Tomorrow, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and a half-dozen state officials will visit a small eastern Idaho town of fewer than 2,000 people. That town – Aberdeen – will be Idaho’s Capital
for a Day. Mayor Morgan Anderson says he hopes to use some of the time to explain to state leaders why he’s concerned for his town’s very survival.
StateImpact first wrote about Aberdeen just over a year ago, when J.R. Simplot Company announced plans to close three of its existing potato processing plants and replace them with a new facility in Caldwell. Simplot touts the new plant’s efficiency, but one result of the closures will be the loss of more than 500 jobs. Nearly 300 of those employees report to work in Aberdeen, and many live in the town.
Mayor Anderson has called Aberdeen home for almost all of his 78 years. He’s concerned about what the closure will mean for local people and the town’s tax base. He expects 25 families might be forced to leave.
“There’s no other place here in town to go,” he says. “So if they had to find other employment, they would have to move out. So that’s 25 houses that could be sitting idle.”
Anderson says efforts to find a buyer for the Simplot plant, expected to close in 2014, have been complicated by the fact that the company won’t sell its facility to any other potato processor. Company spokesman David Cuoio does not confirm or refute whether the company has such a prohibition in place. “We have nothing to say at this time,” he says
Apart from his worry about the plant closure, Anderson is concerned about something else he’s been hearing lately: that state lawmakers aim to do away with the personal property tax. Those dollars go to local taxing districts, like Aberdeen, and Anderson says his town would have a hard time coping without that revenue.
Anderson and other town officials hope for strong public turnout while the governor is in town. As the mayor puts it, it’s Aberdeen’s chance to talk to the people at the head of the table.