Saturday, August 30, 2008

Grant County PUD

In today's paper, Grant County PUD explained that the reason they did not sign on with SME was not because of the "merits of the project", but because SME needed a decision within a few months, there was not enough time to "research the matter".

Whatever the reason, it's the right decision. At least they didn't turn a deaf ear to reports and testimony that this project isn't the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Perhaps Tim Gregori is learning that not all entities are going to allow themselves to be as easily duped as the City of Great Falls.

Today's article also contained comments made by CCE chairman, Richard Liebert, with regard to the accusation from Tim Gregori that CCE sent "inaccurate" information to Grant County. According to Mr. Liebert though, the article did not reference his reflections:

FYI fellow citizens....Rich Ecke didn't print my reflections, but maybe next story...

We've strived to get information from SME of course, but NOTHING is allowed so we must use open source information, which is pretty 'darn close' and the FACTS speak for themselves regarding litigation, exploding costs, and all the other challenges... RDL

The August 25 PUD meeting minutes, which should include the decision to not move forward with SME, are not yet online, but I will post a link to them when they become available.

Friday, August 29, 2008

"It's Immaterial"

Those are the words from Tim Gregori when he heard that Grant County [Washington] Public Utility District said no to purchasing power from SME.

According to the article in today's Tribune, Grant County PUD notified SME in late June that they were not interested. Gregori claimed "this is the first I heard of it. We never really had a formal relationship with Grant County PUD. At this point, it's immaterial."

At the June 16 Grant County PUD regular meeting, representatives from SME presented information on the Highwood project. This article was posted June 20 announcing the idea and by the time Grant County PUD met on June 30, opposition seems to have been running high.

Even though Gregori claims this is "immaterial", he must of thought it important enough, since he took a swat at CCE, criticizing them for sending "inaccurate" information about the plant to central Washington-area residents.

I really don't think that Grant County PUD relied only on information given from a non-profit organization, not in favor of the coal plant, to make their decision.

It's called due diligence. Too bad the City of Great Falls didn't do it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Urban Or Rural?

Remember Bob Eubanks and the Newlywed Game?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Citizen's Academy Needs More Volunteers

Do you want to learn more about how the Great Falls Police Department operates? If so, this is your chance.

This request for volunteers comes from Patty Cadwell, the Community Capacity Development Coordinator:
Hi All:

I'm writing to ask your immediate help. The Citizens' Academy only has 6 northside residents signed up and we need 8 or so more. Please pass the word along to anyone living in the north side Weed and Seed site. The Academy is free and offers all sorts of great information on the inner workings of our PD. Anyone interested can sign up on the City's website: or they can call me at 455-8496. The deadline for registration is this Friday, August 29.

Thanks, in advance, for any help you can give.

Patty Cadwell
Community Capacity Development Coordinator
City of Great Falls

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rezoning Of 38th Street And River Drive North

Neighborhood Council 4 will be hearing input from a variety of sources on Thursday night, 8/28, in order to determine what their recommendation will be to the City Commission with regard to this proposed ordinance.

A public hearing for this rezoning recommendation is scheduled for September 2.

The property was originally purchased by the city from Montana Power Company and was used as a compost yard.

As was mentioned here, Council 4 was never advised that the zoning commission was going to take action on this property. As a result, they were not given the opportunity to issue a recommendation to that board before a vote was taken. The zoning commission voted 4-2 in favor of rezoning to commercial.

According to Title 2 Chapter 50 of the City Code:

The councils shall act in an advisory capacity to the City Commission, the City Manager and to other City advisory bodies. They may contribute information, opinions, advice, suggestions and recommendations to the City Commission, City Manager and other City advisory bodies on all governmental affairs and services having an effect on the area the neighborhood council represents. Topics and issues for council involvement may include, but are not limited to the following:

1. public finance;
2. public works;
3. public safety;
4. social services;
5. transportation;
6. economic development;
7. planning and zoning;
8. public health and sanitation;
9. parks and recreation;
10. environmental issues.

All Neighborhood Council meetings are open to the public and public comment is encouraged. If you have questions or concerns, please contact the chair of Council 4, Sandra Guynn at

Neighborhood Councils - Week of August 25, 2008

Only NC#4 is scheduled to meet this week:

When: Thursday, August 28 at 6:30pm
Where: Heritage Baptist Church at 900 52nd Street North (just west of the soccer park)

Rezoning of 38th Street and River Drive North - Speakers: Ben Rangel, City Planning director, Brett Doney, President of GFDA who requested the rezoning and Stuart Lewin, Missouri River Citizens

GF Bicycle Club
City Manager Greg Doyon
Problem properties update
Neighborhood concerns

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Animal Shelter Committee Update

At last night's City Commission meeting, Commissioner Jolley indicated that the Animal Shelter Committee resolution will be amended or rescinded due to lack of interest.

No comment was made about how the resolution would be amended, if that were to be the will of the commission.

