short-circuit Janss Center
A proposal to
build the Bill Janss Community Center with both public and private money
deserves a fair hearing and review before the Ketchum City Council.
team of dedicated volunteers has worked for more than two years at the behest of
the city of Ketchum to produce a plan and a professional feasibility study.
The team is
scheduled to go before the Ketchum City Council on Dec. 19 at noon for a full
Yet, last week,
Ketchum Mayor Simon pronounced the plan dead on arrival.
Simon released a
financial opinion from a bond-underwriting company that scored one of several
financing options, that even the Janss team agreed might not be the best option.
looked to be timed to short-circuit discussion of other financing options and to
derail any serious public consideration.
The move was
surprising from a mayor who has made "public process" his mantra.
Since he took
office, Simon has repeated over and over again to anyone who will listen, that
everyone who comes before the city will be heard—and treated fairly.
Thus, people with
absolutely no financial expertise were allowed hours of testimony to bash the
financial feasibility of the Town Center project.
A parking plan
that clearly didn’t work on paper was allowed plenty of public hearing time
and a week-long live demonstration in downtown Ketchum—which was a nightmare.
The city also set
aside hour upon hour for those who gave redundancy new meaning as they recited
fears about community housing.
To torpedo the
plan for the Janss Center before it has received a complete public airing and
debate is not fair treatment.
Not only did the
city invite the Janss Center plan, but encouraged it by entering into an
agreement with the center that entertained the possibility of a public-private
The city made it
clear it would not entertain a plan scratched on the back of an envelope. So,
the Janss Center team raised the money to retain a planning firm with national
expertise in community recreation facilities.
Yet, while the
team was working to put together a viable plan, coffee shop pundits were busy
trying to write its obituary.
Some say the $14
million center is a Taj Mahal, too elaborate and too expensive for the valley’s
organizers can’t raise the money.
Some want a
center located in Hailey, not Ketchum.
Some want to see
the city participate in acquiring Warm Springs Golf Course and Tennis Courts in
Ketchum—instead of spending money on the skating rink, gym and pools in the
Some say the city
should concentrate on building a new city hall.
Others want the
city to do nothing about much of anything.
are all premature.
dismissing the Janss Center team and a feasibility study put together by a
company that is nationally recognized for its expertise in recreation facility
planning, would be a big mistake.
The plan deserves
community center improve Ketchum’s ability to attract visitors?
strengthen the economy?
Would having the
rec center double as a convention center benefit area business?
Would the center
help the city keep youth recreation programs open to all valley kids—something
city officials say may soon be limited because of lack of resources at Atkinson
Would the hot
pools take the pressure off the heavily used hot springs at Frenchman’s Bend,
which the Forest Service repeatedly has threatened to close because of misuse?
Is the proposed
Ketchum location the best place? Could a Hailey Center be as viable?
Would the center’s
benefits be worth its $14 million price tag and the financial risk that may come
The price is what
a handful of people spend on homes in the Wood River Valley each year. It may
not be too much to ask that Ketchum—a prosperous city with no debt¾to provide
both the land and matching funds of $7 million.
We don’t know
the answers to any of these questions, but we’d sure like a chance to think
The city should
not treat the Janss Center team¾provably sane, sensible and serious
residents¾like a group of panhandlers with their hands out.
The city needs to
ask questions about the Janss Center—and give the planners time to answer. It
needs to proceed as the serious partner it proclaimed itself to be in the
agreement with the center.
the process prematurely will foreclose an opportunity that may never come along