Fruitland City Hall

This photo shows Fruitland City Hall.

FRUITLAND – The City of Fruitland continues to prepare for a probable fall bond election, which would be the latest attempt to create more work space for the city police department and to renovate Fruitland City Hall.

Last week the Fruitland City Council tentatively selected a public relations firm to lead a communications effort with voters. Approving a bond requires a super majority of two thirds.

Fruitland Mayor Brian Howell said two firms submitted materials in response to the city’s recently published request for proposals (RFP), and on June 10 the city council decided to authorize formal discussion of a bond election campaign with one of the firms, Atlas Strategic Communications.

Howell said several city officials will meet with the Atlas representatives on July 18 to “go over what we’re requiring, so they know, and [begin to] develop a strategy.”

Atlas, a Boise firm, had a role with two statewide campaigns that succeeded in the November 2018 election, Howell noted.

“They’re the ones that were behind the ‘no’ on the horse racing, and ‘yes’ on the Medicaid expansion,” Howell said.

The City of Fruitland, which saw a $6.5-million bonding proposal in 2016 fail to garner the necessary two-thirds approval from voters, has scaled things back in the latest request, which is for $2.3 million. One of the differences is non-inclusion of any new space for the Payette County Ambulance, an emergency service the City of Fruitland operates under contract to the county. Although plans from Fruitland’s architect originally addressed the ambulance’s needs as well, Howell said a decision was later made to split the ambulance portion out to form a separate project. This would allow the city to focus on the strictly city-owned facilities, irrespective of whether the Payette County Board of Commissioners chooses to seek a bond for the ambulance project.

“We came to the decision that we needed to do something with City Hall. That needs to be expanded, and the police department … you know how small that is, so we need to expand the offices for them, and we need to expand the offices and do some remodeling in City Hall. I think that building is like forty-five years old, and it needs to have some things done to it,” Howell said.

Earlier this year the city approached the county commissioners with an ambulance facilities project proposal estimated at $3.2 million. Howell acknowledges the commissioners face a difficult decision on whether to seek a bond for that work at this time.

“They haven’t decided yet whether they are going to or not. To be honest with you, they’ve got a couple of other things that they’re looking at,” Howell said. “One of the things that we’ve heard several times is that the jail needs remodeling and redoing. … They’re in their budget process now, and I imagine, if they’re going to do a jail bond, that will be part of the issue as to whether they do the EMS thing or not.”

Howell believes the commissioners are well up to speed on the emergency medical service needs, though.

“[Commissioner] Georgia [Hanigan] has come down and taken a tour of the ambulance facilities, so she understands what we have, what we need, and where everything would be, and I think [Commissioner] Reece [Hrizuk] of course already knows some of that, having been on the city council here. So I don’t think they’ve actually come to a decision on it yet, and they don’t have to until the middle of September. But we’re going to go ahead with ours regardless.”

Howell said the council will probably want to finalize its decision on a public relations contract “within the next month or so.” He added, “I don’t think anybody at the city wants to wait until the middle of September to start advertising this. We want to start working on it now so that we have all of our ducks in a row, and have all the numbers, and issues identified so that we can make a good presentation to the public.”

ROB RUTH  is a reporter at the Independent-Enterprise and Argus Observer. He can be reached at (208) 642-5258 or by emailing robr@ind-ent.com. To comment on this story, go to www.argusobserver.com.

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