Sounds like we might be back to square one on this issue.

Stipulation For Records Access Update

At last night's City Commission meeting, the Commission voted 5-0 to ratify the Stipulation for Records Access; however, there were two changes made before the vote was taken.

Originally, the Stipulation read: "After extended negotiation, the attorneys for MEIC, SME and the City have agreed upon and executed a Stipulation for SME's review of such records to identify trade secrets to be withheld and the release of the remainder of the records to the public on or before August 22, 2008...".

According to City Attorney Dave Gliko, SME notified everyone yesterday that they could not meet the August 22 deadline and that final disclosure would be made by August 27. According to Mr. Gliko, MEIC is in agreement with this.

Also, according to item 4 of the Stipulation, "...the City will create a log of all the documents it believes are subject to claims of trade secret, privilege and/or confidentiality, including a description of each document..."

According to Mr. Gliko, this log will be made available on September 16.

Mary Jaraczseski, counsel for SME, indicated that the September 16 date was assigned because Mr. Gliko will be on vacation and will not be back in his office until that date. She also reminded everyone that the public has been able to continue to look at documents.

In answer to a question posed by Commissioner Jolley, we learned from Mr. Gliko that Coleen Balzarini has been doing the "independent" review of the documents that SME claims should be closed to the public because of trade secrets or other confidential information. He said she was the only one knowledgeable enough to do this.

How can this be called an independent review?

As far as I can remember, Coleen Balzarini never claimed to have had public power knowledge before the city got involved with SME. Is it too far a stretch to assume that what knowledge she has about this has primarily come from SME?

Mr. Gliko did indicate that the City Commissioners could get involved with the review process, but that it would be cumbersome. He did not elaborate.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Not sure about your candidate's stance on the issues or you want to find out which candidate thinks the same way you do on an issue? Then you might want to check out Glassbooth.

You can read about your candidate's position on the issues or take a quiz and select the issues that matter to you. You'll answer questions about those issues and then be matched with a candidate.

Good luck!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Neighborhood Councils - Week of August 18, 2008

Only NC#5 is meeting this week:

When: Monday, August 18 at 7:00pm
Where: Great Falls Clinic Specialty Center conference room, 3000 15th Avenue South

Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns
Old business

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Interesting Agenda Addition

As I was perusing the upcoming City Commission agenda meeting, I noticed an addition in wording:

PETITIONS AND COMMUNICATIONS (Public comment on any matter that is not on the agenda of the meeting and that is within the jurisdiction of the City Commission. Please keep your remarks to a maximum of 5 minutes)
[emphasis added]

The wording used to be: Please keep your remarks to a maximum of 5 minutes.

This must be in answer to the incident that happened on August 5. (At that same meeting, another citizen called the mayor on the carpet for not allowing public comment with regard to the consent agenda).

This is not good. While some may be happy that this will alleviate comments about issues outside of the city's jurisdiction, it also appears to alleviate comments about issues with regard to the city.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding part of this, but it also sounds like a citizen will not be able to address a topic that is on the agenda but which the mayor did not call for public comment. This happens quite a bit of the time, especially with the consent agenda. (See above).

Is this in violation of the Montana State Constitution, which says:

Sec. 7. No law shall be passed impairing the freedom of speech or expression. Every person shall be free to speak or publish whatever he will on any subject, being responsible for all abuse of that liberty. In all suits and prosecutions for libel or slander the truth thereof may be given in evidence; and the jury, under the direction of the court, shall determine the law and the facts.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Correction To The April Imbalance

At the August 5 City Commission meeting, the commissioners approved 4-1 the payment to SME for $880,122. Of this amount, $110,819 was for the April "additional power".

There has been a substantial correction made to the April imbalance number. According to the $5,000 report on the August 19 consent agenda, the April additional power should only have been $10,040. Quite a difference.

And speaking of power payments, Coleen Balzarini will be explaining at next Tuesday's work session meeting how the payment process to SME works.

Maybe she will also clarify the $100,779 correction to April, because the corrected amount of $10,040 is also shown on the August 19 agenda as a wire transfer correction. Since the corrected amount has been accounted for in wire transfers, what about the incorrect one?

Click below to see the updated 2008 power payment worksheet.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why I Didn't Make The Olympics

I bet the guy on the bike will think twice before he ever pushes somebody again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Round 5, Stipulation

(To refresh your memories about the judge's order to the city to release draft documents, check out Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 4)

The following release and legal document are from Anne Hedges from MEIC to CCE:

Attached please find the stipulation that will be filed with the court regarding the Montana Environmental Information Center's request to inspect all documents regarding SME that are held by the City of Great Falls. The attached stipulation is signed by only our attorney. It is our understanding that attorneys for the City and SME have signed off as well and filed this agreement with the court.

As you can see in the stipulation, the public can start to review documents again today and by next week the city must provide the public with a list of documents that SME wants withheld from public review. Once we see the log of documents that are being withheld we will determine whether the city is acting legally or whether it is illegally withholding public documents. If we believe that they are still not letting the public inspect documents that it has a right to review we can return to court requesting that those documents be released to the public.

