Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sun Valley finds a LOT to discuss

Council members are wary about legality of revenue guarantee

Express Staff Writer

A Horizon Air flight arrives at Friedman Memorial Airport last week. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Sun Valley City Council is stuck in uncertainty on the issue of approving Fly Sun Valley Alliance's proposed "1 percent for air" ballot measure.

The council is exercising caution before deciding whether to approve the measure for the November ballot. On Thursday, July 19, council members discussed the measure for an hour and a half before agreeing to discuss it further during a special meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 1, at 1 p.m.

Ultimately, the decision to levy the additional 1 percent local-option tax will be made by the voters.

The issue revolves around the legality of several municipalities' jointly using public funds to support private organizations for "public purpose."

A March 13 letter from the Idaho Attorney General's office to state Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, supported the concept, but states, "The defensibility of [a minimum-revenue guarantee] agreement is likely to be highly fact specific and dependent on the actual agreements drafted and entered into—great care should be exercised in their consideration and adoption."

"We need more time to discuss this," Councilman Bob Youngman said at the meeting. "We need to see the joint powers agreement and a legal opinion associated with it."

Wally Huffman, Sun Valley Co. director of development and a Fly Sun Valley Alliance board member, said during an interview that a draft agreement would be ready next week.

"I can't say if the three cities will agree on the [joint powers agreement], but I'm hopeful," he said.

During the meeting, council members expressed concern about the possibility of the attorney general's opinion being challenged, leaving the city vulnerable to a lawsuit for improper use of public funds.

"There are still details to be worked out," said Tim Silva, Sun Valley Co. general manager and a Fly Sun Valley Alliance board member.

This is not the first joint powers agreement that Hailey, Sun Valley and Ketchum have signed. The Mountain Rides busses are currently governed by such an agreement among the three cities.

"I don't think the [joint powers agreement] has to be terribly complicated," Sun Valley City Attorney Adam King said. "The Mountain Rides [agreement] is not complicated and it's been working really well for years.

King said that if the city is sued over the issue, the LOT revenues collected would cover litigation costs.

"The point is to minimize the probability of a challenge by having a good legal assessment of this," Youngman said. "I'd rather not have to defend anything."

Brennan Rego:

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