Opinion & Editorial
The Hamilton Trap Club mystery
by Earl Pollard, Hamilton
The County Board 0f Commissioners must immediately stop all operations on public property by the Hamilton Trap Club Inc., specifically the Ravalli County Airport. Terminate their lease immediately starting the clock on remediation operations. Specify that remedial operations will be in accord with EPA guidance and the practices followed by the lead and target remediation contractors. Reclamation will not be acceptable.
I have written about the Hamilton Trap Club (HTC) for several years. In the past the County Commissioners have not responded to anything I've done in the form of emails to them and critical statements in the Republic and the Star. In short, zilch. I thought at one time I had the attention of the Republic editor. A reporter visited me with note pad in hand. He had no idea what I was telling him so he went back to the office and called the DEQ. The DEQ did not make the effort to explain the limits of their jurisdiction and the true nature of the complaint they had received from me. The cursory on-site visit by the DEQ inspector sent from Helena to investigate my complaint was just that, cursory. He didnt bother to contact me. I didnt know he was in town. His report denigrates the importance of the EPA publication titled Best Management Practices for Lead at Outdoor Shooting Ranges. However, the inspector did allude to the fact the HTC was not following the EPA Guidelines.
I have been exchanging email with the EPA/ Helena office about this situation and I understand the EPA may step in and conduct their own investigation of the HTC shot field.
Now for the rest of the story. In the beginning the HTC Inc. moved onto public land in 1957 and has been growing and in continuous operation ever since. I picked up on club activities when I obtained a copy of the HTC ten-year lease agreement recorded on 22 March 1999 and a copy of the HTC history available on the net. I am troubled by several of what I consider unacceptable arrangements between the County and the HTC. The Airport Manager is the interface between the HTC and the Airport Advisory Board. The Board reports in an advisory capacity to the County Commission. The result of this strange chain of responsibility effectively hides the operation of the HTC from the purview of the Commission and at the same time burdens the Airport Manager and the Advisory Board with the responsibility of managing an operation that cant be more foreign to the primary responsibilities of managing the day to day operations of the County Airport.
I dont think this was done with nefarious intent. It is just another consequence of the neglect and ineptitude of the past county commissioners. At the same time the HTC lease agreement is something to wonder about and another case of dumb. The rental fee at the time of signing (1999) was .07 cents per square foot for the structure which is unidentified but supposed to be 2,464 square foot which does not square with any structure on the site. The County cannot raise this rent more than ten percent per year.
The first item of the list of agreements state the HTC will not erect any new structures without obtaining written permission of the County Commission (the signatory and Lessor). I understand the HTC has erected two towers without written permission.
Also the HTC shall not permit any hazard or anything the Commissioners might define as a hazard. The Commissioners have the right to abate any hazard considered immediate.
Today the HTC shooters have been told not to fire as USFS helicopters in their regular traffic pattern are passing over the shot field when they land and take off from the USFS facility next door. The HTC is required to post warning signs along a single wire strung on the East, West and South boundaries. The North boundary is excluded. This is the northern edge of the shot field. Children have been observed entering this area because of the wetlands and standing water.
The parties to this Lease are required to provide six months written advance notice of lease termination with the exception of the Commissioners who can end the lease to promote the public health, safety, or welfare."
Without question the most troublesome item in the lease states, Within six (6) months of the termination of this lease, the Lessee (HTC) at its expense, shall remove the spent shot on the premises to the extent practicable as determined by industry reclamation standards at that time.
Doesnt this clause give the HTC up to a year to pack up, clean up their dirty nest doing what they determine to be practicable and move on?
Neither the DEQ inspector nor the HTC president knows what these so called standards are. The EPA is very clear about what is necessary, but the HTC has never followed any of the EPA guidelines to date and the Lease Agreement does not mention or refer to the EPA Guidelines.
My research shows that necessary remediation (making the land habitable) may cost up into hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.
