Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Vietnamese, sandwiches and a new bar: Three new establishments coming to downtown Idaho Falls

For those of you who missed it, here is a link to a story by Ryan Suppe that the Post Register posted on Monday: https://www.postregister.com/business/vietnamese-sandwiches-and-a-new-bar-three-new-establishments-coming/article_e356ac39-d8fb-5517-84de-d1883c840962.html. More great news from downtown Idaho Falls.

INL plans Power Grid Test Bed expansion

INL's Power Grid Test Bed is a 61-mile, 138kV dual-fed power loop complete with seven substations and a control center, all linked with state–of–the–art communications and instrumentation capabilities.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Idaho Operations Office is inviting the public to review and comment on a draft environmental assessment that proposes to expand the capabilities of Idaho National Laboratory's (INL) Power Grid Test Bed (PGTB). The test bed supports research, development and testing activities to improve the safety, security and resilience of the U.S. electrical grid.

DOE is proposing to construct a new 16.5-mile, 138-kilovolt overhead electrical line on the 890-square-mile INL desert Site. The new transmission line will consist of approximately 300 power poles located next to an existing transmission line. The new line will run from INL’s Central Facilities Area through the Critical Infrastructure Test Range Complex and end at the Materials and Fuels Complex.

The new power line will provide uninterrupted power for INL site facilities. Currently, researchers conducting experiments must disable and isolate an existing power line to conduct their work. The existing line will provide engineers and research scientists with a dedicated transmission line for conducting energized experiments and testing to support U.S. national security missions. The proposed action will support current and anticipated future use on INL’s Power Grid Test Bed.

In addition to the power line, DOE’s Idaho Office plans to increase the size of fencing around a nearby substation to support larger equipment necessary for the addition of the power line. Several gravel test pads located at various points along the pathway of the transmission line will be constructed or modified to support testing of power grid equipment, including diesel generators, transformers, circuit breakers, switchgear, load banks, instrumentation, and battery trailers.

The document, entitled the Draft Environmental Assessment for Expanding Capabilities at the Power Grid Test Bed at Idaho National Laboratory (DOE/EA-2097) was prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and is posted for public review at: https://www.id.energy.gov/insideID/PDF/Draft-EA-2097PGTB.pdf.

The 30-day public comment period on the draft environmental assessment will conclude on June 21, 2019. Comments can be submitted by mail to Jim Jardine, 1955 Fremont Ave., Idaho Falls, ID 83415-1203 or by email to pgtb@id.doe.gov. Paper copies of the document are available on request.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

TRPTA meeting set for this evening

TRPTA buses at the agency's central station on West Broadway.
Representatives from the areas formerly served by the Targhee Regional Public Transportation Authority (TRPTA) have organized a meeting to discuss the status of TRPTA’s affairs and to initiate conversation on the future of public transit options in the region.

The public meeting will be held at the Skyline Activity Center, 1575 N. Skyline Drive, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Agencies invited to attend include Bonneville County, Idaho Falls, Ammon, Iona, Rexburg, state and federal representatives, and others who are involved with or impacted by the recent TRPTA developments. An agenda is posted on the city of Idaho Falls website and can be found here: https://www.idahofallsidaho.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_05212019-725.

TRPTA's board voted to dissolve at an April 22 emergency meeting. The closure was the latest chapter in a troubled history that stretches back to 1994 and came after the Federal Transit Administration indicated concern regarding the agency’s lack of financial controls in November 2018. In February, FTA placed TRPTA on drawdown restrictions, prohibiting it from receiving capital expenditure funds, after a financial management report recommended corrective actions. Those restrictions led Idaho Falls, TRPTA’s biggest funding source, to withhold its funding.

TRPTA serves about 1,000 people monthly and provides more than 23,000 rides over the course of a year, according to board Chairman Michael O’Bleness. As well as running fixed bus lines, it provides rides to people with disabilities or who are medically fragile.



Thursday, May 16, 2019

Tru by Hilton scheduled to open June 11

This is what a Tru by Hilton looks like wherever one is built. The Idaho Falls Tru
is scheduled to open June 11.
Going by the website, it looks like the Tru by Hilton on Lindsay Boulevard will be opening June 11. “This hotel will soon be joining the Hilton Portfolio of Brands and is presently accepting reservations for June 11, 2019 and beyond” are the exact words.

Located at 680 Lindsay Boulevard, the hotel is owned by B&T Hotels IV LLC, which also own the Hilton Garden Inn next door and the Home2 by Hilton at Snake River Landing.

As a brand, Tru is aimed to appeal to a younger customer, in terms of both price and vibe. Hilton announced the Tru brand, its 14th, in January 2016, billing it as its re-entry into the midscale hotel segment. Its first-ever Tru property, in Oklahoma City, opened in 2017. ”I ultimately think this will be our biggest brand over time,” Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta said at the time of the brand’s announcement, pointing out that 40 percent of demand for hotel rooms is in the midscale segment, e.g. brands such as Comfort Inn by Choice Hotels and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott.

