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Andrew Ottoson

Stories by Andrew

County to take full 3 percent tax levy for FY2017 budget

The Idaho County Commissioners aimed to extend the run of eight years without an increase in the overall levy amount – but even after cutting $140,000 from the amount requested by department heads and even after balancing another $277,000 in “cash forward,” they approved $89,000 in additional taxes during their regular public meeting Aug. 2. That bumps the total amount to be levied during the coming fiscal year by 3 percent – the maximum increase allowed under state law – to $2,956,000.

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Clear Creek Fire 100 percent contained at 457 acres

The Clear Creek Fire, the human cause of which remains under investigation, has been contained after burning 457 acres since it sprung up Thursday afternoon, Idaho Department of Lands public information officer Sheldon Keafer told the Free Press Saturday evening.

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Clear Creek fire estimated at 300 acres this morning; 100 on it today

The Clear Creek Fire, which was estimated at 200 acres last night and has been estimated at 300 acres this morning. Firefighters have line all around it, and are working to strengthen the lines before calling it contained.

Private land struck by wildfire; IDL battling season's first significant fire

The Idaho Department of Lands in cooperation with the Forest Service, Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association and Idaho Department of Corrections battled the first major local wildfire of the season Thursday, July 28.

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Parks to join College of Idaho defensive backfield

Next level athletes

Austin Parks is headed to College of Idaho where head coach Mike Moroski and defensive coordinator Chris Jewell call the shots.

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Football opportunity takes Lindsley to C. of I.

Next level athletes

With his older brother establishing himself at Boise State as well as a pair of 2A titles in the shot put and discus of his own, Cole Lindsley’s aptitude for throwing is no secret in southern Idaho. His prowess in the field was such that even with the 2A championship Grangeville High won on the gridiron last fall, not many colleges offered him the chance to continue with both.

County looks to hold levy amount same in budget for FY17

Budget hearing set for Tuesday, Sept. 6

During the budget process the last nine years, the Idaho County Commission has kept the total amount to be levied from taxpayers the same: $2,867,566. Because the value of private property in the county changes year-to-year, the property tax rate homeowners see on their year-end bills could be higher or lower than it was last year, but commissioners have long argued that holding the total levy amount the same year after year amounts to holding the line on taxes.

Disgusted ... that said, hoping for finality in a Lankford sentencing, conviction


This year marks 25 years since the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in dissent about a troubling case in which his colleagues ruled our local court had flubbed the process by which Bryan Lankford was sentenced to death. Earlier this week, the Idaho Supreme Court undid the outcome of the related case against Mark Lankford.

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Brandt stumps for Trump at GOP convention in Cleveland

Idaho County Commissioner Skip Brandt went to Cleveland and helped steer the state’s delegation clear of the insurrection that swept the Colorado delegation out the door on the first day at the Republican National Convention last week. Colorado, like Idaho, had backed Sen. Ted Cruz during the primary; Idaho, unlike Colorado, awarded the majority of its delegates in the clarifying light of a statewide primary vote.

Court orders new trial for Mark Lankford

Prosecution error violated ‘fair trial’ for twice-convicted double-murderer

Robert and Cheryl Bravence were murdered in the woods in 1983 and justice for them has followed a twisted path, which this week turned, again, in favor of a man juries have convicted twice already. Mark Lankford is headed for yet another trial.

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Harris heading to Jamestown on QB scholarship

Next level athletes

Bulldogs quarterback Layton Harris made a name for himself locally on the football field, and the outward ripples of that will take him to Jamestown, N.D. this fall, where his new coaching staff finds itself in need of a passer.

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Proposed fee irks Snake River guides

Some local Snake River tourism operators aren’t too happy about the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s proposal to bump the cost of river tours $5-$10 per person per trip, and some are alleging river managers have made poor use of existing funds while allowing key facilities in Hells Canyon to languish.