One other item is the USFS facility and helicopter landing pads in addition to a county equipment building are actually located on land which was part of the 1999 HTC lease agreement.
The last point I have is that the DEQ site inspector stated in his report, In the early 1990s a professional shot reclaimer conducted a reclamation operation at the site. (No remediation mentioned) The recovered shot was used by club members for reloading shot shells. I believe the reclaimer was from out of state; his name is Bob Watt at 509-943-2863. He never completed the reclamation because of soft soil miring his equipment and the shot recovered was so corroded it was not salvageable and should have been classified as hazardous material. (no mention of how the hazardous material was handled).
As I have stated time and again, no one and nobody, least of all the HTC, can account for over ten thousand pounds of lead shot that has fallen on the soil in the shot field. Possibly the EPA will provide the answer to the mystery. In any event the HTC must move off our land. Their continued presence is a detriment to public health, safety and welfare.
Letters to the Editor
The Force is with us!
2:15 a.m., June 6th: The Bitterroot Valley won! All three progressive-minded county commissioner candidates won the overwhelming support of Ravalli county voters. We celebrated at the Exchange Club in Hamilton, the same place where, following past elections, we've swallowed so many bitter defeats.
As I drove home, the clock close to midnight, the sky moonless, and the smell of wet earth floating in the darkness, the radio played a Fleetwood Mac song and it accompanied feelings of contentment, joy, and patriotism that welled up within me. I also felt proud to have played a role in a grassroots effort that brought about a remarkable victory. The song turned my thoughts to a time of innocence when I believed in the version of American Government and Civics they taught us in high school-when I held faith in "we the people" and democracy, when I thought voting went hand-in-hand with hope.
The song ended and I turned the radio off. I wanted to savor that soul satisfying feeling of goodness before it faded into night. But to the contrary, and quite unexpectedly, the feeling intensified as video clip memories played across my mind - Laura crying as she mouthed the words, "I'm happy." Dennis, a disabled Vietnam vet who had been the target of radio attack ads, hugging his wife, Carlotta, one of the new Commissioners. The abandon to pure, wild delight when the television announced election results.
And I realized that my sense of idealism, while tattered and bruised, had finally been rewarded. The potential for progressive democracy that I had believed resided in America... it actually existed. True, three decades had passed before I saw it, but I watched it occur last night. The opposition out-spent us by at least four to one. They were backed by the development industry, bottom-line realtors, and the money worshippers who rake in untold profits from unplanned and rampant growth.
Nevertheless, a rag-tag coalition of dedicated citizens pulled off a stunning victory. Thirty years ago, in an America far, far way, "Star Wars" premiered in theaters across the country. Last night, I saw an earthbound rebel alliance defy overwhelming odds and win once again. In another half hour or so, I'll be asleep. But I don't need anyone to wish me sweet dreams - I'm having them right now.
Rep sells out to real estate industry
Rep. Bob Lake (R-Ravalli) owes Montana taxpayers $80,000.00. This is what it cost taxpayers for two extra days of the special session because Rep. Lake stonewalled tax policies that were disagreeable to the Montana Board of Realtors (he presented 5 pages of their objections). As Chairman of the House Taxation Committee, he used his position to promote the ideology of a special interest group, held up the session and killed common sense tax policy.
What did Rep. Bob Lake and the Board of Realtors object to? For one, that people who live out-of-state, but own property in Montana, should have to pay capital gains tax to Montana when they sell property.
Montana residents: When you sell property, you pay capital gains taxes to the state. Why should someone who lives out-of-state get a break that you don't?
Ninety-eight percent of Montana residents pay their taxes. Only 64% of out-of-state residents pay the taxes due to this state. Rep. Lake claims it's unfair to make rich out-of-state folks pay up! Apparently, collection of $20 million in taxes due the state isn't "fair." Personally, I'm tired of footing the bill for folks that don't pay their fair share.
