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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Opinion & Editorial

Guest Comment

County road system – your taxes at work

by Kathleen Driscoll, County Commissioner

Pooling our money in the form of taxes allows us to reap benefits from major projects that would be impossible to fund as individuals. Part of my job as commissioner is to do what I can to make sure your tax dollars are invested wisely in our community.

A major investment is maintaining our road system. Roads enable us to go about our daily lives and are vital conduits for emergency services such as law enforcement, ambulances, and fire departments. Without a well-maintained road system, our lives would be radically different and difficult.

The importance of safe roads is why I serve on local and regional Transportation Committees. I’ve spent many hours examining road maintenance and spending in our county. The county road department has the second highest departmental budget after the Sheriff’s Department. My goals are to ensure that our road system is well maintained and that taxpayer’s money is spent with transparency and accountability.

There are approximately 1450 miles of state, federal, and county public roads in Ravalli County and 550 miles are the responsibility of the 19 hands on employees in our county road department. Of those 550 miles, 300 are paved roads and 250 are gravel. Our road crew grades, paves, patches, oils, plows, sands, and chip-seals our roads. It’s difficult, hard work requiring willingness to work in all kinds of weather and sometimes, all hours of the day and night. We all should appreciate our knowledgeable and capable road crew.

We rate our roads from 1 to 10 (1 being poor to 10 being the best). The cost of maintaining roads is much less expensive than rebuilding them once they are in poor condition. For every dollar spent on maintenance, it can cost up to $20.00 to rebuild. The key is to spend the dollars to get the most for least amount of money over the long run. The rating system enables us to target where money is needed.

The Road and Bridge Department’s combined fiscal 2009 budget is $2.6 million dollars for repairs, maintenance, equipment, and salaries.

Additionally, the county has received a substantial amount of additional funding from a variety of sources for road work. The following funds are projected to be used in the upcoming road construction season:

- $1.07 million from the federal government fiscal year 2009 Secure Rural Schools funding (SRS)

- $297,000 federal stimulus recovery funds requested for Ambrose Road repairs

- $128,000 from reserve funds created by collecting mitigation fees for development projects

- $1.20 million of state money for West Side and Willow Ck Roads (both state secondary roads)

- $500,000 from fiscal year 2010 SRS money

Montana Law states that it is the road supervisor’s responsibility to inform the commissioners about road repair and improvement projects. You may contact the commissioner’s office for a list of projects for the upcoming season. With this influx of funding I’m concerned about getting ongoing maintenance done plus completing the significant amount of new road projects proposed. As it is the responsibility of the county commissioners to oversee the effective and efficient use of the budget, I will be requesting frequent updates on our progress. I take my responsibilities very seriously and am working to ensure that road funds are used wisely and on a timely basis.

Since road repairs can really disrupt our lives, I am also looking into a system to share road maintenance information with you. Between the local papers, radio, and the county website, I believe we can provide the public with easily accessed, up-to-date, and cost effective notice on scheduled road projects. I am discussing this with my fellow commissioners, and hope to see that you have this information at your fingertips.

Please feel free to contact me with your ideas, concerns, or questions at 375-6510 or by email at

Letters to the Editor

ABC’s of impact fees

Dear Editor,

Corvallis School District's Thursday meeting (April 23rd, High School Gym) launches an effort to slap a $4,000 bill on everyone building a new home in their district.

No one is safe in Ravalli County under the Gang-of-Three Liberal County Comissioners' scheme allowing various greedy government entities to play robber baron.

For the benefit of our educators, here are the ABCs of this tax scam:

A for "Awful Bad Timing," increasing taxes when economic depression threatens.

B for "Bad Tax," mortgage interest charges will balloon this tax several times higher than the actual tax.

C for "Corrupt Tax," false in its premises, unfair in its application, and unjust in its operation.

The premise that old houses don't impact while new houses do impact, is false; and, in fact, people may impact but houses never do. Example: two families move into the Bitterroot. The first family with 12 children rents an old house and never pays a cent of impact fee tax although their children flood into our classrooms. The second family consisting of a childless, retired couple can't find a suitable old house so they build a little three-room cottage and pay tremendous impact fee taxes for schools, roads, fire departments, police, parks, open lands, general fund, etc., although never having a child in school, and being stay-at-homes, they hardly impact anything. But suppose their cottage is destroyed by fire, and being uninsured, they have to leave the valley to move in with their grown children elsewhere. Will the taxers give back their money collected on a house that disappeared, hasn't impacted and never will?

But say a family with four school-age homeschooled children moves in? A school impact fee tax on their house is stealing their money under the assumption they are impacting when they are not. By home schooling they are relieving the public schools from the burden of their children. Or say a family with five school children builds a house but then comes to find out they can slip into classrooms that have plenty of empty space and on the balance draws in great amounts of funds to the District through state per-child-payments. Their impact is a positive one. Will our educators then make a suitable rebate of their impact tax payment?

