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Bannock County bans e-cigs in county buildings

Bannock County commissioners have decided to include electronic cigarettes in the smoking ban in county buildings.

The Idaho State Journal reports commissioners unanimously approved the resolution Dec. 4.

Commissioner Howard Manwaring says they received some complaints about the use of e-cigarettes in county facilities. He says their use is still perceived as smoking and they do have some odor.

Manwaring says no one spoke against the resolution during the public hearing before the vote Dec. 4.

He says he thinks Bannock County made the best decision it could for now, but says the council is open to reconsidering it.

The metal or plastic battery-powered e-cigarettes resemble cigarettes but heat a liquid nicotine solution into a vapor that users inhale. Users get nicotine without the chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes.

The Associated Press

FDA: Idaho noted moldy yogurt months before recall

A report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says the Idaho Department of Agriculture spotted moldy yogurt during a routine inspection at a Chobani facility in Twin Falls two months before the company issued a voluntary recall.

A report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says the Idaho Department of Agriculture spotted moldy yogurt during a routine inspection at a Chobani facility in Twin Falls two months before the company issued a voluntary recall.

The Times-News obtained the report under a Freedom of Information Act request. More than 300 people reportedly got sick after consuming the moldy Greek yogurt.

The state denies the FDA’s claim. ISDA spokeswoman Pamela Juker says state regulators never took note of mold during the July inspection. The FDA report says a lab technician spotted visible defects and found a yeast-like growth after testing the samples taken by the state.

Chobani officials say the company’s goal is to ensure the Idaho facility is a leader in size, cleanliness, quality and safety.

The Associated Press

Rockstar Resources acquires gold and silver project in Oregon

New northern Idaho mining company Rockstar Resources now has its first mining project. Rockstar has acquired a mine in southeastern Idaho for $35 million. The company, made up of many former Coeur d’Alene Mines leaders, purchased Calico Resources USA Corp., which owns the Grassy Mountain Gold Project in Malheur County, 70 miles west of Boise.

The 9,300-acre site is not currently being mined and is an advanced stage exploration pre-feasibility project, according to a Rockstar news release. Rockstar will continue with both permitting and feasibility work for the site, which Calico reported as having a potential 2.3 million ounces of gold and 5.8 million ounces of silver resources.

“With Rockstar’s expertise in permitting, mine design and optimization, and operational development, we expect to expeditiously advance this major gold project through feasibility and toward production,” Rockstar CEO and Chairman Dennis Wheeler said in the news release.

The $35 million acquisition of Calico s expected to be completed by the end of January.

IBR Staff

Report details trade’s role in Idaho economy

A Business Roundtable report in support of U.S. Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations details the role trade plays in Idaho’s economy.

Trade with the 11 other countries involved in TPP negotiations supported an estimated 73,400 jobs in Idaho in 2011, according to a news release. In 2012, 51 percent of Idaho goods exports went to TPP countries, which include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Six of those countries – Australia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Singapore – are also bilateral U.S. free trade agreement partners. Idaho exported about $2.7 billion worth of goods to those countries in 2012, roughly 41 percent of the state’s global good exports. Idaho also exported about $267 million worth of services to those countries in 2011, roughly 18 percent of Idaho’s global services exports.

Idaho exported $618 million in goods in 2012 and $130 million in services in 2011 to the five non-FTA countries participating in the TPP negotiations.

Idaho made more than $6.11 billion in export sales in 2012, according to the Department of Commerce.

Idaho’s largest export category was semiconductors and industrial goods, accounting for more than $3 billion in exports. Other top exports include food and agriculture ($948 million); transportation equipment ($668 million); mining products ($572 million); fertilizer, pesticides and veterinary products ($167 million); and paper, pulp and printing ($159 million).

