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Wednesday ó February 18, 2004


Housing authority members defend directorís performance

"Shouldnít Housing Director (Dick) Duncan be in the forefront of proposing means and methods of getting housing? Shouldnít he have an ear to the ground and the pulse of the community and its needs and be ready to offer leadership?"

ó SUNNY GRANT, Sun Valley resident and Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority meeting recorder

Express Staff Writer

In a critical Feb. 4 letter to public officials, a contract employee for the city of Ketchum implied that the countyís housing director is not fulfilling his duty as an advocate for local affordable housing.

The letter, written by Sun Valley resident Sunny Grant, poses questions that indicate a level of discontent with the job Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority Dick Duncan is doing as the countyís chief housing advocate.

Members of the Blaine County Housing Authority, however, were quick to defend their director. Duncan, several members said last week, is a hard worker who is successfully taking steps to procure affordable housing in Blaine County.

"I think that her criticisms are somewhat inaccurate," said housing authority Commissioner David Kipping. "I know he does a lot of work. He works very hard."

Grantís letter posed no fewer than eight questions, all of which were based on premises that indicate an underlying concern with Duncanís performance.

"Shouldnít Housing Director Duncan be in the forefront of proposing means and methods of getting housing?" Grant, the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authorityís meeting recorder, asked. "Shouldnít he have an ear to the ground and the pulse of the community and its needs and be ready to offer leadership?"

The letter crescendos with a question based on Duncanís involvement with private development interests in the southern Blaine County city of Carey, where Duncan is working as part of a development team proposing more than 100 homes and townhouses, to be called Waterford and Waterford Village should the two separate applications to the city be approved.

"Itís unrelated to my housing authority work," Duncan said. "Itís what I do in my spare time."

Nonetheless, Grant posed the question.

"Does anyone know what Mr. Duncan does with his valuable time, I mean besides making his own deals with fellow developers?" she asked.

Kipping and Commissioner Derek Ryan said the housing authority is aware of Duncanís private endeavors. Duncanís involvement with the private developments in Carey does not conflict with his role as the countyís chief affordable housing advocate, they said.

"We (the housing authority) have absolutely nothing to do with this," Kipping said. "If some inexpensive housing comes out of it, thatís a good thing because we need that."

Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon, one of the letterís recipients, said Grant raised a number of concerns he wishes to investigate.

"She goes to all the meetings, so we have to take concerns seriously because the city of Ketchum is relying on the housing authority to carry the ball," Simon said. "We do plan to meet with all of the interested parties to ensure that affordable housing doesnít lose momentum."

Simon said a meeting on the topic would probably occur at the housing authorityís March 5 meeting, though he said public officials would probably convene in executive session.

Ryan, one of two Ketchum representatives on the five-member Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority, reiterated that he believes Grantís concerns are completely unfounded.

Since he was hired a little more than a year ago, Duncan has intentionally kept a relatively low profile compared with his predecessors. However, he has attended meetings of Blaine Countyís various municipalities and has advocated adoption of a Blaine County affordable housing ordinance. He has supervised completion of several affordable housing units, and he is assisting several developers who are proposing sizable developments that could garner more than 100 deed restricted affordable units in the foreseeable future.

Duncan said he is keeping a low profile for a reason.

"I think there are a number of different phases in the development of affordable housing, and each one of those phases requires a slightly different approach," he said. "At this point, I donít think the housing authority needs a cheerleader. I think it needs a deal maker, and thatís what I do."

As for Grantís concerns, Duncan said he has scheduled a meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 25, to try to put them to rest.

"I think sheís entitled to her opinion," Duncan said, "but I have 28 years of real estate development experience."


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