Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sun Valley hears local funding pleas

Nearly $400,000 requested; chamber request unspecified

Express Staff Writer

As part of its fiscal 2008 budget process, the city of Sun Valley opened its doors to funding requests from six local organizations on Tuesday, July 17, and by day's end, requests totaled nearly $400,000.

The city is projecting a $7.7 million budget for the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

That figure does not include money requested by the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau. Historically, the city has provided the chamber with 25 percent of its local-option tax revenue. However, it is unclear if this is the city's intention this year.

In addition to the chamber presentation, KART requested $389,000, Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority requested $35,000, Ketchum Parks and Recreation Department requested $30,000, Wood River Community YMCA requested $75,000 and Ketchum Community Development Corp. requested $50,000.

KART is in the middle of a comprehensive integration process to bring all of the transportation alternatives into one organization. KART has fully taken over the valley service, called Peak Bus, and now all of the services provided by Wood River Rideshare are being merged as well.

"We are looking for seamless integration from a transit system," said Jason Miller, KART co-director. "We are looking for better consistency and better year-round service."

Discussed were possible locations for bus shelters, with Elkhorn Village and Morning Star Road topping the priority list for commuter frequency.

The $389,000 request represents what Sun Valley would have given to KART and Rideshare last year, plus a 3 percent cost of living increase.

Though the chamber did not make a formal request for a specific dollar amount, Executive Director Carol Waller discussed the organization's role in Sun Valley. She said it seeks to represent the interests of over 500 local businesses, the cities of Sun Valley and Ketchum, and those of the area's largest employer and biggest local option tax generator, Sun Valley Co.

Waller stressed the need for the North County to provide more beds for visitors and to secure a contract with Frontier Airlines for service from Denver.

"At this point, we haven't replaced the beds we lost in '01," Waller said, referring to the closure of the Elkhorn Resort. As for Frontier Airlines, she said, "we're optimistic it will launch in 2008."

Sun Valley Co. General Manager Wally Huffman gave credit to Waller and the chamber for keeping visitor numbers steady, despite the lack of beds.

"It's apparent to me we are in a no-growth business (the ski industry) and we have been for 20 years," Huffman said. "My concern is the focus. We're not going to grow during the holiday times until we get more rooms—and those are the easy times to grow. It's the off times, the shoulder seasons, that are the really competitive times to try and get visitors."

Huffman's suggestion focused on improving transportation and adding accommodations.

"That's where you're going to get LOT up," he said.

Presentations by other organizations included the following:

· Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority Executive Director Jim Fackrell said the organization is committed to providing affordable housing using various methods throughout the valley. He said the authority has only three units available in Sun Valley, all in Elkhorn, and two are studios. He said two-bedroom homes are needed.

· Ketchum Recreation Department staff member Kirk Mason said the department is hosting students this summer from throughout the county, including about 35 students from Sun Valley. He said the department has discussed resident and non-resident fees but nothing has been decided yet. · Community Development Corp. board President Neil Bradshaw said his organization's focus is on projects that protect the environment and on transportation. Bradshaw said one of the organization's functions is to provide "expertise" to Sun Valley on development strategy that the city would otherwise have to pay high consulting fees for. The $50,000 request is expected to be repeated for the next five years, Bradshaw said.

· All funding requests were open for discussion only. The city will revisit the issues on Wednesday, and place each request as a resolution to come before the city in August for action on the budget.

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