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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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For the week of December 5 - 11, 2001

  News

Ketchum power franchise nears completion

Meeting today to work out details


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Delivering on a promise to attempt hammering out franchise agreements with electricity and cable television utilities, Ketchum Mayor David Hutchinson announced Monday night the city is on the verge of sealing a deal with electricity utility Idaho Power Co.

Ketchum has been without an electricity franchise agreement with Idaho Power since Sept. 1, 1997.

"We believe we have a meeting of the minds on all the substantive issues, which is a celebration for those of us who have been doing this for a while," Hutchinson said.

A proposed franchise agreement is expected to be released to the public at a meeting at Ketchum City Hall at noon today, Dec. 5. The draft agreement was not available Tuesday, because Idaho Power attorneys were still reviewing the document, Hutchinson said.

A franchise agreement enables a city to charge citizens a franchise fee, and gives a utility the authority to work on city properties without asking permission every time a transformer or wire needs replacing.

Under the city’s previous, 50-year franchise agreement, the city did not charge a franchise fee. State law, however, allows cities to charge a 1 percent fee, but voters can approve a fee up to 3 percent.

"What the council has talked about is dedicating the franchise fee to burying power lines," Ketchum City Administrator Jim Jaquet said.

One of the formidable stumbling blocks toward reaching a mutually acceptable agreement the past five years has been the city’s desire to bury the power lines stringing its streets. But negotiations stalled several times on disagreements over which group would bear the brunt of the cost.

Hutchinson offered a nutshell overview of the draft agreement. It will allow the city to bid for contractors and will require that Idaho Power perform work at actual, not-for-profit costs.

"It should significantly reduce the cost of burying," he said. "We think we’ve got it wired."

During his campaign for mayor in October, Hutchinson was criticized for his "90-day plan," which prioritized tasks that could be begun or completed before the new year, the end of the mayor’s term. Achieving franchise agreements with Idaho Power and Cox Communications topped the mayor’s list.

"There’s been some communication with Cox, and prior to the end of the year, we should have laid out a framework in which we’ve finalized that ordinance as well," he said.

Protection of open space was another item in the mayor’s "90-day plan," and Hutchinson said contacts have been made or efforts moving ahead to work on preserving or acquiring the Warm Springs Gold Course, the J.R. Simplot-owned lots in West Ketchum and the Wells Fargo bank property, across from Atkinsons’ Market.

The Ketchum City Council Dec. 17 will consider a resolution in support of the proposed Town Center affordable housing and office project, which could contribute 15 to 20 affordable housing units on the corner of Main and Fourth streets.

The resolution is needed in order to apply for financing assistance by a Feb. 15 deadline, Ketchum and Blaine County Housing Director Gates Kellett told the council at a meeting Monday night.

Those who commented on the project urged the council to support the project.

"The most important part of this project is to get housing units," Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carol Waller said. "It’s a constant struggle in our community to get people who live here and work here. It’s a step in the right direction."

"I don’t see any problem with mixed use anywhere in Ketchum," said Patricia Busch, a Ketchum citizen. "I think we should encourage it."

Council members appeared anxious to consider the resolution.

"This is a perfect example of what we’re looking for," Councilman Peter Ripsom said. "We should move ahead as quickly as possible."

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.