Friday, December 28, 2012

Ketchum touts progress in 2012

But some issues stagnate while others spark disagreement


By BRENNAN REGO
Express Staff Writer

Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall, left, discusses marketing funding with Councilman Baird Gourlay during an October City Council meeting. Photo by Mountain Express

Some issues that have been stuck in Ketchum’s governmental pipeline for years gained movement in 2012, but the city had to table some resolutions until 2013. A longstanding stalemate between the city and its firefighters union was unofficially broken, two unconstructed hotels received ground-break extensions and sparks began to fly between the Ketchum and Sun Valley city councils, among other developments.

 

Firefighters union and city near agreement

In July, the city of Ketchum and its firefighters union reported progress in contract discussions, a process that has stymied both parties for several years.

The union, formed in 2009, has negotiated since its inception for “for-cause” terminations, which the city’s full-time firefighters had before the city made changes to its employee policies in 2005. With the policy changes, the city switched to “at-will” employment, which means it does not have to give a reason for termination.

In April 2011, the union filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming that the city was not entitled to make changes to terms and conditions of employment without union input while the parties were engaged in collective bargaining, that the city refused to engage in collective bargaining as required by state law and that it refused to execute an agreement reached between the parties. In November 2011, a 5th District judge ordered parties back to the negotiating table.

The city and the union met in July to continue negotiations, which both John Rathfon, a Ketchum firefighter and president of the union, and Mayor Randy Hall said in July were productive. Rathfon said the union’s attorneys were working on language for an acceptable way that at-will status could appear in the contract.

This week, Rathfon said the union and the city have unofficially agreed to a “form” of at-will employment, but declined to elaborate further until both parties signed the contract. He said both parties are happy with the tentative agreement and he expects they’ll ratify it sometime in January or February.

Meanwhile, the city has appealed the 5th District Court’s ruling to the Idaho Supreme Court. Rathfon said the union would rather not spend more money on legal fees and hopes the appeal process doesn’t negatively affect the tentative agreement.

“Basically we’re waiting for the Supreme Court to set a date for an oral argument,” said union attorney James Piotrowski on Thursday. “After that, the court will issue an opinion. How long after that is totally up to them.”

 

Marketing Alliance funding feud with Sun Valley

An August vote by the Sun Valley City Council to reduce its contribution to the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance by $106,000 for fiscal 2013 sparked some bad blood between the Ketchum and Sun Valley city councils.

In fall 2010, Ketchum and Sun Valley formed a partnership to support the Marketing Alliance to promote the valley outside of Blaine County. However, the majority of the Sun Valley City Council has since been unimpressed with the organization’s performance and has pushed for less funding, while the Ketchum City Council maintains the organization is effective and deserves more funding. In fiscal 2013, Sun Valley will pay $250,000, while Ketchum will pay $456,000.

Sun Valley Council President Bob Youngman said in September that he would no longer meet jointly with the Ketchum City Council to receive progress reports from the Marketing Alliance. Youngman and Councilman Franz Suhadolnik boycotted a joint meeting of the councils in October.

The councils will now receive the updates separately.

Hall said in October that Ketchum will be “re-evaluating” its Marketing Alliance funding partnership with Sun Valley, but no further developments have occurred.

 

Hotels continue to receive extensions

Two of four proposed luxury hotel developments approved by Ketchum several years ago received ground-break extensions due to a still struggling global and national economy and the resulting difficulty for the hotels’ developers to secure investors. Construction has not moved forward on any of the proposed hotels.

Hotel Ketchum was the first to be approved by the city in 2008. The proposed development received a one-year extension on its planned-unit development agreement with the city in July. That’s the second extension the project has received. Ground must now be broken on the project by October 2013.

Bald Mountain Lodge received a similar extension in November. That is also the second extension for the lodge. Ground must be broken on that project by October 2013 as well.

Hotel Ketchum developer Jack Bariteau said this week that he does not plan to give up. He said he’s still looking for financing, and that’s hard to come by these days.

“I think the other projects that have been approved are facing the same situation,” he said.

 

New faces on City Council

Michael David and Jim Slanetz won seats on the Ketchum City Council, following a close election May 15 that saw the runner-up, Charles Friedman, lose by one vote.

The special election was held because Ketchum voters in November 2011 rejected an initiative to change the city's form of government from a "strong mayor" system to a council-manager system. Under state law, if such an initiative fails, the concurrent vote for council members is deemed void and a new election must be held to determine who will fill any council seats up for re-election at the time of the initiative.

 

City moves toward anti-discrimination law

Ketchum took the first step toward passing an ordinance that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity/expression” earlier this month when the Ketchum City Council unanimously approved the first of up to three readings of the proposed ordinance.

Federal and state law currently do not prohibit discrimination on those bases. Sandpoint became the first municipality in Idaho to pass a similar ordinance to the one Ketchum is working on. Boise also passed a similar ordinance in December, putting further pressure on the Legislature to do so.

The ordinance is expected to be adopted in early 2013.


Brennan Rego: brego@mtexpress.com

 




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