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Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Page One News at a Glance


State pursuing every option for wolf control

RSVP coat drive ongoing

Neighborhood park project input sought

Master Plan being developed for Legion and River Parks

University pushes two-year higher education programs

Town draws fire for lack of police protection

Planning Board doesn’t meet

First Friday in Hamilton




State pursuing every option for wolf control

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) began fully managing gray wolves as resident wildlife, along with Montana’s other wildlife, when federal delisting took effect on May 4, 2009. Montana’s federally approved plan, state laws, and administrative rules were implemented by FWP and the FWP Commission until August 5, 2010 when federal Endangered Species Act protections were reinstated by U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy. The court order relisting the wolves took effect immediately on August 5, 2010. The final rule implementing the court order and officially relisting the wolves was published in the Federal Register on October 26, 2010.

The court ruling reinstated the “endangered” classification for wolves across northern Montana. Across southern Montana, including the Bitterroot Valley, wolves were reclassified to “experimental.” FWP remains the lead agency for wolf management on the ground, but FWP is required to implement federal regulations. Federal regulations pertaining to the activities of private citizens and to FWP’s management options are different for the two areas.

Montana officials have been actively working to restore state management through a variety of legal, administrative, and Congressional avenues ever since. Montana officials have also been exploring the potential for a settlement to the delisting legal challenge.

CONSERVATION HUNT DENIED

The first official action taken in response to Molloy’s ruling by Montana FWP was to quickly file an application under the Endangered Species Act for a 10(a)1(A) permit to conduct a statewide conservation hunt in 2010. FWP also requested USFWS to start (and complete by March 2011) a rulemaking effort to reclassify wolves in the endangered area to “threatened,” while also including provisions to implement regulated hunting and additional flexibility to address wolf-livestock conflicts. The application was submitted on September 19, 2010. The proposal by FWP was to lethally remove 186 wolves from across the state. On October 7, 2010, USFWS denied the application and declined to initiate the requested change in federal rulemaking, citing legal challenges and remote likelihood of success in the courts defending such efforts.

LITIGATION

FWP took the most direct action in response to Molloy’s ruling by appealing his decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. That appeal was filed on October 1, 2010. The U.S. Department of Justice and the State of Idaho have also appealed.

FWP information officer Ron Aasheim said that it was a mandatory part of the federal appeals court process that litigants are required to try and reach a settlement prior to the case being heard by the court. He said that FWP was engaged in settlement talks with the 13 conservation organizations that brought the original suit to keep the wolves on the endangered species list. He said that the court required that those negotiations be kept confidential. He said that if a tentative agreement was reached, it would be released for public review and comment before FWP and the FWP Commission make a final decision.

A few groups have come out against any negotiated settlement. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Mule Deer Foundation, and Big Game Forever, have sent a joint letter to the governor and FWP urging them not to go for any negotiated agreement that would increase population thresholds for delisting. They argue that the numbers should be based on science. They claim that a negotiated settlement in this case will not do anything to prevent future litigation to delay delisting, and that it undermines the ability of FWP to manage wildlife populations.

“The science is clear and wolf delisting thresholds have been met and far exceeded,” they wrote. “It is time to adhere to the basic wildlife science and principles and cease the hidden agenda of plaintiffs. States must be allowed to manage all game species, nongame species and predators, period. We respectfully ask you to abandon a settlement, pursue an appeal of judge Molloy’s decision, and also continue developing new policy alternatives using science and public process.” (the letter may be viewed at www.rmef.org)

10(j) RULE

Another option being pursued by the agency and finding strong support here in the Bitterroot Valley from the Ravalli County Fish & Wildlife Association is to implement what is called the 10(j) Rule of the Endangered Species Act to lethally remove wolves in the West Fork of the Bitterroot because of unacceptable impacts to the local elk population. The 10j provision is only available in the federally-designated Experimental Area across southern Montana and in states with approved plans. Montana’s proposal outlines FWP’s assessment that wolves are one of the factors explaining why the West Fork Bitterroot elk herd is not meeting objectives for total herd size and calf recruitment.

