After a dust-up over an email budget vote, the Governor’s Housing Committee has agreed to fund maintenance of the vacant governor’s mansion. That’s on the condition the committee hosts a public meeting in mid-September to discuss the possibility of selling the donated house.
Senator Les Bock (D-Boise) raised concerns last week that the committee violated Idaho’s open meetings law by voting on the annual budget via email. At the same time, Bock expressed his frustration with the fact the state spends about $180,000 per year to maintain the seldom-used mansion.
“My frustration is in our inability to bite the bullet,” Bock said at the committee’s Tuesday meeting. Bock wants to stake a for-sale sign on the property, which was donated by the Simplot family in 2005. No governor has lived in the house.
His frustration is shared by Rep. Phylis King (D-Boise). “I just have that feeling we’re not doing the most economic thing,” she said. “It’s outrageous, just way too much money.”
The annual maintenance budget includes $40,000 for electricity, $5,000 for flags, $10,000 for security and $80,000 for grounds maintenance. The home is also equipped with wi-fi, a phone line, and cable tv.
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While the residence is considered the governor’s house, C.L. “Butch” Otter has never lived in the mansion. Nor have any previous governors. Instead, the governor is able to use the residence for official state business. State agencies
also may rent the facility for $200 per day or $100 per half day. The Department of Administration says it is used a couple of times per week. Last year, the property brought in $3,100 in rental fees, barely enough to cover the cost of flags.
Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Winder (R-Boise) says the panel is taking a big step by opening up a discussion on whether to sell the property. Winder says it doesn’t particularly matter to him whether the state holds on to the donated home.
“We do need a place for people when they don’t live here [in Boise],” Winder says. “Or we need to provide a stipend to them that is significant enough to provide a good home for them and provide for the expenses of being the governor in that home.”
The Governor’s Housing Committee has planned a public meeting on the issue in mid-September. For more information about the history of the governor’s mansion, click here.