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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of September 11 - 17, 2002

News

Housing authority 
to be reorganized

Ketchum will appoint two members


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

Blaine County and the city of Ketchum agreed Monday to restructure the Blaine County Housing Authority to allow the city to choose two of its five members. Currently, all are chosen by the county commissioners.

A new joint powers agreement will be the latest of several recent steps taken to revitalize the housing authority, a body that has churned up three directors in six years and is considered by many to have lost its political compass bearing.

Formed in 1997 to create affordable housing, but battered by nimbyism and a weak political mandate, the authorityís achievements have so far been thin. The Fields at Warm Springs, containing 14 affordable units, has been its only major accomplishment. Several other affordable housing units have been built in downtown Ketchum and in one other development, making a total of about 25.

Funding responsibility for the authority is split between the county and the city of Ketchum, and it has shared its executive director with the Ketchum Housing Commission. The most recent director, Gates Kellett, resigned in August after expressing frustration over having to answer to two bosses making sometimes conflicting demands.

In a step designed to give the housing authority more autonomy, its office was moved this summer from Ketchum City Hall to an office building in Ketchum. It is hoped that the new joint powers agreement will help maintain that autonomy while giving Ketchum more of a say in the authorityís activities.

"The fact is that a lot of the housing will always be done in Ketchum," said housing authority Chair David Kipping. "The problem has been that Ketchum has felt kind of unrepresented."

The Ketchum Housing Commission will remain in place as an advisory body to the Ketchum City Council.

During a meeting Monday, the county commissioners and Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon agreed to instruct their attorneys to draft a new agreement this week that will require two of the housing authorityís members to be appointed by the county, two by the city of Ketchum and the fifth by consensus of the other four members.

However, under the state law authorizing formation of county housing authorities, all five members are to be appointed by the commissioners. In an interview, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tim Graves said he will need to research whether the county can delegate that authority or whether it must remain the ultimate appointing body. In any case, Commissioner Mary Ann Mix told Simon on Monday, "We donít wish to have any veto power over your recommendations."

Efforts to reorganize the housing authority have been shadowed by feelings among some involved that they are a smoke screen to rid the authority of members who really want to build affordable housing.

"Iím always looking at the underside of the political process," Ketchum resident Mickey Garcia told the commissioners. "Is there still trickery going on so you can get rid of the people you dislike?"

Commissioner Dennis Wright assured him that that was not the purpose.

All involved agreed they would like to see the new arrangement in place by January, after a new executive director has been hired and begun work. A six-person search committee, composed of representatives from the county, Ketchum, Hailey and the housing authority, met Tuesday afternoon to begin sifting through the 18 applications received for the position.

 

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