The FWP Commission gave the agency the go ahead to begin soliciting public comment and peer review of the proposal. The deadline for public comment is 5 p.m. on November 10. Those interested in commenting may do so on the agency’s website (fwp.mt.gov) at “Opportunity for Public Comment” on the Hunting home page. FWP expects to present a final proposal to the Commission on November 18, pending public comment and peer review. If approved by the FWP Commission, the proposal would be submitted to the USFWS for review. The USFWS may approve or deny the proposal.

According to FWP Chief Legal Counsel Bob Lane, there is an ongoing legal challenge to the 10j Regulation under which this proposal is being submitted. The briefing stage is nearly complete and the case is pending before a federal judge.

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING

FWP has also been exploring the possibility of a Cooperative Agreement with USFWS under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act which speaks to the states and federal government working together to conserve listed species. FWP is seeking to implement Montana’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan in its entirety, including a FWP Commission-approved hunting season.

FWP and USFWS first entered such an agreement in 2005. But that MOU included an expiration date after five years or when the wolves were officially delisted. The timeline has expired and the wolves were delisted in 2009. Chief attorney for the agency, Bob Lane, said that the agency was currently working under the guidelines of the original agreement as a new one is being hammered out.

LEGISLATION

Montana’s U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester co-sponsored and introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate that would delist the wolf in Montana and Idaho along state boundaries where the management plans of both states have been approved by the federal government. Montana’s U.S. Representative Dennis Rehberg, along with Congressman Chet Edwards of Texas, has co-sponsored a similar bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

SPORTSMEN CALL FOR ORDER IN DEBATE

Molloy’s decision has sparked a lot of controversy. There have been statements made at open meetings about people solving the wolf issue on a case-by-case basis with a gun and a shovel. Several wildlife and hunting organizations have issued an op-ed article calling for order in the debate.

The op-ed co-authored by the Boone and Crockett Club, Mule Deer Foundation, Pope and Young Club, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club International and SCI Foundation, and the Wild Sheep Foundation, states that “to achieve state management, hunters need to turn their anger into passion, speak up, and ask for hard commitments from state and federal government. We need passion the way Theodore Roosevelt had passion in creating American conservation, which is our legacy and heritage to perpetuate… we also need to draw a hard line for ourselves: we are sportsmen, not wolf-haters. Statements on the internet about poaching wolves are an affront to the American conservation ethic. Illegal killing is wrong, self-defeating, and exactly opposite of how sportsmen created conservation and the privilege of ethical hunting in the first place. Hunters in America fought poachers and pushed for laws to regulate hunting. Later, sportsmen paid fees and taxes on our own licenses and equipment to fund wildlife restoration that brought wildlife back into abundance, including the game we hunt. Ours is a history of self restraint and respect for wildlife.”

They urge sportsmen to pursue the goal of state management of wolves with decency and respect for wildlife and for other people.

History of Wolf Recovery

(excerpted from Montana FWP web site - http://fwp.mt.gov/wildthings/management/wolf/default2.html)

The gray wolf was extirpated from the western United States during the 1900s, primarily due to loss of habitat and conflicts with people. In 1884, the first statewide bounty law was passed in Montana. That first year, 5,450 wolf hides were presented for payment. All but three Montana counties reported a bounty payment for wolves from 1900-1931 (Riley 1998). Bounty payments were highest in eastern Montana counties, mirroring early explorers' observations of a close association between wolves and bison. Wolves as a self-sustaining, breeding population were probably extinct in Montana by the 1930's.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the eastern timber wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) as endangered in 1967, and the northern Rocky Mountain subspecies (Canis lupus irremotus) as endangered in 1973. In 1978, the legal status of the gray wolf in North America was clarified by listing the Minnesota wolf population as threatened and all other members of the species Canis lupus south of Canada as endangered.

Although wolf packs were eliminated from Montana by the 1930s, tracks, scats, and/or observations of large canid-like animals were either reported or killed up until the 1970s. Most are thought to have been dispersers from Canada and little to no successful breeding activity was evidenced or sustained consistently through time.

In 1980, the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Team completed a plan which would guide wolf recovery efforts for a future wolf population in the northern Rockies of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. The recovery plan was revised in 1987. The plan designated three recovery areas – Northwestern Montana, Central Idaho, and the Greater Yellowstone – each of which included some portion of Montana.

