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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Our View

Stop twitching and consider YMCA deal

Knees were jerking at Ketchum City Hall last week when the YMCA proposed to take over the city’s Recreation Department.

City Council members should try to stop the twitching for an hour or two and give the proposal the serious consideration it deserves.

The proposal would solve a couple of growing problems for the city’s recreation programs, and the council wisely did not dismiss the idea out of hand.

The city’s recreation programs have become so popular that the city is not sure how to handle the growing numbers of kids who want to participate. Kids from all over the valley use Ketchum’s parks and programs for a small fee. The hitch is that Ketchum taxpayers are the only ones who support the programs.

Neither Sun Valley nor Blaine County taxpayers pay for any active parks programs, yet both are home to families who use them. That puts an unfair burden on Ketchum taxpayers.

Under the YMCA’s proposal, the city wouldn’t need to contribute $3 million to build the $16 million complex. Instead, it would contract with the Y to provide its current park programs at the current cost of $450,000 a year. Then, the YMCA could use part of the money it plans to spend on programs for a larger construction loan instead.

Voila! The city wouldn’t have to figure out where to find the money to pay off a $3 million bond. The YMCA would be in a position to solicit similar contracts from Sun Valley and Blaine County, which would make funding more fair.

One objection to the proposal is that it would cheat Ketchum voters who would have no say in the matter of whether the complex is built or not.

But consider.

Ketchum has committed land for the complex, which includes a gym, outdoor pools and a hockey rink on the site of the city park and ride lot. It has urged interested groups to pursue a complicated public-private funding scheme to build a recreation complex.

Did Ketchum’s elected officials do these things just to lure citizens to waste their time putting together the YMCA proposal? We don’t think so.

Change can chill the most sensible people, and it’s no wonder the YMCA’s proposal wasn’t warmly embraced at first. The city is proud of its parks programs, which are in high demand with families throughout the valley. City staffers have worked hard to create first rate programs and they are an important part of the city’s "family" of employees.

It’s hard to imagine family members changing "families."

But unless the city has changed its mind and wants to derail the recreation complex, it should not pass up what looks like a good deal all around.


City of Ketchum

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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.