The city of Ketchum entered into a $31,287 contract on Monday with Boise-based design firm CSHQA for the first part of a two-phased conceptual design of a new city hall, which will be in an existing building at 191 Fifth St., to the north of the post office.
The city has been working for several years toward creating new facilities for the current operations at City Hall. The Ketchum Fire Department, now in the same building as City Hall, is scheduled to move to a new facility on Saddle Road in September 2021, and City Hall operations will relocate to a new home in May 2021.
When the City Council voted to buy the Fifth Street building for $3.1 million in April 2018, it anticipated spending $100,000 to $400,000 to renovate it. The new contract with CSHQA is for an analysis of space needs and configuration and associated costs. An anticipated second contract will be to develop construction documents and the phases of the remodel.
Construction on the new fire station is slated to begin June 24, following a special City Council meeting June 23 for council members to decide whether to implement parking and landscaping recommendations from the Planning & Zoning Commission and to review a traffic study about possible improvements of safety standards in the area.
During Monday’s meeting, Councilwoman Amanda Breen also brought forward the national dialogue that was sparked by the murder of George Floyd, the black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minn.
“In the past weeks, our country has been faced with some difficult questions and issues surrounding race and policing and use of force and it’s a long overdue conversation … about issues that happen everywhere, even in our little town,” Breen told the council.
Breen said this provides a great opportunity to discuss these issues publicly and bring in local law enforcement agencies to discuss methods of policing, use of force here and resources they have or may need. Breen suggested inviting Ketchum Police Division Chief Dave Kassner and Blaine County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Will Fruehling to a future City Council meeting to discuss those matters and to get some statistics on the number of police calls that end up involving use of force in the town.
“We don’t talk very much about police in the council and I think this is the time to do so,” Breen said.
Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw agreed that it would be a valuable discussion and said he would add it to a future agenda.
Monday’s meeting also included discussion of whether scooters should be allowed in the city’s Guy Coles Skate Park. Breen and Councilwoman Courtney Hamilton suggested a public hearing or open house at the skate park to get a better sense of how the community feels about the matter. Bradshaw said he would look into those options and put the discussion on another City Council agenda for more conversation.
Other city parks were also discussed following two requests to the city to allow commercial use there, citing COVID-19-related distancing requirements. Those uses might include Zumba or yoga classes in the parks, which would allow for social distancing measures that might not be feasible in a studio. Council members were generally in favor of the idea, though some questioned whether the city would have any liability if someone were to injure themselves through a class while on city property. The discussion will continue at a future council meeting.
Last, the city discussed its in-lieu housing fee—a fee that developers may pay instead of building community or employee housing as part of their development. Currently, the fee is $240 per square foot, but some council members have said that price is too low and needs to be reassessed annually.
Councilwoman Hamilton, who asked that the discussion be put on the agenda, said she has become increasingly frustrated with the amount of development occurring within the city that hasn’t lessened the affordable housing crisis.
“We haven’t done anything on affordable housing and it’s driving me crazy,” she said.
No resolution came of the discussion, but Councilman Michael David said the city simply needs to become more “aggressive” when it comes to building affordable housing and facing litigation from NIMBY—“Not In My Back Yard”—property owners.