The City of Pocatello is stuck in a land deal gone bad as plans for a new Snake River Hotshot facility are causing some tension between the Bureau of Land Management and one local landowner.
The Hotshot facility helps the BLM suppress wildfires in the Pocatello area, and the agency wants to bring it closer to the main BLM building.
Landowner and developer Bill Isley stood before city leaders Wednesday morning claiming the BLM is not following through on its portion of the agreement it struck with Isley in order to build the facility on his land.
The BLM is set up by the South Cliffs area, and out of the 50 acres of land surrounding the region, the BLM owns 15 while agency representatives say Isley owns the rest.
Isley said the BLM is deciding to not build the facility where it said it would. Instead, it sought permission from the city to build the facility on federal property south of the main building, next to the unfinished south connector.
Building here will inevitably force BLM workers to hop on a three-mile drive via the south connector, in order to get from the facility to the main building, which would only be about 50 feet away from each other.
Isley said this does not make sense, and will cost taxpayers an upward estimate of more than $1 million. However, BLM representatives said this cost has not been verified and is solely Isley's estimate.
Instead, he claims building the facility next to the existing road will only cost about $400,000 total, half of which Isley already paid after seeking a loan from the Pocatello Development Authority. For now, Isley said he wants to see the BLM start holding up their end of the agreement and pay up.
"Which leads me to the without question conclusion that they never would have done what they said they were going to do," Isley said. "They were trying to play us along until they had the access they wanted and then they can't."
BLM district manager in Idaho Falls Joe Kraayembrink said there are fallacies to Isley's argument.
Kraayembrink said much of that money Isley wants them to pay is related to his attorney fees and other unnecessary payments. He also said the BLM's hands are tied since the area surrounding the office is private land owned by Isley.
"So there is no way to use Cliff City Road to get public access," Kraayembrink said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. "Bill Isley has it landlocked. He wants BLM to sell him that 15 acres of BLM land south of the office in exchange for access."
Right now Isley owns a five mile stretch of land that serves as the access point from where he wants the facility built leading to the main building. However, Kraayembrink said he will not give them that access, which led the BLM to working with the city.
For now, both the city and Kraayembrink said the BLM will continue to build in its new location just south of the main BLM building next to the south connector.
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