Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hotel on the Falls reopens today

The view from the balcony of the Hotel on the Falls' Presidential Suite, on the eighth floor.
The Hotel on the Falls, an Idaho Falls landmark for almost 40 years, is back in business today, with a new owner and refurbished rooms.

The 85-room, eight-story building at 475 River Parkway, which dates back to 1978, when it was known as the Westbank Tower, was sold at auction Jan. 22. The new owner is Idaho Falls Lodge LLC, a company affiliated with Colorado Hospitality Services Inc. of Northglenn, Colo. Colorado Hospitality Services is owned by Bruce Rahmani of Denver, Colo. The Bonneville County Assessor’s Office reported the sale price to be $2.3 million.

It had gone into receivership in June 2014, when the property’s  then-owner, Idaho Hotel Holdings, filed a default judgment against the management company, Om Shiv Ganesh LLC, for more than $3.4 million. In the interim, it was run by Westerra Realty & Management, a Salt Lake City company that found the new buyers.

"It's in pretty good shape, really," said Brady Kraupp, who has managed the property throughout the transition and oversaw the refurbishing of rooms. There are new TVs, artwork, linens and furniture, but the eight-story hexagonal tower still boasts a lot of its old character. ”I could be partial, but we still have the best view and the biggest rooms,” Kraupp said.

The Westbank dates back to 1928, when Ferris Clark, son of Mayor Barzilla W. Clark and the grandson of Joseph A. Clark, Idaho Falls' first mayor, built two log buildings by the Snake River to accommodate an ever-growing number of motorists on their way to Yellowstone National Park. Over 52 years, Clark expanded the Westbank, first with a red brick motel, then a restaurant and lounge, then a two-story red brick motel. Clark is said to have had plans for a second tower, but declining health sent him into retirement in 1980. He died in 1987 at age 79.

Since the '80s, the hotel has gone by different names, including Red Lion and finally the Hotel on the Falls. Until 2012, the property was owned by Jim and Sharon Bennett and Robert and Sharon Paulus, the children of Olga Gustafson Rigby. In 2012, the hotel was deeded to trusts set up by the families while local businessman Dane Watkins bought the motel, restaurant and lounge and convention center.

Watkins told BizMojo Idaho in November he is looking for someone interested in leasing or buying the business. Signs in the door to the restaurant say "Closed for remodeling," but they're waiting to hear what any potential operator might say needs to be done, he said, adding that he recognizes the site's great location and historical significance.
Empty boxes in the hotel lobby, waiting to be carted away.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fire marshal may ask third party to examine water supply to business park

The Waxie Sanitary Supply warehouse at 3839 American Way, which burned early Friday. With water from a private well, the hydrant in front did not have adequate pressure and ran dry after 15 minutes.
While investigators zero in on what caused a fire last week that destroyed a cleaning supply warehouse south of Idaho Falls, Fire Marshal Ken Anderson said he may ask a third party to check into the water supply at the business park where the warehouse burned.

Firefighters were called to the scene early Friday after Bonneville County Sheriff's deputies responded to a burglar alarm. When they arrived, they found the water pressure from the hydrant in front of Waxie Sanitary Supply, 3839 American Way, incapable of supplying enough water to fight the blaze, running dry after 15 minutes. The next nearest hydrant also was inadequate, and it wasn't until they found one 500 feet away, near the Staples warehouse (which has its own water supply and pump), that they were able to get the blaze under control. By then, the fire had consumed the warehouse's storage area. A firewall in the building kept the office from being destroyed, Anderson said.

The Sunnyside Business Park is not inside Idaho Falls city limits and is not on the city's water system. Anderson said the hydrant in front of the Waxie warehouse appeared to be connected to a domestic well capable of pumping around 500 gallons per minute. Under the current state fire code, a warehouse the size of Waxie’s, roughly 4,000 square feet, would require 1,700 gallons per minute for two hours, he said.