A family of very limited means has to home-care a handicapped veteran or aged relative. The only way they can afford to give such care is to build a little home-care cottage next to their small house. Is it fair to loot their slim funds with phony impact fee taxes?

Unfair, unjust, corrupt! If these taxes are allowed to stand who can withstand other equally unjust taxes that will hit other segments of the population. What goes around, comes around, is how country wisdom describes this process.

Let's protect our wallets and our general economy by attending this meeting. If we can't defeat such a monster here, how can we ever expect Washington, D.C. to be straightend out?

The tax trilogy – mitigation fees, impact fees and building-permit fees – is destined to fund the transformation of Ravalli County into a "Little California on the Bitterroot." Don't we need a tea party protest right here?

Charles E. Wissenbach

Support for impact fees

Dear Editor,

Impact fees are or should be a no brainer. When a new family moves into the Bitterroot, their presence puts new strains on our infrastructure. Their children use the schools. They cause incremental additional uses of fire and police. And so on. To offset these additional costs, communities across the US assess impact fees to make the new residents pay their way. If there are no impact fees, these very real costs are placed on the existing citizens in the forms of a need for increased taxes or a diminution of services or both. The whole concept is to have new folks pay their own way.

In Montana, a bipartisan bill authorizing communities to assess impact fees was passed. Rick Laible was a cosponsor. It was supported by the state building association. Ravalli County has passed an ordinance implementing a process for governmental units to assess impact fees so new folks pay their share and existing residents do not have to face tax increases or reductions in service because of new development.

The Corvallis School District has paid for an unbiased, professional study to determine exactly how much in capital costs each new home in that district costs the District. The study found that it costs an average of over $6800 per home. If this is not paid by the new home buyer, it will be paid by the rest of us in higher taxes or the level of service in the Corvallis schools will diminish.

Developers and the real estate industry in Ravalli County are opposing impact fees. The reason is simple. They do not want new homes to be priced up to pay for these costs. Yet, if impact fees do not cover these very real costs, the rest of us will have to do so. This issue is crystal clear, either new residents pay their fair share or we do. Is it right to ask Ravalli County residents to subsidize new development? I think not. If any public official, including our County Commissioners, oppose impact fees, they are siding with developers and asking the residents and voters of Ravalli County to pay for the costs of new residents.

Rich Morrisey

Open Letter to the Commissioners on Ravalli County Airport

Dear Editor,

I think you know where I stand on the available options for the Ravalli County Airport, but I would like to reiterate some of my thoughts and urge you to move forward to put an end to this debate. It is certainly time.

We all want a safe airport that serves the needs of the majority of Ravalli County citizens. The medevac and USFS firefighting benefits that the Airport provides are valuable services to the County, but they would not be enhanced with a longer runway. Those services that the airport provides are well served by the current airport configuration. I doubt that there is credible evidence that the airport has enough B-2 operations to justify widening the separation of the taxiway from the runway, but understand that upgrading the separation to comply with FAA regulations and projected future needs is prudent. We can accomplish that with the proposed "80 foot solution" and by keeping the runway at 4200'. The "80 foot solution" is the most cost effective option, will maintain the above mentioned County-wide services, and will not encourage bigger and faster jets from using our airport.

I know you are getting pressured by those few citizens that own large jets and those that think a "Cadillac" airport facility would be nice for them to pursue their hobby or enhance their business. Using that justification, I would imagine there are a number of citizens - maybe a way larger number of citizens - that would appreciate a professional-like baseball stadium to use while they pursue their hobby. I would not advocate the County incur that expense either. There simply is not a big enough benefit for enough of our fellow citizens to justify the expense of construction and O&M for an expanded airport. Please tell the FAA that Ravalli County has chosen to pursue the "80 foot solution" and move forward to see that solution implemented. That is the best and most fiscally responsible option we have.

Doug Nation

Response to DePauw

Dear Editor,

Mr. DePauw, however you feel regarding the airport expansion options, AND, whatever you think you know about it, it’s clear to me what you DO know is how to act and talk like an elementary school child. Didn’t your mama ever tell you not to call other people names? Didn’t your upbringing ever instill in you not to talk about people you knew nothing about, especially just to make yourself seem more knowledgeable, bigger, wiser? Besmirching the name and calling into question the integrity of a person you don’t even know in this kind of forum shows and tells a lot about your tactics, ethics and character however. Your mama must be so proud!

I have to tell you, all your name calling, kindergarten references and innuendos reminded me of a schoolyard baby, and not anything one would expect out of an adult!  Now mind you, I’m not calling you this, I’m just saying this is what it smacked of to me.

Mr. DePauw, if you knew/know as much about my husband as you imply you know about all the facts regarding the airport expansion, then I would caution anyone who reads your article to not give any weight to anything you had to say.  As I have been quiet for far too long, let me tell you a few things you (and maybe others) need to know.

