Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sun Valley leaders delay events funding

More than 2-hour discussion yields grimaces, but little else

Express Staff Writer

    After waiting at least two and a half hours Thursday to hear whether the Sun Valley City Council would approve funding for their organizations, several event organizers left City Hall with grimaces on their faces.
    The council members voted unanimously Feb. 7 to give $3,000 to Rebecca’s Private Idaho, a new mountain-biking event organized by Ketchum cyclist Rebecca Rusch. However, at about 11:15 p.m., the council informed four other event organizers that they would have to return to City Hall in a month to find out if the city will fund their events.
    “People were asked to wait 30 days to hear the answer we discussed yesterday,” said Councilwoman Michelle Griffith in an interview Friday. “I don’t think that’s fair.”
    The organizers asked to wait were Heidi Ottley, director of the Sun Valley Harvest Festival; John Sofro, Sun Valley Wellness Festival board member; Greg Randolph, Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival director; and Candice Pate, Sun Valley Film Festival director.
    The council members reached their decision after a two-and-a-half-hour discussion that included a debate as to whether the council should change the funding application criteria—during the meeting itself—before deciding which events should be funded. The discussion took so long partly because the city’s funding application process is different this year. The new system led to applicant confusion, which in turn led to council member disagreement.
    After continuing uncertainty about how much money would be available for events each year, the council finally set an events budget item of $25,000 for fiscal 2013. City Clerk Hannah Stauts said in an interview after the meeting that knowledge of the new fund’s existence spread rapidly across the community after the council voted on Dec. 6 to give the fund’s first $5,000 to the Boulder Mountain Tour. She said after that meeting, other organizers began to submit applications.
    However, the application form states that applications should be turned in no less than 30 days before the next council meeting. At Thursday’s meeting, Rusch’s application was the only one that made the 30-day cut. Stauts said at the meeting that the city had accepted the other, late applications since the process is new and since the 30-day limit is listed on the form as a “guideline,” not a “requirement”.
    Griffith said at the meeting that it wasn’t fair to keep the organizers waiting and suggested immediately doing away with the 30-day rule so the council could give all the organizers an answer that night. Councilman Bob Youngman said that wouldn’t be fair to organizers who might have submitted applications but didn’t because they thought the deadline had passed. Ribi said he agreed “100 percent” with Youngman.
    “You don’t just jump up and down and change the council’s policy,” he said.
    The council voted 3-1 to require the late applicants to return in March (Griffith voted no). The council is then expected to distribute about $7,000 among those applicants, saving about $10,000 in the fund to use later this year.

Brennan Rego:

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