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Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Page One News at a Glance


Missoula museum recipient of artwork by Daly’s granddaughter

Subdivision variance requests remanded back to Commissioners

City pays for mistake in bid

Local Girl Scout camp to be sold

Hamilton Safeway celebrates grand re-opening




Missoula museum recipient of artwork by Daly’s granddaughter

The Montana Museum of Art & Culture has received a gift of 19 oil paintings and seven charcoal drawings by artist Frances Carroll Brown, granddaughter of Montana copper baron Marcus Daly.  

Brown was born Feb. 23, 1909, in Baltimore. When she was 3, her mother, Margaret, died, and Brown inherited her mother’s fortune. As a young lady of means, Brown embodied early 20th-century society.  

Her formal education was conducted by a governess and concluded with a two-year grand tour of Europe as part of a finishing school with a private tutor. In Europe Brown was exposed to a variety of cultural influences, learned French and visited the great museums. When she returned from Europe, she premiered as a debutante in New York City and participated in steeplechases flying the Daly colors.

Brown maintained strong ties to the Bitterroot Valley and the Stock Farm, site of the family’s Daly Mansion in Hamilton, and attended social events and celebrated holidays at the mansion. As a Stock Farm shareholder, she was involved in the day-to-day operations of the ranch.

In the late 1930s and early ’40s, Brown pursued her art, studying in France and Greece. When World War II erupted, she returned to the U.S. to work as a Navy translator in New York City. In 1947 she contracted polio. She recovered from total paralysis after use of the Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Method restored her cognitive and speech abilities.  

In the 1950s Brown divided her time between Roseland, N.J., and Baltimore. She attended Schuler’s School of Fine Art in the 1960s. After the ownership and stewardship of the Daly residence was transferred to the state of Montana in 1985, Brown never returned. She lived the remainder of her life in Baltimore and died there in 2002.  

Many of the artist’s artworks now in the MMAC Permanent Collection were exhibited together on June 17, 2002, at the artist’s childhood home, now a school in Baltimore.

Brown’s art contributes to a growing list of significant female artists who played a compelling role in Montana art history. Her psychological portraits are artistically and historically significant, ranging in subject matter from workers and day laborers to high society portraits and artist models.

Her art, which remains largely unknown, is fundamentally humanistic, indicating a fascination with a variety of racial, religious and class backgrounds. In addition to the 26 pieces preserved at MMAC, six drawings by Brown survive at the Daly Mansion.  

Mary Jean Warlen, donor of the Frances Carroll Brown paintings and drawings to MMAC and Brown’s caretaker during the last 12 years of her life, describes Brown as a “most unusual individual, out of place in this century,” “a woman of excellence” and “extremely gracious, with an indomitable character.”  

“To discover a previously little-known artist of the aesthetic caliber of Frances Carroll Brown with direct ties to the Bitterroot and Missoula areas is enormously exciting,” said MMAC Director Barbara Koostra. “Preserving the history of art in Montana through artworks such as these is central to our mission, and we are very grateful for this generous gift.”

Brown’s paintings recently were cleaned and conserved, and the drawings were reframed and stabilized using archival materials thanks to a generous grant from the F. Morris and Helen Silver Foundation. Conservation and reframing were done in preparation for an exhibition of Brown’s work to open at MMAC next year.

MMAC has expanded gallery hours for its current exhibitions and is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. and Thursday and Friday from noon to 6 p.m. through March 12. For more information, call 243-2019 or go online to HYPERLINK "http://www.umt.edu/montanamuseum" http://www.umt.edu/montanamuseum.

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Subdivision variance requests remanded back to Commissioners

By Michael Howell

District Court Judge James Haynes sent a decision about a couple of subdivision variance requests back to the County Commissioners for reconsideration after finding that the county’s original decision to deny the variance requests was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The original decision to deny the requests was made back in 2008. The county had received the two requests from Big Sky Development Group, which proposed a 35-lot single family residence development up Eight Mile called Sandhill Ridge, and Morado Mountain Estates, LLC which proposed a 58-lot subdivision in the same area.

