Kalispell Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana 15 Dec 1998
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Kalispell Daily Inter Lake (Newspaper) - December 15, 1998, Kalispell, Montana
I Page a6 the daily inter Lake wednesday december 16,1998valleycolumbia Falls struggles to win sewer Grants by Jim Mann the daily inter Lake sewer rates Are rising in Columbia Falls but to what end the intent of 27-percent annual rate increases Over three years was to finance much needed improvements at the City a leaking sewage treatment Plant. But 15 percent of the funding for the $3 million project was supposed to come in the form of Grants from the state. City manager Myrt Webb is less than pleased to report that the project May not receive any Grant Money because the City a applications Are ranked Low on the priority lists for the treasure Gnu awards interim contract for concessions the daily inter Lake after scrapping a competitive bidding Effort because of new rules handed Down by Congress Glacier National Park officials have awarded an interim concessions contract for Granite Park chalet. The Park announced today that Glacier wilderness guides inc. Will run the chalet through 1999. Park officials had planned to award a Long term contract for one company to operate both Granite Park and Sperry chalets. But a new Law to make National Park service concessions programs More competitive changed the plan. The Park expects to announce a one year contract for Sperry chalet in the next couple of weeks. The chalet has been refurbished and improved with an elaborate Wastewater and septic treatment system and it will be run As a traditional full service Bac country chalet Complete with served meals and bed linens. Granite Park will continue to be operated As a hikers shelter where guests must Cook for themselves and bring their own bedding. Reservations can be made by calling Glacier wilderness guides at 387-5555. The new Law provides for extending existing contracts and awarding interim contracts to avoid disruption of services to the finalizes cleanup order for Whitefish rail Yard by the daily inter Lake the state department of environmental Quality has finalized an administrative order requiring Burlington Northern Santa be railway co. To continue cleaning up contamination at its Whitefish rail Yard. A proposed order was subject to a Public hearing last summer. Now that comments have been published and Are available for review the state can push Forward with its demand that a psf clean up the 30-acre Yard near Railroad Street and Spokane Avenue. For Many years the Railroad operated a diesel fueling facility and repair shops at the Whitefish Yard. Cleanup work began in the 1970s subsurface exploration has included the excavation of 18 test pits. Tho drilling of 96 soil brings and construction of 44 monitoring arid recovery Wells a state report said. Attempts to forge an agreement Between the department of environmental Quality and the Railroad have been in the works for nearly a decade the latest round of negotiations started in 1995. Earlier this year in Sfa refused to sign the agreement so the state issued orders unilaterally for rail Yards in Whitefish Missoula and Havre said Deq director Mark Simonich. Once in Sfa completes the required remedial investigations and feasibility studies the state will compile and publish pro posed cleanup plans and submit them for Public comment. Among in Sfa a plans for Whitefish is a new state of the Art fueling platform that will prevent future contamination Railroad spokesman his Melonas said. State endowment fund and the renewable resource Grant fund. A it does no to look too Good right now a a he said. Without the Money Webb said the City will not be Able to do the most important work but it will be Able to make general improvements at the Plant. The City wants to replace its sludge Basin which has been leaking Wastewater not far from the Flathead River and it wants to build a sludge de watering facility to improve efficiency and alternatives for sludge disposal. Webb said it is a mind boggling that the project is ranked so Low when the Plant presents an environmental risk and the City is willing to pick up most of the project Cost. The City is running out of Fields where it can inject liquid heavy sludge. A but the fat lady has t Sung yet because ifs not Over until the legislature approves the priority list a Webb said. He plans to personally lobby the legislature. With funding. The main improvement work could Start As Early As the summer of 2000 without it. There May be a four year wait. The City has already launched its lobbying Campaign starting with letters to sen. John Harp a Kalispell. And rep. Doug Wagner a Fiunary horse. A this is a sad commentary on the condition of water and sewer infrastructure in Montana a Webb wrote. A i thought based on my experience in other states that the situation in Columbia Falls was bad enough to qualify for any program. It turns out that Many other communities Are much Webb said the state is reacting Only to infrastructure emergencies. Without Grant assistance he fears the Columbia Falls treatment Plant will deteriorate and become More costly to fix. City officials Are concerned that the Montana department of environmental Quality will become less tolerant of the sludge Basin which leaks about to times the inter Lake photo by Mark Goldstei pennies saved Bigfork elementary school fifth grader Kyla Stiger pushes coins into letters forming the word a Mitch Quot tuesday in the school gym. Bigfork Parent Debbie Ingram mounted a District wide Campaign to collect enough change to cover the gym floor. The Money will be donated to the red Cross for victims of Hurricane Mitch which killed nearly 10,000 people and left 2 million homeless in Central America. Amount permitted by Deq standards. So far the Agency has considered the City a efforts to Correct the problem to be adequate. But that could easily change and the City could face a difficult enforcement action. Webb thinks the City a ability to keep raising sewer fees is severely limited especially in Light of Ci-75, the constitutional amendment that requires a Public vote on All new or increased taxes and fees. There a also worry that if fees Rise too High people will be less inclined to build in the City and use City services. The sorry shape of infrastructural systems across the state has Webb questioning the Racicot administrations economic development Agenda. Elsewhere he said vibrant Urban areas have the common element of a sound infrastructure in Montana that a just not the Case. This years 27-percent sewer fee increase win show up on Bills later this month. The City Council approved the rate increase after a contentious hearing in september. The rates were approved before Ci-75 was passed by voters in november. A a it a the opinion of our City attorney that the sewer rates will not be affected by Ci-75,�?