‘State of the Cities’
Ketchum mayor cites need
for more hotel rooms
By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer
The mayors of Blaine County’s cities and
the chairman of the County Commission reported to a large audience Friday that
the county and its communities are making positive strides, despite an array of
problems related to rapid growth throughout the Wood River Valley.
"We live in a wonderful community," said
Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon, the first of six elected officials to give reports at
the annual "State of the Cities Breakfast" at Sun Valley Lodge.
Blaine County’s mayors joined the
chairman of the Blaine County Board of Commissioners Friday at the annual "State
of the Cities Breakfast" in Sun Valley. Speakers included, from left to right:
Bellevue Mayor John Barton, Sun Valley Mayor David Wilson, County Commissioner
Dennis Wright, Carey Mayor Rick Baird, Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant and Ketchum
Mayor Ed Simon. Express photo by Willy Cook
Organized by the Sun Valley/Ketchum
Chamber & Visitors Bureau, the event attracted a large contingent of public
officials and community leaders.
Simon called 2002 "a year of transition,"
noting that Ketchum had to replace three high-level officials during the year,
including its administrator and police chief.
Simon said the biggest challenges facing
the city of Ketchum in coming years are providing affordable housing while
properly managing growth and downtown traffic.
He noted that the city is "upgrading
technologically," and is planning a series of capital improvements.
When asked to consider how the city will
develop jobs for its residents, Simon emphasized that Ketchum must make greater
strides to nourish its tourist-based economy. "That is our economic feasibility.
It’s called tourism," he said.
Simon added that he believes the city’s
"biggest failure" is not fostering the development of hotels in the city’s
Sun Valley Mayor David Wilson said his
city last year struggled with some high-profile "land-use and planning issues,"
as well as an 11 percent drop in revenue from local option taxes.
However, he said the most consequential
issue facing Sun Valley will likely be handling a series of development
applications the city is anticipating in future years from its largest land
owner. "The biggest challenge we … face is Sun Valley Company," he said
Wilson noted that the company has an
abundance of undeveloped land, for which it is expected to submit a long-range
master development plan by this summer.
Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant said "the
state of the city of Hailey is good," despite a controversy last year that saw
former mayor Al Lindley resign from his post.
She said traffic-related noise and fumes
are problematic and noted that the city "firmly believes" it should cerate a
balance of housing types for residents of various incomes.
Dennis Wright, chairman of the Blaine
County Board of Commissioners, cited a list of problems plaguing the nation’s
economy but assured the crowd that Blaine County is faring well overall.
"Blaine County is not in trouble. I can
guarantee that," he said.
Bellevue Mayor John Barton said the city
of Bellevue has made itself "fiscally sound" but noted that city revenues for
the next year will likely be "flat or down."
Barton said Bellevue is also faced with
the substantial task of expanding and upgrading its city sewer system.
Carey Mayor Rick Baird said his city "has
a come a long ways in a short period of time" but has faced numerous challenges
in ensuring water quality and controlling growth.
"We deal with the same types of problems
and issues that all of you are," he said.
He said Carey is going to have a "very
difficult time" maintaining its small-town heritage.
Sun Valley City Council President Latham
Williams asked the panel to address the county’s ever-present problems in
controlling traffic and providing public transportation.
Simon and Wilson said they would like to
see the county pay a greater share of the costs for public transportation,
including the Peak Bus.
Wright said the county "is not
anti-transportation" but wants to "see a sustainable way to pay for (the
"I think the county does have the money,"
When asked by the Idaho Mountain Express
whether city and county officials have started to work together on a laundry
list of countywide issues identified at a summit meeting called by Wilson last
December, Wilson indicated that little cooperation has ensued.
However, he said the goals of the
initiative have not fallen by the wayside. "It’s going to be a long process," he
said, noting that additional summit meetings will follow.