Friday, January 21, 2011

Council questions use of CDC funds

CDC leader to attend community meetings before moving forward


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Baird Gourlay

Ketchum is ready to get greener, but how and when it uses city funds allocated for that purpose remains to be seen.

Ketchum City Councilman Baird Gourlay expressed concern Tuesday that $15,000 allocated by the city to the Ketchum Community Development Corp. for energy-reduction projects could be better used by the CDC elsewhere.

"Everything the Energy Solutions Team has put forward, including an analysis of geothermal resources at Guyer Hot Springs, has been shot down by the CDC board," Gourlay said. "They haven't spent a penny of the money. I would just as soon take it back."

The Energy Solutions Team, of which Gourlay is a member, is charged with prioritizing the CDC energy-reduction projects.

Gourlay suggested that the city spend the money on a biomass generator at the Ketchum sewer plant to offset operating expenses of $8,000 to $10,000 per month. Biomass generators burn wood waste to generate electricity and heat.

"We have plenty of slash and beetle-killed trees around here for years to come," Gourlay said.

In October, the City Council budgeted $57,000 to the nonprofit CDC for fiscal year 2011. The money included $15,000 for the year to replace fluorescent light bulbs at the Ketchum visitor center, install a solar-powered street light on Fourth Avenue and two solar panels at the Ketchum Town Square, and promote alternative energy.

The council agreed Tuesday to continue distributions of the energy-reduction funds, including the second quarter's share of the $15,000, but only for "specific energy projects supported by the energy solutions team and approved by the CDC board of directors."

"We need to know what their intentions are," Mayor Randy Hall said.

CDC Executive Director Jon Duval responded by saying the $15,000 "was not fully vetted by the board."

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"It was a timing issue," he said.

Duval said he will attend a "community visioning project" organized by architect Dale Bates and an Environmental Energy Summit planned by Craig Barry, executive director of the Ketchum-based Environmental Resource Center, to gather ideas for how to best spend the money.

"It's still being hashed out," he said. "What does the community want to see in terms of energy conservation and renewable energy, and what is feasible for the CDC to tackle?

"We have to make every single dollar count. The Energy Solutions Team has every intention of using that money in the best way for the city, to make sure the money provided by the city is leveraged appropriately."

Duval said he will attend "Creating a Common Vision for a Vibrant, Sustainable Community," along with 63 other invited participants on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in part to gather ideas for the CDC. Bates organized the event to address economic, cultural and environmental issues in the community.

Bates said a summary of the issues discussed will be presented to the community on March 3 for further input.

The Environmental Resource Center's energy summit is scheduled for some time in March.

ERC Director Barry said the goal of the summit is to create a regional vision for energy use and generation while maximizing economic development benefits.

If Gourlay's concerns are well-founded and the CDC energy team re-prioritizes the $15,000 in city funds, a final decision will be made by the CDC board of directors and voted on by the City Council.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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