By Eric Valentine
Despite revitalized plans to upgrade Ketchum’s fire station and fire equipment, and a letter from Ketchum and Sun Valley firefighters claiming emergency services were being put at risk, Ketchum Rural Fire District commissioners voted to accept an emergency services contract with Sun Valley, officially ending ties that had been in place with the City of Ketchum since the 1950s.
Commissioners voted 2–1 to contract with Sun Valley’s fire department starting Oct. 1. In March, the district cancelled its Ketchum contract, putting the city on a 90-day notice to put together a plan for funding station and equipment upgrades all three jurisdictions agree Ketchum needs. Ketchum responded with a so-called Ketchum Fire Department 2.0 plan that included putting a $10 million to $15 million bond initiative on the November ballot that would have brought a number of significant facility and equipment upgrades.
Also responding were a significant number of local firefighters who penned and signed a formal letter to the rural district stating they were “deeply concerned that the impending cancellation of the contract will result in immediate and severe disruption and degradation of service for all three fire agencies.”
Not good enough.
“Ultimately, I’m trying to lead us to a path toward consolidation (of Ketchum, Ketchum rural and Sun Valley emergency services),” Jed Gray, Ketchum Rural Fire District commissioner, said. “All three commissioners want that. Just how we get there is a difference of opinion right now.”
Gray was the lone vote against contracting with Sun Valley right now. He said the move would likely set the consolidation efforts back a step, but his fellow commissioners felt the opposite would happen.
Who’s right remains to be seen. That’s because commissioners voted unanimously to extend the Ketchum contract until Oct. 1 as well as take action on any consolidation proposal brought to them jointly by Ketchum and Sun Valley before Oct. 1. Put another way, if Ketchum accepts the contract for services—or something similar—Sun Valley offered up earlier this year, all three fire departments could be operating under one agreement in the near future, an arrangement that has proved elusive for decades.