After months of buildup, the Ketchum City Council, professional and volunteer firefighters, police officers and residents sounded off on a proposed public-safety services consolidation with the city of Sun Valley on Monday night.

Their verdict at Ketchum City Hall was vociferous—and unanimous—opposition to the proposal. The City Council voted 4-0 to reject a contract for services with Sun Valley.

The vote and the public outcry amounted to a stinging rebuke to a major component of Mayor Neil Bradshaw’s first-term agenda. Bradshaw, Sun Valley Mayor Peter Hendricks and Sun Valley Public Safety Director Walt Femling have devoted the past six months to a push for consolidating fire, emergency medical and police services between the two cities.

Their proposal was unveiled last week, and would have required legally dissolving the Ketchum Fire Department and nullifying Ketchum’s decades-long agreements with the Ketchum Rural Fire District and the Blaine County Ambulance District. The city would also have terminated its agreement with the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office to provide law enforcement.

Under the proposal, the city of Sun Valley would have provided public-safety services in Ketchum. Ketchum employees would have had to reapply for their jobs with Sun Valley. Both cities proposed a $5.8 million budget for fiscal 2020, which would have saved Sun Valley more than $530,000 and Ketchum about $16,000.

Prior to their vote, council members expressed interest in continuing a conversation about consolidation and focusing the discussion on a joint-powers agreement with Sun Valley, Ketchum Rural, the Ambulance District and Blaine County.

Bradshaw said he would not stop working to improve the Ketchum Fire Department, and building a new station for police and fire.

“I hate it,” Bradshaw said of the condition of the Ketchum fire station in City Hall. “It can’t continue in its current form. We will have to explore another route for this consolidation. I’m encouraged by what I’ve heard tonight. I don’t want this to sit around. More studies is not the way to go.”

A standing-room-only audience packed the Ketchum City Council chambers Monday night, with more residents spilling into the hallway. Of the two dozen speakers who addressed the council, no one favored the proposed contract.

For full coverage of this story, see the Wednesday, March 6, edition of the Idaho Mountain Express.


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