Idaho's legislators wound up a tour of north Idaho by stepping back 30 years into a luxurious past on a Union Pacific Railroad passenger train.
But the lawmakers also were confronted with an up-to-date dilemma facing the state's 44 counties.Two vintage-1950s Union Pacific passenger cars, a heating car and an executive car were pulled along the Clearwater River Wednesday from Lewiston to Kooskia.
The cars, used by Jimmy Carter in his 1976 presidential campaign, represented the first passenger train to roll along the Camas Prairie Railroad tracks since 1955. The four-day legislative tour was sponsored by the North Idaho Chamber of Commerce.
The cars were brought from Union Pacific's base in Omaha. The rest of the fleet was sold to Mexico's nationalized railroads three years ago.
Once lawmakers continued by bus to Grangeville and Cottonwood, the train cars were filled with school children from Kooskia, Kamiah, Orofino and Lewiston. Each group of children then rode a different segment of the line.
Elsewhere, a comedy of errors occurred when Sen. Lynn Tominaga, R-Rupert, and newly elected Republican Rep. John Tippets from southeastern Idaho and his wife, Nancy, were accidently locked in a cell at the Idaho Correctional Institution expansion project at Orofino.
Some lawmakers couldn't get enough of the elegance of old-style passenger train. Sen. Atwell Parry, R-Melba, rode the train home, a trip that began at 5 a.m. and ended some 17 hours later.
Meanwhile, representatives from Idaho's 10 northern counties reminded the legislators that they face a Dec. 8 deadline to segregate juvenile offenders from adults. But the counties have little money for such reforms.
"We feel we are now at a point where we are asking the Legislature to help us," Latah County Commissioner Nancy Johansen said. "We have those numbers (of juveniles who are housed in jails) down as far as they can come without assistance from the state."
Northern Idaho counties, after discarding a proposal for a 10-county regional juvenile facility, have decided upon two centers: one in the Panhandle and the other in north-central Idaho.
"We've been saying it before, but now we know that time has run out," Johansen said. "We don't have any federal money to help us. All we have is the state to look to for assistance."
The county officials suggest standardizing what offenses warrant holding a juvenile under custody, as well as restoring state-funded human services. Statewide, the sexual abuse victims' program has been cut, as has the State Hospital North juvenile alcohol and and drug treatment program.