Monday, February 12, 2018

INL wins Green Spirit Award for transportation program

Idaho National Laboratory buses lined up and ready to roll.
The American Bus Association (ABA) Environmental Committee has selected Idaho National Laboratory as a winner of the 2018 Green Spirit Award in the “special recognition” category. This award is given to companies that demonstrate the greatest commitment to environmental stewardship in all areas of its business and community.

ABA is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motor coach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services.

The Green Spirit Award, co-sponsored by leading bus manufacturer Motor Coach Industries (MCI), is based on three aspects of a company’s operations: administrative, maintenance, and equipment and facility practices. INL was among three winners of the award from across the nation, along with Badger Coaches of Madison, Wisconsin, and Premier Transportation of Dallas, Texas.

INL Transportation Services – which operates the largest bus and light vehicle fleet in the U.S. Department of Energy complex – has long been a supporter of investigation into improving sustainability of bus and vehicle systems. INL pursues ongoing efforts to conserve fuel, including a stringent idle reduction program. Drivers and mechanics attend annual driver safety training, which incorporates fuel-efficient driving techniques into classroom and on-the-job training.

Further reductions in petroleum fuels are anticipated through the implementation of a “no-idle” battery electric auxiliary power unit (APU) with a high performance solar energy system on INL buses. With funding support from the Department of Energy’s Sustainability Performance Office, INL formed a working partnership with Bergstrom, Inc., a prominent cab climate systems designer/builder, and Motor Coach Industries, to design and modify a bus cooling-ventilating system to sharply reduce idle emissions. In August 2017, a pilot proof-of-concept no-idle HVAC project was completed with the installation of the Bergstrom battery electric APU with solar, and motor coach industry representatives attended a demonstration and technical review at the Energy Innovation Laboratory. The system is now being tested on INL fleet vehicles.

ABA presented the award to leaders of INL's Mission Support Services Division, which manages Transportation Services, at the association’s annual meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Jan. 29.

“We are truly honored to receive this award from our peers in the motor coach industry,” said Scott Wold, INL Mission Support Services director. “The award recognizes INL for many years of investment in environmentally responsible equipment and the adoption of green business practices, including collaboration with the motor coach industry to find cleaner, more energy-efficient technology.”

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Former councilman hired by Idaho Falls for accounting position

David Smith
Former Idaho Falls City Councilman David Smith has joined the city of Idaho Falls’ accounting team, filling a budgeted position the Municipal Services Department that had been vacant.

The job’s focus is on supporting accounting functions for the electric utility, and although the position reports to the city controller in the Municipal Services Department, Idaho Falls Power pays the salary and benefits from the city’s enterprise fund.

A certified public accountant, Smith has more than 30 years of accounting, auditing, tax, and business consulting experience, with a professional focus on forensic accounting. He was appointed to the Idaho Falls City Council in 2015, and served until January. During his time on the council, he served as liaison to Idaho Falls Power and also on the Policy Makers Council for the American Public Power Association.

Idaho Falls Power and Municipal Services began evaluating the accounting needs for the utility in summer 2017 and recommended in early October that a senior accountant be hired. The job description was finalized in early November and the position was advertised regionally in mid-November, closing on December 15.

Including Smith, there were six applicants who applied for the position, none of whom were internal candidates. The selection committee identified three candidates to advance to the interview process. Due to the holidays, interviews were scheduled in mid-January, with a job offer made to Smith shortly thereafter.

The city does not have a policy with respect to hiring past City Council members, said Bear Prairie, assistant general manager for Idaho Falls Power, who represented the utility on the interviewing panel. “(The) standard hiring protocols were followed, with the objective of hiring the most qualified candidate. We interviewed other qualified CPAs, but no one had his (Smith's) level of experience.”

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Auditorium district hires new executive director

Brian 'Chip' Scott
The Idaho Falls Auditorium District’s board of directors has hired Brian “Chip” Scott as its new executive director.

In his new role, Scott is responsible for the operations and management of the district, with is funded by a tax on hotel guest stays in the greater Idaho Falls area.

According to a news release from the district, Scott has served as vice president of operations for the Memphis in May International Festival, production director for Bumbershoot, the Seattle Music and Arts Festival, and booking and marketing director for a 14,000-seat arena in North Carolina.

Scott also has experience in fund-raising, project management and public relations. He holds a bachelor of science degree in recreation from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Radford University in Virginia.

The auditorium district was established by vote in 2011, and is involved in the planning of an events center slated to be built on ground in the Snake River Landing development on Idaho Falls’ south side. Board meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at the Business Development Center, 425 N. Capital Ave. For more information, visit www.idahofallsauditoriumdistrict.com.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Real estate marketing numbers show slight cooldown in 2017

The numbers for 2017 are finally in from the Snake River Multiple Listing Service, which keeps track of home sales and prices for eastern Idaho.

The results for Bonnneville County show a market that has slowed down somewhat, but it would be hard to keep the pace of 2016, the most go-go year ever.

Here’s what the number crunching reveals …

Homes Sold: 1,986 in 2016, 1,766 in 2017, a decline of 11 percent.

Average Days on Market: 57 in 2016, 48 in 2017. Homes were selling faster on average.

Median Price: $163,783 in 2016, $174,527 in 2017. Homes were selling for more.

New Listings: 2,663 in 2016, 2,426 in 2017.

If these numbers suggest anything to me, is that 2016 was a year in which a lot of inventory got unloaded while 2017 was healthy and still a seller’s market.

For the sake of historical perspective, let’s take a look at 2006, the biggest year before the crash.

Homes Sold: 1,788
Average Days on Market: 95
Median Price: $143,717
New Listings: 1,863

And, lastly, here are the numbers from 2011, which represents rock bottom.

Homes Sold: 987
Average Days on Market: 110
Median Price: $133,879
New Listings: 2,049

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Idaho Falls airport director leaving for new job in Hawaii

Idaho Falls Regional Airport Director Craig Davis has announced he is resigning from his position, to take a job with the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s Airports Division of the Hawaii Department of Transportation. Davis has been airport director since October 2012.

Under his tenure, the airport has passed the annual FAA safety inspection with zero discrepancies – the highest rating a commercial airport can receive. The rating also came with comments and accolades for IDA’s efficiency, management and overall safety. It has requested and received multiple federal grants for airport improvements and expansions: $2.5 million for the south terminal expansion, $2.4 million for the south quad ramp expansion, $2.3 million for the commercial ramp expansion and de-icing pad, $9 million for the Taxiway A, C and Runway 2/20 rehabilitation project, and $3.6 million for the baggage claim expansion project, which will take place this summer.

The airport operates from the city’s enterprise fund as a financially self-sustaining entity. In 2016, new revenue streams were created for the airport by adding three new corporate hangars and a new Enterprise Rent-a-car storage and maintenance facility. Other accomplishments include a successful Runway 17/35 Planning Study that will result in maintaining the runway use and increase safety. IDA also extended its aircraft rescue and specialized aircraft firefighting to 24-hour coverage, making it much safer for pilots who must land after-hours.

Davis oversaw the launch of IDA’s rebranding project, part of a comprehensive air service-marketing plan aimed at increasing awareness of the airport’s offerings within the community.

“While I am very sad to see him go, I am very happy to have had his expertise and leadership here at the city serving to build our airport over these past six years,” Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper said. “Craig worked tirelessly to attract and expand flights to the area, including new flights to Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul, recently striking a tentative deal with Alaska Airlines to begin a non-stop flight to Seattle. He knew that bringing competition to the IDA marketplace could result in lower airfares.”