It seems to me whenever there is any type of article in the paper (pro or con) regarding the expansion, Dave’s name is always mentioned as the primary source of all information, concerns, etc. Granted, he is the Chairman, but please, people, be aware there are seven other individuals on this board as well. They all have input, bring their ideas, opinions, facts, observances, experiences and so on to the Commissioners and the public. It just happens because Dave Hedditch is the chairman (and no, Mr. DePauw, not a boogie man, general, whatever childish name you choose), he’s the one that seems to be mentioned all the time, making him the easiest target for anyone who cannot keep issues on an adult level and can’t help lowering themselves to first grade methods of name calling. I can see you’re not keen enough to make that distinction. You may want to note, however, that “General” or not,  when Dave left the military, he had a standing room only retirement party with scores of NCO’s and officers attesting to his leadership. The best and highest form of kudos came from an NCO who said it all and brought the house down. He said, “If there were more officers and leaders like Dave Hedditch, there would be more men offering themselves up for our nation.”  This, Mr. DePauw, is Dave Hedditch, who you don’t even know. We who really know Dave Hedditch are very lucky. We know him to be an honest, caring, concerned, thoughtful and deep individual. Ravalli County, and people like you, whether you know it or not, are very lucky to have a man of such selfless caliber and dignity and truth and hard work looking out for our best interests.

I’ll give you this: Dave has broad shoulders and has no problem being chairman. He understands part of this responsibility is having either correct information quoted or misquotes and uninformed opinions thrown at him. The key word here is responsibility. His is not an every so often letter to the editor or an occasional visit to commissioners meetings. He’s at every meeting and tries consistently to keep not just commissioners informed, but the public as well with all information. He knows as chairman this puts him out there, but he has taken the responsibility to and for the citizens of Ravalli County, assigned to him by the county, willingly and completely, for the sole purpose of giving the county the most informed, best option they could have, always knowing there would be people who disagree. He graduated from Hamilton High School and then Montana State University. Montana and especially Ravalli County are important to him because it’s a huge part of who he is! He’s also on the Whittecar Rifle Range board, serving the citizens this way as well. Would you like to address what he’s done wrong there, seeing as how you know him so well? What have you and others like you done for the citizens of Ravalli County for no other reason than wanting to make things better, Mr. DePauw (other than stooping to kindergarten name calling, that is)?

It might also interest you, and others, to know that Dave Hedditch has a voice at home to whom he has to define and defend the boards arguments – me. I can’t tell you how often I’ve voiced many of the same cares/concerns a Ravalli County citizen espouses. A devil’s advocate, if you will. In fact, when Dave first got on the board and started bringing home all these options and questions, I couldn’t see how anything he had to say was a good idea! I wanted our airport left alone. I didn’t see a need for finagling with things. If it ain’t broke… yada, yada, etc. If you think people with your type of ideas scare him, you don’t even know the half of it! Over the years, I’ve come to see and realize all these things the board is recommending are nothing but good and necessary for the citizens of Ravalli County. I’m a desperately hard sell, but seeing all of the board’s research, meetings, facts and such has shown me Dave and the board are right. What have you seen, heard, asked, know as fact about the character regarding any of the board members OR Dave Hedditch, Mr. DePauw?

Dave has spent immeasurable time (literally years) and our own money poring over every part of each option regarding the expansion, many times much to my dismay!  Yet, I’m proud of him for his passionate devotion to the citizens of Ravalli County and trying to make their facility a safer, nicer, profitable place for them. What’s in it for him? Absolutely nothing! He does this because he believes in what he’s doing, has researched it to exhaustion. We have our own airstrip as do other members of the board. Dave doesn’t need to put himself through any type of disparaging slings and arrows for any type of schoolyard bully who needs to blow harder with incomplete information just to make himself/herself feel better or appear to be smarter/wiser. Again, he does this because he cares about all the citizens of Ravalli and about what’s right, not because he has a personal issue of any kind to espouse. What have you or those like you spent in your personal time and money for the citizens of Ravalli County, Mr. DePauw?

Dave spent 20 years serving his country. He served in Vietnam, got his plane blown up around him, landed behind enemy lines causing himself permanent disability and injury, spent almost 24 hours there calling in air strikes, saving his back-seater and himself, as the Viet Cong were looking to capture him before he could be picked up. After that incident and that tour, he went back! Fighting for something that he feels is right is in his nature, it’s in his blood, it’s who he is. Who are you, Mr. DePauw?

If you or anyone wants or needs to know anything about Dave Hedditch, warts and all, please feel free to contact me.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m blisteringly honest, many times much to my husband’s dismay. In the meantime, I am proud to say I am Mrs. General Chicken Little.

Roxie Hedditch

Pantry Partners open house scheduled

Dear Editor,

Pantry Partners food bank will be hosting an open house April 30 from 4 to 7 p.m. This will give the community a chance to see the current facility. We are on the school election ballot May 5 for voter approval to lease a piece of property from the Stevensville School district for the purpose of building a new facility.

Refreshments will be served. Parsons Pony Farm will have rides available for the kids for a donation of a non-perishable item for the Pantry.

Pantry Partners Food Bank is currently located at 616 Park Street, south of Stevensville School playing field.

Kathy Belke, President
Pantry Partners Board of Directors

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