The Hailey City Council passed a final budget of $15,544,939 Monday, including an additional $2,000 for Mountain Rides and $500 for Sun Valley Economic Development.

The budget approval included a standard 3 percent property tax increase.

The council rejected a funding request of $4,140 for a valleywide tree canopy mapping study recommended by the Hailey Tree Committee and a $1,500 request from the Sun Valley Institute to write a business plan for an Office of Regional Collaboration, which would address economic, environmental and social risks posed by climate change.

Hailey Tree Committee Chairwoman Linda Ries said the Ecosystems Science Foundation was pursuing a $240,000 grant to map tree cover in Blaine County, which would include a $36,540 “urban tree canopy assessment” for the Wood River Valley. She said the baseline assessment could serve Hailey as a tool for studying fire risk and provide information on the need for planting in certain areas.

Only City Councilwoman Kaz Thea supported the funding re-quest. Councilman Jeff Engelhardt said he was skeptical that it would ever be used.

“Old-timers say they are amazed at how many trees there are around here these days,” Engelhardt said.

Acting Mayor Martha Burke said the city “just doesn’t have the money.”

Sun Valley Institute staff member Erica Linson and board members Wendolyn Holland and Scott Lewis made pleas for funding the collaboration study proposed by their organization, an idea that they said arose out of workshops.

When probed by Burke, Holland said the institute is funded by individual donors, foundations and philanthropic organizations. Burke remarked on the color brochures they passed out to council members, calling it a “fancy program.”

“This is very expensive material,” said Burke, who called for a denial of the funding request, though she later expressed concern for the institute’s mission of improving sustainability.

She also noted that a solar panel on the city’s wastewater treatment plant needs to be repaired. Public Works Director Brian Yeager said in an interview that he does not yet know how much it will cost to repair the panel.

“But I am working on finding out,” Yeager said.

Engelhardt said he was not sure what the city would get in return for the Sun Valley Institute funding. He recommended that the group meet for lunches and return next year for another request.

Of the council members, only Thea supported the request.

Councilman Pat Cooley said the city had “more pressing capital needs” and led the council’s decision to contribute the $1,000 in funding instead to the city’s $1.5 million Street Department budget.

The budget goes into effect Oct. 1.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

Load comments