Developer brings opportunities, optimism to downtown Boise

by Justin Corr


Posted on February 9, 2014 at 6:13 PM

Updated Sunday, Feb 9 at 6:13 PM

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BOISE — The face of downtown Boise is changing quickly. There’s finally a building at 8th and Main, the convention center is expanding, and there’s talk about a new transportation hub.

The developer at the center of all that, is Gardner Company.

“Three years ago, if a genie appeared and granted me three wishes, among the top of them would’ve been, fill the hole in the ground and expand the convention center,” said Boise Mayor David Bieter. “Well, I didn’t really need a genie. What I needed was Gardner Company and Tommy Ahlquist.”

Tommy Ahlquist is Gardner’s Chief Operating Officer.

“I just think that people weren’t ready for something to come so quickly on the heels of 8th and Main,” Alquist said.

But now, Boise’s city and business leaders are ready and excited.

“In the ten years I’ve been here, there have never been more opportunities and great things cooking all at once, than there are now,” said Bieter.

While Gardner has a number of projects around the state, they also have more in the works for downtown Boise. They want to create a transportation hub, possibly under the U.S. Bank Building, which they recently purchased.

“People are like, ‘Why does it have to be underground?,'” said Alquist. “But, when you start seeing the bigger vision, where you have this underground downtown hub, that’s going to connect us across the river to Boise State and to the airport. Then, you put a convention center on top of it, and all this extra retail and office, and really transform again this downtown area to be the hub of all the activity that will build around it. Then, it makes all the sense in the world.”

Mental health care providers blast private manager


Associated PressJanuary 24, 2014

BOISE, Idaho — Mental health professionals blasted a private company now managing behavioral health care for low-income Idaho residents, saying the contract is plagued with problems and hours-long delays that not only make the process more difficult but could put their clients at risk.

A joint House and Senate Health and Welfare Committee meeting Friday provided a venue to criticize Optum, a Minnesota-based health care services management company whose parent company is UnitedHealth Group.

Since September, it’s being paid $10.5 million monthly to administer outpatient behavioral health services for Idaho’s Medicaid program as the state seeks to as it seeks to control costs, boost efficiency and give incentives to providers to offer appropriate services when they’re needed. However, private providers in Idaho say the transition has been fraught with poor communication, including spending hours on hold with the company’s representatives as they seek to authorize services for people suffering from mental illnesses.

Nikki Tangen, of Boise-based Access Behavioral Health Services, contends Optum has exacerbated a bottleneck in getting care to clients in crisis. One prospective patient barred from getting help is now in a psychiatric hospital, another committed a felony offense and another burned his house down, Tangen said, complaining she currently has 16 new clients on hold because nobody will tell her if services will be covered.

Amazing Amigos: Group provides social interaction for special needs adults

by Maggie O’Mara


Posted on January 12, 2014 at 10:52 PM

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BOISE — Adults with special needs often don’t get many opportunities to get out and make new friends. But that’s all changing in the Treasure Valley, thanks to a special group called the Amazing Amigos.

“One of our parents started activities at their house,” said Clint Swaim. “We’d meet Fridays and play games.”

Swain sent KTVB an email, telling us about The Amazing Amigos – a social group for adults with special needs.

Freddie Gallas is one of the organizers of the group and hosted the gatherings until the group got too big.

“It was in our house for a while, we had a huge basement, we outgrew the basement even.”

Crossroads Community Church in Nampa then generously offered the Amigos some space to meet.

“We have adults that when they first started coming would barely talk to anyone, and now they have buddies they hang with,” said Gallas.

When the Amigos started, there were just a few people in the group, but word spread fast. Now they have more than 40 members.

“We have people who drive from Boise, we have people from Caldwell,” said Gallas. “That tells me right there, the word is getting out about us.”

They meet every Friday for lunch and activities.

“My mom decided the group is totally good for me to get out and see everybody, meet new friends,” said Amazing Amigo Meghan.

“We get out and have fun and it gives us a chance to meet people like us,” said Amazing Amigo Jared.

Camouflage Christmas will benefit veterans

Operation “Camouflage Christmas” takes place Dec. 18 at 11 a.m. when members of the Idaho Air Guard, Idaho Army Guard plus Navy and Marine Reserve units from Gowen Field convoy to the Idaho State Veterans Home – Boise, 320 Collins Road, to deliver Christmas gifts to veteran residents.

Volunteers will place nearly 500 gifts around the Christmas tree in the home’s dining room.  Men and women from all branches of service will pay visits to veterans before returning to their duties at the base or with their civilian employers.  Many of the service members will return to help the veterans open their gifts at the Christmas party on Dec. 20, starting at 2 p.m.


From one teen to another: Saving a friends’ life means speaking up

by Dee Sarton


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BOISE — Like a lot of young adults, Kaitlyn Carpenter has a tattoo, “It says ‘I’m the hero of this story.’ I got it my senior year because of everything I went through.”

This BSU freshman is a survivor, and now she’s helping others survive the very real danger of depression and suicidal thoughts.

“It’s extremely terrifying not to be able to trust your own mind,” said Carpenter.

Kaitlyn has dealt with depression since she was in high school. At first, she did what a lot of teens do, reached out to friends and often in the middle of the night with a text.

“It wasn’t until I went though treatment that I realized how dangerous it was to only rely on friends for support,” Carpenter said.

Now she shares her story and her warning to adolescents in schools and churches. Her biggest concern is that teens are texting in their darkest hour — a form of communication that is superficial and doesn’t convey the possible urgency of the moment.