Under the subdivision regulations at the time, the developers were required to improve 3.3 miles of the Eight Mile Creek Road to bring it up to county standards. Eight Mile Creek Road is a county road but it only has a 50-foot easement. County standards require a 60-foot right of way. The developers both asked for a variance from those requirements. They asked that the right of way remain at 50 feet, but they also agreed to pay jointly $600,000 in the costs of repairing the road. The county’s cost would be $300,000.

At the original hearing of the Morado Mountain Estates variance request, the Commission tied in a 2-2 vote with Commissioner Alan Thompson absent. Without declaring the motion to have failed due to a tie, it was agreed by all parties to adjourn the meeting and reconvene when the missing commissioner could be present and cast a vote after viewing the record of the meeting. Sandhill Ridge’s variance request was also rescheduled.

When the Commission reconvened on May 27, 2008, however, instead of simply letting Commissioner Thompson cast his vote, it decided to do an entire re-vote including all five commissioners going over all the variance criteria once again. Additional information that wasn’t offered at the first hearing was also considered.

In the end, in a 3 to 2 vote the commissioners denied the request from Morado Mountain Estates. They then decided to deny the Sandhill Ridge variance request for the same reasons, but without going through the step by step review of criteria.

The developers filed suit in July 2008, alleging that the Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously in applying its methods and mechanisms to the variance requests. Primarily they complained about the re-vote by four of the five commissioners and the process employed to apply the five variance criteria.

Haynes ruled that since no party challenged the validity of postponing the first meeting he would accept it. But Haynes does note that the Commissioners failed to properly evaluate and make a proper determination on the question of whether the new material presented at the second hearing would require re-opening public comment or not. It is an evaluation the Commission is required to make when new material is submitted following the initial public review period.

“The re-vote, over Plaintiff’s objections, therefore indicates a doubly flawed process in that the parties made a mutual mistake over the intent and scope of the postponement and in that the BCC considered additional information without complying with the preliminary determinations required by law,” wrote Haynes, concluding that the decision to proceed to a re-vote was “arbitrary and capricious.”

Haynes also concluded that the commissioners had “rotely and unanimously voted on criteria without first determining its relevance to the process and subsequently failed to squarely address the question of whether the regulations placed an ‘undue hardship’ on the developers by requiring them to obtain the additional 10 feet in easement without the power of imminent domain.” He found their evaluation of undue hardship was “arbitrary.”

Haynes ruled that the commission’s process after the vote was also arbitrary. He found that the commission applied a few of the criteria arbitrarily and capriciously by failing to discuss cited reasons on the record and by using circular justifications such that the variance could not be granted because it would mean not meeting the current regulatory standards.

Haynes states in his order, “Without the underpinnings of a valid application of each of the criteria (as well as some relatively predictable process to weigh each criteria) the vote on ‘overall positive findings’, and the denial of the variances was arbitrary and capricious and, therefore, invalid.”

Haynes concludes that since the Commissioners took the arbitrary and capricious decisions made in the Morado Mountian Estates variance request and “transported them wholesale” into their consideration of Sandhill Estates, that this decision was also arbitrary and capricious as well.

Haynes writes, “Both parties contributed to the May 6 postponement, neither party clearly grasped the type of variance under scrutiny, and neither party understood whether the five criteria were properly applied. Thus the Court believes it would be premature and unjust to substitute its own judgment for the BCC’s judgment before the BCC has an opportunity to reconsider the applications in the light of the Court’s decision.” He concludes that the proper remedy is to remand the case to the Commission for new hearings on the developer’s original subdivisions and associated variance requests.

The county has twenty days from the issuance of the order, filed on December 8, to file specific reasons it disagrees with the Court’s decision. If no timely filing occurs, the order will be entered and the case remanded to the Commissioners for further proceedings.

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City pays for mistake in bid

By Michael Howell

According to Hamilton City officials, following a mistake in the advertisement for bids on construction of the new Public Works building, the City will now have to ante up about $73,000 more than what was originally agreed to with J-5 Construction in order to cover the increased costs of wages required to meet state requirements to pay prevailing wages.

“I do not agree that there has been a misunderstanding, the City flat out made a mistake,” said Special Projects Director Dennis Stranger. He said the mistake was made when the bid went out and a contract was signed that did not meet state requirements. State law requires that all Public Works construction projects costing over $25,000 must pay prevailing wages for both prime and sub contractors on Public Works buildings.

