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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.
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For the week of March 12 - 18, 2003


Ketchum’s new department heads get pay boost

Express Staff Writer

As Ketchum hired a full compliment of new department leaders last year, the salaries the city pays those honchos jumped by between $15,000 and $25,000 per position.

In replacing veteran employees like 25-year police chief Cal Nevland and 20-year city administrator Jim Jaquet, the salary boost was necessary to compensate for a rising real estate market, said City Administrator Ron LeBlanc.

"Jim (Jaquet) bought his house for $40,000. I bought mine for $500,000," LeBlanc said. "The underlying factor here is the cost of housing."

LeBlanc said the city is also working to pull salaries back into a range that is competitive with other resort towns. According to a Colorado salary review called the 2002 Management Compensation Report, compiled by the Colorado Municipal League, Ketchum’s new department head salaries are on target with Colorado’s resort cities.

Among Breckenridge, Telluride, Aspen and Vail, city administrators average almost $110,000 per year, before benefits. Ketchum’s new city administrator is making about $100,000, a $15,000 per year jump over his predecessor.

Ketchum’s new planning administrator will make $75,000 per year, while her predecessor made about $60,000. The city’s new police chief is making $85,000, a $20,000 boost over his predecessor.

LeBlanc, who has made a career of working in city administration, said it is common to pay new department heads more money.

"The turnover here has been legitimate, and when you have that turnover, it really crushes your salaries," he said.

What’s more, Ketchum has undertaken a study of 22 cities throughout the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest to determine the fairest salaries to pay all of its employees.

Some of the cities to be surveyed include Hailey, Sun Valley and McCall in Idaho; Ashland, Ore.; Jackson, Wyo.; and Aspen, Gunnison, Estes Park and Durango in Colorado.

The results of the survey should be completed in April, LeBlanc said, and incumbent employees’ salaries should be adjusted accordingly.

According to a 2001 economic analysis of Blaine County, salaries throughout the 1990s did not keep pace with housing.

Between 1990 and 1999, average earnings per job in Blaine County grew about 4.8 percent per year. During the same time period, the average sales price of single-family homes in Blaine County grew by 8 percent to 9 percent per year.

"The average sales price of single-family homes in Sun Valley-Ketchum increased from 24 times average annual earnings in 1992 to 35 times average annual earnings in 2000," the report stated.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.