Friday, March 24, 2006

Housing board may go to 5-city, county district

If Sun Valley joins authority, Egger would have to leave board

Express Staff Writer

The city of Ketchum and Blaine County will appoint new members to the vacated Blaine Ketchum Housing Authority board with the intention of eventually expanding the new board to represent all five cities in the county.

The entire BKHA board resigned in protest March 1, a week after Blaine County appointed Sun Valley City Administrator Virginia Egger to the board.

Former BKHA Chairman Timothy Eagan said the board's five members resigned because Egger's appointment violated "the spirit, if not the letter, of the Idaho statutes enabling the creation of housing authorities."

Idaho statute states that "No commissioner of any authority may be an officer or employee of the county for which the authority is created."

Since Egger works for Sun Valley and not the county, county commissioners stood by their decision.

"I want to stress that they are people of principle and they wanted to stand by their principles," county Commissioner Tom Bowman said about the former board members. "But if they truly believed in the process, they would have transitioned out of it and used a resignation only as a last resort.

"It was a very drastic move that really wasn't good for affordable housing in the valley."

But Baird Gourlay, a Ketchum City Council member and BKHA liaison, agreed with the board that Egger's appointment violated Idaho law. While his feelings haven't changed, he's put them aside in the interest of affordable housing.

"I still think Virginia's appointment is illegal—no matter how qualified the person is, we believe this is a citizens board," Gourlay said. "But we're working through it."

Blaine County and Ketchum are responsible for appointing two members each to the board. The fifth member is appointed by the board itself.

Ketchum had appointed Derek Ryan, an architect, and Eagan, a property manager. Blaine County appointed Charlie Holt, a builder, and David Kipping, an engineer. The board appointed Jim Laski, who's a lawyer.

Kipping's term ended Feb. 1, 2006, which is when the county began interviewing other candidates for the volunteer position. Egger, who is highly experienced in affordable housing issues, was eventually selected over a handful of other candidates, including Kipping.

The BKHA is also comprised of two staff members—Executive Director Michael David and Associate Director Drew Sanderford. They will both continue working for the BKHA to further the affordable housing cause in Blaine County.

The city of Ketchum currently provides about 80 percent of the BKHA's funding through development fees, Gourlay said.

Gourlay said he recently received a memo from David "that encouraged us to form a multi-jurisdictional representation."

David could not be reached for comment.

"We are looking at a transition period here," Gourlay added. "We will probably appoint some people to the board and make sure they're there for an interim basis."

Gourlay said that David envisions the BKHA board morphing into a countywide authority with representation from all five cities. Under such a system, the cities of Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey, Bellevue and Carey would appoint one member each. The county would appoint a sixth member, and the board itself would likely appoint the seventh member.

Gourlay wants the transition to occur within the next six months.

If such a change is instituted, Egger would have to leave the board, Gourlay said.

"If this turns into a countywide organization, she would have to leave, and she has no problem with that," Bowman said, referring to Egger.

Egger did not return phone calls.

"I think we have concurrence from at least the mayors of the county that this is a model we want to go towards," Bowman said.

The board—even if it's composed of interim members—must be replaced by April 14.

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