19-06-12 Ketchum fire station graphic @ WEB.jpg

The city of Ketchum has proposed this configuration for a new fire station on the dirt lot north of the Wood River Community YMCA. City voters will be asked to support a bond measure of at least $10 million in the Nov. 5 election to fund the new station’s construction.

Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw has a site layout for a new fire station, and its construction would solve a problem that has bedeviled the city government for years. All he needs is at least $10 million from city taxpayers.

Bradshaw has proposed using the dirt lot north of the Wood River Community YMCA for the fire station, and the layout offers enough space to allow the YMCA to expand its facility and secure access to 170 parking spaces.

The city hired Cole Architects to develop a site configuration for the station, which would front Saddle Road and be large enough to accommodate four drive-through bays and an adjoining, two-story firehouse with offices, sleeping quarters, equipment storage and other needs of the Ketchum Fire Department.

In an interview last week, Bradshaw said constructing the fire station near the YMCA would provide the department quick access to state Highway 75, Warm Springs Road and Saddle Road, the main thoroughfares that the department relies on in Ketchum.

Further, it would pave the way for the city to demolish its existing city hall on East Avenue, which would be used for an affordable housing development—if the Idaho Housing and Finance Association awards tax-credit financing this fall.

Bradshaw said the city would honor requirements for ground-floor retail and parking in the East Avenue affordable housing development.

“If you’re doing Town Planning 101, this is where you’d put community housing and this is where you’d put a fire station,” Bradshaw said. “It’s really important to the success of our fire department. It’s been a blight on our city for some time. I want to create a work environment for our firefighters that will improve morale, improve health and improve our ability to respond.”

Bradshaw has merged two major elements of his first-term agenda, housing and public safety. The city has scheduled an open house on the plans for the fire station for June 25.

If the bond receives the two-thirds majority needed to pass, the fire station would be built in time for the city to move out of the East Avenue property in 2021.

Bradshaw’s success will depend on voters’ willingness to shoulder a significant increase in their property taxes on Election Day, which will be Nov. 5, and how Ketchum’s application scores on the Idaho Housing and Finance Association’s rubric for awarding tax credits.

The cost to taxpayers will vary depending on the bond options. If the bond amount is $10 million, the city could seek a repayment period of 15, 20 or 25 years. For every $100,000 of assessed value, the increase would be $27.44 for the 15-year option, $22.43 for the 20-year option and $19.72 for the 25-year option.

The average property value in Ketchum is about $717,000, according to a city staff report. For a property worth that, the annual tax increase would amount to $196.74 for the 15-year period, $160.82 for the 20-year period and $141.39 for the 25-year period. For properties worth $1 million to $2 million, the annual tax increase would be $274.40 to $528.80 for the 15-year option, respectively, $224.30 to $448.60 for the 20-year option and $197.20 to $394.40 for the 25-year option.

The cost could go up if the City Council decides to seek a more expensive bond measure in November.

For example, the council has been discussing the possibility of reducing the environmental impact of the station’s operations by designing it to be net-zero for energy consumption, or to obtain a LEED Silver certification. That could entail installing renewable-energy generation on the station, among other sustainability measures. However, Bradshaw cautioned that it would add $1 million to $2 million to the cost of the bond.

“We’re drilling down on that,” he said. “I’m committed to an efficient building, whether we get the certifications or not.”

Bradshaw said he has met with leaders of the YMCA, and believes the site layout can balance the needs of the city with those of the YMCA.

The configuration provides the YMCA space to expand its facility. If the expansion occurs, the site plan shows two parking lots to the north and south of the YMCA that would host 170 total parking spaces.

The site plan did not show space for snow storage for the YMCA, but Bradshaw said the issue could be resolved through snow removal during the winter.

“They haven’t come out with an official position,” he said. “We’re working well with the YMCA.”

On Tuesday morning, Wood River YMCA CEO Jason Shearer said he and his board need more time to review the proposed site configuration with an architect before offering a response.

“We haven’t had time to vet the plan yet,” Shearer said. “We want to support the city and we want to support the firefighters.”

Bradshaw said a portion of the southeast corner of the fire station lot could be used as a covered parking garage for Police Department vehicles. The Police Department is going to move into the new city hall building on Fifth Street, but won’t have secured parking for its vehicles at the new location.

Bradshaw said he’s taking lessons from the $23.1 million bond measure that Ketchum voters overwhelmingly rejected in 2016.

“One of the lessons we learned as a community was the more clearly we can show how those dollars are being spent, the better chance a bond has in passing, in my view,” Bradshaw said. “A two-thirds majority is tough. I’d like to see everyone in their new homes in 2021.”

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