Friday, April 28, 2006

New housing board looks ahead

Prospect of regional expansion leaves board in limbo

Express Staff Writer

The new members of the Blaine Ketchum Housing Authority met for the first time Wednesday, nearly two months after all five members of the former board resigned in protest.

Virginia Egger, Susan Passovoy, Michael Roos and John Flattery used their first meeting to discuss the mission and purpose of the Housing Authority, their term lengths, deed restrictions, and current projects—including an ongoing "needs assessment" survey that has so far drawn scant response.

But the heart of the discussion was focused on the board's future direction and structure, and the fact that this board may operate in perpetual limbo.

Michael David, executive director of the Housing Authority, has made it clear that he wants the board to be represented regionally—by all five cities—in Blaine County.

The Housing Authority currently covers the entire county, but city representation on the board comes only from Ketchum. The Blaine County Commission and Ketchum City Council appoint two members each to the board. The board itself appoints the fifth member, which has yet to be done.

Egger and Flattery, who is the president of the Wood River Land Trust, are the county's appointments. Roos, who is starting his own real estate investment firm, and Passovoy, who will soon retire from 35 years of real estate and land-use law, represent Ketchum.

Egger is the city administrator of Sun Valley. Her appointment by the county commissioners in February led to the former board's resignation. Tim Eagan, former board chairman, said her appointment violated a state statute since she is a city employee.

Ketchum City Councilman Baird Gourlay, who is the city's Housing Authority liaison, urged the board to move sooner than later on the regional expansion.

"I think it is an important thing," said Gourlay, who warned the county commissioners in February that Egger's appointment would constitute a violation of the state statute and potentially lead to the board's resignation. "I would suggest it gets done in July, when the (cities') budget hearings are held."

Egger said that July is too soon.

"There is no way we could have it done by July," she said. "To operate regionally we need to have our house in order. My greatest angst is going too fast and not really doing our work really well.

"I'm willing to work hard but I'm really willing to work smart."

David seems keen on expanding sooner than later, since it will finally end the transition period and establish a more stable working environment.

If the board expands regionally, it would lead to another shakedown with more new appointments and resignations.

David and his fellow staffers—Associate Director Drew Sanderford and Program Director Cygnia Rapp—must train the new board members.

"We're having to do a lot of work getting them up to speed," he said.

But more than that, David said it's his "priority to let the municipalities know what services we could provide for them and what it will consist of. I've been through this budget process and request for funding for five years now—I know how important it is to paint a picture to the different municipalities."

The board did not say when it would appoint the fifth member.

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