Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ketchum continues city manager talks

Council and mayor in no rush to make changes

Express Staff Writer

The Ketchum City Council and Mayor Randy Hall said they are in no rush to change the city's form of government, but remain open to the possibility.

"We are just doing our due diligence right now, finding out what the pros and cons are," Hall said.

The change would involve a move to a city manager form of government from the current mayor-council form.

In the existing mayor-council form of government, administrators have their duties delegated to them by the mayor. With a city manager, the mayor would be part of the City Council, with otherwise mostly ceremonial duties, while the manager would take on the chief executive role. With a city manager government, the mayor participates in all City Council votes, as opposed to the current system in which he can only vote in the case of a tie.

Powers that would shift from the mayor to the manager would include the ability to hire and fire city staff, and to prepare budgets for the council's consideration.

In interviews, all council members said they liked the idea of bringing the corporate management style to the city, but that they also want more information and more input from the community before making a decision.

One major concern is that any change in government would be permanent for six years and require all council members and the mayor to seek re-election.

"I'm up for election this year, and if we changed the government, I would have to do it twice," Councilman Baird Gourlay said. "What concerns me is the continuity of the council and what might happen if all of us were up for re-election. I worry the philosophy of the direction that we are (currently) going might be put in jeopardy."

Councilman Charles Conn raised some concern about who would serve in a new government.

"I am attracted to the idea, but I will also say it depends a lot on who the individuals are, the city council-mayor as well as the city administrator-manager," Conn said.

Councilman Larry Helzel was more outspoken.

"I am wildly enthusiastic about the consideration," Helzel said.

But he too would like the council to take its time to make the decision.

Helzel said he believes the process will take a minimum of six months to thoroughly educate everyone about the pros and cons of changing the government.

Helzel said one possible scenario would be to have a non-binding advisory ballot this November that would allow the constituents to voice their preference to the council and the mayor.

One thing is for sure: the council and mayor are taking their time.

"I don't think the council is in any hurry to put this thing out for a community vote until we, the council and the community, have had a chance to deal with all of these pros and cons," said Councilman Curtis Kemp.

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