The city of Ketchum plans to hire a public relations person to bridge the gap between the city and its residents.
"This should be a top priority," City Councilman Larry Helzel said in a Jan. 19 council meeting, "and done this winter."
Councilman Baird Gourlay is of the same opinion. He said in an interview that the person wouldn't be a full-time city employee but contracted for services on a monthly or biweekly basis—since council meetings are every two weeks—and would keep residents up to speed on the city's work.
"It's clear to me from talking to people that they don't understand what's going on," Gourlay said.
Gourlay said he's heard from people that they feel the City Council is holding up the proposed River Run base village because of differing views about recreational facilities. Sun Valley Resort wants to build a 138-acre base village at Bald Mountain's River Run base but needs Ketchum to include the land within its city limits to allow such a project. Some Ketchum residents and the Ketchum Parks and Recreation Department requested a few acres for an active park, such as a soccer field, when Ketchum's Planning and Zoning Commission deliberated the project prior to the council.
The City Council has had several meetings concerning River Run but has not yet addressed recreation. Gourlay said the council has to take all the details in steps, with "fiscal implications" being the next thing addressed on Feb. 11. And, he said, the park is "minutia" in the grand scheme of things.
He said a public relations person would enlighten people to the legal process and hearings required in a situation like this. Councilwoman Nina Jonas said this simple, straightforward way of communicating to the public could "dispel rumors."
City Administrator Gary Marks said at the council meeting that the staff is working on a budget amendment and could include a public relations position there. He said in an interview that the cost of hiring someone is still uncertain because his or her exact responsibilities are still up in the air. Marks said the council should be discussing that soon, with the person being hired as soon as March.
Gourlay said the PR person isn't going to be a wall between the council and public but would merely "disperse information."
In a similar outreach effort, the city's Community and Economic Development Department launched its Facebook page today allowing for people to receive regular updates about city meetings and ongoing projects such as the base village or the proposed Bald Mountain Lodge hotel, which, if approved, would be built on Main Street.
Anyone who wishes to receive updates must have a Facebook account at www.facebook.com. Once logged in, search for "Ketchum Community and Economic Development department" and join as a "fan."
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