Bellevue residents go to the polls Monday to fill three open City Council seats to represent the fast-growing city.
Issues sure to be on the minds of Bellevue voters are the three pending annexation applications the city is considering, expensive upgrades needed for Bellevue's aging water and sewer system and the city's much-discussed budget woes.
Of the original cast of four candidates who were nominated to run for the open council seats at Bellevue's nominating caucus on Feb. 23, only three remain. Those candidates are incumbents Vivian Ivie and Steve Fairbrother, as well as first-time City Council candidate Beth Callister. Incumbent candidate Jon Wilkes announced that he was bowing out of the race at a public candidate forum in Bellevue on March 20.
Wilkes' decision essentially guarantees the other candidates seats on the six-member council.
Although she'll be the newest face on the City Council, Callister is expected to be vocal about growth- and transportation-related issues in Bellevue. She is a Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission member, a position she will have to leave, and a Ketchum Planning Department employee.
A committed user of the valley's public transportation system and the president and founder of Wood River Rideshare, Callister has long been a strong advocate of alternative modes of transportation in the valley. Callister was also instrumental in the establishment of the Peak Bus system in the valley.
Callister has now set her sights on Bellevue, where she hopes, among other things, to help establish a program to revitalize Bellevue's Main Street business core by utilizing concepts established by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. The trust's "Main Street Approach" combines historic preservation with economic development to restore prosperity and vitality to downtowns and neighborhood business districts.
"I would like to have a program like that in Bellevue," Callister said in a recent interview.
Vivian Ivie's position as the chief deputy of the Blaine County assessor's office for the past 24 years gives her experience that may become handy as the City Council contemplates three pending annexation applications. As part of her job duties, Ivie spends a considerable amount of time working with the legal descriptions and plats on properties throughout the county.
"I know a lot about the county. I know what's there," she said. "I think it helps to have somebody with that knowledge."
Consideration of the annexation applications will begin in earnest on April 10, she said, when Bellevue officials host the first of many workshops. The April 10 all-day workshop is being held at the Community Campus in Hailey and will be open to the public. Contact city officials at 788-2128 for more information.
Approval of the pending annexation applications is in no way a done deal, Ivie cautions, adding that she's not a big supporter of the annexation proposals. "I don't know yet. I'll be pretty hard to deal with," she said.
Ivie predicts the next City Council will work well together to represent the residents of Bellevue. "I actually like the lineup we've got now," she said of the makeup of the next City Council. "They're all tuned in and ready to go."
Veterinarian Steve Fairbrother, the owner of the Wood River Equine Hospital in Bellevue, consistently highlights issues related to the city's budget woes as his top concern. While saying he hasn't made a decision on the proposed annexations, Fairbrother believes the monetary boost the city may receive as part of annexing the properties into the city could be a financial windfall for Bellevue.
That windfall is a key reason why Fairbrother is seriously considering the annexations, which have the potential to more than double the size of the city. "That's not the only reason, but it's a part of it," Fairbrother said in a recent interview.
Bellevue still must consider a number of factors, including ongoing impact studies, before any decision can be made, he said.
Despite believing Bellevue could benefit financially from the annexations, Fairbrother still takes a tough stance when asked what it will take for him to support a greatly expanded city.
"It has to be a significant benefit to Bellevue, not just financial," he said.
Bellevue voters can cast their ballots in one of two ways: either through an absentee ballot until 5 p.m. today, March 31, or on the day of the election, Monday, April 3, from noon to 8 p.m. Those wishing to register to vote need to bring a photo identification and proof of Bellevue residency for at least 30 days. Voting will take place at Bellevue City Hall.