Friday, February 23, 2007

Ketchum endorses BKHA expansion

Council says agency should not be developer

Express Staff Writer

The city of Ketchum threw its support behind an expanded housing authority but strongly rejected the possibility of the agency dabbling in the development business.

The City Council heard a presentation Tuesday, Feb. 20, from Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael, Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority board chair Susan Passovoy and housing authority Executive Director Jim Fackrell regarding the reach and representation of the housing entity. Initially, those changes would include changing the authority's name to the Blaine County Housing Authority and expanding its board from five to seven members.

The housing authority is a countywide operation but the vast majority of its funds come from the county and the city of Ketchum. Each contributes $65,000 a year, while the city of Sun Valley chipped in $27,500 this year.

The Blaine County Commission unanimously endorsed on Tuesday morning the housing authority's expansion, which would involve dissolving the joint-powers agreement and creating a new one.

Some Ketchum council members, however, were adamant that the housing authority steer clear of development.

"The Community Development Corporation was formed as a valleywide (organization)," said Councilman Baird Gourlay. "If there's projects to be developed, that is the agency that should be developing them."

Gourlay pointed to previous efforts by the housing authority to develop housing.

"We watched them fail a couple of times, and that's why we formed the CDC."

The housing authority attempted to buy the North Fork Store and mobile home park in 2005 to use the property for a permanent affordable housing project. Shortly after, the entity tried to bid on the Bavarian Village apartment buildings in west Ketchum. Both projects fell through.

Councilman Steven Shafran agreed with Gourlay, saying he heartily supports the reorganization. He was adamant, however, about the authority taking the word "development" out of its mission statement. He said that won't significantly alter its mission in the near term.

Shafran after the meeting noted that when the authority is financially independent, which is its goal, it could add the development aspect back to its charter. But Shafran said development activity should always be kept separate from the regulatory, advocacy and property management aspects of a housing authority.

Passovoy said the board has no plans to initiate development, although it has statutory authority to do so. The board will take council members' comments under advisement while pursuing the restructuring.

If the board expands, it will include representatives from all five Blaine County cities and the county itself. The board will appoint the seventh member.

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