Wolves from Canada began to colonize the Glacier National Park area in 1979, and the first wolf den in the western U.S. in over 50 years was documented there in 1986. The wolf population in northwest Montana grew as a result of natural reproduction and dispersal. By the end of 1994, there were about 48 wolves in and around Glacier National Park.

In 1995, three family groups (a total of 14 wolves) were captured near Alberta's Jasper National Park, transported to Yellowstone National Park, and placed in acclimation pens. They were held for 10 weeks prior to release. Two of the females subsequently denned and produced nine pups in Montana. Most settled in the same vicinity of their acclimation pens, demonstrating the potential advantages of a "soft" release technique.

Also in the winter of 1995, 15 wolves were reintroduced into the wilderness areas of central Idaho. These animals moved widely throughout central Idaho and beyond. Many of these wolves moved north, some to the upper Bitterroot Valley. In 1996, three packs produced 11 pups.

In the winter of 1996, 17 wolves were captured near Fort St. Johns, British Columbia, Canada and were again released into acclimation pens in Yellowstone National Park through a "soft" release. Twenty wolves were released in central Idaho as a "hard" release.

Wolf populations in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho grew rapidly and soon became a source for dispersers to Montana. New packs formed outside the earliest core wolf areas and overall wolf distribution expanded. Wolf dispersal has been documented between and among all three federal recovery areas and the states comprising the northern Rockies. By the end of 2002, the northern Rockies wolf population met the biological recovery criteria of at least 30 breeding pairs in the northern Rockies for three years in a row. By the end of 2004, there were an estimated 835 wolves and 66 breeding pairs in the tri-state area. In Montana, there were about 153 wolves in 15 breeding pairs. At the end of 2009, FWP counted a minimum of 524 wolves in 101 packs, 37 of which were breeding pairs.

FWP wolf statistics

POPULATION STATUS

FWP monitors wolf populations all year round and reports minimum counts as of December 31 each year. At the end of 2009, the minimum count (it is assumed some wolves were missed in the counting) reported there were at least 524 wolves in Montana, living in 101 packs, with a total of 37 breeding pairs.

Final counts for this year are expected to be about the same (plus or minus 5 to 10 percent) based on preliminary fall numbers of 400 wolves, 96 packs and 32 breeding pairs. FWP projects that by the end of the year the totals will be in the range of 472 to 576 wolves, 91 to 111 packs, and 33 to 41 breeding pairs.

MORTALITY STATISTICS

Mortality counts are also based on a “minimum count” so that figures are most likely underestimates.

Between January and September in 2009, FWP documented the death of 112 wolves. Of that total, 77 (69 percent) were related to livestock conflicts, while 26 were killed by cars, trains, natural or incidental causes.

Between January and September of 2010, FWP documented 144 wolf mortalities. Of that total, 116 (81 percent) were related to livestock conflicts and 28 were due to other causes.

According to FWP, total 2010 year-end mortality is likely to be higher than 2009 due to the increase in livestock-related mortality. But the lack of a 2010 hunting season means total mortality is likely to still be similar to or less than reproduction, thus a stable or slightly increasing final minimum 2010 wolf population count is projected at this time.

Between 1987 and 2004, a total of 292 wolves have been killed in the tri-state area to resolve wolf-livestock conflicts and 166 wolves have been killed in Montana.

LIVESTOCK DEPREDATION

In the tri-state area, a total of 429 cattle and 1,074 sheep have been confirmed killed by wolves between 1987 and 2004. In Montana, the total is 190 cattle and 409 sheep. USFWS and the State of Montana work with livestock producers to reduce the risk of wolf-caused losses and resolve conflicts through a combination of non-lethal deterrents and lethal control.

2010 confirmed cattle death losses are higher than at this time last year and total 2010 confirmed cattle death losses will be higher than 2009. According to USFWS data received to date, 77 cattle death losses were confirmed to date. The Montana Livestock Loss Reduction and Mitigation Board has paid claims for 95 confirmed death losses.

