Although we weren’t successful on a number of issues before the legislature this last session, we are going to continue with a positive outlook on the future of our City as we move forward. We have many challenges and projects before us to further enhance our City and the services we provide our residents.
We recently had a favorable ruling from the Montana Supreme Court regarding Larry Reinlasoder, the former City of Colstrip Police Chief. This case has been very long and arduous. It began in May 2012 when Mr. Reinlasoder was terminated for misconduct and other issues. Reinlasoder appealed his termination and a jury trial was held in May 2015. The jury ruled in his favor and awarded him $300,000 plus other costs. The City appealed this ruling and eventually this ruling was overturned in the City’s favor. The City then filed a claim for reimbursement of certain costs on this case. The adjusted amount for these costs was $5,354.50. This issue just went through an appeal process and was ruled in favor of the City. The City has prevailed on all the issues associated with Mr. Reinlasoder’s termination. Although my summary on this case has been short, the case has lasted over five years involving many hours of litigation, appeals and volumes of paperwork. The success of this case is a result of excellent teamwork with our City’s employees, City Attorney Ryder, City Council, former Mayor Rose Hanser, Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority (MMIA) and Attorney Michael Lilly who represented both MMIA and the City of Colstrip. Congratulations to you all on a job well done and also thank you to our residents for your support.
The City will also be starting the Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvement Project later in May. This is a $2.4 million dollar project. The funding for this project will come from the following: $500,000, Coal Board Grant; $1 million through bonding; and the remainder from the Sewer Fund and a Capital Contribution from the City’s General Fund.
The Wastewater Treatment Plant was built in 1977 with wear and tear due to its age and use it is in serious need of replacements and improvements. A little history on this plant is the original construction cost was funded through the Coal Board. It was owned by Rosebud County and operated by Colstrip Community Services under an operating agreement with Rosebud County. It was not funded by the power plants as they have implied in their Senate Bill 338 questions and answers.
Although none of us are in favor of raising taxes or spending more money on gasoline, I did testify in support of House Bill 473. This was the increase in Gas Tax Bill to assist cities/counties and the state for highway infrastructure and law enforcement. This bill had my support because of the benefits we will all receive with additional available funding for our roads, streets and highways. Every city, town and county will more than double the funds currently received through the existing allocation. Colstrip currently receives $45,947 based on the 1983 allocation. In 2018 this allocation will increase by $40,179 which is a partial increase. In 2019 this will increase by $47,630 or a new total of $93,577. In 2023 when the tax is fully implemented Colstrip’s allocation will be $109,276. This is a tremendous benefit to our City and residents.
The Willow Avenue Reconstruction Project has begun. The award on this project went to CMG Construction. This project is a $1.8 million dollar project which includes engineering fees, is long overdue. It was important for us to set aside funds over the last few years for us to be able to afford it. This project will also involve sidewalk restoration and some water and sewer reconstruction and replacement. The project is expected to be completed in 90 days from the start.
On behalf of the City of Colstrip, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Representative Geraldine Custer, Senator Duane Ankney and Senator Jason Small for their work in this past legislative session. They truly reflect the values of dedicated public servants working on behalf of their constituents. We are extremely blessed to have these three talented knowledgeable representatives working on our behalf in Helena.