Rates at Tru are in the $90 to $100 range. The brand is especially intended appeal to people in their 20s and early 30s who tend to favor modern design, public spaces where they can work and socialize, and advanced technology such as mobile check-in, according to the company’s webpage. Local snacks and drinks, including single-serving beer and wine, are available from a grab-and-go area. A build-your-own breakfast station is complimentary, and coffee and tea are free throughout the day. The play area features a large TV, and activities such as ping pong and foosball tables. Wi-Fi is free. Rooms come with either a king bed or double queen beds, in sizes of 231 or 275 square feet.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Community Food Basket plans "Hunger Games" fund-raiser

Community Food Basket Idaho Falls (CFBIF) has announced a new fund-raiser, the Community Food Basket Hunger Games, inviting teams to put their brains to the test in a series of challenges that will require quick-thinking skills and an adventurous spirit.

Bank of Commerce is a title sponsor of the event, scheduled to take place Aug. 17 at Freeman Park as the kickoff of an area-wide campaign to raise funds to purchase their current food storage warehouse. The campaign will end in the winter of 2020 as the organization celebrates 40 years of service to the community.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had to change warehouse locations several times over the past few years, which burdens our limited staff and doesn’t allow us to create consistent processes within the sorting and distributing of food,” Executive Director David Manson said. “We also have an extraordinary opportunity to apply for a matching grant to purchase the building if we can raise enough funds within the community. Our hope is that this facility is truly a legacy gift to the community and will eliminate the worry of where food may be stored next.” 


Idaho Falls City Councilmember and longtime CFBIF advocate Michelle Ziel-Dingman is chairing the event. “As someone who has personally experienced the devastation of food insecurity, I was honored for the opportunity to give back to an organization that has smartly leveraged resources to help those in-need. Community Food Basket Idaho Falls is a well-managed non-profit with strong leadership, dedicated partners and donors, and passionate employees who treat their clients as guests,” she said.
 
Sponsorship opportunities are available, as well as teams of four for a donation of $300. For more information, visit FeedIdahoFalls.org, call 208-709-3773 or email director@feedidahofalls.org.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Home prices show sharp gains in Idaho Falls metropolitan area

The line chart from the HPI Calculator for a $100,000 house in Idaho Falls
bought in Q4 2013. (Note: Your mileage may vary.)
I was told by an associate and a newcomer to town that the housing market in Idaho Falls is off the charts, so I thought it might be time to run some numbers with our old standby, the HPI Calculator from the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

This is a page where you can plug in numbers and find out how what home values in your community have done. For starters, I wanted to see what a home purchased for $100,000 in the fourth quarter of 2003 would have done in 15 years. The disclaimer on the page states that the numbers it crunches are based on the average appreciation rate of all homes in the area. “The actual value of any house will depend on the local real estate market, house condition and age, home improvements made and needed, and many other factors,” it says.

What the graph shows is that over 15 years that house would now sell for $173,443. An annual appreciation of 4.9 percent. Not bad, eh? The line graph shows a leveling off in the $116K to $120K range between 2011 and 2014, but incredible acceleration from the first quarter of 2015.

If you’d bought a $100,000 house in the fourth quarter of 2008, you’d see a lot less appreciation, 25.8 percent or nearly 2.6 percent a year. You would have been underwater from Q2 2009 to Q3 2016. Ouch!

Lastly, let’s look at what $100k would do over five years: Q4 2013 to Q3 2018. You’d be looking at a gain of $46,052, or an annual rate of appreciation of 9.2 percent.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

INL wins Federal Laboratory Consortium National Award

Dr. Peter Kong, chief technology officer at Cogent Energy Systems, developed the
background modular plasma technology at Idaho National Laboratory.
Idaho National Laboratory has been honored with a 2019 Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) National Award in the Technology Focus category for the successful transfer of small-scale waste-to-energy technologies to Cogent Energy Systems. The FLC is a formally chartered organization mandated by Congress to promote, educate and facilitate technology transfer among more than 300 federal laboratories, research centers and agencies nationwide. Honorees are recognized in eight categories.

The Technology Focus award recognizes technologies that have demonstrated innovation or creativity in the transfer of an energy product, technology or service. The award was presented at the FLC National Meeting in Orlando, held April 23 through 25.

The story starts at INL with research being conducted on the creation of nanoparticles. The modular hybrid plasma reactor that originated from this research evolved into a gasification system for Waste to Energy (WTE) applications. The resulting proprietary ionic gasification process—embodied in Cogent’s HelioStorm Gasifier—involves the direct-contact processing of combustible feedstock waste, such as biomass and municipal solid waste, inside an active plasma field at temperatures of 3,000 to 10,000 degrees Celsius. The result is a clean, high-energy synthesis gas (or syngas) that can be used to generate electricity or converted into many valuable end products, including hydrogen, liquid fuels, and chemical precursors.

Founded in 2012, Cogent Energy Systems of Merrifield, Virginia, was the recipient of the transferred technology. The company’s technology development takes place in Idaho Falls, Idaho, near INL, where the modular hybrid plasma technology at the heart of its HelioStorm Gasifier originated. In partnership with other organizations, Cogent has developed and demonstrated two full-scale waste-to-energy gasifiers, with plans for a complete end-to-end commercial demonstration system scheduled to come on line during 2020.

Cogent executed a license option agreement with INL in 2012 and exercised the option to license the technology two years later. INL stands ready to help Cogent leverage DOE programs and assets to achieve commercial success. In the relationship with Cogent, INL has taken the approach that a successful technology transfer requires a sustained effort that does not end with execution of the license agreement. INL Commercialization Manager Ryan Bills, along with Cogent’s Dr. Abraham Haspel and Dr. Peter Kong, were recognized for this accomplishment through the FLC Award.