Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pizza and Politics heads to Bellevue

Four council candidates to attend Q&A session

Gene Ramsey, Steve Fairbrother, Larry Plott

With three seats for Bellevue City Council up for grabs, residents will have the chance to question and hear from the candidates at the third installment of Pizza and Politics, taking place on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at 6:30 p.m. in the library of the Bellevue Elementary School.

For the 26th consecutive year, the Idaho Mountain Express is organizing a series of Pizza and Politics forums, with Bellevue as the third installment of the 2007 election season.

The public is invited to the event, which will be moderated by Express Publisher Pam Morris and will feature City Council challengers Josh Rand, Larry Plott, and Gene Ramsey, and incumbent Councilman Steve Fairbrother. These candidates are contesting Fairbrother's seat and those of departing councilwomen Vivian Ivie and Beth Robrahn.

The three candidates whom are elected will certainly be challenged by a number of difficult issues that are facing the city.

Perhaps most prominently ensconced in the consciousness of Bellevue voters is the possibility of large-scale annexations. While developer Harry Rinker recently pulled his application for a 280-acre, 600-home development called Woodbridge Village, and the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended against John Scherer's similarly sized annexation proposal in June, there's still a chance these developments will come back before the city or end up in front of the county. In addition, developer Jeff Pfaeffle is still working on an annexation agreement that could bring nearly 200 new homes in Slaughterhouse Canyon within the city limits.

Another issue that has led to emotional commentary at recent council meetings is the consolidation of the Bellevue Fire Department. After a meeting at the beginning of October, it appears as if the city is close to entering into a contract for services with the Hailey Fire Department, in which Bellevue would pay its neighbor to the north for personnel and administrative duties. However, this has further begged the question of whether the consolidation shouldn't be taken a step further by merging with Wood River Fire & Rescue to create a single entity for emergency response in the south valley.

Consolidation talks have extended to the Police Department as well, with a possible contract for services with the Blaine County Sheriff's Office looming in the near future. This has raised concerns over the current and future level of service of law enforcement and what method would prove most cost efficient.

Without a doubt, the cost of maintaining and improving city services will continue as one of hardest challenges for the council in cash-strapped Bellevue. Candidates should expect questions on their plans for improving the economic vitality of the city and ways to expand and increase business opportunities.

Experience might also factor into this election. Fairbrother, who served as mayor from 1999 to 2001, is seeking re-election to his third term on the council. Plott has also previously served on the City Council. With Ramsey working as a Blaine County Chief deputy sheriff, this makes Rand the only newcomer to public service

The public is invited to meet the candidates, ask questions and partake of a variety of pizzas donated by Smoky Mountain Pizza at the remaining two events, which will run between one and two hours each.

For the final Pizza and Politics, the Sun Valley candidates will face off at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge, in Sun Valley.

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