Friday, October 27, 2006

It?s time to replace Ketchum?s snow-removal equipment

Commentary by Jerry Seiffert


As easy as it is to reminisce about my tenure as Ketchum mayor in the 1970s and 1980s, there's one reminder it would be good to eliminate: seeing the very same snow-removal equipment on the city's streets.

When I became mayor in 1975, we already had one 1957 Oshkosh snow blower, built the year of graduation from high school—now that was a long time ago! While I was in office, we purchased three more pieces of equipment: a Caterpillar loader in 1985 and an additional snow blower and a Caterpillar tractor in 1988. All are still in use.

It is testimony to the dedication of our city employees that the machinery has functioned this long, particularly last winter when Ketchum's snowfall exceeded that of recent years by approximately 50 percent.

Ketchum residents will be asked to vote Tuesday, Nov. 7, on a $1.5 million bond issue to replace these four pieces of aging equipment. Approval is imperative. It should be obvious that mechanical equipment that is more than 20 to 50 years old needs to be replaced. Modern equipment is not only more reliable but also safer and capable of removing snow more than twice as fast.

The need for efficient snow removal in Ketchum should be obvious. The lifts and the ski-related businesses here open early. Streets need to be clear both for full-time residents to reach their jobs, and for the visitors who fuel our winter economy to reach the ski mountain.

There are also public safety issues. Ambulances, fire trucks and police cars all need to be able to reach their destinations quickly and safely.

There is no question that the city needs new snow-removal equipment. The only possible question is why the city is having its first-ever bond election on the issue

The answer is that a change in state law requires a vote of the public. Just as Ketchum was planning to order new snow equipment, the state Supreme Court last spring held that a lease-purchase contract is the equivalent of going into debt and requires voter approval under the state constitution. That means that the city will issue bonds for such equipment, instead of using a lease-purchase agreement as it has done in the past.

The cost will be approximately the same, and Ketchum City Council members have said unanimously that the purchase will not require any tax increases. That makes sense. Ketchum has long budgeted for snow-removal equipment. The changes are only in the mechanics of financing it—using bonds versus a time-payment plan—and in the fact that a vote of the public is now required.

Ketchum residents should vote "yes" on the Ketchum bond question Nov. 7.


Jerry Seiffert, a Blaine County resident, was Ketchum mayor from 1975 to 1988. He works as an advertising representative for the Idaho Mountain Express.




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