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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of May 14 - 20, 2003


The making of a
modern resort town

Ketchum officials eye myriad of improvement projects

Express Staff Writer

Seeking to bolster its image among Wood River Valley residents, tourists and business owners, Ketchum officials are developing a long-term program to improve the city’s infrastructure, parks and recreation facilities.

Under the program, Ketchum residents over the next six years could see substantial improvements to city streets and sidewalks, additional open space, a new city hall and a new $1.2 million parking garage.

Ron LeBlanc, city administrator, recently issued a tentative outline of the Ketchum Capital Improvements Program, a bold proposal that seeks to implement a series of categorized improvement projects from this year through 2008.

LeBlanc last week said a complete draft of the Ketchum CIP will be put forth in early summer. "I’m collecting ideas right now and plan to have a draft by the end of June," he said.

The outline for the CIP—which LeBlanc noted is likely to change before a complete draft proposal is completed—includes a laundry list of improvement projects that could ultimately change the face of the city.

The CIP tentatively calls for installing temporary asphalt sidewalks along undeveloped properties, placing the city’s pole-supported utility lines underground, upgrading downtown alleys and making changes to public parking areas.

On a grander scale, the draft outline proposes a $1.2 million public parking structure, acquisition of the Warm Springs Golf Course for open space, a new $11 million city hall and a new $1.2 million fire station.

A line item dedicated to help fund the Wood River Community YMCA facility—planned for the city’s Park-and-Ride lot along Warm Springs Road—does not designate a specific figure.

Several improvements to the city’s park system and streets are also proposed in the CIP outline.

Mayor Ed Simon recently noted that implementation of a CIP for Ketchum is one of his top priorities for 2003.

The program would have to be approved by the Ketchum City Council, with the city each year prioritizing projects through the annual budget-approval process.

LeBlanc said that by adopting a CIP, the city would not only create for itself a blueprint of future projects, it would also become eligible for specific grants it currently does not qualify for.

He said the projects included in the plan would likely be funded through the city’s revenues from local option taxes, property taxes, as well as grants.

The proposed project to relocate utility lines underground could be funded in part through a 1 percent franchise tax charged on all electricity bills, LeBlanc said. He noted that several business owners and residents have told city officials they would like to see the lines buried, mainly to improve the aesthetics of the city.

"I know that’s one thing a lot of people are interested in doing," LeBlanc said.

Implementing a CIP in Ketchum could be done in conjunction with the creation of one or more local improvement districts, LeBlanc said. Establishment of designated districts would help the city ensure that improvements required of private property owners—particularly sidewalks—are completed at the latest when the properties are sold.

The districts could be installed as four separate quadrants that would be phased in over a period of time, LeBlanc noted.

LeBlanc said some of the improvement projects the city has identified as priorities will be implemented this summer.

Gaps in the sidewalk on the west side of First Avenue from its north end at Hemingway Elementary School to Fourth Street will be filled in with asphalt, he said. He noted that the city will still require developers of vacant parcels in the area to install permanent sidewalks when they build.

"This is more of a public safety issue for the kids," he said. "Nobody is getting a free sidewalk."

In addition, the city this summer will install a chip-seal road surface on First Avenue from Fourth Street north to the school and will install a new asphalt road surface on First Avenue from Fourth Street to River Street. The asphalt road surface—which costs more than chip-seal but is smoother and generally more durable—is a "test to see how the community likes it," LeBlanc said.

The city administrator noted that other parts of the city could be earmarked for chip-seal projects this year. However, crews will use a larger rock and fast-setting tar to ensure that the surface does not melt and break up in the summer heat, as chip-seal jobs in the downtown area did last summer.



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