IBR Staff

Boise State, ISU, NIC get Labor Department training funds

Two Idaho universities and one community college will get a combined $1.8 million from the Idaho Department of Commerce for special worker training grant programs. Boise State will get the majority of the funding, with $1 million going to its computer science program. ISU will use a $532,180 grant to develop a new anatomy and physiology lab in Meridian, and NIC will receive $281,036 for a wood products manufacturing program.

All the money given in the Industry Sector Grant program required at least three businesses to partner with universities and for the private sector to contribute at least a quarter of the grant.

Boise State’s grant, which the school has dubbed “Expand.CS,” is expected to double the number of computer science graduates each year, from 30 to 60. The university will hire three faculty members, two teaching assistants, a program coordinator and an IT specialist. Several local technology companies, Clearwater Analytics, Cradlepoint, Focus IP, Hewlett-Packard, Impact Sales, Keynetics, MetaGeek and WhiteCloud Analytics, contributed $310,768 to the grant match.

“Our success depends on the CS department having enough graduates for us to continue to grow,” MetaGeek CEO Ryan Woodings said in a Boise State news release. MetaGeek is contributing $150,000 for student scholarships. The Boise company currently employs six Boise State computer science graduates.

ISU’s grant will support the Treasure Valley Anatomy and Physiology Laboratories in Meridian. The new lab will help the school’s programs for physical therapy, occupational therapy and physician assistants. St. Luke’s Health System, Saint Alphonsus Health System and Blue Cross of Idaho are the private-sector matching companies, contributing $141,709 to the lab.

NIC’s grant will go to its Wood Products Manufacturing Center for Excellence in Post Falls. Idaho Forest Group, Potlatch Corp. and Stimson Lumber Co. contributed a combined $93,679 match for the grant.


Dallas man sentenced in Idaho in tax fraud cause

A federal judge in Idaho has sentenced a Texan to almost two years in prison and ordered him to repay nearly $1.5 million in a fraud case involving false tax claims.

Lawrence Sikutwa (SIH’-koo-twa) of Dallas in August pleaded guilty to conspiracy to file false claims for a refund. He was sentenced Dec. 2 in Pocatello to 21 months behind bars.

Investigators say Sikutwa operated a tax preparation business in Dallas and enlisted people in Idaho to solicit clients for him. Prosecutors say Sikutwa made false entries in order to boost the amount of refunds and returned just a portion of the money to clients.

The case involved tax returns filed since 2005.

The Associated Press

Omega Morgan applies for MT megaload permit

Montana Department of Transportation officials are considering an application from an Oregon company to move an oversized load of refinery equipment through the state to an oil sands project in Alberta, Canada.

Omega Morgan began the week of Dec. 2 to move the water purification equipment from the Port of Umatilla in Oregon. With the transport vehicles, the unit is almost 380 feet long and weighs more than 900,000 pounds. The load is 19 feet high and 22 feet wide.

Motor Carrier Services administrator Duane Williams tells the Missoulian he doesn’t see anything alarming in the application.

A court order in Idaho diverted the route away from the northern part of the state. The equipment will instead travel through eastern Oregon, across central Idaho and into Montana over Lost Trail Pass.

The Associated Press

Army Corps of Engineers to dredge Port of Lewiston

Federal officials are seeking comments on a plan to dredge sediment from the Port in Lewiston.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to remove thousands of cubic yards of sediment from the river along the Port of Lewiston. The plan also involves dredging sediment at the nearby Port of Clarkston in Washington.

The Associated Press

Idaho Falls to widen Grandview Drive

Idaho Falls has established funding for widening one of its thoroughfares.

The city is going to widen Grandview Drive to five lanes between Skyline Drive to Saturn Avenue. The proposed improvements include sidewalks, a multi-use pathway, drainage improvements and retaining walls to accommodate the widened road. Additionally, a northbound right turn lane on Skyline Drive and Grandview Drive is planned, along with some modifications in the same area.

The total construction cost is $1.3 million. It is a federal-aid highway project, with a cost-split of 7 percent for the city and 92 percent of federal funds.

Construction will start in 2016.

IBR Staff

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