Written comments offer glimpse of public opinion on plan

The Idaho County Commission’s first meeting on the new natural resource plan back in January 2016 launched a public process during which the county received written comments from 15 locals. The Free Press reviewed all the comments as well as the Idaho County Natural Resource Plan (ICNRP) initial and final drafts and found some comments are reflected more strongly in the final draft than others. The commission is preparing to adopt the ICNRP next Tuesday, July 26.

County in final stages of adopting resource plan

The idea that climate changes can be predicted well enough to inform government action is part of the new policy the Idaho County Commission is set to adopt at next Tuesday, July 26.

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Wallace gets full ride from Rocky Mountain

Next level athletes

Grant Wallace transferred to Clearwater Valley High School last fall and his offensive output greatly boosted the Rams’ chances every night in the ultracompetitive Whitepine League.

County resource plan hearing set July 26

Idaho County Commissioners had anticipated the final draft of the county’s natural resource plan would be available this week for public inspection online through the county website, The document is delayed until next week, so the commission has delayed its next hearing on the plan until 11 a.m. July 26.

Allegations stack up against two out-of-state bear hunters

Misdemeanor charges – 36 counts dating from 2012 to last month – were filed against a father and son who had allegedly hunted under bad paperwork for years – essentially, for buying and using the wrong licenses. Bruce Gabari Jr. and Bruce Gabari Sr. were named in the stack of case files – 29 in total – which stands several inches tall on a shelf at the Idaho County Courthouse.

Dredgers to fight S.F. Clearwater River mining regulations

Local miners to appeal new paperwork requirements

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests are going forward with a plan to regulate suction dredging on the South Fork Clearwater River, in a move that will reopen the riverbed to as many as 15 small scale mining operations per year. Prior to 2012, small-scale suction dredging in the river had faced only state-level regulation from the Idaho Department of Water Resources, which had required only a letter permit.

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Strong turnout follows record entries

Border Days Rodeo

Attendance nearly matched record entries for the 105th edition of the Grangeville Border Days Rodeo, as crowds last Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights appeared to fill the grandstands as full as they’ve been since the centennial.

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‘Tradition’ for Border Days participants

Four-day event a family time

With a day earlier start to the rodeo, the annual Grangeville Border Days celebration gave participants more time to celebrate the July 4 holiday. Rodeo events ran July 1-3 with main festivities going July 2-4.

DEQ pushes solid waste conformity

A small change in Idaho Department of Environmental Quality policy will make a big change in how solid waste service providers and local governments across the region handle certain kinds of trash. While facilities such as Walco of Grangeville, Latah Sanitation of Moscow and Simmons Sanitation of Kamiah are abiding by local policy, DEQ is telling them – and the counties that rely on their services – to send certain kinds of waste out of the area.

Fire prevention is elementary


Everyone who believes in personal, individual responsibility ought to know what they can do to prevent forest fire, and everyone ought to expect their neighbors to know, too. Fire safety basics should be common sense – and, in our region, they are – but not everyone acts like it.

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Arnzen sets Mt. Misery women’s ultra record

Jenny Arnzen practices what she preached to those who turned out for to run cross-country with the Prairie High School team she helped organize in 2015.

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Urbahn marks 40 years with July 4th fireworks display

Border Days: ‘Rocket’s Red Glare’

When John Urbahn started pitching in to help with the Border Days fireworks show, he helped his dad, Bob Urbahn, set up and launch a much smaller booming, glittering display than will be seen at the GHS football field this Independence Day. It has been four decades of joy for John Urbahn, who is about to mark his 40th year launching the July 4 fireworks with the Grangeville Volunteer Fire Department.

Salvage work started to recover logs from 2015 fire season

After the huge fire season last year, the federal forests started planning salvage work that may yet recover lots of logs from burned areas. Plans for three of the projects the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests started in 2015 are now in writing. The three drafts went up for public review and comment on May 7, and the combined forests have made some changes.

Funderburg case dismissed against ICSO

Three years after a sex scandal struck the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office, United States District Judge Edward Lodge on June 10 dismissed a federal civil case against Sheriff Doug Giddings, Undersheriff Jim Gorges and Idaho County.

