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Firefighter’s Groundbreaking Materializes Thanks to ‘People Who Get to Yes Immediately’
Friday, June 9, 2023


A bunch of “Yes” men and women took part in the groundbreaking for new workforce housing for police and firefighters Wednesday afternoon.

Nearly two dozen people gathered at the Greenhorn Fire Station south of East Fork Road, cheering as several pitched dirt into the air with their shovels.

Several praised the way those involved in the project worked together to overcome obstacles to the project.

“I love working with people who get to ‘Yes’ immediately,” said Sarah Michael, treasurer for the North Blaine County Fire District.

Jonathan Lunceford broke ground for the eight pre-fab homes that will be placed near the firehouse a couple weeks ahead of the groundbreaking. Skip Merrick is expected to pour concrete today, weather permitting.

Those who gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony conducted most of it inside the firehouse as yet another afternoon thunderstorm threatened.

“It’s rained every day since it stopped snowing,” said ARCH community housing director Michelle Griffith, who conducted a groundbreaking for school staff housing a couple weeks ago under the threat of a thunderstorm. “I’m going to stop growing grass and start growing rice.”

The Greenhorn Fire Station Housing project will provide housing for first responders for many years to come, said Jed Gray, chairman of the North Blaine County Fire District. The housing project will benefit the entire community, he added, as it will help local jurisdictions hire and retain firefighters. Having firefighters on site 24 hours a day will also ensure immediate response to emergencies.

The project has secured $2.2 million from such sources as the North Blaine County Fire District, the City of Sun Valley, Wood River Women’s Foundation, Sun Valley Board of Realtors and individual donors. Idaho Department of Transportation offered a 99-year-lease on the land for a dollar a year.

Another million dollars would reduce the rental rates first responders will be asked to pay, said Gray.

Supporters had hoped to break ground in November but ran up against snow that came early and deep, said Sun Valley Fire Chief Taan Robrahn. It’s hoped first responders will be able to move into four of the new homes in September, although there’s a chance that could happen earlier given the speed with which everything is coming together.

The other four units are expected to be ready for occupancy in the spring of 2024.

“We’re extremely proud we’re making a difference,” Robrahn said. “We started on this project three years ago. Now people like Jonathan Lunceford are stepping up and getting things done because as locals they know the importance of this project.”

Chris Jaussi, who builds the panelized Zip Kit Homes in Cedar City, Utah, was on hand for the groundbreaking with his wife and Zip Kit co-founder Jamie. A contractor for 25 years, he transitioned to prefab homes in 2008 after the recession put the damper on regular home building sales.

Six of the 840-square-foot homes will provide two bedrooms and two baths; the other two will boast two bedrooms and one bath. An eight-bay detached garage will also be placed on site.

These types of homes are a big deal for seeking affordable housing, he said: “The problem the Wood River Valley has with affordable housing is everywhere. I have kids in southern Utah and people are having trouble finding housing down there.”

Sun Valley Mayor Peter Hendricks was one of several attendees who ventured from the fire station to check out the foot prints for the new homes.

“You haven’t decided where to put the pickleball court yet!” he quipped.

Hendricks added that he can’t stress enough how flexible those working on the project were in seeing it through to fruition.

“Everyone who was involved with this—and we’re not done with it yet—has said ‘We understand how major this is. Let’s do what needs to be done to make it happen.’ When we encountered a problem, everyone said, ‘Okay, what can we do to get around it?’ ”

“There’s been so many attempts in the past where we got to the one-yard line and then everything blew up,” said Earl Engelmann, North Blaine County Fire District’s secretary. “So, it’s great to see this happen.”

Firefighter Jimmy Bowman, who works out of the Greenhorn station, said he loves the promise of first responder housing. He came to the valley from Florida 18 years ago during a break from college and  never left. He said he and his wife are just able to afford rent in Ketchum for themselves and their toddler. But they know how scary it can be trying to find affordable housing after a previous landlord sold the home they had been living in.

“I’m so happy we’re doing something to help firefighters out,” he said.

Donations can be sent to Spur Community Foundation, Attn: Greenhorn Fire Station Housing Fund, Box 6184, Ketchum, ID 83340. They also can be made by credit card on Spur’s website at (click on “Donate to a Fund.)

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