Stranger said that J-5 Construction, which was not at fault, has been very cooperative in negotiating a resolution. He said an initial estimate of $80,000 was whittled down to an estimated $73,000 in additional costs related to the mistake.

There is money available in the building project budget to cover the additional costs.

“I don’t subscribe to the theory that it is O.K. because we budgeted for it. We should have picked that up,” said Stranger about the requirement to pay prevailing wages on the project.

“We have no excuse. The law is clear,” said Mayor Jerry Steele.

Councilor Nancy Hendrickson said that the City needed to use more diligence in the future.

The motion to approve a change order between J-5 Construction and the City in an amount not to exceed $73,000 for additional costs to pay Montana state prevailing wages for prime and sub contractors on the Public Works Building was approved unanimously.

RIVER BANK STABALIZATION PROJECT DELAYED

Based upon a preliminary engineering estimate of the cost of doing a bank stabilization project in River Park where the river threatens to erode a section of the trail at the south end of the park, the City Council budgeted about $20,000 for the project. But, at its last meeting, the council heard from Special Projects Director Dennis Stranger that as the project moved closer toward implementation the contractor’s estimate of the cost had more than doubled to $40,055.

Stranger also told the council that due to the number of permits that would have to be obtained and the nature of the permitting process, it might not be permitted in time to do the work before the spring high water event. He said that the erosion was occurring at the end of the trail and affecting about 100 feet of the trail.

“How much do we want to spend to save a few feet of trail,” Mayor Steele asked the Council. He also noted that the section at risk was also a dead end invitation to cut across private property.

What bothered Councilor Helgeland was that the bulk of the money was going to “paper pushers” while the actual work on the ground only accounted for $14,000. Stranger agreed that the greatest portion of the funds was for engineering the project.

Councilor Al Mitchell said, “$40,000 for 100 feet of trail that goes nowhere, the cost is outrageous for something that goes nowhere. It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

In a unanimous ‘straw poll’ the Council gave direction to Stranger to hold off on any permit applications or expenditures on the project until the Parks Plan was completed.

JOB DESCRIPTIONS REVISED

The Council unanimously approved the revision of a set of job descriptions that will revamp the City’s administration, changing lines of responsibility, eliminating one job and creating another, making the operation more efficient and saving money at the same time.

Mayor Steele said that it was the resignation of the office manager that really set the proposed changes in motion. But the lack of anticipated high powered computer lines to the new Public Works Building also helped precipitate some of the changes.

The job of Building Inspector was combined with Zoning Administrator and Floodplain Administrator duties. It was decided to transfer the Utility Billing Clerk, who worked in the Public Works Department, into the Finance Department so that the work could be done on the main campus computers. The Clerk would be responsible to the City’s Finance Administrator Craig Shepherd, instead of to the Public Works Director. A Secretary/Receptionist position would be established at the Public Works Building to handle permitting processes and paperwork. That employee would answer to the Building Inspector rather than to the Public Works Director.

The position of Office of Community Development Office Manager was eliminated and a new position of Public Works Clerk was created that would report directly to the Public Works Director.

The changes will be effective January 1, 2011.

IN OTHER BUSINESS THE COUNCIL:

• approved paying $166,997 for a Fire Command Vehicle. An ambulance style vehicle, it would serve as a rehabilitation facility for firefighters on the scene at fire events and serve as a communications and command center, equipped with radio, computer and command table.

• approved the Brown Building Condominium Water Service Agreement and authorized Mayor Steele to sign the agreement. The agreement sets a three-year deadline to convert the water services to the building from a single meter to six separate services with six meters.

• approved on Second Reading an Ordinance #346 providing for the qualifications, duties and election of a City Treasurer.

• approved on Second Reading an Ordinance #347 repealing Chapter 2.2 that created the position of City Finance Officer.

• approved lighting retrofit upgrades at City Hall, estimated to cost $5,000 but to pay for itself in savings within two years.

• heard from Mayor Steele that the Labor Union had filed an unfair labor practice charge against the City for allegedly not bargaining in good faith. Steele said that he felt they had bargained in good faith every step of the way.

