Counties meet, make progress with Atlanta road controversy

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Road controversy in Atlanta, Idaho makes its way to Boise.

Boise and Elmore County Commissioners made a short-term deal with the Atlanta Highway District on the future of Middle Fork Road, the only road with access into town in the winter.

All sides say they are glad to have reached a temporary solution, but are looking forward to making a long-term agreement so they don't have to revisit this issue again in the future.

Middle Fork Road is Atlanta's lifeline in the winter.

"It's definitely a must for the mail to get in and the mail brings groceries and prescriptions," Atlanta resident Mary Schmader said.

Schmader has lived in the small town for 41 years. She has developed back problems, and decided to spend this winter in Boise so she doesn't have to struggle to drive in and out of town. Schmader said it's easier physically.

"Emotionally, it's not," she added.

But for her neighbors, according to the Atlanta Highway District, Middle Fork Road is the only road safe to drive on when it snows. For the last 18 years, Boise County has been paying the bill for the highway district to plow and maintain a 38-mile stretch of that road.

This year, they couldn't cover the costs.

"Funding has been very non-existent really," Boise County Commissioner Barbara Balding said. "It all boils down to dollars. That's what we're talking about, that's the bottom line."

Last year, the Atlanta Highway District said Boise County paid them $48,000 to maintain the road, but this year only offered $40,000. The district said they also had some issues they wanted clarified with the language of the contract, so didn't sign it. After that, it was up to Boise County to decide what to do with the road.

As Boise County tightened its purse strings, folks in Atlanta faced the threat of being snowed in.

"I didn't see how Boise County could say 'who cares, there's people up there that live in Elmore County who we don't care about,'" Schmader said.

Atlanta has 32 full time residents. More than half of the town made the drive down to Boise Friday to sit in on the meeting that would decide the short and long term future of Middle Fork Road.

The Atlanta Highway District said they would need at least $20,000 to cover the essential snow removal costs this winter, but that it was "absolutely essential" that the roads get plowed.

While both sides are looking for a more permanent solution, no decision could be made Friday. However, Boise and Elmore Counties agreed to each pay $10,000 so people can get in and out of town through the spring.

"I'm happy that they're going to get some money to keep it open," Schmader said. "We could get a lot of snow this winter, which is a high possibility it sounds like."

"Sometimes an open road is the best road we can get," Atlanta Highway District Road Supervisor David Gill said. "Even though it's rough we can still come and go now, and that's our main goal for this winter."

Both counties will discuss a long-term agreement with their constituents, but all sides came to tentative agreement that the Atlanta Highway District may eventually get full responsibility of Middle Fork Road, but that Elmore County would begin providing funding for the road.

However, nothing has been finalized. The Atlanta Highway District said attorneys hope to have a drafted proposal for a long-term solution by December 13.