Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Council divvies up responsibilities

Ketchum's committee system would replace departmental liaisons


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Sure Ketchum has "issues," but the city's got a plan to work on them.

"This council has a very ambitious agenda (over the next year)," said Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall. "We have so many issues and things are falling in the cracks. I need some structure with it."

The mayor and City Council held a special meeting Tuesday, April 18, to explore the idea of having committees replace liaisons with city departments.

Responsibilities would be assigned in a more logical manner and priorities would be established.

Each committee would have a council member as chair, plus another councilperson and one or more member of city staff.

City Attorney Ben Worst cautioned that committees would be able only to share information. No decisions or deliberations are allowed outside the public realm.

Liaisons would still serve as representatives to other entities such as Ketchum Area Rapid Transit, the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau and the downtown task force.

Ketchum City Administrator Ron LeBlanc said the committee system is preferable to the liaison system because most issues and projects involve more than one department and communication sometimes suffers in the shuffle.

"That is a current shortcoming right now in the way we're organized," LeBlanc said. "The solution to (any) problem is always bigger than one department."

The new system also could enhance the mayor's control over issue management, better utilize city staff and resources, organize work and measure accomplishments, he said.

"This is how every board of every company I've ever been on works," said Councilman Steven Shafran. "I think it's terrific."

The workload facing the city in the next year—including implementing the downtown master plan, establishing an urban renewal agency and community development corporation, facilitating regional transit, expanding affordable housing—prompted some council members to consider looking beyond issues management through committees to more expensive options.

"This may really start taxing the staff," said Councilman Baird Gourlay. "I think you need more staff. I think we have to be prepared for that."

Councilwoman Terry Tracy offered another idea.

"The city is ready for a full-time mayor and full-time council," she said. "This is more than the city has ever taken on."

In the meantime, the council agreed there should be a multi-day retreat involving all committees to set a course for the upcoming year.




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