Friday, October 5, 2012

Low-hanging fruit and pipe dreams

Ketchum officials ‘retreat’ to brainstorm goals

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum officials established goals for the upcoming year that range from subsidizing energy audits to establishing a community greenhouse, during a day-long City Council retreat at the Knob Hill Inn on Tuesday.

During the retreat, Mayor Randy Hall and the council members considered easily accomplished objectives—which they dubbed “low-hanging fruit”—and more difficult long-term projects, some of which they agreed were pipe dreams.

Easily accomplished objectives include subsidizing energy use audits for Ketchum residents interested in reducing their dwelling’s carbon footprint.

Council President Baird Gourlay said the city should make simple “101” audits more available to Ketchum residents so they might be persuaded to make their houses more “green.”

“These would be quick, one-page documents that outline the most effective steps residents could take to reduce their home’s energy consumption,” Gourlay said.

Gourlay said the cheapest audits currently available cost about $400 and provide “way more information” than is often necessary.

Hall asked Gourlay to work on it and come up with a policy.

Goals that are not likely to be completed—or started—any time soon include rebuilding City Hall.

“It’s a sick building,” Hall said. “We found asbestos in the roof this year.”

He said the city has spent about $100,000 this year alone on repairs.

“This is money going right down the toilet,” Hall said.

The council members and staff members present at the meeting—particularly City Administrator Gary Marks—agreed that the building is in bad shape, but that it is unlikely that the city will tackle rebuilding it in the next few years.

A long-term goal that gained support around the room was to take slow but steady steps to build an infrastructure for high-speed broadband Internet connections in Ketchum.

“Any time a ditch is open in Ketchum, we need to make sure conduit goes in,” Hall said. “That’s how we’re going to get our high-speed broadband.”

An “open ditch” ordinance such as the one described by Hall would ensure that such an infrastructure would slowly be developed, though the cost to the city would be minimal. 

“I think the broadband plan is essential for businesses and young people,” Councilman Michael David said.

Other objectives discussed at the retreat include reducing Ketchum residents’ consumption of water and the establishment of a community garden or greenhouse.

During a discussion concerning water use in the city, Hall said some people are just using “too much.”

“Irrigation is killing us,” he said.

Councilwoman Nina Jonas said the city should charge more for water use.

“We’re not charging for the true cost of water,” she said.

City Administrator Gary Marks said the city had recently raised water rates, but that resulted in a reduction in revenue. He said that’s both good and bad. It means people responded to the rate increase by using less water, but the city will lose even more revenue if it continues to raise rates.

Jonas said one of her goals would be for the city to conduct a comprehensive analysis of water use. 

Councilman Jim Slanetz and David were in favor of establishing a community garden or greenhouse for residents to use to grow food.

Slanetz said that would be a better use of water than irrigating lawns and other nonedible flora.

Brennan Rego:

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