The discrepancy is likely due to a lag in the paperwork transfer between USFWS and FWP and that some injured cattle died (which also requires updated paperwork and data processing on the part of FWP and USFWS).

2010 confirmed sheep death losses are lower than at this time last year. Barring a significant incident, total 2010 confirmed sheep death losses are likely to remain lower than 2009. According to USFWS data received to date, there were 38 sheep death losses confirmed to date.

The Montana Livestock Loss Reduction and Mitigation Board has paid claims for 16 confirmed sheep death losses. The discrepancy is likely due to the fact that some sheep owners have not submitted claims for their confirmed wolf losses.

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RSVP coat drive ongoing

The Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Volunteer Center is continuing its coat drive for children/teen coats. The coat drive has been ongoing for a few weeks but most of the donated items have been for adults.

“We have collected plenty of adult sized coats but are still in need of all children sizes from infant to teens,” said RSVP Coordinator Charlene Stevens. She said in the first few weeks of the drive that they had already taken in over 200 coats, but only two of them were children’s size. She surmised that people may be thinking that because it is a senior volunteer organization conducting the drive that they are only looking for coats to fit seniors.

“This is a community wide effort and we want to provide some good winter coats to people of all ages,” said Stevens.

The coats will be given away at the Ravalli County Food Give-Away on November 12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds Art Building on Old Corvallis Road.

Bring good clean items to the RSVP office in Hamilton, at 310 Old Corvallis Road. Collections will continue through November 11. Don’t let a child shiver through a Montana winter. For more information contact RSVP at 363-1102.

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Neighborhood park project input sought

A team is being put together to begin the process of resarching possibilities and available resources to be used for making improvements to the Father Ravalli Park, located at 1099 College Street in Stevensville. The opinion of the surrounding community would be greatly appreciated, so that the space can be designed to best meet the needs of the population as a whole. Public opinion survey forms on the use of the park space are available at the Bitterroot Star office, 215 Main. Any interested individual is welcome to fill out a survey. A general consensus of the surveys will be made at the beginning of the year so that park improvements can begin in the spring.

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Master Plan being developed for Legion and River Parks

By Michael Howell

The City of Hamilton has been in the throes of developing a Master Plan for two of the city’s parks for some time now. Last Wednesday, landscape architects Anthony Pratt and Jolene Rieck of Peaks to Plains Design out of Billings gave the citizens of Hamilton a chance to see a few preliminary design concepts for future development of Legion Park and River Park based upon citizen input.

The process got off the ground last spring when the City Council hired the consulting firm, Peaks to Plains Design, to help direct the project. A steering committee was formed to help formulate ideas and move the project along. A Town Hall meeting was held on July 14, 2010 and the public was invited to weigh in on the future development plans.

Participants were asked five questions: What would you most like to see happen with the parks - what is your vision? What is the most important to you about the parks, what do you want to make sure continues into the future? What concerns do you have about each park? Is maintenance at River Park too much, too little, or about right? And the last question asked for suggestions about the design process itself.

The consultants took that information and came up with an initial development proposal for River Park and three different proposals for Legion Park. Rieck emphasized that the proposals were only preliminary. “To see if we are on the right track,” she said.

The consulting firm first conducted a site analysis. Rieck said that what was observed at Legion Park was that it served as a city center and was surrounded by urban development. Water drains to the middle of the park. It was on a route to City Hall and the Museum.

River Park, on the other hand, was mostly natural. Only three out of 30 acres was currently developed and maintained, except for a rough trail through the 27-acre natural area. It has a steep slope on the east side and a river on the west. It has pockets of standing water. A big portion is in the floodplain and an active side channel of the river runs through it.

What kind of changes are people considering?

In River Park, proposed changes included creating a themed playground that is styled more to the nature of the park, using the slope for sledding in the winter, doing some trail upgrades, providing more interpretive opportunities, and trying to strike a balance between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ uses.

Legion Park, being so much smaller, and in the center of town, was a little more difficult to design and produced more options and alternatives than River Park. As a result, three distinct design plans were drawn up accentuating different options. They include artistic elements and water, perhaps a fountain, capable of handling festivals and fairs, a small play area, some shade trees, some lawn, some new signage, getting it all ADA compliant, and some upgrades with the bathroom.

