The city of Ketchum wants to bring on a new, permanent fire chief by the end of September.
The city has had interim Chief Tom Bowman in charge of the department since spring, but he
plans to depart in the coming months. On Monday, the City Council discussed the process for recruiting Bowman’s replacement.
Since former Fire Chief Mike Elle left the city in fall 2018, it has had two interim chiefs in Bowman and Marcus Kragness. It also contracted with the city of Sun Valley to have its public safety director and fire chief run the Ketchum Fire Department last winter, when the two cities were considering merging their public safety departments.
Mayor Neil Bradshaw said he didn’t believe it was necessary to hire a search firm to help the recruitment process, but he wants to advertise the job opening and consult with Kragness to find the best candidate.
“I just want a really good one,” Councilwoman Courtney Hamilton said of the next fire chief.
Bradshaw said he will present language for a ballot measure that would fund a new fire station at the council’s next meeting Aug. 5. The language must be submitted to the Blaine County Clerk’s Office in September to be placed on ballots for the Nov. 5 election.
The amount of the bond measure will be $11.5 million, Bradshaw said.
Sharon Patterson Grant, a consultant with the Ketchum Sustainability Advisory Committee, applauded the inclusion of a LEED Silver certification in the station’s design.
Bradshaw said he didn’t want the bond measure to pay for installing solar panels on the station, but the building could be designed so it would be ready to host the panels once the cost for solar arrays comes down further.
Hamilton said the station should be designed and built in a way that will make it a point of community pride for decades to come.
“This will be the single biggest legacy that we have,” she said. “It should be around for a really long time.”
The council approved spending $29,000 in the fiscal 2019 budget to purchase new equipment that will help extricate injured passengers from vehicles after crashes.
The existing extrication equipment in the northern Wood River Valley is installed on vehicles or kept at stations owned by the Ketchum Rural Fire Protection District, Bradshaw said.
This spring, the district’s board of commissioners voted to end its longstanding contract with the city of Ketchum and approve a new contract with the city of Sun Valley. That arrangement starts Oct. 1.
In preparation for the transition, the chiefs and officials of the respective fire agencies have been meeting to discuss whose equipment belongs to whom, and what new equipment needs to be purchased, Bradshaw said.
“I’m trying to get good equipment for us,” he said. “I want it to be done between the chiefs. It’s not ideal. It’s a gray area. What’s in the best interest of our community?”
Bowman said the Fire District’s equipment was purchased by the Ketchum & Sun Valley Volunteer Association. He said that equipment is hydraulically operated and doesn’t perform best on the newest models of cars, such as Tesla vehicles.
He said Ketchum’s proposed purchase is for state-of-the-art equipment that would cut through the new car models easily.
Hamilton said she didn’t want Ketchum to lose out in the process of divvying up equipment.
“I am trying my hardest not to be taken advantage of by them,” Hamilton said, referring to the Fire District.
Bradshaw said the purchase is a good-faith effort at being a good neighbor with the city of Sun Valley and with the Fire District.
“The chief would tell me if we were being taken advantage of,” he said.