Voters to determine in November if they want to pay for it all
By Eric Valentine
An 11th-hour plan by the City of Ketchum to save its contract with the Ketchum Rural Fire District was well received at the city council’s May 6 meeting. Councilmembers voted unanimously to move forward with a bond on the November ballot, meaning voters will be asked to “yae or nae” a property tax increase that would bring Ketchum a new fire station—at least—and several equipment upgrades and a new administrative position, at most.
As for a much-overdue fire truck, the city council approved the acquisition of a $935,000 aerial tower.
“That’s a done deal,” said council president Michael David. “It’s just a matter of how we’re paying for it.”
The basic options are to drain the reserves through a purchase, or to lease the vehicle and make regular payments that are more affordable in the short term but more expensive over the long haul.
The improvements are all part of a roadmap to consolidation between the rural fire district and the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley that has proved elusive for years.
The three entities were nearly fully aligned earlier this year until the Ketchum City Council voted unanimously against entering into a contract for services with Sun Valley. Councilmembers expressed concern at that time that a contract would not be a sufficient way of guaranteeing emergency services protection to Ketchum residents, businesses and visitors. They preferred to establish a joint powers agreement (JPA) instead, since JPAs essentially form a new government body made up of representatives from multiple jurisdictions.
This triggered the rural fire district to cancel the contract it had with Ketchum since the 1950s and enter into discussions that would team them up with Sun Valley instead. The rural fire district told Ketchum officials they’d hold off on entering into a contract with Sun Valley if Ketchum could propose a plan sooner than later.
“There is a cost to doing nothing,” Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw warned then.
The New Plan
Depending on which location the city decides to purchase and whether the Ketchum Rural Fire District re-ups, the bond would cost between $10 million and $15 million. The two locations councilmembers prefer are the city-owned lot north of the YMCA and a privately owned lot north of the Sun Valley Community School known as the Barsotti lot. The price difference? More than $3 million, potentially, to purchase the private lot.
A number of other equipment upgrades could add $500,000 to the bond, too. And one personnel position—an $84,000 assistant fire chief—would be necessary if the rural fire district doesn’t sign the new contract with Ketchum, David said.
Ketchum has until mid-September to finalize the bond details and verbiage for a November ballot.