Establishing a regional housing authority and hiring a housing director will have to wait.

At least until the town gets some answers about its role in the restructuring process.

“I would like some formal stewardship endued to the town if this, in fact, is going to be a joint department, jointly funded,” Town Councilor Don Frank said at a workshop Tuesday. “We all know the majority of the realizable activity will occur in the town of Jackson.”

The resolution that would create the unique “hybrid” housing authority — envisioned to be part department, part independent entity — came before elected officials two weeks ago in their Feb. 1 joint information meeting.

The town and county attorneys who crafted the resolution suggested officials hold off on a vote, wanting time to hear back on proposed legislation that would clarify their ability to create the unprecedented system.

House Bill 93 — which also would have allowed for a Joint Housing Authority Board with five members, as opposed to three — was shot down last week. Attorneys say the hybrid structure is still possible, but the board will be restricted to three members.

The town tabled its vote on the resolution at the Feb. 1 meeting, but county commissioners pushed forward, saying they wanted their portion of the partnership enacted immediately.

The motion passed 3-2, with commissioners Mark Newcomb and Smokey Rhea dissenting. Both expressed an interest in having more time before a vote.

Despite the county being “good to go,” according to Commissioner Paul Vogelheim, no one can go anywhere until the town gets on board.

The Town Council decided to table a vote until the March 14 joint information meeting, but Tuesday’s workshop revealed that councilors may have a ways to go before they feel comfortable with the terms of the partnership.

“We’re asking the hard-working county administrators to now take on an even bigger department with greater complexity,” Frank said. “I’m just asking myself: Does the county have the bandwidth to do this well? The whole purpose of this is to do a better job at something we all deem worthy.”

Under the proposed resolution the housing director would fall under the purview of the county commissioners’ administrator, Alyssa Watkins.

Final decisions, such as setting the department’s budget, would be a joint effort, similar to how the town and county handle START and the Parks and Recreation Department, Town Manager Bob McLaurin said.

“We review all the joint budgets together,” he said.

Frank said, “That may be the informal conduct, but that’s not what this agreement says.”

Former Jackson Mayor Mark Barron, who spoke Tuesday during public comment, questioned the county’s willingness to involve the town in what should be joint endeavors.

“If you think for a minute you will have control over the Teton County [housing] department, think about Teton County Parks and Rec,” Barron said. “How much control do you have over them?”

Barron also pointed to the Snake River Management Plan, a venture he said left the town out of the loop until it was time to approve it.

“We were invited to the last joint information meeting,” Barron said, “in which we were informed by the county that there would be no public comment taken because this was just informational for the Town Council. All the decisions had already been made.”

Barron also questioned why the housing department wasn’t falling under the town’s umbrella given that “all the housing will end up in the town of Jackson, all the impacts will end up in the town of Jackson.”

Joint departments must be primarily housed in one entity. Parks and Recreation falls under the county, while START is under the town.

Mayor Sara Flitner said Tuesday’s workshop reflects the town’s need for additional discussion with the county as well as the inherent complexity of creating an unprecedented model for a regional housing authority.

“I believe we are headed in the right direction,” she said. “It’s just structurally more complicated.”

Flitner said she doesn’t think the council is moving toward scrapping the resolution. Rather, she thinks the council is seeking clarity on its role and assurance that it is rolling out the “best and most efficient structure.

“It is a huge community priority and it’s very complicated,” she said. “I think you’re just hearing a desire to be responsible stewards.”

Contact Melissa Cassutt at 732-7076 or county@jhnewsandguide.com.

Allie Gross covers Teton County government. Originally from the Chicago area, she joined the News&Guide in 2017 after studying politics and Spanish at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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(3) comments

Tim Rieser

Don't forget Gregory, that under Mayor Barron's leadership the town never cared to be a partner in the Housing authority. They were getting a free ride. Now their tune has changed as the political winds blow a different direction. I love and respect Mark as most of us do, but on this issue he is disingenuous.

Gregory Miles

Former Mayor Mark Barron's comments are spot on. Why would we have an affordable housing program that is going to be primarily developing in town under the prevue of the Teton County Commissioners. Currently any development in town is regulated by the Town of Jackson's building and zoning regulations and the Town Council as it is, and so should this department. [wink]

Tim Rieser

Wow. Sounds like we are due a $200,000 study and report about now. That always happens when the gang of 10 can't figure something out.

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