Friday, November 10, 2006

Ketchum moves quickly on new equipment

$1.5 million bond election passes with 77 percent of vote

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum Parks Superintendent Jen Smith says a final goodbye to a 1950s-era snow blower, parked downtown. In the windshield, a sign saying ?Thank You? marks the success of a $1.5 million bond Ketchum voters approved Tuesday to replace that and three other pieces of heavy equipment. The city will either auction the snow blower or sell it through a trade publication. Photo by David N. Seelig

Just eight hours after the final tally of votes in Ketchum's bond election, city staff members were putting together bid specifications for snow removal equipment.

Of 1,284 ballots cast Tuesday in the city's four precincts, 77 percent elected to support the $1.5 million bond that would replace four pieces of aging equipment.

The money, which will come out of the city's debt services fund, will pay for two snow blowers, dating from 1957 and 1985, a 1988 grader and a 1985 loader.

The Ketchum City Council canvassed election results Wednesday morning, verifying the following results: 988 ballots cast in favor of the bond; 251 opposed; 45 ballots with no vote cast either for or against the issue. The bond needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

"I'm very proud of this community to come out and support us when we have plans to move forward with our infrastructure," Mayor Randy Hall said. "It's a fantastic relationship that certainly makes our jobs easier."

Turnout was high, said City Clerk Sandy Cady.

"It was very, very busy," she said. "The only one that outdid this election was the YMCA advisory ballot."

Two years ago, 1,878 Ketchum residents cast ballots, giving the nod to a city proposal to lease to the YMCA approximately one-quarter of the city-owned Park and Ride lot, at the corner of Warm Springs and Saddle roads. That project is under construction.

Minor delays were reported Tuesday at one Ketchum precinct due to problems with Votomatics, "so there were lines," Cady said.

There was also some confusion regarding polling places, Cady said, in part due to an error on a pamphlet that directed everyone to City Hall. People who called the City Clerk's office were redirected to their proper polling place.

The city's Web site offered no information on the election, instead referring to the last bond vote, in February.

This fall's bond election drew many more votes than that one, in which a water system replacement issue was the only item on the ballot. It drew just 134 voters.

City staff is wasting no time after Tuesday's election.

"The Street Department is working on bid specs for the two blowers," City Administrator Ron LeBlanc said Wednesday morning. "I will be contacting our financial advisor and looking into Idaho Bond Bank to issue the debt."

The city will likely take out debt in two parts, one for the snow blowers and the other for the grader and loader.

"We don't want to be paying interest on the loader and grader until we receive them," LeBlanc said.

The snow blowers are considered the more pressing items to replace.

"We think the grader and loader can probably last through the winter, but we definitely don't think we're going to get much more out of the blowers," LeBlanc said.

The city will put in a request for the blowers, which could take up to seven months to arrive. If another buyer in the meantime drops a request, Ketchum could move up in line.

The city also has a 1987 snow blower that, while considered the "new" one, is not as efficient as newer models.

"All three are in pretty bad shape," LeBlanc said.

The Street Department repaired two of the blowers this summer, so all three will be put to use this winter, said Street Superintendent Brian Christiansen.

Once the new blowers come in, the Eisenhower-era snow blower will either be put up for auction or sold through a trade magazine, LeBlanc said.

Ketchum, like many municipalities, used to buy major equipment like snow blowers through lease-purchase agreements. That method was ruled illegal by the Idaho Supreme Court last summer, which said municipalities and counties cannot go into debt without voter approval, unless such purchases were both "ordinary and necessary."

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