Why would Rep. Bob Lake allow himself to be led around by a special interest group? Because he's a licensed Realtor and member of the special interest group.
If Rep. Lake were an honorable, trustworthy representative, he would declare a conflict of interest in real estate taxation policy discussions and excuse himself. However, Rep. Lake showed us that the only constituents that he really cares about are those that line his pockets with campaign contributions and that make his chosen profession more money.
Call Rep. Lake and tell him we want our $80,000.00 back.
Brucellosis and sand dabber crabs
We're all hopeful today that Montana cattle producers have dodged a bullet and that we will maintain our brucellosis-free status. This will be the case unless, or until, a second brucellosis outbreak is discovered over the next two years. What is clear from this recent experience with the outbreak in the Bridger herd is that Montana needs a fresh, new, comprehensive approach to preventing infection of our cow herd with the Brucella abortus bacteria. Governor Schweitzer two years ago warned the industry that our brucellosis-free status was in jeopardy. How prophetic his comments have proven to be.
We all acknowledge that the transmission of brucellosis between wildlife and domestic cattle is a constant threat. Likewise, we all are aware that Yellowstone Park harbors a reservoir of this disease and over the last several decades APHIS and the Park Service have refused to accept their responsibility to manage and eradicate the disease. Meanwhile, bison numbers have expanded, and the disease has proliferated from bison to other wildlife, including elk and moose. Instead, the Department of the Interior, USDA, and others steadfastly adhere to current plans and agreements despite their failure to protect Wyoming's and Idaho's brucellosis-free status. Do we need a 100% failure rate before recognizing that the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) is flawed? Governor Schweitzer at the recent emergency meeting of the Board of Livestock noted that the focus should not be on following a flawed document, but rather on protecting our cow herd and managing brucellosis.
The Association of Western States Veterinarians one year ago released a report pointing out that Montana was in imminent danger of having brucellosis in our cow herds and suggested a new approach. Montana Cattlemen's Association (MCA) realized the danger and joined with Governor Schweitzer in advocating for a new, comprehensive approach. Among other things, MCA passed policy adopting the recommendations of our Western State Veterinarians and called for a greater spatial and temporal separation of cattle and bison. It was clear then as it is now that to jeopardize the brucellosis-free status of Montana's 2.5 million cattle so 500 cows can summer in close proximity to the Park is not rational from a business standpoint.
But when a small "buffer zone" near the Park was suggested to better test and manage cattle, some objected, wanting to stay aligned with the IBMP. Some cattle industry leaders objected to the proposal despite several assurances: that bison would not be allowed to leave the current bison management zone 2; that increased hunting would be utilized to achieve that objective; and that alternate pasture would be found to relocate affected cattle at no additional cost to producers. Horses, mules, goats, and even steers and spayed heifers could still utilize the grass within the buffer zone. If two affected herds were found within this buffer zone, producers within it would lose class free status and testing would be required. Cattle outside the zone would not be affected and the state as a whole would maintain its brucellosis free status. This plan would require APHIS approval.
Changes in our approach to brucellosis management are needed and obvious. Governor Schweitzer was instrumental in gaining an agreement recently with the Department of the Interior to allow bison to be hauled from West Yellowstone back into the Park to Gardiner. Slaughter of newborn bison calves was averted, and a practical solution was achieved. Again, the approach was to solve a problem and not blindly adhere to old plans and policies.
I have found that grassroots cattle producers are quite willing to change when the status quo is failing. What is interesting is that certain leadership among various cattle organizations has difficulty adapting to change. In this case, those who participated in writing the flawed IBMP are resistant to changing as circumstances change. They want to adhere to the IBMP like sand dabber crabs clinging to a northbound whale. For the rest of us, we want practical, workable solutions. We have a Board of Livestock, a new Executive Director of the Board of Livestock, and a Governor who all recognize a new approach is necessary. I urge producers to join with them and Montana Cattlemen's Association to put together a new plan that will provide real protection for our brucellosis-free status.
