BLACKFOOT — Bingham County Commission Chairman Whitney Manwaring presented a state of the county address Wednesday afternoon during the monthly luncheon of the Greater Blackfoot Area Chamber of Commerce.
Manwaring reported that the county is in good financial condition, staying ahead of rising costs and state revenues that are not always dependable. He said the county has done that in the past year by making changes to the ways the transfer station hauls household garbage and tires. He said the county has also tried some new methods in road maintenance such as crushing a smaller 3/8-inch chip requiring less oil to apply a chip seal and finding new ways to use the reject product from the crusher for a micro seal material.
Commissioners have worked to hold all department costs steady, and county residents have seen a drop in the county tax levy, Manwaring said.
He mentioned the county’s support of the DARE program to prevent future drug and alcohol abuse, combining with drug court classes for adults in saving dollars and lives.
Manwaring said the county is continuing to meet with with officials in cities throughout the county to make appropriate changes in the county Planning and Zoning ordinance for impact areas and other things needing attention. He added that the county has a good working relationship with the cities and he has been able to sit down and have good conversations with the mayors on important issues facing all areas in the county.
He said he has enjoyed serving on the Blackfoot Urban Renewal Agency and cited progress with development in the downtown area, improving the Potato Museum and other new businesses in the area to help bring in people and commerce. Manwaring said it is exciting to hear reports of over 25,000 visitors coming to the potato capital.
He said he has enjoyed a genuine friendship and mutual respect with leaders of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
“I feel like their success is our success,” Manwaring said. “I believe in listening — listening to each other, listening to you.”
He said one of the challenges the county is facing is the rising costs of maintaining an aging county courthouse, including working on the elevator. He noted that the jail is facing overcrowding.
Manwaring said it is becoming more difficult to move Road and Bridge equipment around the old River Bridge area.
“The county has been planning and saving for three years to relocate the Road and Bridge shop,” he said.
“The new construction, located near the transfer station, will begin this coming spring with a planned completion date of late fall 2020. The old shop property will then be placed up for auction to cover any of the remaining costs.”
The largest cost in the county, Manwaring said, comes in maintaining over 1,200 miles of county roads, with half of the roads still gravel country and mountain roads.
The county has a rotating schedule for road maintenance that covers about 90 miles of chip seal on paved roads each year and improving over 70 miles of gravel roads while grading all other gravel roads at least twice a year.
“When the wind blows and snow drifts, that is always a challenge to constantly stay ahead of it,” Manwaring said. “When the sun shines in the spring, it’s a new challenge to stay ahead of the rising flood waters. Sometimes it seems like there is a new problem popping up each time after the last one is solved. But the best thing is that we have a great team in Bingham County and we work hard and well together and I am really proud and happy to be a part of it.”