Friday, January 13, 2006

Municipalities train for cooperation

Consultant leads workshops for valley leaders


The city of Sun Valley last week asked municipalities throughout the Wood River Valley to explore ways to cooperate on a regional basis. Consultants met with leaders of Sun Valley, Blaine County, Hailey, Bellevue and Ketchum Friday and Saturday, Jan. 6 and 7.

"It set a good platform, so that when the first thing comes up that we want to work together, we will be more comfortable," Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson said.

The city of Sun Valley had contracted Taylor-Nelson LLC of Riverside, Calif., to hold a council leadership training retreat for Sun Valley officials. While the consultants were in the valley, Sun Valley expanded the opportunity to other Blaine County municipalities.

The city invited Blaine County, Hailey and Bellevue leaders Friday, Jan. 6, and Ketchum officials Saturday, Jan. 7, to consult with the professionals. The entities explored approaches to address regional issues.

The session offered an opportunity for municipal leaders to get to know one another, while learning effective methodology to work together on a regional basis.

Regional issues such as consolidation, regional planning, regional transportation and workforce housing emerged as possible areas of future cooperation. Although no action was taken, leaders voiced support for holding regional meetings on a quarterly basis to extend cooperative opportunities.

"This was another opportunity to establish good dialogue between the two cities (Sun Valley and Ketchum) and to develop relationships that could pay dividends down the road," Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall said Monday.

The session was also used to engage in mock planning drills, including one in which emergency response agencies were merged.

Hall said that although no immediate plans are in the works for consolidating agencies, cities are always looking for ways to streamline processes.

"Jon (Thorson) and I are looking at any way possible to create efficiencies between our two cities," he said.

Bellevue City Administrator Tom Blanchard said both he and City Council member Tammy Eaton attended the retreat as representatives of Bellevue.

Blanchard said those at the meeting learned to "work on issues rather than positions" to accomplish more successful negotiations between separate entities. He said taking positions rather than discussing the real issues makes you less effective when negotiating with people.

"It was very helpful," Blanchard said. "There's more common ground than you think. I think that's the point."

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