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I would like to begin this message by wishing all our residents a most joyous, happy, safe and prosperous New Year. We are looking forward to a New Year with a renewed vim and vigor and opportunities of serving our residents.
Thank you to all our city employees, City Council members, and volunteers for their work and dedication to our city.
Thank you to Tom Jankowski for his eight years of service as a City Council member. Tom provided a lot of insight and common sense to issues that we worked through in city government. Particularly in areas of employee relations and understanding the value of employee relations.
I would like to welcome Lori Shaw to our city government as she takes on her new role as a Colstrip City Council member.
With the recent completion of our yearly audit a Management Discussion and Analysis is prepared for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2017. This report offers a financial review and narrative overview of the financial activities of our city. It provides the financial highlights of our city’s business activities and a history comparison. Most importantly, it also gives readers an indication of the city’s financial health and the direction the city is moving toward as it relates to its financial health.
As this document is read, it’s interesting to go back in time to review our past and how far we have come in our 18 years as an incorporated city. Beginning in 1999 with newly elected officers, new employees and borrowing $60,000 to begin our city operations.
The city continues to be challenged with discussion and threats of closure Units I & II at the generating station which are destined for closure in 2022. Over 75% of the jobs within our city are directly related to the energy industry and our tax base depends upon the coal powered steam electric units within our city limits. The ever changing requirements and regulations add to the instability for industry to move forward with long term planning along with valuable research and development at local, state and national levels.
Looking toward the future the financial health of our city remains strong and continues to improve. When I look at our last year’s activities with the question, are we better or worse off the answer is we are much better off. With the continued support of our employees, city government officials and backing of our residents I am very optimistic of our city’s future.
The Management Discussion and Analysis along with the city’s financial statements are available to the public and I encourage your interest.
As a result of the recent Puget Sound Energy Rate Case settlement with their regulating commission $10,000,000 has been set aside for Colstrip community impact. The Governor has created a Colstrip Community Impact Advisory group to develop a plan to guide the disbursement of the $10,000,000. I will be part of this committee along with other state and local officials. The first meeting is scheduled for January 29, 2018 at Colstrip City Hall. The city will be hosting this first meeting.I would like to invite comments , ideas and interest from our residents into this process. I am very interested in what you have to say as this moves forward.
Recently, the city was notified Talen is protesting $246,231.80 of its first half property taxes total $359,007.43. It appears Talen is basing its protest on a disagreement of its property value assessment. The city’s portion of the protested taxes is $38,278.81. This protest of it taxes will have minimal impact on the city’s finances. It is interesting that Talen is following its predecessor (PPL Montana) and Puget Sound Energy with a tax protest. Another interesting aspect of these tax protests is that these protested taxes have had minimal impact on our city’s finances other than the additional administrative work involved.
The statutes governing protested taxes allows the taxing authority to recover adjustments to its appropriations from tax payers either through adjustment to its mills or through a special levy. I question the value or logic of what Talen is attempting to accomplish.
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As you receive this quarterly newsletter, I am extremely pleased to inform everyone the Willow Avenue Project has finally come to a conclusion. Hallelujah!
Thank you to all our residents, particularly to Town Pump and those residents living in close proximity to Willow Avenue for your patience and understanding. This street project was one of the most challenging in my experience as your Mayor.
We had many issues associated with the old water and sewer lines under Willow Avenue that we did not anticipate. Valves that didn’t work, sewer lines encased in concrete, lack of correct as-built drawings—you name it. I am so thankful that we made the decision to replace all this old water and sewer infrastructure before we began the project. Thank you City Council.
I hope everyone will enjoy and take pride in this “new look” on Willow Avenue, the entrance to our city. I have very much appreciated the hard work and attention to detail our Public Works Director Bryan Swan has given this project. Also KLJ Engineering and our resident KLJ Engineer, McKenzie Butcher.
At the August 22nd City Council meeting, we had our Public Hearing and Resolution approving the 2017/18 budget. Next year will also be a challenging year as we work on new projects to upgrade infrastructure and provide services to our residents.
Our taxable valuation increased from $59,270,841 to $61,135,245. An increase of $1,864,404. This is good news, allowing us to increase our appropriation with minimal impact to our residential taxpayers. Our mills to operate the city are set as 50.56. The city is currently at the maximum mills allowed by state law. The total amount of dollars to operate and maintain the city is $9,892,140.
Some of the major capital and maintenance projects for next year include:
Pavement Overlay on the Overpass $ 250,000
Pavement Overlay on Main Street $ 500,000
Zone 3 Water Tank Replacement $2,300,000
High Service Pump Replacement (water) $ 615,000
Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades $1,990,000
We have other projects including the finalization of costs associated with Willow Avenue. If anyone would like to see the budget or have questions, we have a copy available at city hall. We would welcome any questions regarding the budget or any other activity or project the city is involved with.
The city has completed the transfer of the Street Light District from Rosebud County. The levy of 2.96 mills equates to a yearly assessment of $4.00 for a property valued at $100,000 and $6.00 for a property valued at $150,000. With this transfer and control of our Lighting District our ultimate goal will be to improve upon our street lighting for the safety and security of our city. (The LED lights on Willow Avenue are an example)
With this newsletter, I am also very pleased and take pride in announcing the City of Colstrip has received MMIA’s award for Loss Control Achievement for Montana’s third class cities in the Workers Compensation Program. Congratulations to our Colstrip city employees—you’re the “Best” and the “Safest”. We take pride in our Safety Program and our employees participation, support and involvement.
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In accordance with City of Colstrip Code 5-5-3, the only time it is permissible to detonate, combust or display legally authorized fireworks is from July 1st through July 4th from eleven o’clock (11:00) a.m. to eleven o’clock (11:00) p.m., except that fireworks will be allowed to be detonated until midnight on July 4th.
Fireworks are only allowed to be detonated, combusted or displayed during the time period known as Colstrip Days with prior authorization obtained in advance through the special event permit process.
Anyone wishing to obtain permission through the special event permit process must submit a completed application form to the office of the Colstrip City Clerk/Treasurer no later than noon on June 7, 2017.
Any person who detonates, combusts, or displays fireworks in violation of this ordinance shall be deemed guilty of committing a misdemeanor and shall be punished in accordance with the misdemeanor penalty provision provided for by Montana law.
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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.
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NOTICE TO COLSTRIP RESIDENTS
DUTY TO REMOVE WEEDS/OFFENDING VEGETATION
In accordance with City of Colstrip Code 4-2-2, the existence of weeds and offending vegetation constitutes a public nuisance.
It is the duty of every owner of a developed parcel of land to cut, destroy or remove all weeds/offending vegetation in excess of nine (9) inches in height growing thereon to a height of four (4) inches or less.
It is the duty of every owner of an undeveloped parcel of land to cut, destroy or remove all weeds/offending vegetation in excess of twelve (12) inches in height to four (4) inches or less.
Failure to comply may cause the city to provide for the removal and charge the cost, along with a 25% administrative fee and a $25.00 penalty, against the property owner.