Friday, January 2, 2009

New administration and resort attractions highlight Sun Valley in 2008

The new Sun Valley Pavilion attracted scores of music lovers for summer concerts and also intrigued passers-by who marveled at the unique structure. Photo by Willy Cook

     Along with numerous new faces in City Hall, Sun Valley saw some significant additions with the construction of the opulent Sun Valley Pavilion and golf clubhouse/nordic center.

     But the city lost a major attraction, as the 48 Straight ski and snowboard racing event was canceled after bringing world-class athletes and hoards of spectators to DollarMountain for the past two winters.


    Changing of the guard in City Hall

     After upset elections in 2007, new Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich took his seat at the beginning of the year, along with first-time council members Dewayne Briscoe and Joan Lamb.

     The outspoken Willich clashed with Lamb and councilman Dave Chase during the city’s budget process, as shrinking funds put pressure on the administration to carefully prioritize its spending.

     New City Administrator Sharon Hammer, who took over for interim Jerry Osterman in June, helped smooth this process so that it was resolved in time to meet the state’s budget deadlines.

     As Hammer stepped into the city’s top staff position, City Attorney Rand Peebles left after serving the city for 13 years. At the final council meeting of the year, Willich appointed Peebles’ colleague Adam King as a replacement, though Willich is hoping King won’t be too busy as no litigation was anticipated in the budget.


    Merger talks stir emotions

     While the budget conflicts were ultimately resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, another rift appeared as Councilman Chase suggested a possible merger between his city’s police force and the Ketchum Police Department, which has yet to name a successor to former chief Cory Lyman.

     Though Ketchum city officials are still pondering possible solutions to finding a new top cop, including a contract for services with the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office, the idea of merging the neighboring cities’ police departments has not been met with unanimous approval.

     Willich has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the idea, stating that he doesn’t think such a merger would be economically beneficial to Sun Valley taxpayers.

     This preliminary proposal has brought about a discussion about a more overarching consolidation that would bring Ketchum and Sun Valley together as one city. While this conversation re-emerges every few years, Chase said the current economic conditions could give it traction this time around.


    Farewell to 48 Straight

     After two years of providing thrills both on and off the mountain, 48 Straight, originally known as the Ski Tour, cancelled its 2008-09 events due to a lack of a major sponsor.

     Founded by Ketchum residents Kipp Nelson and Steve Brown, the event had featured ski- and snowboard-cross races, halfpipe competitions and concerts by internationally recognized bands.

     Before losing its title sponsorship from embattled car manufacturer Jeep this fall, the tour was scheduled to stop in Telluride, Colo., and Squaw Valley, Calif., before concluding in Sun Valley and Ketchum.

     The event had become a very popular attraction, drawing thousands of spectators to DollarMountain in March to watch the races and packing a large tent in downtown Ketchum for concerts.


     New and future developments for resort

     While the WoodRiverValley lost 48 Straight, Sun Valley Co. created a number of valuable new additions, including the Sun Valley Pavilion as a live music venue and the Sun Valley Club/Nordic Center. The latter, located on Trail Creek Road, was opened along with the new White Clouds Golf Course and provides guests with another opulent Sun Valley lodge.

     The resort also presented plans for its 160-acre property at the base of River Run, which could include a 150-room hotel, along with community housing, condominiums, townhomes, single-family lots and a nature preserve.

The annexation and entitlement process for this project is tentatively planned for early 2009.

Straight from the top

Some choice quotes from Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich in 2008:


"I think this is a big manure pile, but there may be a pony under there."

– On the ongoing negotiations regarding funding for consolidated dispatch.


“We’re not going to accept lectures from someone from Ketchum to come over here and have personal discussions about us.” – Spoken right before the mayor banged his gavel to cut off colorful Ketchum resident Micky Garcia during deliberations on funding the Wood River Community YMCA.


“To be honest, sometimes I would just rather give orders. At City Council meetings, I get to talk, but don’t get to vote, so I have to use logic and moral persuasion instead.” – During an interview with the Mountain Express.


"We're trying to get some discipline in our meetings here. A council meeting is not a moderated meeting, and it is not a town hall meeting. It is supposed to have some rigor associated with it." – After a particularly tense budget deliberation.


“Like the former CEO of GE Jack Welch said, ‘Show me the numbers.’ Without significant savings, it’s just a half-baked idea.” – On discussion regarding the merger of the Sun Valley and Ketchum police departments.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.