The Master Plans also include detailed vegetation management plans to deal with streambank erosion, noxious weeds, fire mitigation, mosquito control, tree hazards, etc.

This was the last Town Hall meeting in the process. Once the responses to this meeting can be digested they will be incorporated into the plans and presented to the City Planning Board for review, and recommendation. From there it will go to consideration by the Town Council. The public may participate all along the way right up to the final consideration for adoption by the Council.

The next Working Group meeting is scheduled for November 17, at City hall at 7 pm. The meeting is open to the public.



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University pushes two-year higher education programs

By Michael Howell

Montana University System officials, including the new President of the University of Montana Royce Engstrom, joined Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Sheila Stearns at a listening session in Hamilton last Friday. Stearns has been on a listening tour that has taken her around the state to hear what Montanans think of their educational system and how it might be improved and to talk to them about the Montana University System’s (MUS) new “Two-Year College Initiative.” The aim of the initiative is to bring businesses, community leaders, K-12 educators, and elected officials together to make two-year colleges more affordable and accessible statewide.

Stearns said that the MUS currently has about 20 plus sites around the state that offer two-year higher education programs. Part of the plan is to make Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees available at all two-year colleges around the state. Another part of the plan is to work with K-12 educators around the state to expand the dual high school/college enrollment in which K-12 students may get a jump start on college by taking college credit courses while in high school.

A statewide “Digital Academy” is also in the works to combine and re-package key courses and programs and offer them online. It will initially focus on dual enrollment courses and then move into workforce programs. Moving toward common information systems will make information sharing easier and more efficient and even pave the way for sharing some administrative services. Stearns said that the new Digital Academy was already a success with over 1,500 enrollments and 65 teachers participating statewide.

Mary Moe, Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education, said that a key element in the plan is getting schools across the state to use common course numbers, which will simplify the process of transferring credits from one college to another or into a four year university.

UM President Royce Engstrom said that funding the state’s two-year education programs was a challenge. He said that there is no way that the two-year programs around the state can fund themselves adequately and that new funding mechanisms need to be developed specifically for the two-year programs.

Regent Clayton Christian said that some kind of “pool funding” for the colleges might be developed. He said it could also help if funding were not tied so directly to enrollment numbers and were based more on results such as number of degrees produced. He cautioned, though, that many people entering two-year programs are not looking to get a degree and that must be considered as well. He called the efforts at devising adequate funding mechanisms “a work in progress.”

Representative Bob Lake (R-Hamilton) said that the legislature was also looking at the issue and considering something like a “core funding” for colleges tied to a “premium for performance.” Lake said that a legislative committee had drafted a potential new policy for funding the system that aims to blend K-12 and higher education with a common set of goals.

Lake said that the legislature recognizes that the landscape of higher education is changing and that two-year programs are playing a greater role. He said that funding was an issue and said that the legislators were looking for input.

“I need help,” said Lake. “Would you be willing to fund this with a tax of 2 percent, 4 percent, or are you not willing to fund it?” A member of the audience reminded him that Bitterroot Valley residents had already expressed in their vote to establish a college here that they were willing to be taxed 6 mills.

Victoria Clark, Interim Director of the Bitterroot College Program, said that interest in the two-year college program in the Bitterroot was strong. She said the program currently had about 250 students enrolled.

The Bitterroot College Program of the University of Montana is located in the Ravalli Entrepreneurship Center at 274 Old Corvallis Road, Suite C. Anyone interested in the program may contact Clark at 375-0100 or e-mail: HYPERLINK "mailto:Victoria.clark@umontana.edu" Victoria.clark@umontana.edu.



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Town draws fire for lack of police protection

By Michael Howell

The Stevensville Town Council heard a complaint about the lack of police protection in town at its last meeting on October 25. The Town has two police officers but one has been out on administrative leave, leaving the town with only one officer, Chief James Marble. This leaves the town with no police coverage when Marble is off duty.

Valley Drug and Variety employee Terry Perkins told the Council that she apprehended a young shoplifter in the store recently but was unable to get a response from the police or from the County Sheriff’s office.

“I don’t understand why we have no protection. Does the town have to provide police protection or not?” asked Perkins.

