Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Two candidates vie for Rec District seat

Express Staff Writer

Two of the three seats on the Blaine County Recreation District's board of directors are open this year. However, only one is contested—Subdistrict 1, which represents the southern part of Blaine County and is currently held by Leslie Fairbrother, who is resigning. Carey resident Spence Ellsworth is running against Hailey resident Craig Bates for that seat. In Subdistrict 2, current board President Tim Hamilton is running unopposed.

All voters can vote for candidates in both subdistricts. Terms of the volunteer position are for four years.

Spence Ellsworth

Ellsworth, 56, owns Ellsworth Financial Services in Ketchum. He grew up in Hailey, then moved to Carey where he has raised his seven children.

"They've all been very much involved in athletics and outdoor recreation, so I appreciate what the rec district is doing," he said.

Ellsworth said he supports development of a covered swimming pool at the aquatic center.

"Our summers are so short that I think it would be a good thing to have the facility for year-round use," he said.

He said that over the years he was frequently consulted by former district Executive Director May Austin Crofts about South County needs.

Ellsworth said that although he is concerned about how the district's activities affect the whole area, he would like to see the South County benefit more than it has from the district's programs. He said the area around the Little Wood Reservoir could provide sites for a public golf course and groomed cross-country ski trails.

"There's a lot of potential for housing development in this area, and with that development there will be greater need for recreation here," he said.

Ellsworth said he would like to pursue the idea of setting up a foundation to accept donations that could be invested to provide a steady income for the district.

Craig Bates

Bates, 54, is the father of four children and works as a sales and marketing consultant to various clients. He has volunteered as a Little League baseball coach and as a coach for the rec district's track-and-field program for elementary school children. He said he is a frequent user of the North Valley cross-country ski trail system.

He called the energy that went into developing that system "phenomenal."

"We need to take that kind of energy and move it toward swimming and golf and multiple activities for families," he said.

He said his priorities include coming up with a solution to provide year-round, covered swimming, developing a tennis program using school courts and providing publicly accessible golf.

He said he is eager to take on the district's funding challenges through exploring a bond issue for a covered swimming pool and through finding more grants for that and other programs.

"I want to make a difference for kids and families," he said.

Tim Hamilton

Hamilton, 43, is a certified public accountant with the Ketchum firm, Lallman Feltman Peterson & Co. He has already spent two four-year terms on the board.

He said one of the reasons he is seeking a third term is to provide some experience for the district, especially since long-time executive Director Crofts has resigned.

"It's important to have stability, somebody who's been involved with Quigley Canyon golf and North Valley trails, to know how we got here," he said.

Hamilton said one of his priorities will be to create financial stability for the district as well. Pointing out that only a third of the district's revenue comes from property taxes, he said the board will need to find ways for programs to pay for themselves, including donations and user fees, so that the tax money can go toward improvements rather than maintenance.

He also said the district needs to move toward creation of more partnerships with other government entities, including the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, the YMCA and local cities.

At its last meeting, the board agreed to seek a partnership with Hailey to improve the Aquatic Center.

Hamilton said he is still "optimistic" about developing public golf at Quigley Canyon. The property is now in the hands of CG Elkhorn, which has not made public any proposals for development.

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