Friday, October 14, 2011

Sun Valley voters scrutinize bond issue

City makes case for spending $14 million on streets

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley Councilman Nils Ribi, right, shows Alan Stevenson which roads would be improved and when the work would be done if a bond is approved Nov. 8. The city hosted an open house at City Hall on Wednesday to inform residents about the bond issue. Photo by David N. Seelig

A slow but steady stream of Sun Valley residents came through the doors of City Hall on Wednesday to learn about a proposed general obligation bond to be voted on next month.

Many people's first question during the open house was, "Tell me again what this is about," said Mayor Wayne Willich, who was on hand throughout the day.

The next question typically is about the bond's dollar amount: $14,150,000.

"It's a lot of money for a small town like this," Willich said. "Then, we start talking about the roads."

That was when Willich, or City Council members also present, told voters what would be accomplished with that money.

About 85 percent of the bond money would be tabbed for road and path reconstruction. The remainder would go toward fixed assets—about $600,000 to pay for half an aerial tower truck, to be split with the Ketchum Fire Department.

The city's departments operate with an auto-aid agreement, Willich said, allowing automatic and quick response to incidents that occur in either city.

The cities have a 23-year-old aerial tower truck, but once that piece of equipment is 25 years old, "insurance rating agencies discount it to zero," Willich said. "If you don't get a new one, they degrade your fire rating system."

Another question posed by voters, Willich said, is, "Well, how much is that to me?"

"That's a complicated question," he said. "There are several issues on property tax bills."

Blaine County, the School District and other taxing districts are included on residents' property tax bills, in addition to Sun Valley city taxes, under which the bond payment would fall.

Payment on three bonds, Blaine County Manor bond, Sun Valley 1997 bond issue and the Land, Water and Wildlife bond amount to about $488 in taxes per $1 million of assessed property value. If the general obligation bond is approved in November, the payments would remain about the same. Payments on all those bonds will be complete by the time payment for the new bond, if approved, goes into effect.

There may, however, be a one-year gap; the new bonds wouldn't be sold until February. Payments likely wouldn't appear on Sun Valley property taxes until December 2012 or possibly June 2013, Willich said.

The bond may be for a 15- or 20-year term, depending on what the rates are in February.

"The term will be decided later," said Councilman Nils Ribi. "If we do it in a shorter timeframe we can maybe do it cheaper. It gives us some flexibility."

Construction work would be spread out over five years to minimize impact, said Councilman Bob Youngman.

Residents Ross and Martha Jennings already knew about the bond, but they came to the open house for more details.

"We're very much in favor of it," Martha said. "It's timely and money well spent. You can't just let your city deteriorate. It depresses all property values."

"It's a good time to do it," she added.

Resident Alan Stevenson also stopped by for more information. He expressed concern about the condition of both the bike paths and the roads, and said something needs to be done.

"You've got to do it," he said. "We ride road bikes and about half the bike path isn't usable."

Whether enough other voters agree with him remains unknown.

"If the taxpayers think we're doing a good job, they'll vote for it," Willich said. "If the taxpayers think it's a bad idea, they'll say no. You make your case, and the public gets to decide."

Rebecca Meany:

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