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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Elections

Commission race goes to the wire

Bellevue levy too close to call


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

By 9 p.m. Tuesday night, clerks at the Blaine County Courthouse had not yet finished counting ballots for the Blaine County Commission and Blaine County Sheriff races.

Voter turnout was perceived to have been good throughout the day on the Democratic ticket, where a hot county District 2 Commission race was being battled out by incumbent Commissioner Mary Ann Mix and challenger Tom Bowman.

But the hotly contested Democratic primary race may have siphoned off a number of Republicans, and voter turnout for the Republican ticket was perceived mid-day to be very poor.

Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling, who was challenged by Hailey Patrol Officer Steve England, let his nerves show during an interview Tuesday afternoon.

"Iíve had countlessóI canít tell you how many peopleósay hey, youíre a shoe-in, so weíre going to vote in the commissioner race," Femling said. "That is going to narrow the field on the Republican ticket dramatically, and thatís not comfortable for me."

Femling said he has won most of his elections by 80 percent margins or more. In those years, there has never been a primary ticket dynamic like he faced yesterday, he said.

"It wasnít really an issue, and it hasnít been an issue for the last 16 years, but it certainly is this year.

"I donít like the fact that a very small percentage of the people of Blaine County are going to make a decision on who moves on to the next round," Femling said.

On the commission race, both Mix and Bowman expressed optimism Tuesday afternoon.

"I would say that turnouts are good, particularly down south, which is good for me," Mix said.

"Iím getting a lot of good feedback from the people Iím talking with," Bowman said.

Mix said she spent election day going to the polls and attending several meetings.

"Iím feeling really good about it, and weíve done what we can do," she said. "Iíve run on my record, and I feel good about that.

"Throughout this whole entire campaign, weíve taken the high road, and we havenít resorted to any smears."

Bowman said he was proud of his election team.

"We have about 30 volunteers working on my campaign," he said. "Weíve all agreed, win or lose, that this has been a great experience for us as far as what we can put together and organize for a common goal."

Bowman said that both he and Mix seemed to get their messages across to voters.

"Iím getting my message across that itís time for somebody in the commissionersí to deal with the growth that weíre going to experience, and Mary Ann is running on her experience, and thereís no denying that she has a lot of experience. I just want to change the focus of the board."

ē

In Bellevue the future quality of city services hinged on a yes vote in a special election for a levy rate increase. If approved, the proposed levy rate increase would mean homeowners will pay more in property taxes, money that will boost the overall city budget by at least $277,000. The cityís current budget is about $1 million. In light of the cityís recent growth, the goal of the levy increase is to help the city maintain essential services like fire, police and street maintenance.

Although property taxes will increase, the city is seeking an additional $180 to $216 from property owners, on average, per year, the increase would bring improvements that would actually put some money back in the pockets of Bellevue residents.

For example improving fire protection in the city would improve the cityís fire safety rating. Better ratings typically result in a savings on fire insurance, but certainly there will be enhanced fire protection, said Bellevue Volunteer Fire Chief Dennis Cannon.

Homeowners fire insurance premiums are governed by fire safety ratings.

Aging equipment and the cityís all volunteer department are expected to cause the cityís rating to drop to yet a lower class when an annual fire safety review is completed in the near future, Cannon said.

Currently, the city spends about $52,000 on fire protection.

The budget override could double funds for the fire department, which would put the city in a position to upgrade equipment and pay a fire chief.

"My goal is to help out the tax payer by saving them money and offering better fire control," Cannon said.

The current mil levy rate is .001342. The proposed rate is .003.


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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.





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