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Boise’s U.S. Ecology announces dividend for stockholders

U.S. Ecology, a hazardous waste cleanup company based in Boise, announced Jan. 3 that it will offer a dividend of 18 cents per share to stockholders on record as of Jan. 13. With 18.3 million shares outstanding, the company expects to pay out approximately $3.3 million in cash. The 18 cent dividend matches similar payments to stockholders in all four quarters of 2011.

U.S. Ecology’s stock ended trading on the NASDAQ in 2011 at 18.78, near its yearly high. It opened slightly higher at the start of trade on Jan. 3, but dropped below 18.5 as of 10 a.m., Mountain Standard Time.

The dividend announcement follows a positive earnings report for the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2011. For the first nine months of last year, the company’s revenues were up almost $48 million from 2010, with net income up $3.6 million.

IBR Staff 

Employment rose slightly in Idaho’s forest products industry this year

The Idaho forest products industry saw some job growth in 2011, but forecasters say the size of the industry overall is not expected to change over the coming year.

Analysts for the University of Idaho recently released their 2011 report on the state’s forest products and a forecast for 2012. They will present the report before the Legislature’s Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee on January 5 and 6.

Executives in the industry said employment, sawmill output,  and timber harvests rose slightly over 2010. Employment rose about 5 percent, from 9,800 in 2010 to 10,300 in 2011.

Industry executives who responded to a survey said their industry is affected by general market conditions, housing starts, raw materials, health insurance costs and legislation, and increases in transportation and energy costs.

Sales in the industry were $1.8 billion in 2011. That was about the same as in 2010.

IBR Staff

Proposals sought for 9/11 memorial

The city of Boise is asking landscape architects to submit designs for a 9/11 memorial in Riverside Park, with the winning submission getting $2,500 and a contract for the project.

The memorial, which includes a one-and-half-ton beam from the World Trade Center, will be unveiled on Sept. 11, 2012.

Architects interested in the competition are required to attend a meeting at the Boise Depot Jan. 4 at 4 pm, Boise Public Art Manager Karen Bubb said. The meeting will lay out design guidelines, constraints and site information.

As part of the competition, the applicants will have to submit a proposed budget for creating the site with $23,500 provided by the city.

Bubb said the city decided to ask landscape architects to participate because of the unique set of skills needed for the project design.

“We need a designer that is used to looking at an environment, that understands materials. The beam is going to be heavy, so they have to understand structural engineering,” she said.

The design will be due Feb. 3 by 5 pm.

IBR Staff

New Medicare reimbursement guidance issued

New guidance released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is expected to streamline Medicare reimbursement for injured plaintiffs.

Under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act, Medicare is entitled to reimbursement for medical bills where there is a primary payer such as an insurer or tortfeasor.

In October, the CMS began requiring liability insurers to gather data on personal injury settlements for purposes of reporting those settlements beginning in January.

Meanwhile, attorneys on both sides have criticized the logjam in settling cases because of the difficulty in getting a final letter resolving how much is owed to Medicare.

Under the new guidance, the CMS will allow parties to calculate how much they owe Medicare. Medicare will then issue a final demand letter within 60 days that will be valid for 60 days.

The new rules apply only to settlements under $25,000, but according the trial lawyers’ group the American Association for Justice, CMS intends to increase the threshold for cases that can use this option in the near future.

Gary M. Paul, a partner with Waters Kraus Paul in Los Angeles and president of the American Association for Justice, called the guidance a “win, win” for seniors, businesses, insurance companies and taxpayers.

“The current system is riddled with inefficiency, costing taxpayers and businesses millions of dollars each year,” he said. “Assuming CMS expands the program above the $25,000 threshold, this guidance will go a long way towards addressing these concerns.”

Dolan Media Newswires

Eleven staff take buyouts at U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development

Eleven of the 66 employees at U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development accepted voluntary buyout offers late last year as part of the agency’s efforts to reduce its expenses.

