As the self-proclaimed canary-in-the-coal-mine city reopens its doors to construction, landscaping and ultimately tourists, city officials remain optimistic about the wisdom of their decision to let their public health order expire.
During a City Council meeting Thursday, Councilwoman Michelle Griffith said construction sites have adhered to the city’s safety recommendations. Most, she said, seem to be following the city’s new measures to wear face masks at worksites despite no threat of fines or red-tagging. And, according to Griffith, Sun Valley residents are happy to see the city open up again.
Councilwoman Jane Conard said she was “cautiously optimistic” that with more evidence and more testing available, the city will be able to make decisions based on clearer information.
Mayor Peter Hendricks said that according to the governor, the Idaho Rebound plan to reopen the economy is moving along on schedule, though residents should continue using “good old-fashioned Idaho common sense” to stay healthy. None of the Sun Valley City Council members are from Idaho, Hendricks noted, but he said they could use “Brooklyn common sense”— a nod to his birthplace.
The mayor also commented that several event organizers have asked to use the city’s five-acre parcel along Sun Valley Road beginning in mid-June. He said the city will accommodate those events if the state guidelines regarding group gatherings allow and if local officials are satisfied that to all health rules are followed. Those include maintaining social distance and ensuring that hand sanitation stations are available throughout the greenspace.
Ultimately, Hendricks said, the city is encouraging organizations to plan and not cancel events, though planning may need to be nimble to address changing circumstances.
Ketchum Rural is ‘reborn’
Six months into its contract with the Ketchum Rural Fire Protection District, Sun Valley has already conducted a pair of audits, Sun Valley Director of Public Safety Walt Femling told the council Thursday. One, run by Femling himself, assed finances back to 2016; the second, conducted by Ketchum Rural Chief Rich Bauer, scrutinized equipment.
“As we compared our notes, we found many, many, many discrepancies, a lot of red flags” Femling said.
Both audits were given to the district’s board of commissioners to present to its old partner, the city of Ketchum. Following those discussions, Ketchum Rural received “well in excess of $100,000” from the city in reimbursements, according to Femling.
During this transitional period, the district has hired 17 new team members, two full-time and 15 on-call firefighters, Femling told the councilmembers.
Overall, Ketchum Rural has rebuilt itself from the ground up, he said, noting that during the district’s February meeting, one of the commissioners stood up said, “I feel like we’ve been reborn.”
Road and path projects continue
Spending continues on the city’s five-year road and path bond projects, with more discussion scheduled during the budgetary process this summer. Currently in its third year, council members are considering expanding the bike path, improving the intersection of Sun Valley and Saddle roads and making street repairs around the city.
The city is anticipating a transfer from the state to the city of Sun Valley Road, which is currently managed by the Idaho Transportation Department as a spur road of state Highway 75. City staff plan to authorize repairs on the transferred road as soon as the agreement is signed.