Friday, January 3, 2014

Ketchum election brought new mayor

Controversy surrounded proposed city projects

Express Staff Writer

    Ketchum Councilwoman Nina Jonas enjoyed easily the most resounding political victory of the year as she won the city’s mayoral race by nearly a 2-1 margin over incumbent Randy Hall.
    Jonas became the first female mayor of the city after receiving 851 votes, while Hall took 429.
    “I feel so honored and kind of flabbergasted to become the new mayor,” Jonas said shortly after she was elected. “I was smiling so hard when I heard I won that I could barely speak.”
    Jonas served one term on the council before deciding to run for mayor. She also co-owns and operates the Rickshaw restaurant. She said she felt extremely stressed during her campaign while trying to articulate her views, and now feels very excited to get started on Jan. 6.
    Hall was voted out of office after two consecutive terms as mayor, and said after the election that he would have kept running until he lost.
    “This community wanted a cultural change, and I expected that,” he said. “I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Ketchum made its voice loud and clear.”
    Longtime Ketchum resident Anne Corrock won election to fill Jonas’ council seat with 489 votes.
The candidate that received the most votes out of seven candidates was Baird Gourlay, who won re-election for a fourth term on the council with 499 votes. Gourlay said he was not surprised by the election results, and is determined to build a strong working relationship with Jonas after being known for working closely with Hall as mayor.
    “I told Nina if she got elected, I’m there for her,” Gourlay said. “Randy and I have worked together for years, but I’m not going to be a thorn in her back because it’s too important for Ketchum that we work well together.”
    Corrock, who grew up in Ketchum and was once a member of the U.S. Ski Team, said throughout her campaign that the people of Ketchum are the city’s greatest asset, and she plans to reach out to various individuals to attract more young professionals. She said she also wants to increase the availability of affordable housing.
    “The best decision-making is a result of collaboration and open communication,” Corrock said. “Let’s work with our local businesses, professionals, and residents to make our community the best experience possible for those who live and work here.”

URA land exchange
 In November, the city’s Urban Renewal Agency approved a proposed land exchange of a city-owned lot on 211 E. First St. for a parcel at 611-691 Second Ave.
    Talks of developing community housing on First Street stalled after the city learned it had been denied the federal tax credits required to develop on the lot. The decision was reached after the lot was deemed to be not big enough to build three-bedroom units that would have given the project a high enough score on the city’s application.
     Several Ketchum residents criticized the exchange, citing the elimination of potential new parking spaces and claiming that the URA’s action violated the Idaho Constitution and that the URA would not receive a fair exchange.
    The council will have to decide whether to approve the exchange, which would require a zoning change. No timetable has been set to make a decision.

Big Wood River water park
    On Dec. 18, Ketchum city officials shared a 60 percent design drawing of a proposed water park on the Big Wood River north of the city limits.
   During a meeting at Hemingway Elementary School, city officials said the project is estimated to cost $2.3 million, which would not include maintenance and management costs.
  The proposed park would include recreation features both in the river and along the banks. However, both city officials and designers working on the project insisted that it is focused on restoration and preservation of the Hulen Meadows area.
    “We see a river that is changing,” S2O design consultant Scott Shipley said. “One of the things we know is that it won’t last until somebody does something about it. We determined that we need to make sure the water in the pond remains fresh. There’s a tremendous amount of deposition going on here where there was once a very active channel.”
    Even so, the project was opposed by some Hulen Meadows residents.
    The remaining 40 percent design is expected to be completed this summer. The city and design teams said they will continue to listen to public input to improve the project.
    “This is about creating a park everyone can use, whether you’re walking your dog, boating or kayaking, fishing or walking through the trails,” Shipley said.
Eric Avissar:

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