Dennis McDonald, MCA Past President
We have a problem and we need help. This is the problem.
On the evening of June 14th a pickup pulling a camper trailer up Willow Creek Road, Corvallis passed our house. We did not think much about it because a lot of campers go up in the mountains on weekends. June 15, Friday morning, my son, Bain Robinson, went up to the east end of our property to do some mowing. He discovered the camper trailer abandoned in a clearing on our property, about fifty feet from a private property sign. The door was open, the windows were open and all that was inside were some mattresses.
I called the sheriff and shortly thereafter Deputy Jeff Fowler drove past the house and went up to investigate. On his way out he stopped to visit. The trailer hasn't been registered since 2003 and the last registrant was someone that the sheriff has a warrant for, but they are not able to find him. Deputy Fowler didn't think the trailer was abandoned. He thought it was for a beer bust and they would be back. I agreed to check it to see if they came back. I checked regularly the entire weekend. No one came back.
Deputy Fowler told me if they didn't come back and it was abandoned I should call the county sanitarian and they would haul it away as an abandoned vehicle. On June 18, I called the sanitarian's office. I dialed in to the county's automatic connection system and was given the choice of several numbers to punch. I punched number four, the one that dealt with junk vehicles. I was asked to record a message. I recorded a message and left my phone number. I never received a call back.
June 19, I called the sanitarian's office and to my surprise I was connected to a real person. I explained my problem and the response from the woman appeared to me to be very rude. They wouldn't handle anything without a motor in it and I was left hanging.
On June 21, I called Commissioner Carlotta Grandstaff and and left a message explaining my plight. Commissioner Grandstaff returned my call and said she would see what she could do. She called back the next day and told us the county didn't haul trailers but she gave us the number of Pacific Recycling in Missoula who might help.
My wife, Dorothy, called the Pacific Recycling number and they said they didn't think they would be interested. The man was very nice and said he would talk to his boss and see if they could do something. Dorothy asked him how one handled the problem of having a trailer dumped on them. His suggestion was that most people haul it to an unsuspecting neighbor and dump it. We do not intend to do that.
Pacific Recycling called back on June 22. They would come and look at the trailer next week and see how much it might cost us for them to haul it away. We will pay whatever the cost to have it removed from our property.
Dumping is a real problem. In the past month I have encountered three people attempting to dump trash on our property. Two young men had a truck about half unloaded with debris from some remodeling site, broken windows in frames and that sort of junk. After I spoke to them and explained they were dumping on private property I recommended they load it all up. They did. As they started to leave I told them if they headed up the mountain I was going to call the Forest Service. They headed back to town at a rapid rate.
I encountered another one as he was backing up to a pile of logging scraps preparing to dump his load of yard and tree debris. When I asked him if he intended to dump he swore he was only turning around. He left and headed up the mountain but when he came out he still had the load on.
I have been on the back roads in Southern California and seen the trash that has been dumped destroying a beautiful area. In the forty years we have lived on this ranch we have been diligent in deterring dumpers. With the increase in population the problem has become more severe.
A crime was committed when the dumper left the trailer on our property. I reported it to law enforcement and they made some effort. The county would make no further effort and the problem of handling a severe case of major dumping has fallen back on the individual county taxpayer. The county is really doing nothing or very little to resolve the dumping problem.
We have worked hard to maintain our mountain property and have never failed to pay our taxes. I think that in between meetings to solve the unending problem of zoning, the county should give a serious look at resolving the dumping problem.
If you have any suggestions for a solution send them in to the county and maybe they will take some action to help the taxpaying citizens avoid being criminalized by illegal dumpers. If they don't, the Last Best Place will soon be the Last Trash Place.
John W. Robinson
Thanks from basketball camp
Once again our local businesses came through and showed their support for the young people of our community.
The 23rd Bitterroot Basketball Camp, sponsored by the Stevensville Booster Club, was a great success. There were 160 kids, grades 2-9, that attended the camp the second week of June.
