Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Hailey takes a look ahead

Goals for city include public outreach and funding

Express Staff Writer

The city of Hailey's annual goal-setting workshop Monday night yielded a list of concerns and opportunities that will likely shape the direction of City Hall in the near future. Despite challenges brought on by a lagging local economy, city officials were upbeat, positive and unanimously in support of involving the citizens of Hailey in the decision-making process in years to come.

"Thanks to the talent we have on city staff we are, after two months, where I expected to be after six months in this administration," said Mayor Rick Davis.

City Council members, department heads, and staff listed strengths and weaknesses and expressed concerns about city infrastructure, land, transportation, and housing needs.

"We should maintain a city of involved citizens rather than a city of uninvolved second-home owners," said Councilman Fritz Haemmerle, whose greatest infrastructure concern was the protection and repair of the municipal water supply.

Lack of funding for capital improvements were discussed in light of two petitions circulating in the city to repeal development impact and business license fees. That led to discussion on the need to further educate and involve the public in the processes of government and cost of services. City Administrator Heather Dawson said the city would lose $2.5 million over the next five years if the petitions are successful.

A need cited by city officials to survey and inventory city lands and buildings led to discussion on preservation of the rodeo grounds at the entrance to town and the possibility of developing the site for multiple uses.

Councilwoman Martha Burke suggested long-range plans to develop a civic campus in the downtown core and others expressed interest in developing $2 million worth of city property on North River Street for community housing.

Transportation plans include a possible requirement that residents clean up junk from alleys to allow vehicle passage.

Officials also expressed a need to improve Airport Way and begin discussion on developing a master plan for property that will be vacated if the airport is relocated.

Dawson said the city's general fund will be debt-free in August, and Councilman Don Kiern suggested the city could take advantage of that by incurring more debts for its projects. Dawson said that under Idaho law the city can raise up to $25 million through voter-approved bond initiatives.

Before that happens, the council plans to develop a comprehensive capital improvement plan for the city that will include plans for sidewalks, buildings, recreation facilities and other municipal projects. The plan could be complete and up for public discussion within one year.

Hailey city officials identified a number of strengths within the current administration, including:

· Local talent for city positions.

· Diverse and educated community.

· Good communication skills.

· Accurate budget that reflects actual costs.

Weaknesses identified by city officials include:

· Lack of funding for capital improvement plan.

· Mixed signals sent to city staff.

· Lack of public support to use debt ceiling.

· Lack of backup for management positions.

· Lack of citizen education on fees and city program costs.

· Lack of education on levels of service and costs.

· Need for outreach and feedback.

· Lack of housing and funding to recruit new city staff

In other Hailey news, City Engineer Tom Helen was appointed public works director. He will hold both positions

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