Friday, August 5, 2005

SV employee housing to be in Elkhorn

Express Staff Writer

Magnified by the need to house emergency-service workers, the Sun Valley City Council is prepared to fund work-force housing in the upcoming year. The council during a budget workshop Wednesday, Aug. 3, recommended the city move forward to construct work-force housing in Elkhorn.

"We are meeting an immediate need for the city," Councilman Lud Renick said.

The council offered its support for the purchase of housing units in and near the city of Sun Valley for essential service personnel. Financing for the project could be done through a revenue bond or appropriations from the city's Workforce Housing Fund. The 2005-2006 draft city budget includes $240,000 to start the project.

Renick initiated a recommendation that the city move ahead with construction of four units at the Elkhorn Fire Station, located at the corner of Morning Star and Arrowleaf roads. One deed-restricted unit to be purchased at the new Elkhorn Springs development was also under consideration.

The city hopes to develop a range of permanent housing stock in response to housing needs of the city's police, fire and street departments. Fire Chief Jeff Carnes has repeatedly stated a need to have city emergency workers live where they serve, in large part to decrease response times.

"If we can get there a minute or two earlier, sometimes it can make a huge difference," Carnes said.

The busiest hours for emergency services are between midnight and 6 a.m. Carnes noted a decrease over the last four years in the number of fire personnel living in the northern Wood River Valley. Currently, two members of his department live in Sun Valley.

"I used to have a waiting list of 15 to 20 people wanting to be on the Fire Department who lived in the area," Carnes said. "Those people have disappeared."

Carnes explained that if a greater number of his personnel could live in or near the city, the city's fire rating would likely improve. An improved fire rating would reduce insurance costs for citizens.

Police Chief Cameron Daggett expounded on the importance of housing in relation to emergency-service response time and to maintain a connection to the community.

The city articulated that its first priority rests in providing housing for 30 percent of the city's police officers, 80 percent of paid, on-call firefighters and the street superintendent.

A final decision on the plan will come when the city adopts its final budget later this summer.

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