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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2004


Session centers on
work of housing chief

Express Staff Writer

Key political supervisors of the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority convened in executive session last week to discuss allegations that the housing director is not doing enough to procure affordable housing.

Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon, Ketchum Councilman Baird Gourlay, the councilís housing liaison, and Blaine County Commission Chairman Dennis Wright went behind closed doors with members of the housing authority to discuss the matter.

The meeting was at Ketchum City Hall Wednesday, March 3.

"We had some candid discussions, and I think weíre all on the same page," Simon said. "We have a better communication, so everyone knows what everyone else is thinking."

"Sorry, I canít tell you much more than that."

The housing director snafu came into public view when a contract employee for the city of Ketchum implied in a critical Feb. 4 letter that housing director Dick Duncan is not fulfilling his duty as an advocate for local affordable housing.

The letter, written by Sun Valley resident Sunny Grant to a number of public officials, posed questions that indicated a level of discontent with the job 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, 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.

The letter hit a crescendo with a question based on Duncanís involvement with private development interests in the eastern Blaine County city of Carey, where he 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."

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."

Simon said he believes the public has not heard the last word on this issue.

"I would think that something will come out for the public eventually," he said.

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. 24 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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