As Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) staff work every day to serve Idahoans, the department has a responsibility to provide safe, well-maintained buildings and facilities for customers and staff. At the same time, the department’s senior leaders are responsible for keeping a close eye on how to use available resources efficiently and effectively. Together, the department’s facilities teams and leadership make sure building and maintenance projects are prioritized according to available funding and the overall needs of the department and the customers we serve.
Unfortunately, the reality is that sometimes projects have to wait; sometimes, overdue parking lot repairs and demolitions are postponed so that the department can replace leaky roofs and complete plumbing projects. However, the department recently received building and facilities funding that will enable the facilities team to complete many of the projects that have been on hold.
In Gov. Brad Little’s State of the State address on January 11, he announced a new plan called “Building Idaho’s Future.” The plan is intended to put more money back into the pockets of hardworking Idahoans, and to make strategic investments in Idaho’s infrastructure. The funding awards include tax reliefs, permanent tax cuts, small business support, frontline personnel training, and infrastructure investments in transportation, education, broadband, and state facilities – including the infrastructure maintained by DHW.
The infrastructure project funding was awarded for projects that were judged to have long-lasting value. As part of this plan, DHW was awarded $4.2M in funding for projects. In total, funding for 42 DHW projects was approved; the funding bill (House Bill 225) was signed into law by Gov. Little on March 17.
The “Building Idaho’s Future” plan is possible due to a budget surplus, which was the result of planning by the Legislature and Gov. Little. Last spring, as they prepared for an inevitable economic slowdown due to the pandemic, they limited government spending and maintained healthy “rainy day” funds. There were also savings of $140M in personnel expenditures that were offset by federal COVID-19 relief funds. Now, Gov. Little is redirecting these savings toward infrastructure projects to help continue Idaho’s economic recovery.
Projects the department will be able to complete with this funding award include maintenance and improvements at State Hospital North, State Hospital South, the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center, Idaho Bureau of Laboratories, and many regional offices throughout the state.
The success of DHW’s facilities project funding proposals is the result of long-term strategic coordination; the department has established a process that enables department leaders to make wholistic decisions on project priorities based on the overall priorities of the department. This will be a much needed boost to DHW as it will enable facilities across the state to provide safer, more efficient buildings and facilities to serve our customers and enable our staff to work toward the department mission.
You can follow the DHW’s work toward our mission and read more about our Strategic Plan on our website.
I hope you all have a safe and healthy weekend.