Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Housing Authority seeks name change, expansion

Organization wants more regional representation

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority wants to change its name to the Blaine County Housing Authority and expand its board from five to seven members.

Representatives of the Housing Authority, a public organization devoted to providing housing at affordable prices for the county's working population, met with the Blaine County Commission Tuesday to discuss the changes, which they believe would foster better representation across the entire county.

The County Commission agreed, offering unanimous support to begin the process of implementing the changes. In order for the Housing Authority to follow through with the changes, the city of Ketchum must also be on board. A meeting between the city and Housing Authority was scheduled for Tuesday night.

The Housing Authority currently operates countywide but is funded primarily by Blaine County and the city of Ketchum, explaining its name. Both entities contribute $65,000 a year, while the city of Sun Valley provided $27,500 this year.

"We view ourselves as a countywide service organization. We don't serve just Ketchum or any particular city," Susan Passovoy, chair of the Housing Authority's board of directors, told the county commissioners. "But in the experience we've had since taking the board over (last year), we're not getting as much input as we would like to have directly from a wider base in the county.

"We'd like to make the board more democratic ... a more informed board with better connections throughout the county."

The Housing Authority has endured a stormy period over the past year. The entire board resigned in protest in March 2006. That was followed by the resignations of Michael David, the authority's executive director, and Drew Sanderford, associate director, in August and November, respectively.

Jim Fackrell replaced David last fall and Passovoy, John Flattery, Virginia Egger and Michael Roos replaced the departed board last spring. A fifth member was never appointed. The position of associate director will not be filled until the next fiscal year, if at all, Fackrell said.

If the board expands, which the Blaine County Commission unanimously endorsed on Tuesday, it will include representatives from all five cities and the county. The board will appoint the seventh member.

There are currently 50 deed-restricted community housing units in Blaine County. Fackrell said that number will likely be doubled this summer when a number of ongoing projects are completed.

The Housing Authority wants to discontinue appointing elected officials or employees of the cities and county to the board, which means Egger, who is the Sun Valley city administrator, will resign. Egger's appointment to the board in early 2006 led to the board's mass resignation, since the board considered it a violation of Idaho statutes.

Blaine County planner Jeff Adams and Marty Flannes, of Developing Green, both expressed support for the changes, which will likely be implemented over the next several months.

Adams said it's especially important that the city of Carey, which is facing enormous growth pressures, is included in the discussions. He added that the changes will "help us in more ways than we think" by generating discussions about transportation and regional planning.

As far as funding is concerned, Blaine County Commission Chairman Tom Bowman said every budget is a "different animal," but that there are no plans to discontinue funding for the Housing Authority.

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