“We have a lack of officers,” said Mayor Barnett. Barnett said the town did not have the money to hire the needed officers right now.

“If it was a serious incident someone would have responded,” said Barnett.

“Shoplifting is serious,” said Perkins.

Store owner Dan Severson said that he thought it might be more of a communication problem than a money problem. He said the town needed perhaps to better coordinate with the county to cover times when the police are not available.

“I can assure you if it was a serious incident they would respond,” said Barnett.

“I think shoplifting is serious,” reiterated Perkins. “If kids aren’t caught and punished they’ll be back. I’m waiting for someone to come in and rob the pharmacy… I think that could happen. That could happen tomorrow or the next day. As everybody knows 90 percent of us working in that store are women and most of us are there at 7:00 at night.” She said it was actually a big concern and a community-wide problem.

Chief Marble said he was doing the best he could under the circumstances but that he does have a life and a family. The Mayor said that the County was low on funds and the Sheriff’s Office was also hurting for manpower and had to prioritize their responses.

The Mayor and Marble discussed the efforts by towns statewide in facing this problem and how the respective obligations of the town and county needed to be worked out and clarified to address the situation.

The Mayor agreed to place it on the agenda for the November 22 meeting since it would take “time to research so we can have knowledge rather than rhetoric.”

When it came time to pay the claims Councilor Dan Mullan objected to paying the $240.70 fee to Denning, Downey & Associates for an audit of the town’s funds related to the question of a $15,000 CD that the Airport Board thought may have been misappropriated by the town.

Councilor Pat Groninger said he would like to see a plan and call Downing and see what else they might be getting charged for.

“Are we being charged every time we speak their name? Or what’s going on with that?” asked Groninger. He questioned whether the consultation fees in the contract had all been used up.

“They are saying it’s all been used up, but I’d like to see some documentation that we have,” he said.

The council decided not to pay the claim.

Councilor Desera Towle questioned the $250 and $350 claims for property appraisals related to the purchase of an alternative or additional well-field. “I don’t think we ever went on record approving the purchase of appraisals,” said Towle. However, her motion to remove those claims failed due to lack of a second.

The Town received a letter from Rural Development stating that the agency would not be able to give an opinion about a prospective agreement between Twin Creeks subdivision developer John Anderson and the town regarding the well-field until the town completed the agreement and got the town attorney’s opinion that the agreement was adequate. They reminded the town that the agreement would have to meet program requirements which include that it provides for the rights necessary to operate a municipal water system including but not limited to water rights, ingress, egress, construction and operation.

The Town has been involved in a DNRC application process to procure the necessary water rights. Their application was initially denied. That denial was appealed within the agency and goes to a hearing later this month.

At a previous meeting the Council had approved using $2000 of an $11,000 CD that had matured and was dedicated to a sidewalk fund as the town’s contribution to matching funds for the $500,000 Main Street improvement project and to place the remaining funds in a new CD for the sidewalk fund.

However, following the meeting the Mayor, after a talk with Councilor Groninger, decided to instruct the clerk not to make that payment. He and Groninger thought the decision should be changed. Councilor Towle said that she was appalled that the Mayor would unilaterally decide not to implement a council decision.

Mayor Barnett said he did delay payment but it was because there was a question about the CD funds being dedicated to residential sidewalks and not Main Street sidewalks.

Groninger said that the Mayor’s intention was to make sure that the funds were coming from the right place, not that he was not going to pay the $2,000.

Towle said that those considerations were discussed at the previous meeting before the council gave its unanimous approval.

After some discussion the Mayor agreed that his delay may have been an error. “So what do we do?” he asked.

“You implement the council’s decision,” said Towle.

It was agreed to do that and then discuss at another meeting possibly putting $2,000 back into the sidewalk fund CD from the general fund.

Bill Perrin noted that it did not make sense to place the sidewalk fund into a CD if it was really meant to be used for loans to help residents with sidewalk repairs. He said it could not be used for such a program if it was in a CD.

Towle said that the Town has no such program and one would have to be created.

In other business the Town Council:

- approved a fee waiver for a change of zoning application for the home located at 415 Main Street to allow its use as a residence.