The employees who left were eligible for retirement, or wanted early retirement, said Kerrie Hurd, USDA Rural Development spokeswoman in Boise. They accepted lump-sum incentive payments of up to $25,000, she said.

The federal agency’s budget was reduced by about 10 percent from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2012, which began Oct. 1. Both budgets were down from those of 2009 and 2010.

Hurd said the voluntary buyout was seen as cheaper than involuntary separations, severance packages and relocations. But it meant the Idaho operation lost experienced staff, she said. The impact might be seen in USDA Rural Development, which provides capital in rural areas. It comprises the Rural Business and Cooperative Service, which helps provide federally backed loans to business and industry, the Rural Utilities Service and the Rural Housing Service.

“Credit in rural areas is a priority to us,” Hurd said. “We might not be as quick as we have been in the past.”

In Idaho, six single-family housing specialists took the buyout, she said. Two were based in Caldwell and one each was based in Boise, Lewiston, Twin Falls and Weiser. Also taking the buyout were the state appraiser – that work is being done by an employee from another appraiser and private appraisers – a multi-family housing specialist based in Caldwell, a business programs specialist in Coeur d’Alene, and two human resources employees in Boise. In Caldwell, one of the remaining single-family specialists took the vacated multi-family position.

Weiser will now be served from Caldwell, Hurd said. Lewiston’s office now has one person. USDA has three other satellite offices, which typically are staffed by one person, as well as larger “area” offices in Caldwell, Twin Falls, Blackfoot and Coeur d’Alene.

IBR Staff

New basketball academy to open in Pocatello

Youth basketball in southeast Idaho, once supported by a wealth of LDS churches willing to lend space for practice, is replacing the hard carpet with hard floors as the nonprofit South East Idaho Hoops Academy tackles opening a new facility.

Joe Worrell, owner of Merlin’s TV in Pocatello and nonprofit founder, said Pocatello players aren’t keeping up the development of their counterparts elsewhere, mainly because of a lack of practice space in the area. Local LDS churches are no longer willing to lend out their basketball space in many instances, he said, due to liability issues for anyone who gets hurt in their space.

“We don’t have a facility where kids can train year round,” Worrell said. “If you can’t get court time and get kids on the floor, they are never going to progress.”

So Worrell bought a building in Chubbuck, a quarter of which he uses as storage space for his business, and set out to build basketball courts and training equipment.

The building is tentatively scheduled to open in mid-January, when kids can sign up for training or try out for competitive teams run by the nonprofit, Worrell said.

Worrell is leasing the building back to the nonprofit and relying on donations to pay for installing the courts and equipment. The model’s overhead will be supported by fees paid by participating kids. A scholarship fund for kids who can’t afford the fees, which is also supported by donations, will be made available.

IBR Staff

N. Idaho couple sues Nez Perce Tribe, federal government over land survey

A northern Idaho couple claims the Nez Perce Tribe is attempting to reclaim property that has been in their family’s possession for more than a century.

LeRoy and Katherine Howell filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the tribe and the U.S. Department of Interior.

According to the lawsuit, the couple alleges the federal government conducted a land survey in 2005 that usurped five tracts of property the Howells have claimed since 1895. They want a U.S. District Court judge to declare the survey invalid and grant them a title to the land.

The Lewiston Tribune reports an attorney for the Howells believes the lawsuit may be the first land dispute on the Nez Perce Reservation that has resulted from modern surveying techniques used to set property boundaries.

The Associated Press

Twin Falls officials approve zip line permit

 The Twin Falls Planning and Zoning Commission has approved a special-use permit allowing a zip line to be built in the Snake River Canyon in south-central Idaho.

The Times-News reports that commissioners On Dec. 28 approved 7-1 the permit request by Magic Valley Flight Simulation.

Opposition to the permit centered on concerns that Canyon Springs Road couldn’t handle additional traffic.

But commissioners said they couldn’t deny a permit based on road conditions that are a city problem.

The company has proposed a two-hour, aerial trail with three zip lines taking riders over a section of the canyon basin. The company has sought permission to build the project since 2009.

The Associated Press

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