Friday, December 4, 2009

Sun Valley considers $18M improvement plan

Projects would cover city needs for next decade

All of the city of Sun Valley's department heads and elected leaders, two dozen in all, convened at a long table in City Hall this week to discuss something that would affect every resident: a plan to spend $18 million on city improvements over the next five years.

But nothing is set in stone yet.

City Administrator Sharon Hammer said the plan is at the beginning stages, and the city will sit through a slew of meetings before deciding on which projects to keep in the plan. The next meeting is set for Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 10:30 a.m.

The projects would be phased in over the next five years. To pay for it all, the city would either need to pay as it goes or issue bonds. Either way, taxpayers would be footing the bill. But with a bond issue, taxpayers have the final say, and two-thirds of those who vote must approve.

The proposed undertakings are based on projected needs for the coming decade. They include expanding and remodeling City Hall at a cost of $775,000 and constructing a new fire station on Trail Creek Road at a cost of $3 million. The largest sum would be $6 million for street improvements.

A proposed $610,000 would be spent on beautification and park improvement projects, including developing five trailheads, erecting two signs at gateways to Sun Valley and constructing six bus pullouts and shelters. Departments would also receive a share for needed equipment.

Hammer said residents will have their chance to comment on the plan whether or not the city decides to issue bonds. And if the bond doesn't pass the first time, Idaho law requires the city to wait half a year before bringing it up again.

"There will be a lot more discussion and periods for public comment, to test the water," she said. "We need support for it to pass."

But, Hammer said, the bond wouldn't mean tax increases for citizens because they're already paying off a street bond right now, due in 2011. Payments on a new bond would just replace that one. The current bond is the city's only long-term debt.

However, council members Nils Ribi and Joan Lamb said they're wary of asking too much of residents during the recession. Lamb called the $18 million plan "too ambitious."

"We're not in plush times," she said. "I think reality says we need to do something less."

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