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The Community Safety First group placed a billboard along Highway 75 south of Ketchum this week in support of a proposed $11.5 million fire bond, to be voted on in November.

For years, Ketchum’s East Avenue fire station has blundered through safety assessments. More than a decade ago, it was found unable to withstand damage from a major natural disaster, and efforts to mitigate asbestos contamination and exhaust fumes have been underway since 2001.

But with Mayor Neil Bradshaw’s $11.5 million fire station bond advancing through the City Council on Sept. 3—thus securing a spot on the Nov. 5 ballot—Ketchum residents finally have the chance to start anew.

If the bond passes with a two-thirds majority, or 1,628 of Ketchum’s 2,442 voters, it will finance construction of a new fire station on city property just north of the Wood River Community YMCA. The new station—to go up in May of 2020—will also effect a $20.52 increase in property taxes per $100,000 value, which boils down to $147.13 annually for a property of $717,000, Ketchum’s average home value.

For members of the newly formed Community Safety First group, these facts are key.

“Our group will engage with Ketchum voters to provide the facts about the bond, and answer questions to ensure voters have the information they need to make a decision,” said Community Safety First Co-Chairman Jim Plomasen.

A press release from the committee’s campaign manager added that the group will hold a 6 p.m. Q&A at The Boho Lounge at Washington Avenue and First Street on Oct. 2 to inform the public on what the bond would accomplish. The meeting comes a day after the official city of Ketchum fire bond open house, set for noon and 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1, at City Hall.

“We are concerned about the safety of our community and our firefighters in the present location. …We believe it’s time for a vote and it’s time to back the bond,” said Gary Hoffman, co-chairman of Community Safety First.

Hoffman, who completed training at Ketchum’s fire station as a member of the Sun Valley Volunteer Fire Department, previously expressed his support of the bond on Sept. 3 in City Hall.

“We have the opportunity right now to build state-of-the art fire station from scratch—a clean slate,” he said then. “I can see a 50-year longevity, or more, for this project.”

According to blueprints from Cole Architects, the planned 14,500-square-foot facility on Saddle Road will include four large drive-through apparatus bays to accommodate the wider turns of ladder trucks. That’s an upgrade from the current 6,000-square-foot fire station on East Avenue, housed within a restored 1970s car dealership, whose drive-through bays are too narrow to allow easy truck and ambulance access.

The new station would also feature adequate sleeping quarters and energy-efficient lighting, insulation and plumbing designs. For more information on the bond, visit ketchumidaho.org/firebond.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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