NEPA projects taking place on districts

Among the “small NEPA” projects the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests announced in a May 27 letter are several taking place on local ranger districts. On the Red River Ranger District are projects calling for electrical lines are to be buried along Road 222D near Dixie and test drilling for gold in the Siegel Creek drainage. On the Salmon River Ranger District are projects calling for culvert replacement in Peasley Creek and placer mining exploration in the French Creek drainage. On the Lochsa-Powell Ranger District is a project calling for tree planting in the area burned by last summer’s Woodrat Fire.

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Free Fishing Day

It was a beautiful morning for the youths who showed up at Wilkins Pond last Saturday, June 11, as the rainbow trout stocked by Idaho Fish and Game proved hungry and strong.

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Dueling rodeos to feature many of the same entrants

CVRA, White Bird slates brim for Fathers Day

The upcoming Clearwater Valley Roundup Association and White Bird rodeos are going head-to-head this weekend, with White Bird to go on its traditional Friday-Saturday of Father’s Day weekend dates, June 17-18, and the CVRA moving up on the calendar to go on Saturday and Sunday, June 18-19.

Voters rejected Chmelik for his style


If you’ve asked the people you know who voted why they think Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik lost, they’ve probably already told you what they’ve been telling us: Mainly, they just don’t like his style.

Commendations issued for efforts on Elk City landslide

Last month, the Idaho County Commission received two letters of commendation praising three county employees for the work they did during the days following the Elk City landslide Feb. 18. Another went to the Post Office. Others went to the Forest Service. It turns out one man wrote them all: Robert McGuire of Orogrande.

County to review RMP comments June 28

County to vote July 12 on plan

During the Tuesday, June 14, hearing over Idaho County’s draft resource management plan (RMP), Commissioner Mark Frei staked out a bit of middle ground on which the board will be proceeding toward adopting an official position on numerous public land questions. Chairman Jim Chmelik said he hopes the RMP will “give the county some standing with the agencies and give our input from the county…[on matters ranging] from better management of the resources to better access for recreation to the historical significance” of places such as the meanders miners created long ago at Crooked River.

Harvests a fiscal windfall for county

The disastrous fires last year made a fiscal windfall for Idaho County, as the yield tax private owners paid from July 15-Dec. 31 last year showed a jump to three or four times the usual level. During the commission’s regular meeting June 7, assessor James Zehner reported $94,000 came in, and a similar amount is anticipated for the coming year.

Camping Season

Summer sports camps keep area kids busy, and the Grangeville girls led off with a good showing under direction from new GHS varsity head coach Michelle Barger (above, right) and prominent area coach Dave Snodgrass, who was decked out in his Nezperce High blues last Thursday, June 2.

Barger in as GHS girls basketball coach

As Michelle Barger steps in for longtime GHS varsity girls head coach Larson Anderson, the Grangeville youth program is leveling up.

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Cortez gets 30 days for shooting bighorn

Paul R. Cortez faced justice Monday in District Court.

Corps finds Salmon River as ‘navigable’

Chmelik raises spectre of lost county revenue

Although the Corps’ decision is consistent with other long-established navigability determinations made by the State of Idaho (1980) and the U.S. Coast Guard (1974), the board – especially chairman Jim Chmelik – met it with displeasure.

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‘Putting On A Show’

A motorized version of a CreatureCraft Waterwog was seen tumbling through the rapids near Lake Creek Bridge on the Salmon River east of Riggins last Saturday, June 4. Piloting the rig was George Nuckols, who later told the Free Press he was “putting on a show.” Last Saturday marked the opening of river rafting season, as the annual Big Water Blowout celebration brought droves of whitewater enthusiasts to Riggins.

Group discussions begin on multi-county regional landfill

Talking Trash:

In mid-May, Idaho County Commissioner Skip Brandt was named vice chairman of the group of seven counties that met in Council to start hammering out plans for a regional landfill to be located near Adams County’s existing dump site, the Goodrich Landfill. The Adams County Record reported the group’s first meeting in that paper’s May 18 edition, noting the “joint powers” group by then included Idaho, Adams, Clearwater and Valley counties, with Lewis, Boise and Washington counties not yet fully on board.

