Friday, September 5, 2008

Six housing directors come and go

Housing authority has tumultuous history

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Housing Authority Executive Director Jim Fackrell is resigning from an organization that has been in transition for much of its existence.

The history of the authority goes back more than 10 years, through six directors, and it goes back to the city of Ketchum, which continues today as the agency's largest financial backer, followed closely by Blaine County.

On Aug. 27, 1996, Ketchum hired the Wood River Valley's first housing director, Karl Fulmer, who helped usher through approval of the valley's first deed-restricted community housing project, The Fields at Warm Springs.

Fulmer also resisted initial attempts to create a more regional housing authority.

"It's frustrating from a Ketchum City Council perspective to hear talk of turning this over to the county," he said in November 1998. "We just haven't seen follow-through from the county."

After a yearlong stint by former Director Steve Amsbaugh, Gates Kellett arrived early in 2001 and ushered in the transition. She arrived in the Wood River Valley as the Ketchum housing director. She left a year and a half later as the Blaine-Ketchum housing director. It was a subtle change in nomenclature, but the organization that had begun in Ketchum was retooled for the county at large.

Even so, Kellett was frustrated. She was the third housing director in six years, and she arrived with aspirations of sticking with the job for at least three years, "maybe a lot longer." She came to build housing, but what she did was tinker with ordinances and fight political battles.

"It is my opinion that, today, the political will isn't there," Kellett said in 2002. "There is a general political will, where everybody likes the idea of housing, but it is going to take a super-strong person to help see the next project through."

Following Kellett's departure the organization floundered for a few months, and the housing authority's board chair, David Kipping, kept it afloat during the transition.

Dick Duncan was hired in January 2003 and stayed for a little more than a year.

In May of 2004, according to a 2004-05 annual report, Michael David took over the position. "This change, unlike earlier director transitions, was accompanied with minimal turmoil."

Now, the word "Ketchum" has been dropped from the agency's name, and there are about 80 units of affordable housing in Blaine County. However, the housing authority still finds itself on wobbly financial legs and in transition at the director position once more.

Fackrell announced last Friday, Aug. 31, that he is resigning, in part, because the housing authority is still on weak financial ground. He will leave Sept. 26.

"I thought it would be foolish to sit around on my hands," he said last week. "Had our funding outlook been a bit securer I would not have gone out looking for another position."

Though the housing authority is in transition, Office Manager Nancy Smith stressed that no changes will, or even can, be made to existing deed restrictions or pending sales of deed-restricted homes.

"The purchase, sale, and resale of Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority and Blaine County Housing Authority homes are recorded Blaine County property sales, just like market rate properties," Smith said. "The Fields at Warm Springs community homes, built in 1999, remain housing authority community homes as the last five executive directors have come and gone."

Housing director chronology

· Karl Fulmer (Ketchum) hired August 1996, left December 1998.

· Steve Amsbaugh (Ketchum) hired March 1999, left May 2000.

· Gates Kellett (Ketchum/Blaine County) hired January 2001, left September 2002.

· Dick Duncan (Blaine County) hired January 2003, left May 2004.

· Michael David (Blaine County) hired May 2004, left September 2006.

· Jim Fackrell (Blaine County) hired September 2006, leaving September 2008

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