Friday, March 23, 2012

Transit plaza gets financial nods

Agency seeks $50K from city, URA

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum city officials offered preliminary support for the idea of a transit hub downtown. Now, officials are signaling their intention to back it with financial support.

Jason Miller, executive director of Mountain Rides, is seeking $50,000 from the city and the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency. The money would be the matching portion of a $200,000 U.S. Department of Transportation grant for the hub's construction.

In addition, Mountain Rides could contribute between $20,000 and $40,000, plus staff time, for the project, tentatively planned for East Avenue between Sun Valley Road and Second Street.

The city already gives Mountain Rides a major portion of its funding—$522,600 this fiscal year. Miller said contributing to a transit plaza would ensure that the money is maximized.

"It leverages that spend," Miller told the council on Monday.

In January, the city approved $6,185 toward a contract for services between Mountain Rides Transportation Authority and LSC Transportation Consultants for a study on the proposed hub.

The URA last week tentatively supported giving $25,000. It will wait to give final approval until tax increment money, which funds the agency, comes in later this summer. Gary Marks, city administrator and executive director of the URA, said that if the funding comes in higher than anticipated, it may give more.

Mayor Randy Hall, who also sits on the URA board, said he thought all the $50,000 should come from the URA.

"If we wanted to use our general fund for stuff like this, we wouldn't have created the URA," he said.

In an informal vote, council members indicated their support for making a contribution of $25,000 toward the project.

Councilwoman Nina Jonas did not support the tentative contribution, citing a need to explore other sites for the plaza.

A location west of Main Street, she said, would increase pedestrian circulation to that area of town, distributing economic vitality more evenly than would a site right next to the core.

Councilman Baird Gourlay said he relied on Mountain Rides' expertise in determining the location.

"Mountain Rides are the professionals, and I'm not going to be second-guessing them," he said.

Rebecca Meany:

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