Thanks to the camp staff that consisted of former and present Stevensville High School basketball players.
I would like to thank Scott Padgett, a free agent NBA player, for taking time from his summer vacation to visit with the kids at camp. Scott played for the University of Kentucky on two NCAA Championship teams, and has played for the Utah Jazz, New Jersey Nets, and the Houston Rockets. His visit was the highlight of the camp!
The biggest thanks goes to the following businesses who provided scholarships for students to attend the camp: Farmers State Bank, Stevensville Hardware, Stevensville Building Center, Kodiak Jax, Valley Drug & Variety, Harper's Bitterroot Valley Les Schwab Tire Center, Western States Insurance, Active Care Family Chiropractic, Super 1 Foods, Subway, Bushco Construction, Rocky Mountain Bank, Bitterroot Disposal, Ace Home & Ranch, Kutting Edge, Fireside Sandwich & Pizza Shop, Bitterroot Community Market, Stevi Cafe, M.C. Brushia Builders, Sis's Salon, Cruzn' Lawn Service.
Thanks again to everyone for making this year's Bitterroot Basketball Camp fun for all involved.
Terry Rosin, Director
Thanks from outgoing Commander
I wish to thank everyone in the community for their support of the American Legion Fort Owen Post #94 programs while I have been Commander. Please continue to show that same support to our new Commander, Russell Vogel.
Jerry Esmay, Past Commander
Zoning Board of Adjustment off to poor start
The Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) last night (6/25) started the demise of the peoples vote on the 1 for 2 initiative the voters approved in November 2006. The Staff Report at the public hearing recommended 4 negatives and 5 positives on the criteria for approval of the Brooks variance request. The ZBA members overturned the 4 negatives to positives, thereby leaving the door open to overturn the vote of the people. It only takes one negative criteria for denial but the ZBA could not find one out of the nine. Its all about money.
Money cannot be used to claim a hardship to overturn the interim zoning regulations that the people adopted by their vote. Under our state law MCA 76-2-223, the powers of the ZBA require that they hear and decide appeals when it is alleged there is an error in any order, requirement, decision or determination made by an administration official in the enforcement of this part or any resolution adopted thereto.
It is unbelievable that the former commissioners did not appoint a zoning administrator when they formed the ZBA. The ZBAs authority to hear a variance is based upon a decision by the zoning administrator but this could not be done as we have no zoning administrator. Therefore the ZBA did not have the authority to hear this variance request. The ZBA is the only appointed board that can be sued in accordance with the Supreme Court opinion in 1975. Is this the next step?
Re: Disappearing wildlife
The birds in our yard totally disappeared when the intense, widespread spraying of pesticides began in 1999 after the first case of the West Nile Virus was discovered in New York. About three years after this particularly intense period of pesticide spraying, I started to see an occasional bird in our yard. This summer, after eight long years, I am now finally seeing a more normal number of birds around our home.
Prior to 1999, we had so many blue jays that I was beginning to consider them a nuisance. We had black-capped chickadees in our evergreens, nests of robins and cardinals, as well as bees and butterflies, but they all disappeared -- our yard felt absolutely sterile.
The June 15, 2007 edition of the "St. Paul Pioneer Press" reports Audubon Society calls for quick action after finding stunning declines in 16 once-common species over the past 40 years. Our birds have been disappearing for a long time. Yes, loss of habitat is a problem, but I believe our use of pesticides is an even bigger problem. According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pesticides, pesticide use has increased 50-fold since 1950. The slow decline in our bird population parallels our increased use of pesticides.
National news recently reported honeybees are disappearing, which is a direct threat to our food supply. I believe our prolific use of pesticides, and other chemicals we pour on our lawns and golf courses is the major cause of our disappearing wildlife. The more we use poisons in our environment, the more wildlife disappears. The black-capped chickadee has not returned to our yard yet, but I have hope that it will return again some day. For further research see: www.mercola.com/2002/aug/31/west_nile.htm. You will have to register, but the newsletter is free.
