Lemhi County Citizen Journalism

Leslie Shumate's picture


Bob Gutzman and Tiffany McAlister, representing the Lemhi Education Project (LEP), approached Lemhi County Commissioner’s Chairman Brett Barsalou and commissioners Rick Snyder and Ken Miner Monday, January 22, with a request for advice and guidance. 

According to Gutzman the six year old program has done “…too good a job” in establishing local educational opportunities and interest because with only a part-time interim director, there is much more demand for services than there is time and money, especially money.

He said the opportunities keep rolling in as LEP works with the new College of Eastern Idaho, offers job training programs, provides opportunities for seniors and others, tutors students and supports a GED program (General Equivalency Diploma). Gutzman said on top of all that and more, even though the city and county have provided great support, there is a constant financial need in order to keep the program alive.

According to Gutzman the College of Eastern Idaho has added more opportunities in the form of college level classes to the mix. It is now possible for High School students who wish to advance their education to plug into full credit courses never before offered. He said the college level courses are an educational leg up that can be obtained without leaving town. He said that is a huge help to parents and the kids who are on their way to college.

Given the opportunities now at hand Gutzman said that over the next three months the LEP Committee would like to “explore” the possibility of forming a taxing district for the purpose of having a full-time director and full-time programs. He made a point of repeating the word “explore” because the committee knows there is much research required to first learn if the idea is even feasible and then be able to offer the public all the facts and figures prior to putting establishment of a taxing district on the ballot.

The LEP research committee would be comprised of residents from Salmon, Leadore, Gibbonsville, Elk Bend and Carmen. The goal is to report results of the research by the month of May so that whether or not to go ahead with a referendum can be decided. Gutzman said there is a golden opportunity to expand the local educational resource and keep it under local control.

Before legislative cut backs diminished LEP’s resources McAlister was the program’s full-time director and she still conducts the only GED tests available locally. Meanwhile the College of Eastern Idaho, which has recently switched from being a technical college to a community college with far more programs, is anxious to get going with more local courses such as the currently successful LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) program with its 13 students. The college also has a goal of offering local classes to earn an Associates of Science degree and wants to have the classes available by this fall. McAlister said, “…and the LEP wants to be there!”

Commissioner Rick Snyder assured the two the county is fully supportive of making educational opportunities available locally and has no objection to LEP’s pursuing the possibility of a taxing district. He predicted the first question taxpayers will ask when approached with the idea of establishing a taxing district for the Lemhi Educational Project is, “How much?” How much money will it cost each taxpayer. He said the LEP must be prepared to answer that question accurately. Gutzman said the advantage of a local taxing district versus joining an outside existing district is having a totally local board in full control. 

The commissioners said they’ll be interested in what the focus committee finds and to please keep the board posted.

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