Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Party request stumps Ketchum Council

Express Staff Writer

When is a contribution a donation, and when is it a contract for services?

The Ketchum City Council grappled with that question Monday when discussing whether to chip in money for a celebration honoring the Holding family, the longtime owners of Sun Valley Resort.

Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson, a member of the event's organizing committee, requested from the council a contribution of between $500 and $2,000.

Ketchum City Attorney Ben Worst told council members it is illegal to make donations, but the city could enter a contract for services, dubbing the party a cultural event, in order to provide funds.

Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon raised a couple of issues regarding the request.

"My concern is that I get calls at least a half dozen times a year seeking money from the city," Simon said. "We initiated a protocol so we know how much to divvy up."

He said contracts for services are supposed to be submitted to the city by April 1.

Additionally, the city is not allowed to make donations; any contribution of money must provide some benefit to Ketchum taxpayers, he said.

"It's a very nice event," Simon added. "(The Holdings) have provided good planning and good stewardship of the land. I have a problem in giving a gift. By Idaho law, we're not allowed to give money away unless it benefits the citizens. I think it's a step in the wrong direction."

Thorson said contributions are being sought for the January event in order to defray expenses and keep the dinner ticket prices down so more people can attend.

"There's always room for exceptions," Thorson said. "Things can't always be planned a year in advance."

He added, "This is a celebration for someone who has provided a tremendous benefit for the city of Ketchum."

Councilman Baird Gourlay said he would offer $500 of his own money but was reluctant to approve city funds.

Councilman Ron Parsons said he wanted to speak with Worst before deciding.

Councilwoman Terry Tracy was eager to allocate funds, but no one seconded her motion to do so.

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