� Webb said. A but of course that could be lights out a judge orders Whitefish town pump to turn off a Gaudy Neon Casino lights by the Dally inter Lake the Whitefish town pump Casino and convenience store must take Down the Bright Neon strip lighting that City officials deemed a Gaudy a Flathead District judge Kitty Curtis has ruled. In a decision handed Down this morning Curtis directed the town pump to immediately remove All the lighting on the building fascia including multicoloured Neon strips and a 5-foot-tall translucent internally lighted Structure that further increases the intensity of the lighting. Curtis found that the City of Whitefish was unable to detect from blueprints of the Casino addition what the lighting would look like said City attorney John Phelps. She ruled the lighting constituted signage and needed a separate permit. Phelps said the expanse of the lighting was about three times More than what the City allows for signs and a permit would not have been issued for the lights. Town pump argued that the permit it received for signs included the lighting. The City sued town pump a year ago after the business refused to shut off the lights. Town pump has 30 Days to Appeal the decision to the Montana supreme court. Corporate lawyer Tom Richardson was unavailable to comment this morning. Phelps said its Uncertain whether Curtis would allow the lights to remain on during an Appeal. Hill Forest service misled Public about Road policy moratorium by Jim Mann the daily inter Lake rep. Rick Hill r-mont., says theft Orest service leadership misled Congress Early this year in proposing an 18-month moratorium on Road building in Road less areas. Hill said there was widespread understanding last february that the moratorium was to take effect immediately so that a Long Range roads policy could be developed. Bur instead the Forest service went through a drawn out process of developing the moratorium which has yet to take effect. The action was expected by october but the Agency has been struggling to determine what areas qualify As Road less. The Forest service received 53,000 comments on the moratorium and the Long Range roads policy. The comment summary said confusion Between the two issues was Hill said Forest service chief Michael Dombecky a testimony on led him and others in Congress to believe that the moratorium was to take effect immediately. He said the practical effect of the Delav is a de Facto moratorium. For est supervisors have been unable to take any action that might involve a Road less area he said. A i done to believe there was any foundation Laid for developing a Long Range policy a Hill said and much of the last year has spent laying that groundwork. At the local level Forest service officials have been awaiting word on precisely which areas will be off limits to Road building when the moratorium is initiated. Hill said he is concerned that Road less areas will be expanded and that the Lack of direction so far is hurting the Agency and its ability to manage National forests. On another matter Hill said he supports demonstration Forest stewardship contracts recently approved by Congress. But he wants them to begin As quickly As possible without unnecessary Quot tinkering and delays. A i think the most important thing is that they be allowed to move Forward without interference a he said of the contracts which allow More flexibility in developing Timber sales driven by a outcome based ecological benefits. At least six contracts will be awarded in the Forest services Northern Region. Some solutions proposed at Columbia Heights water hearing by Rick Hull the daily inter Lake 7, at a Public service commission hearing monday in Columbia Falls owners of the Columbia Heights water co. Said they were determined to fix the water systems problems and rejected an Effort by homeowners to take Over the troubled system. Serena Streeter an owners of the system blamed problems on the murder of her husband last Christmas. Quot who you should be angry at is those two boys who killed my husband Quot she told property owners. A i inherited a disaster and in a doing the Best i can a her son. Larry Streeter said he has a three year plan to fix water pressure problems on the system. But he is hesitant to invest in an overhaul until ownership of the water company is resolved. The pc Cail Al the hearing in response to complaints Al amt Low t takes an hour to fill up the washing machine. We literally have to run around in the Shower to get wet. Brian i infirm resident testifying about water system problems water pressure Sand and Silt in the water a Fulfur smell and Black droplets. About 30 people gathered in the Columbia Falls City Hall for the formal hearing. Public service commissioner Bob Rowe and pc attorney Martin Jacobson met informally with the states and homeowners in the morning to try to work out solutions. Three issues were uncovered during the discussions said Rowe. Ownership is in question both because of probate problems and because Streeter Purchase of the system was not approved by the pc. The second problem is disorder in bookkeeping and operations including the question of How Many people Are hooked up to the system. Estimates vary from 66 to 90. Finally there Are the water Quality and pressure problems said Rowe. Brian Hattem testified about problems with the water system. His taps have 4 pounds per Square Inch of pressure compared with a required minimum of 20 Psi he said. Quot it takes an hour to fill up the washing he said Quot we literally have to run around in the Shower to get Thomas Carter said that As the last person on the water system he gets All the problems. A in the past two years my water has run Black tasted of Oil has run Orange and tasted of Metal a he said. A i done to blame this on anybody but an antiquated those who spoke were generally restrained in their criticism. Several said the water problems were interfering with the Sale of their property. Most lots Are too Small for both a septic system and a Well otherwise most homeowners would have been off the water system by now said Hattem. Dennis Corbett son in Law of former water company owner Bill Cress said he was in regular Contact with the pc at the time of the Sale and there was never an indication that the Transfer required pc approval. The Street Erst management was defended by Harry Whalen of Montana Rural water systems. Larry Streeter attended the programs certification school and water samples Are taken regularly he said. Tests show the Wells Are producing enough water. The pressure problems Are in the distribution system said Whalen. Larry Streeter said he plans to hire an Engineer and Start by replacing the water lines along Gordon and Mountain avenues. The Mains Are Only 2 inches in diameter he said. In the second year he will fix problems on the West Side of . 93. In the final year water meters will be installed. Hattem started to propose that homeowners take Over the system but Serena Streeter rejected the idea even before he could finish the sentence. Rowe said ownership appears not to be a big Issue. Customer service is the major problem he said and he urged homeowners to organize in a constructive Way
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