County resource plan to receive hearing

Overview: What is the Idaho County RMP?

Overview In its statement of purpose, the draft asserts that federal agencies must involve county-level governments in the decision-making process at the earliest stages – prior to the broader public input process.

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County resource plan to receive hearing June 14

'We wanted it to be a statement about resources…'

If approved at a hearing later this month, Idaho County’s draft resource management plan (RMP) will formalize the county’s position on approximately 120 points related to federal land management. While it’s not clear what, if anything, federal agencies might do to accommodate the county’s perspective, the Idaho County Commission is advancing it in hopes the RMP will secure a seat for local government at the federal decision-makers’ table. It’s a step many other western counties are trying to take.

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Probert: J-Bar fire salvage project decision to be withdrawn

Earlier this month, a federal court ordered a preliminary injunction in the civil case over the Forest Service’s Johnson Bar Fire Salvage project. The order stopped salvage logging near the Selway and Middle Fork Clearwater Wild and Scenic rivers, which was set to begin as early as May 16. Now the salvage logging project is being withdrawn.

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Sullivan, Lindsley dominate

Track & Field

During his final days in Bulldogs uniform, Cole Lindsley swept the 2A throwing titles, firing off a personal record 51-11½ bomb in the shot put and ripping a near-PR 167 in the discus.

Kids Klub drops grant application

Multiple factors have nonprofit exploring options

Kids Klub is withdrawing its request for Idaho County’s sponsorship of a block grant, which Clearwater Economic Development Association specialist Kelly Dahlquist and Kids Klub members presented to the board earlier this month. According to a letter from CEDA to the county, which Dahlquist presented Tuesday, May 24, the commission’s continuing support for a grant awarded May 13 to Syringa Hospital and Clinics, combined with changes in the hospital’s construction schedule, means Kids Klub’s application might not be accepted.

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Pirates end Genesee’s reign

Spencer Schumacher had Genesee off-balance from the very start last Saturday, May 14, yielding only a bunt single through the first three innings even as the PHS lineup pounded out a 5-0 lead on the way to an 8-2 win over the defending 1A champions.

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Kamiah mill sale: Blue North officials asked IFG to step in

Faced with having to close the Kamiah mill, in October 2015, Blue North Forest Products approached Idaho Forest Group about buying out its assets and timber position, Blue North operating manager Bill Mulligan confirmed to the Free Press Monday morning, May 16. IFG is in the process of completing the buyout, subject to “various closing conditions” IFG now anticipates will be met later this month.

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Primed for Middleton

46 individuals qualify, six as No. 1 seeds

No one in the region could match the Kubs’ strength in numbers on the boys side of the 1A/2A District I-II championships held last Friday and Saturday, May 13-14, and they had one additional edge going for them: their track was looking freshly sharp on account of new paint the KHS coaches and boosters had recently laid down.

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Swap stopped

Risch finds 97 percent opposed Lochsa Land Exchange - Matter 'not settled' and 'not close'

In a letter to Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell dated May 12, U.S. Senator Jim Risch formally ended his pursuit of a legislated end to one long, controversial saga: the Lochsa Land Exchange.

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Judge puts J-Bar salvage on hold

USFS reviewing decision and and 'will move forward accordingly'

Late Thursday, May 12, a federal court ordered a preliminary injunction in the civil case over the Forest Service’s Johnson Bar Fire Salvage project. The order stops salvage logging near the Selway and Middle Fork Clearwater Wild and Scenic rivers, which was set to begin as early as Monday, May 16.

Forest Service salvage logging blocked

Late yesterday, a federal court ordered a preliminary injunction in the civil case over the Forest Service's Johnson Bar Fire Salvage project. The order stops salvage logging near the Selway and Middle Fork Clearwater Wild and Scenic rivers.


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