“The insurance company could say, ‘If we’re going to rebuild this building it has to have an adequate water supply,” Anderson said. Likewise, insurance carriers may want to examine whether they are giving property owners in the park discounts based on the belief that the fire protection is greater than it actually is.

Under the agreement between the Idaho Falls Fire Department and Bonneville County Fire Protection District No. 1, the city fire marshal conducts investigations in both jurisdictions.

Though the city of Idaho Falls requires sprinkler systems for commercial buildings, Anderson said the state and county do not require buildings like the Waxie warehouse to have one. “You have to have x amount of stuff in a fire area before the code says you have to have a sprinkler system,” he said.

Nevertheless, without a sprinkler system and with inadequate water from the private hydrant, fighting the fire was harder. "If we're going to do our job, we have to have water and a way to get it there," Anderson said.

The loss has been estimated at more than $1 million.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Walgreen's plans to open west side store on Friday

The facade of the new store at Skyline and Broadway.
Walgreen's is planning to open its new store on Idaho Falls' west side this Friday.

The store at 1604 West Broadway is one of the Illinois-based chain's "Well Experience" locations, company spokesman Phil Caruso said. Walgreen’s introduced the format in 2010, hoping to offer more integrated health and wellness products. It includes a private consultation room for meeting with pharmacists and receiving health services like flu shots and vaccination. The front of the store focuses on daily living needs, including beauty, health and household products.

“It is set up to focus on wellness and healthy living, which we hope you will see from the floor plan and the way it's set up," he said.

Walgreen's has been doing business on the west side at 1850 West Broadway, where it moved in after buying Westgate Drug nearly 10 years ago. The staff and all prescription files will be moved Thursday night, so anyone who gets a prescription earlier in the week and plans to pick it up Friday will have to go to the new store, Caruso said.

Using a Realtor vs. For Sale By Owner

Tanyan Davies-Wall
Homeowners know their homes better than anyone else, but that doesn't always mean they are the best salespeople for their homes.

Some sellers try For-Sale-By-Owner because they want to avoid paying a commission to real estate agents. Others are tempted into believing that in a sellers market their homes ought to be easy to sell on their own.

Statistics show that selling your home with a Realtor will bring you a higher profit, even with the commission taken out. The National Association of Realtors reported that in 2013 the average FSBO sale price was $175,000 while average sale price with an agent was $215,000. That doesn't necessarily mean a Realtor can get you an additional 23 percent in profit. But he or she may have a better idea of what your home is worth and what can be done to get the best price for it.

 Consider the advantages a Realtor has:
  • Access to market data to position the home on the market appropriately
  • Evaluation of the local market and comparable home  values
  • Expertise on how to improve a home’s appearance by staging and minor repairs, so it will appeal to a wider  audience of buyers 
  • Expertise at negotiating contracts and paperwork and scheduling of inspections and appraisals. 
  • Access to advertising, including the Multiple Listing Service and other media.
  • Flexibility to show the property when you aren’t available
  • The option of screening visitors to your home, which provides a measure of safety
  • Ability to coordinate with the buyer’s agent through the escrow process
  • Expertise at closing, making sure everything is correct, evaluating documents and answering questions. 
Most buyers use an agent to help in negotiating their contract with the seller. People who go the FSBO route have to rely on themselves to finalize a contract. The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19 percent to 9 percent over the last 20 years.

Think about it. You may end up selling your home for less money and having to deal with legal problems unless you seek the help of an attorney to advise on the legal aspects of the contract. This is why most sellers prefer to work with an agent rather than risk an unsatisfactory home selling experience.
Tanyan Davies-Wall is a Realtor with Voigt-Davis Realty and a member of the Square One business development network.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Silver Star plans data center for Idaho Falls

Ron McCue
Silver Star Communications is planning to set up a data center in Idaho Falls by next summer, but the challenge is to find a building the right size that is in the right place.

Ron McCue, the company’s president and chief operating officer, said they envision an operation between 30,000 and 50,000 square feet located in a spot that can serve both Idaho Falls Power and Rocky Mountain Power.

