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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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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.
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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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What a way to begin the celebration of the New Year. Snow, snow, and more snow along with the very cold. Whatever happened to global warming-oh-that’s incorrect now its called climate change.
Thank you and kudos to our city crew for keeping our streets plowed, sanded and most im-portantly “safe”. You have all gone above and beyond what is required in the difficult situation of narrow streets with vehicles and the many cul de sacs.
Thank you also to CPRD and Mike Esser for your snow removal on our trails and around the rec center. Thank you also to the many neighbors that help each other out and helping our seniors with snow removal. You all make Colstrip a special place to live.
Our Senator Ankney is amazing and that also goes for Colstrip United, Lori Shaw and Ashley Dennehy, along with Jim Atchison of SEMDC. These individuals work tirelessly on getting truthful information out to the public on the value of coal and electrical energy production. It is extremely important for Colstrip to continue to play a role, not only in our state but in the Pacific Northwest. Colstrip provides for the needs of Montana and the Pacific Northwest.
We in Colstrip recognize the value of our community and the value of what we do for others. Our residents enjoy a great quality of life as a result of coal development. Montana also enjoys the many benefits from all the efforts of our plant workers and coal miners that live in our community.
Senator Ankney is in the process of introducing legislation to protect our workers, city, county, school district and very importantly our state as a result of the needless shutting of units 1 and 2 and the corresponding mine operations. We are very fortunate to have Senator Ankney in the position that he holds. He needs all of our continued support and encouragement. As your Mayor, I will continue to give him my support and the support of our city.
Congratulations to all the workers at the power plants for their recent achievement of unit 2’s record setting run of 190.3 consecutive days producing reliable coal fired electricity to the western connection. This is an all time record for these smaller units. As has been stated by those that have plant knowledge, they (units 1 & 2) are not “worn out dirty units”. I guess the record speaks for itself. Again, congratulations!
Speaking of accurate information, a couple months ago the Billings Gazette had an article regarding the groundwater in Colstrip. The article was very misleading, giving the impression that groundwater prior to the plants ash ponds was a source of quality drinking water, which of course is incorrect. A little bit of history—the original supply of water for our town came from six (6) deep water wells of 600 to 1200 feet. We had two (2) storage tanks one at the end of Woodrose and the other on the hill across from the Moose. This naturally occurring groundwater was of very poor quality. It was high in sulphur, lead, magnesium and iron.
In 1974 the owner/operator, Western Energy, of the water system was notified the water quality was substandard for a municipal watersupply and would have to be filtered and a disinfection system installed. Western Energy built a temporary water filtration and disinfection system near, what is now, the boiler makers training buildings. In 1981, our current water plant was constructed by Castle Rock Lake. This plant was funded by the Coal Board, owned by Rosebud County and operated by Colstrip Community Services. The plant uses a declining rate sand filtering process and would you believe also that “coal” is part of the filtering process. The purification is done with an onsite hypo-chlorite generation system. The ownership and operation of the water system was transferred to our city in 1999.
The groundwater wells have all been capped off and we use Yellowstone River water as our water supply. The plants ash ponds do not now or have they ever been a threat to our city’s water supply for our residents.