Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sun Valley finalizes external contracts

Parks & Recreation saved from chopping block


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

A list of Sun Valley kids who use Ketchum's parks and recreation facilities and programs may not provide enough detail to determine how much money Sun Valley taxpayers should contribute to that department.

In finalizing external contracts for fiscal 2012, the Sun Valley City Council on Thursday, Oct. 20, discussed assessing how important those services are to its citizens, how much they are used and therefore just how much they should subsidize them.

Though the council stuck with its previously agreed-upon contract in the amount of $20,000 with the Ketchum Parks and Recreation Department, Councilman Nils Ribi suggested that $6,000 be deducted from that amount to meet a recent request from the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance. The alliance is asking Ketchum and Sun Valley for $6,000 each for its portion of the rent in the visitor center.

"This might be a source," Ribi said just before a vote on the contract. "This is money that goes directly into the city of Ketchum's treasury. They are going to continue to provide those services to anybody ... no matter what.

"If we go ahead and pass this right now that source goes away and we have no opportunity, in my mind, to discuss that."

Council members were reluctant to pay the rent on top of the $350,000 they already allocated for the Marketing Alliance, but they voted to move $6,000 from the general fund to the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance's original $350,000 allocation, bringing it to $356,000.

Councilwoman Joan Lamb said she thought the $20,000 for Parks and Recreation was appropriate for now.

"I don't think it's right for our citizens to be using facilities without our contributing to the cost of those facilities," she said.

During this summer's budget process, when Sun Valley was considering not funding that department at all, Parks and Recreation representatives provided the number of kids registered in the department's programs. That was enough at the time to convince the council to restore funding. Lamb suggested that before the next budget process, the city survey Sun Valley residents to determine how valued parks and recreation services are.

"I would like for next year to see if we can get a better handle on how important that is to our citizens so when we come to the budgeting process we have a better sense of how much we should be supporting that," she said. "Let's try to figure out a way to understand how these are valued by our citizens and taxpayers. We really don't know. We're just sort of shooting in the dark on that."

The council approved Mountain Rides' contract for $275,000. That amount is $25,000 less than last year's, and last year's figure of $300,000 was $30,000 less than the year before. In the meantime, ridership continues to increase.

"There must be a point where the thing kind of unravels," said Mayor Wayne Willich. "I'm wondering if we're getting really close. You don't have to go to zero dollars for the system to collapse. We're really shaving this thing pretty fine."

Executive Director Jason Miller agreed.

"I would say that's accurate," he said.

Miller also noted that federal funding cuts could impact the service. Federal funding is guaranteed through the end of November.

"There are more unknowns than knowns on the federal side of our funding," Miller said. "We may know a little more at the end of November."

Deep cuts in federal funding could require adjustments halfway through this fiscal year, he added.

"We're just in wait-and-see mode," he said.

The council also approved a contract with attorney Rick Allington for infractions and misdemeanor prosecutions in the amount of $23,205.

While Allington prosecutes DUIs, domestic batteries and other misdemeanor cases, some of that $23,000 is spent on mundane, avoidable tasks.

"People are supposed to carry their insurance papers in their cars," Allington said. "They have insurance, they just don't carry them. I spend a great proportion of my administrative time dismissing no-insurance tickets because people bring their proof into my office. That's kind of a bit of a drain on my office. I do like 30 or 40 of them a week."

The council also approved contracts with Blaine County Housing Authority for $4,965, Fly Sun Valley Alliance for $20,000 and Sustain Blaine for $10,000.

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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