxious to raise taxes, are trying to figure out if solutions can be crafted prior to their June 9 work session.

Five years ago, the elected leadership of these cities would never have been able to broker a deal this complex in such a short amount of time. But, there is reason to believe times have changed.

In December 2009, we wrote about the Ammon-Idaho Falls relationship. The analogy used was unkind, but, in our minds, accurate. Ammon was the 25-year-old slacker living at home and Idaho Falls the frustrated parent, paying bills and enduring complaints.

A couple years later, following turnover in Ammon and missteps in Idaho Falls, we re-examined the relationship. The slacker had moved out of the house and gotten a job. The parent, on the other hand, was ready for the nursing home.

It’s time for the third installment.

With talented and capable mayors and council members on both sides, Idaho Falls and Ammon have emerged as responsible and progressive adults focused on results — siblings willing to work together for their mutual benefit.

Before them is their first real test and nobody wants excuses. Just solutions.

Will Idaho Falls and Ammon, as Kirkham told the Post Register, get the job done?

Is there, as Casper said, reason to be encouraged?

Or will Minnie Hitt’s road continue to divide us, literally and figuratively?

At this point, it’s impossible to say. What emerges, either a deal that serves everyone well or a failure that leaves all empty-handed, will set the tone for the next four years.

And nobody wants to read a fourth installment, where a sibling rivalry results in the cities competing for table scraps instead of working together to make sure everyone’s cupboard is full.

Corey Taule

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