Please use natural, non-toxic means to control pesky bugs and weeds.
Response to Erickson
This letter is in response to the one Mr. Erickson had published the other day. First, as a liberal Republican like Sheriff Hoffman, I too was disgusted with the Republican Committee. That they would stoop that low to resort to those last minute ads out of desperation! This has not been a banner year for the party in the state. But, I digress.
Mr. Erickson seems to believe that everything in this county should be either focused on pornography, "the homosexual agenda" (whatever that might be), abortion, semi-nude women at "street fights,'' or making sure that no one takes advantage of Wal-Mart. Possibly he has missed the ever increasing traffic, wells drying up and farms and ranches being turned into small cities. The election was about growth. Because that is what does matter to at least the 32% of us who did take the time to voice their wishes! And that growth as we who voted saw it is becoming a problem that, for some reason, the commissioners weren't doing anything about other than carrying on business as usual.
As for the abortion issue, I don't believe that one ever comes up before the commissioners unless he meant the aborting of the growth initiative drafted by the citizens of the county working together. As for the semi-nude women and pornography, that seems to be something that Mr. Erickson seems more well versed in than the majority of us. I for one didn't know that we had that going on at the fairgrounds. Also, I'm not quite sure how the commissioners figure into the dealing with the "homosexual agenda" either. And if someone would be so kind to enlighten me on what this agenda is and how it has anything to do with planning or the county in general!
I myself am more concerned with what seems to be an increase in child predators, partner and family member abuse and theft. And I believe that these increases are due to the growth in the valley. Growth effects our quality of life and the values we have as a community. This, Mr. Erickson, is what the election was about, not gun control or CEO. A good quality of life promotes both family values and a strong sense of community.<
News from Clothes Closet
Summer is well underway and we are really busy at the Clothes Closet. Thank you so much, Bitterroot community, for all your support! A few things to remind you of, we have earlier hours on Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. So after you stop by the Market, come on by to see what new items we have. Our Wednesday hours are the same, 1 to 4 p.m. We are asking to have donations left only during open hours. You may have noticed our new signs from Meyers Signs. Thanks to them for their generous contribution.
We are in need of summer clothes and summer shoes of all sizes. We have a lot of requests for camping gear and swimsuits, so if you have any you can pass on, it is needed. We are really having a storage issue for all the wonderful winter clothes we have been receiving, so if you can hold on to any you would like to donate, until fall, it would be greatly appreciated.
We are also in need of a hand truck. We often get heavier items that are hard to move by hand. If anyone has an extra hand truck they would like to donate, our volunteers would be grateful.
We are also having a need for volunteers. I would like to challenge everyone to volunteer for a day this year (one day). I have some extremely committed volunteers who work really hard and keep things running for all of us. Let's try to lighten their load and lend a hand. If there is a Wednesday or a Saturday you could help for a few hours please call me at 529-0015. We need help with sorting and putting things out and also in just folding and straightening. We have fun and it really is exciting to see how many ways people benefit from our facility. As always, I can give you a tax receipt for your time or items donated.
A few statistics for the last year I have been on board... We have served over 6,000 people and have provided well over 14,000 plastic bags of items to those customers. We have provided clothing for church clothes closets, truckloads of clothing to be distributed in other parts of the world, and we have been able to connect people with furniture, appliances and bicycles with our community board. So, the mission to serve those who need is still working well and thankfully with a little less garbage coming in! We really appreciate the decrease we have had in non-useable items. Thank you for your support.
In respect to our neighbors, I would like to ask everyone to please try and park only in designated parking areas. Our neighbors are very patient and tolerant of our facility, but with an increase in traffic to our site they have had too many people parking in the wrong areas. So, please use the street or the parking lots when you visit. The side areas of the alley are no longer available.
Sara Schardt, Director
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