The site of the existing Ketchum City Hall at 480 East Ave. may be the home of a future affordable-housing development.

Mayor Neil Bradshaw broached the idea at a City Council meeting Monday night, but several hurdles loom before it could be accomplished.

First, the city would have to partner with a developer to apply for tax-credit financing from the Idaho Housing and Finance Association.

Next, voters would need to approve a bond measure of at least $10 million in the Nov. 5 election to fund construction of a new fire station so the city could finally move its administration, Fire Department and Police Department out of the 480 East Ave. site it has occupied since the late 1970s.

If both of those things happen, in 2020 the developer could be ready to begin building housing on the parking lot in the rear of the fire station, on the eastern boundary of the property. In 2021, the City Hall facility would be demolished and the remainder of the housing development would be built, Bradshaw said.

The council did not vote on that plan Monday; they will review a request for proposals for a developer at an upcoming meeting. The applications for tax-credit financing are due to the IHFA in early August.

Bradshaw said he wants to take advantage of favorable conditions for awarding tax credits in 2019. IHFA awards the tax credits based on criteria provided in part by the federal government. Blaine County has been designated a “non-metropolitan difficult development area” for 2019 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, along with Bonner, Payette and Power counties.

The designation means that an affordable-housing project in Ketchum has a better chance of securing an award of tax credits “if deemed necessary by [IHFA] for the financial feasibility and viability of the proposed development,” according to the association’s qualified allocation plan, which was approved in March.

“I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity applying this year,” Bradshaw said. “It gives us another arrow in our quiver.”

If the tax credits are awarded but the bond measure fails, the city may have to consider a backup plan. It could move the administration and the Police Department to the recently acquired building at Fifth Street and Second Avenue and pursue a temporary home for the Fire Department. That was an option considered in the runup to the 2016 bond election; at that time, the city evaluated a temporary home for the fire station on the dirt lot north of the Wood River Community YMCA and determined it would cost about $800,000, City Administrator Suzanne Frick said.

“We can’t stay in this building, it’s horrible,” Councilman Michael David said.

Assistant Fire Chief Tom Ancona said the Sun Valley Board of Realtors is preparing to launch a campaign supporting the bond measure and the new fire station. He suggested garnering support from the Ketchum-Sun Valley Rotary Club, the contractors association and other organizations.

City Attorney Bill Punkoney said Idaho law prevents cities from using public funds for advocating for voters to support the bond, but can produce informational pamphlets, fact sheets and other materials.

New fire truck

The City Council also approved the purchase of a new fire truck for $959,000 by a 3-1 vote, with Councilman Jim Slanetz opposed.

The purchase uses a financing option through Zions Bank. The city will make a $250,000 down payment and keep another $250,000 available out of a reserve account that contains about $500,000. The city will make $58,000 annual lease payments for the next 15 years to complete the purchase. That brings the total cost to $1,120,000. Slanetz opposed the vote because he said the city should use a 10-year option.

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