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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of December 11 - 17, 2002


City shouldn’t short-circuit Janss Center

A proposal to build the Bill Janss Community Center with both public and private money deserves a fair hearing and review before the Ketchum City Council.

A hardworking team of dedicated volunteers has worked for more than two years at the behest of the city of Ketchum to produce a plan and a professional feasibility study.

The team is scheduled to go before the Ketchum City Council on Dec. 19 at noon for a full presentation.

Yet, last week, Ketchum Mayor Simon pronounced the plan dead on arrival.

Simon released a financial opinion from a bond-underwriting company that scored one of several financing options, that even the Janss team agreed might not be the best option.

The release looked to be timed to short-circuit discussion of other financing options and to derail any serious public consideration.

The move was surprising from a mayor who has made "public process" his mantra.

Since he took office, Simon has repeated over and over again to anyone who will listen, that everyone who comes before the city will be heard—and treated fairly.

Thus, people with absolutely no financial expertise were allowed hours of testimony to bash the financial feasibility of the Town Center project.

A parking plan that clearly didn’t work on paper was allowed plenty of public hearing time and a week-long live demonstration in downtown Ketchum—which was a nightmare.

The city also set aside hour upon hour for those who gave redundancy new meaning as they recited fears about community housing.

To torpedo the plan for the Janss Center before it has received a complete public airing and debate is not fair treatment.

Not only did the city invite the Janss Center plan, but encouraged it by entering into an agreement with the center that entertained the possibility of a public-private partnership.

The city made it clear it would not entertain a plan scratched on the back of an envelope. So, the Janss Center team raised the money to retain a planning firm with national expertise in community recreation facilities.

Yet, while the team was working to put together a viable plan, coffee shop pundits were busy trying to write its obituary.

Some say the $14 million center is a Taj Mahal, too elaborate and too expensive for the valley’s pocketbooks.

Some believe organizers can’t raise the money.

Some want a center located in Hailey, not Ketchum.

Some want to see the city participate in acquiring Warm Springs Golf Course and Tennis Courts in Ketchum—instead of spending money on the skating rink, gym and pools in the Janss Center.

Some say the city should concentrate on building a new city hall.

Others want the city to do nothing about much of anything.

The conclusions are all premature.

Summarily dismissing the Janss Center team and a feasibility study put together by a company that is nationally recognized for its expertise in recreation facility planning, would be a big mistake.

The plan deserves more thought.

Would the community center improve Ketchum’s ability to attract visitors?

Would it strengthen the economy?

Would having the rec center double as a convention center benefit area business?

Would the center help the city keep youth recreation programs open to all valley kids—something city officials say may soon be limited because of lack of resources at Atkinson Park?

Would the hot pools take the pressure off the heavily used hot springs at Frenchman’s Bend, which the Forest Service repeatedly has threatened to close because of misuse?

Is the proposed Ketchum location the best place? Could a Hailey Center be as viable?

Would the center’s benefits be worth its $14 million price tag and the financial risk that may come with it?

The price is what a handful of people spend on homes in the Wood River Valley each year. It may not be too much to ask that Ketchum—a prosperous city with no debt¾to provide both the land and matching funds of $7 million.

We don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but we’d sure like a chance to think about them.

The city should not treat the Janss Center team¾provably sane, sensible and serious residents¾like a group of panhandlers with their hands out.

The city needs to ask questions about the Janss Center—and give the planners time to answer. It needs to proceed as the serious partner it proclaimed itself to be in the agreement with the center.

Short-circuiting the process prematurely will foreclose an opportunity that may never come along again.


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