“I would say the number one reason these kids who receive texts don’t say anything is because they feel an obligation to text them until they go to sleep then count that as a victory if they don’t hurt themselves and they feel an obligation not to say anything about it and keep it to themselves,” said Carpenter. “It’s a game that’s so dangerous, It’s becoming deadly and that’s something I want high school kids in particular to understand.”

Teaching young drivers good habits behind the wheel

by Bonnie Shelton


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MERIDIAN — It’s National Teen Driver Safety Week and Idaho State troopers are doing what they can to promote safety by reaching out to the youngest drivers on Idaho’s roads.

ISP said they’re sending a strong message to new drivers through the “5 to Drive” campaign. It stresses five rules for staying safe on the road.

1. No cell phones while driving

2. No extra passengers

3. No speeding

4. No alcohol

5. No driving or riding without a seat belt

Officers told us limiting distractions is important for any driver, but especially one just learning the rules of the road.

“Distracted driving is one of the biggest things that we deal with. Cell phones, it seems like everybody has a cell phone. Sometimes, you really think teen drivers especially they’re more worried about who’s texting them than operating the vehicle that they’re in charge of,” said ISP Trooper Kenny Walker.

In 2012, there were 62,000 licensed drivers between the age of 15 and 19 on Idaho roads, according to the Idaho Department of Transportation. That makes up about six percent of total drivers in the state.

ITD officials say young drivers are also more likely to be involved in fatal or injury related crashes.

School Lunch Programs a Casualty of Government Shutdown Mess

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“We don’t have any idea what may happen if the shutdown goes further or if it affects funding for November.”

While Idaho’s congressional delegation join their House and Senate peers in debating who is to blame for the shutdown of much of the U.S. government, the repercussions of the stalemate are inching closer and closer to home.

Here’s a question: What happens to kids from low-income homes who access free or reduced/cost school lunches?

Last year, more than 5 billion lunches were served to more than 31 million students in the U.S. through Federal School Nutrition Programs. Today, funding for the programs totals more than $16 billion in cash and commodity payments to schools.

Currently in the Boise School District, 11,442 students access free or reduced cost school meals.

During the 2012-13 school year, 127,691 Idaho school children participated in free or reduced lunch programs; 10,310 in the Meridian school district, 8,992 in Nampa and 5,108 in Caldwell.

“We’ve been told that any meal that we served in September would be federally reimbursed,” Dan Hollar, spokesman for the Boise Independent School District, told Boise Weekly. “Beyond that, it’s unknown.”

And it’s nearly impossible to get any answers.

“Many Food and Nutrition Service staff will be furloughed pending reinstatement of funding by Congress,” read an Oct. 1 letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to school districts. “These staff will not be available by phone or email, and cannot carry out work for the agency, until funding is restored.”

A Minnesota boy’s blue and orange wish comes true

by Justin Corr


Posted on September 26, 2013 at 6:39 PM

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BOISE — It was a blue-carpet welcome Thursday at the Boise Airport as a young man’s wish came true.

A crowd of cheerleaders, media, and onlookers gathered at the arrival gate. After a 45-minute delay of his flight, the man of the hour, and really, the entire weekend, arrived.

“I saw through the doors, and I’m like, OMG!” said Shane Swanson.

As the 12-year-old from Bloomington, Minnesota came through the doors, cheerleaders and total strangers cheered and applauded.

Swanson has battled spinal bifida his entire life. “He’s had over 30 surgeries, 40 hospital stays. He has a currently broken leg right now,” said Shane’s mother Wendy.

But this weekend, all Shane is thinking about is his favorite team – Boise State. “Oh my gosh, I’m excited for basically everything!”

‘Everything’ is a VIP weekend. For the third-straight year, Make-A-Wish Idaho has partnered with Boise State University to bring a young Bronco fan from out-of-state to the blue.

“He’ll have a lot of intimate time with players and coaches. He’ll get to eat lunch with the team. A lot of surprises to come,” said Brenda Vogt, director of program services with Make-A-Wish Idaho. “Saturday, game day, he’ll have a personal tailgate just for him, and VIP seats.”

State warns consumers about health insurance scams


BOISE — The Idaho Health Insurance Exchange, or Your Health Idaho, is scheduled to go live in less than three weeks.

People still have a lot of questions and scammers are taking advantage of that.

You don’t have to buy insurance from the exchange if you’re already insured or if you want to buy from somewhere else.  It’s an option.

But, it’s also apparently an opportunity for scammers.

Bill Deal, the Director of the Idaho Department of Insurance, says Idahoans are being scammed.

“These scammers are out there popping up across the state,” Deal said.

He says there is still a lot of people confused about what the upcoming state health insurance exchange named Your Health Idaho, will look like. And scammers are preying on that.

A couple of the scams they’re seeing involves a phone solicitor trying to pressure you into purchasing a limited time offer, or claiming that you could go to jail for not having health insurance.

Idaho’s governor sets a five-year goal for implementing an education task force’s proposals.

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Gov. Butch Otter signaled that his top spending priority springing from a new report will be getting back the operational revenue that school districts have lost since 2008.

“We’ve got to backfill some things,” Otter told the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. “There were some cuts we made between ’08 and ’10 that were necessary but unfortunate.”

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, welcomed Otter’s suggestion. Bedke was among a group of legislative leaders who met with Otter on Tuesday to discuss the recommendations of a task force the governor empaneled in December. The panel issued its report last week.

Bedke said he will urge the Legislature’s K-12 Educational System Interim Committee to “pick up where the task force left off” and smooth the way for lawmaking in the 2014 Legislature. That committee meets Sept. 12 and Oct. 2.