Pocatello-Chubbuck merger (ballot question)

An aerial photo showing the border of Pocatello and Chubbuck along Interstate 86. An advisory ballot question for Bannock County will ask voters this upcoming election if they “support exploring the consolidation of Pocatello and Chubbuck into one city.”

An advisory question on the Bannock County election ballot this November asking voters if they would support studying the potential for a Pocatello-Chubbuck merger is attracting strong opposition from one of the cities involved.

Chubbuck’s Mayor Kevin England and the six members of the City Council on Oct. 11 said it was their explicit duty to issue a joint statement saying the ballot question was not an issue that affects the entire county and asked their city’s residents to vote against studying the merger.

“We have collectively heard from many citizens of Chubbuck, and without exception we have been asked by all to not allow this to happen,” England and Chubbuck City Council said about a potential merger of Pocatello and Chubbuck. “We say to each of you that we agree, but it is now up to you to make sure and vote no on the advisory question. The city of Chubbuck has a very bright future and to change course now, in our opinion, would be a mistake.”

Last week, the board for the Portneuf Library District issued a statement about concerns for the users of its library by the same name should Pocatello and Chubbuck merge, including increased service fees and the possibility the library is abandoned entirely and forced to relocate outside of what would become the new boundaries for the consolidated city.

Both the statement from Chubbuck’s municipal leaders and the Portneuf Library District board cite a statute of Idaho code detailing the legal process involved when two cities consolidate. According to the code, the name and government of the larger of the two cities are superseding, meaning a Pocatello-Chubbuck merger would, in its infancy, involve the new consolidated city going by the name Pocatello and assuming its respective codes and ordinances.

“If two cities consolidate, the larger city absorbs the smaller city,” England and the Chubbuck City Council said in its joint statement. “This means the smaller city’s name, ordinances, policies, everything about it would all go away. The larger city’s name, ordinances, policies and all else would replace it.”

Ryan Satterfield, a real estate developer at Satterfield Realty & Development Inc. and the co-chair of the One City Exploratory Committee — the group looking to study the potential for a Pocatello-Chubbuck merger — recently questioned the harm of simply studying the impacts of a consolidation in a statement last week.

Satterfield explained that the process of consolidating cities is fairly complex but would involve the election of new leaders that is representative of the new city and its boundaries. The election of a new mayor and city council would also result in the implementation of new ordinances for the consolidated city, said Satterfield, adding that a new unified name for the city could also follow.

“The current Mayors and City Council members would have to give up their seats in a new election, although any of those individuals could certainly run for one of those open positions in the new election,” Satterfield said. “To maintain short-term order, the ordinances of the larger entity, Pocatello in this instance, would carry over, but the new leadership would be elected and charged with establishing new ordinances that are reflective of the new city, and they could even pursue a unified city name change. ... Those elected could bring with them their experience and vision for a united city and strive to implement policies and ordinances reflective of the vision for the valley.”

The other co-chair of the One City Exploratory Committee, Dustin Manwaring, who is facing incumbent Rep. Chris Abernathy, D-Pocatello, in the upcoming election, also believes the advisory question has been somewhat blown out of proportion, in that opponents have positioned the fact-gathering question as one that would pave the path forward for a Pocatello-Chubbuck merger.

”It’s important for voters to understand this ballot question is advisory only,” Manwaring said in statement provided to the Idaho State Journal on Thursday. “Chubbuck won’t be absorbed into Pocatello whether one person or a majority vote yes to continue to study the benefits and drawbacks. It is simply fear mongering to advocate voting no on the advisory question means Chubbuck gets swallowed by Pocatello and loses its representation. Merging cities now is not even a possible result of this question. Since being placed on the ballot as an advisory question, it has already proven there are more ideas and conversation that could be helpful, including questions raised about library services. Voting yes means you support learning more about ways we can efficiently and effectively run city government in Bannock County, including the possibility of a future merger if it is shown to be a meaningful way to achieve that objective. No matter the result, the One City Exploratory Committee will carefully review the results of the ballot question and determine whether to continue to explore the benefits of Chubbuck and Pocatello becoming one city.”

As someone who has executed successful developments in both cities, Satterfield says he believes both cities have positive and negative attributes to consider if a merger were something to seriously pursue, and he encouraged residents who are interested to know more to vote in favor of exploring the consolidation of Pocatello and Chubbuck into one city.

“I feel there are wonderful things that both cities can bring to the table for the good of all the citizens of the valley that make this cause worth exploring further,” Satterfield said. “For that reason, I am voting ‘yes’ on the advisory question. Voting ‘yes’ means even more learning, opinions heard and additional facts presented to the public.”