- agreed to the change in boundary line of the proposed well-field at Twin Creeks. It would remain a 6.9-acre piece but with more dry land included.

- agreed to place an advertisement for a new prosecuting attorney.

- agreed to write a letter of support for passenger rail service in the state.

- approved a series of resolutions and ordinances in order to annex land north of town and create a Tax Increment Finance Industrial District.

- agreed to send Town Judge Marty Birkeneder to a conference in Missoula

- appointed Groninger and Mullan to a well-field negotiation committee for an additional well field.

- agreed to open the town landfill for leaf drop off on Saturday November 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

At a special meeting on October 28, the council approved a budget for the coming year. Several people spoke in favor of including a contribution to the Stevensville Main Street Association in the budget.

The Mayor said that the town had funded the organization for the past nine years but that this year the town was short of money. He said they were laying people off and cutting services and freezing salaries, and had a cash flow problem.

Councilor Desera Towle supported the Main Street contribution and moved to amend the budget approval motion to reflect that. The motion died due to lack of a second.

Cindy Tharinger said that the town planner had indicated the money was available from the Planning Department budget and the planner had recommended a $3,500 contribution to Main Street from his budget.

The Mayor said that he had heard enough and asked for Council comment. No other councilor spoke during the meeting and the budget was approved with no amendment.

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Planning Board doesn’t meet

By Michael Howell

Planning Board members Jan Wisniewski and Bill Menager called for a special Planning Board meeting to be held on October 29, because state law and the board’s by-laws require at, a minimum, that the board meet four times a year, in January, April, July, and October. The two men claimed that failing to meet in October would leave the board in violation of the law.

County Planner John Lavey agreed that it would be a technical violation and called all board members to arrange for attendance. When it became evident to him through his contact with board members that a quorum could not be mustered, the meeting was cancelled.

However, Wisniewski, Menager and a third member of the board, Cheryl Tenold, did show up that evening at the county administration building, as did about 40 members of the public. Wisniewski had placed ads in the local newspapers advertising the meeting.

Wisniewski wielded the gavel and called a Planning Board meeting to order followed by a roll call of members. When it was determined that there was no quorum, the meeting was cancelled. Tenold left at that time, but everyone else remained and Wisniewski called a citizen’s meeting to order and said, “There are a lot of things going on in the county that are not on the up and up.”

Wisniewski said that he personally called all the Planning Board members to see why they were not in attendance and proceeded to relay what he claimed were their responses. He said that in his opinion most of the responses showed a contempt for the law and for the public.

Calling for a show of hands about how many people thought the Board was required by law to meet four times, once each in the months of January, April, July and October, most of the people raised their hands.

There was some general question and answer about the makeup, duties and powers of the Planning Board. Commissioner Greg Chilcott, who came to open the building for the evening meeting, participated in that discussion.

State Senate candidate Dan Cox said that it was his belief that an effort was going to be made to re-institute a Growth Policy after the election on Tuesday because the prohibition against one will have expired. Commissioner Chilcott disagreed, saying he had seen no indication in the hallways or anywhere else about such intentions.

One audience member said that a Planning Board was necessary to institute a Growth Policy so the way to insure no Growth Policy is enacted would be to disband the Planning Board.

Everyone in attendance was urged to attend the next scheduled Planning Board meeting, on Wednesday, November 3.

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First Friday in Hamilton

Businesses in the Hamilton area are working to keep it local beginning on First Friday this week. Approximately 56 businesses have agreed to participate in a “Buy Local Auction.” Shoppers will be given an envelope, beginning this week. The idea is for people to collect their receipts between November 1, 2010 and July 22, 2011, which is Daly Days.

During Daly Days 2011, Hamilton United Business will sponsor a live auction featuring donated items from the various businesses throughout Hamilton. The amount of the receipts a shopper has collected during this time period can be used to bid on these fine items. This program is designed to reward consumers for shopping locally.

Hamilton businesses are also working to benefit the food banks in the area. On First Friday, patrons who bring in at least three non perishable food items to any participating business will receive $5 Turkey Bucks. These Turkey Bucks are the initial ‘seed money’ for the Buy Local Auction in July.

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