For the week of August 19 thru August 25, 1998  

East Fork project costs soar

Water system estimate hits $400,000

Express Staff Writer

Unexpectedly high water system costs for an East Fork affordable housing project made recent neighborhood protests feel like mild tremors compared jolt of the $400,000 price tag.

The ballpark estimate to install potable water, waste water treatment and fire protection systems at the mouth of East Fork Canyon south of Ketchum was delivered to the Blaine County Housing Authority by Galena Engineering earlier this month.

"It’s quite a bit of money and more than we originally anticipated," housing coordinator Karl Fulmer said in an interview. "[The project is] still feasible for us, but we’ve got to make some serious decisions."

Those decisions include whether a grant consultant should be hired to chase land purchase money or whether the authority should just drop the whole project.

The authority is working with the Boise-based nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services. Both would like to see between 35 and 45 homes priced from $74,000 to $135,000 on the 7.5-acre lot.

Of the partnership’s stake in the project, Fulmer said, "Neither...has that much money to risk."

The authority does not own the East Fork land, but does hold an option to buy from its owner, a resident of Meridian.

Neighborhood Housing Services and the authority make several-thousand-dollar payments on that option on alternate months to keep it alive, Fulmer said.

Another pressure-point for the project is looming grant deadlines.

The authority is eyeing grant money from the state Department of Commerce and a few other sources. The Department of Commerce application is due by the end of the year; others must be in sooner.

"The whole process is very time consuming," Fulmer said, adding that some amount of project salesmanship is necessary if an application is to be heard with an open ear.

The authority will likely hire a grant coordinator to handle fund raising. Fulmer guesses this will run a solid $20,000.

A third consideration for the authority is the county community housing planned unit development ordinance, or the lack thereof.

The authority needs the guidelines contained in the draft ordinance--penned by the authority--to usher the East Fork project through hearings. Blaine County planners have yet to even schedule a hearing on the subject.

Fulmer doesn’t expect an ordinance will be adopted before the end of the year.

Of the county staff with which he’s dealt, Fulmer said, "They’ve got a lot going on."

One thought for the authority would be to go ahead and buy the land and sit on it until the year 2000, gathering funds in the meantime, Fulmer said.

"We’re going to have to deal with this in the most risk-averse way," Fulmer said, alluding to the authority’s tight financial situation.


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