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For the week of February 26 - March 4, 2003

News

Applicants sought for new housing authority


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

After only its second meeting, and before all its members have been chosen, the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority has already become ensnared in politics.

Under the joint powers agreement that formed the authority in September, two of its members are appointed by the Blaine County Commission and two by the Ketchum City Council. The fifth is nominated by unanimous consent of those four members and ratified by the city and county.

The housing authority was scheduled to select its nominee last Thursday. However, the authorityís members decided during a meeting that night that a provision in the joint powers agreement requiring advertising of vacant positions should be applied to choosing the fifth member as well. Such an ad was placed in the Mountain Express this week.

The decision angered former Blaine County Housing Authority member Sue Noel, who attended Thursdayís meeting with the hope of being appointed to the new body. She said that when the creation of the joint authority was discussed while she was on the earlier body, there was no mention of the fifth memberís being chosen by unanimous rather than majority vote, of a requirement of ratification by the city and county, or of a need to advertise the position.

"Everybodyís aware of whatís going on here, that there are people who have been primed to make sure that I do not get on this commission," Noel said. "There are people in this town who will do just about anything to keep me off the housing board, because they know I am the champion of affordable housing for the little guy."

In an interview, Noel alleged some of those people are members of Ketchumís city government, and in particular Mayor Ed Simon. She contended that those who oppose her participation on the housing authority give lip service to affordable housing but donít really want to see it in Ketchum.

"The whole joint powers thing is a boondoggle to dilute the power of the housing authority," Noel said.

However, in an interview, Simon said he was unaware that the fifth member needed to be confirmed by Ketchum and the county.

"I quite frankly donít see the Ketchum City Council not confirming someone whom the housing authority chooses," he said.

Simon said he considers himself, like Noel, to be an advocate of affordable housing. However, he said, as mayor he has to back only those projects that have broad public support. That support, he said, did not exist for the proposed Town Center project.

In response to Noelís criticisms, housing authority Chairman David Kipping said the agreementís provisions should not have come as a surprise to her since he distributed copies of it six weeks ago.

"Weíll follow the procedures that we are legally obligated to follow," Kipping said. "Iím not really happy with the way the joint powers agreement was done, but we have no choice."

Anyone interested in applying to be on the authority should contact Director Dick Duncan, at 726-5509. Applications must be received by March 12. The nominee is scheduled to be chosen during a meeting March 13.

Simon said he is also seeking applicants to fill two vacant positions on the five-member Ketchum Housing Commission.

"Itís an advisory body, but I think it can have a lot of influence," he said.

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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.