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KETCHUM MERCHANTS COMPLAINING IT’S TOO DARK, DANGEROUS AT NIGHT

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Local merchants are complaining that downtown Ketchum is too dark and too snowy at night, and that is affecting commerce.

"Many people are wondering why shops in town are closing early," said Jay Johnson, co-owner of a western wear store. "Shops in town are closing before dark because it is dangerous at night. It's a mine field out there."Art gallery owner Claudia McCain said the merchants want the city to improve sidewalks, lighting and snow shoveling after storms.

City Administrator Jim Jaquet said police officers will begin enforcing the city ordinance that requires commercial tenants to remove snow within six hours after a storm ends.

But a major problem is the patchwork of sidewalks through the retail area that people continually complain about but do little to correct.

Merchant Paul Potters contended making Ketchum a friendly retail environment should be a higher priority for city officials than the bicycle path through the city.

But, he said, "From what I've seen, the council hasn't done much yet for Ketchum development."

The city is trying to build up a fund for sidewalk construction, Jaquet said, and the creation of a local improvement district would accelerate the effort.

When a district was proposed 21/2 years ago, however, and "the people were asked to finance the sidewalks, they said, `No,"' he pointed out.

With an improvement district, the city would be able to put sidewalks where they are needed and then assess the property owners for the cost. That, however, involves public bidding and other requirements that can run up the cost.

The least expensive way of handling the problem, Jaquet said, is for property owners to just pay for the sidewalk construction themselves. But the voluntary approach cannot guarantee the results the improvement district can.