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Local Girl Scout camp to be sold

By Michael Howell

Hoover has trumped Cooney, in a way, as far as the Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming’s (GSMW) new long range property plan goes. In an aggressive attempt to bring expenses down, the GSMW Board decided to whittle its set of council-sponsored resident camps down to three. In Western Montana, the use of multiple properties for council-sponsored resident camps was discontinued and all future resident camp activities in western Montana were consolidated into Camp Castle Rock near Butte. As a result of the consolidation, four Montana properties will be sold. They include Camp Thunderbird, Choteau land, Camp Scoutana, and a small camp located here in the Bitterroot Valley called Camp Cooney.

So how does Hoover trump Cooney?

The property at Castle Rock, where the camp activities in western Montana are being consolidated, is a historic property that has a log lodge built in the 1920s. The property was donated to the Girl Scouts by President Herbert Hoover’s wife in the 1930s and is the compilation of several small mining claims. An original homestead site sits on the other side of the boundary line on National Forest land.

The Camp Cooney property, located along Three Mile Creek northeast of Stevensville, also has a historic log structure on it and a cement swimming pool. It served as the summer home of former Acting Governor Frank Cooney. Cooney died in office of heart failure in 1935. In an undated Girl Scouts newsletter, it states that the ex-governor’s son, Tyler Cooney, “fondly refers to the camp lodge as the ‘bungalow’ and the cement pool as the ‘plunge’.”

Ownership of the Cooney property changed hands in the late 1930s and in 1949 the owners, Fred T. and Olive Porch, deeded 2.5 acres of the property, including the lodge and the pool, to the Stevensville Girl Scouts committee. The Stevensville Committee later became a part of Shining Mountains Council and, in 1972 that council merged with the Big Sky Council, which has now merged with Wyoming to form the GSMW, which now owns the property.

“The decision to rest or sell a camp is not made lightly,” said GSMW CEO Sally Leep, in a media press release. “We understand the emotional toll this may have on some members, and we will do everything we can to help address those needs, yet at the heart of this decision is what’s best for meeting the needs of today’s girls.” Leep states that the proceeds from the property sale of Camp Cooney will be used to make improvements at Camp Castle Rock. The other two camp properties being preserved and enhanced are Camp Sacajawea in central Wyoming and Timbercrest Camp in south central Montana.

Leep is right about the “emotional toll” that some members might feel. Virginia Simmons of Hamilton was once very much involved in the Girl Scouts and has fond memories of Camp Cooney and all the work that went into fixing it up once the local Girl Scouts committee acquired it. She said that the thought of the property passing into private ownership makes her sick.

“I wish I was twenty years younger,” said Simmons, “and I would try and fight this thing.” She said that she hopes there is some way to keep the property for local public use even if it is sold, instead of having it pass into private ownership. She has seen the original deed from the Porches to “Girl Scout Troop Committee, a corporation, of Stevensville, Montana.” She said she has never seen any record of a transfer of ownership of the property to the Big Sky Girl Scouts Council or subsequently to the Girls Scouts of Montana and Wyoming.

Anyone with questions about the GSMW long-range property plan can email lrpp@gsmw.org with “Property” in the subject line.



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Hamilton Safeway celebrates grand re-opening

By Michael Howell

You won’t see a lot of changes in the façade at Hamilton’s Safeway grocery store, but if you go inside, you won’t recognize the place.

The ribbon was cut last Saturday on the new remodel that has been underway for a while at the Safeway store on Main and First in Hamilton.

The store first opened at the spot on November 29, 1965. At least one of their employees has worked in the store since 1966.

District Manager for Safeway, Dan Cruson, was on hand for the celebration. He said that the company operates 1,800 stores and has a grand re-model plan for all its stores and it finally came to be Hamilton’s turn.

Local store manager Kathy Street identified and thanked each of her employees and the Safeway employees from elsewhere who came to help make the re-model a success before cutting the ribbon with the help of County Commissioner Greg Chilcott.

Street said that the entire store has been re-set with some rearranging. The interior décor and the lighting have been significantly upgraded. She said the most significant changes were probably in the expanded Deli selections in the newly remodeled Signature Café section of the store.



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