“We would like to find an existing building to retrofit,” he said. Rather than constructing something new and nondescript, the company would much prefer to find and interesting old building to remodel. He estimated the cost will be more than $10 million.

Silver Star has already been partnering with Idaho Falls Power, using the city’s dark fiber to provide service to commercial and industrial customers. From Idaho Falls, it has its own fiber to Salt Lake City, where it has Tier 1 servers in the Kearns Building.

“We think eastern Idaho is incredibly important to our economic vitality,” McCue said.

The company has a commitment to rural customers that dates back to the 1920s, when farmers and ranchers in lower Star Valley, Wyoming, built their own phone system. Silver Star Telephone Co. was incorporated in 1948 and in 1953 it a loan from the Rural Electrification Administration that allowed them to build a modern dial system.

Melvin and Ardell Hoopes purchased the controlling interest in the company in 1956, eventually acquiring the remaining stock, and by 1961 they had expanded service into Idaho, providing service to Irwin, Palisades and Swan Valley, and expanding in 1964 to serve the tiny communities of Henry and Wayan.

McCue came to work for the company in 1989, just in time for the revolutionary changes brought on by the Internet. There is no such thing as a telephone company anymore. “Companies really need to be focused on being a broadband company,” he said.

Good Internet service is essential to electrical utilities operating at maximum efficiency. By having large commercial and industrial customers on a high-capacity system, Idaho Falls Power can shed load automatically during times of peak usage. “Say you’ve got a really hot day during the summer when everyone is running their air conditioners at maximum capacity,” McCue said. “We can find industrial equipment that may be unnecessarily consuming power and shut it down, avoiding brownouts and outages.”

Silver Star also sees opportunity in Ammon, which has been building its own fiber network the past three or four years. Unlike Idaho Falls’ network, which dates back more than 10 years and is focused mainly on serving government and business, Ammon is stringing fiber to residences as well.

“People take rising levels of speed for granted,” McCue said. “In a way, it’s just like the old days. When they called Aunt Bessie in Denver, they didn’t really care how the call was routed.”

Thursday, March 19, 2015

EIRMC fills three leadership positions

Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center announced today that three leadership positions have been filled, two by people in interim positions.

Dr. Aaron Harris has been named executive director of  EIRMC's Behavioral Health Center. For the past five years, Harris has served in multiple clinical and leadership roles at the Robert J. Dole Veterans Administration Medical Center – a level 2 teaching facility in Wichita, Kan. Most recently, he served as the associate chief of staff, providing daily operational oversight and strategic direction to more than 100 staff and 14 mental health programs. He and his wife, Erin, have six children.

Iris Torvik, current interim director of women's services will be continuing her role permanently at EIRMC. Before coming to EIRMC, she served as the vice president of Baylor University Medical Center, a 1,017-bed flagship hospital of Baylor Health Care System in Dallas, Texas, a position she held for 10 years. She is most looking forward to helping build the Women’s and Children’s Services lines.

Barry Hawthorne, interim director of emergency services, will be continuing his role permanently at EIRMC. Hawthorne has worked in health care for more than 35 years. With a base of clinical services in ED, Trauma and Open Heart Critical Care, Barry brings over 10 years in CNO roles and over 6 years in transitional/ interim leadership/operational consultant roles across the nation.
Hawthorne said decided to stay at EIRMC because he loves the people here and sees great potential for EIRMC to lead the region in emergency care.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Black Rock plans March 28 grand opening

Vino Rosso is no more. Black Rock Fine Wine and Craft Beer is planning a grand opening March 28. New owner Chuck Chute, who bought the A Street business from Bret and Sara Scibior, has repainted the interior dark sage and peppercorn grey, and the bar top and fireplace have been refaced with stone. “We want to take all the best that is already here and optimize it,” Chute said. That will include more music and food. Since the place has a kitchen, Chute described his culinary concept as “small plates, big flavor, low cost.”