Please call if you have any questions.

Thanks, Anne

What Is A Governing Body?

At last Tuesday night's (8/05) City Commission meeting, Commissioner Jolley questioned city attorney, Dave Gliko, about whom should have reviewed the affidavits that SME filed with regard to "trade secret" documents.

In answer to Commissioner Jolley's question, he indicated that city staff had reviewed the affidavits and had referenced the case, Great Falls Tribune v. PSC.

In Mr. Gliko's brief, (see below) he states, "We submit the City is a governmental body subject to the..."

It's Commissioner Jolley's contention, based upon Montana Code Annotated, that a governing body "means a city commission, town council, county commission, or the commissioners of a municipal or regional airport authority".

She's wondering why the commissioners were not involved in this process since Montana Code Annotated says nothing about a city's staff being the governing body.

Click below to see the brief Dave Gliko filed in "Opposition To Motion To Enforce".

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sad Commentary

I received the following e-mail from a friend whom I have absolutely no reason to doubt:
"This weekend, my sister was traveling back to Great Falls from Helena, and had her son and her son's friend with her (two 13-year-old boys). She was pulled over for speeding by a highway patrol officer. But instead of following procedure, the officer suggested that if she paid him $40 on the spot, that he would not write a ticket that would go against her record. And so she did. You can imagine that the officer in question probably pocketed the $40 "tip" and forgot that she ever existed.

I happen to know that $40 is the charge for an 'officially issued' highway speeding ticket, because another friend of mine was stating that she, as well, got pulled over for doing 90 mph, and so she got the ticket, and that's what she paid".
And no folks, I didn't just fall off the turnip truck. I do realize this kind of thing does goes on and I'm not so naive to think that Montana is immune to this kind of crap, but it still is disheartening to hear about it happening here. (We tout ourselves as the "Last Best Place", don't we)?

Has anybody else had this experience with the Montana State Highway Patrol?

Ed's Charts And Graphs, #2

Ed McKnight has another spreadsheet and notes for your perusal.

FYI: CAFR = City of Great Falls Comprehensive Annual Financial Report

As before, if you have any questions, please post them here and he will respond.

Neighborhood Councils - Week of August 11, 2008

Three NCs are scheduled to meet this week:

When: Monday, August 11 at 7:00pm
Where: Community Rec Center at 801 2nd Avenue North

Click here to see their entire agenda.
When: Wednesday, August 13 at 7:00pm
Where: Westgate Mall conference room

Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, August 14 at 7:00pm
Where: Camp Fire Office at 1925 2nd Avenue South

Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns
Possible appointment of a new member

If you are interested in serving, you must be a registered voter and reside within Council 9's boundaries. For more info., contact NC coordinator, Patty Cadwell, at 455-8496.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Freedom Of Speech. Not Here

At last Tuesday's City Commission meeting, a frequent critic of city government as well as a host of other things, breached a topic that the mayor ruled as out of order. (The question this person posed to the commissioners had nothing to do with the current issues facing the city).

When this citizen didn't back down, the mayor asked that he be removed. He was, without incident, although he did holler out "Sieg Heil" as he was escorted out of the room.

After the commotion died down, Commissioner Jolley indicated that the public has the constitutional right to say whatever they want during the five minute public comment time.

Needless to say, the others "respectfully" disagreed. Commissioner Beecher led the charge by stating that it is his feeling that the person in charge of the meeting has the right to dictate the direction the meeting will take, or words to that effect. The others concurred.

He added that he had watched Spokane's City Commission meeting and that their public comment time is very restricted.

Since our meetings occur in the state of Montana and not Washington, let's take a look at what the Montana State Constitution says about this:

Section 7. Freedom of speech, expression, and press. No law shall be passed impairing the freedom of speech or expression. Every person shall be free to speak or publish whatever he will on any subject, being responsible for all abuse of that liberty. In all suits and prosecutions for libel or slander the truth thereof may be given in evidence; and the jury, under the direction of the court, shall determine the law and the facts.

They just don't get it, nor do they want to.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Animal Shelter Committee

Thanks to RL for jogging our memories, or at least mine.

He wrote a note to Tribune reporter Richard Ecke wondering about what is going on with the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee.

On June 17, 2008, the City Commission voted 5-0 to appoint this committee, but to date, nobody has been seated. According to the resolution, 2 members are to be chosen based upon the recommendation of the Animal Foundation; 2 members from the recommendation of the Humane Society of Cascade County and 3 members from sitting Neighborhood Council members.

On June 6, Commissioner Bronson submitted proposed amendments to the resolution and in part said:

"...I anticipate that whatever arrangements we might work out with the Foundation will be worked out or will be close to being worked out by the time the Committee membership is chosen. They can then start on matters pertaining to future operations of the facility. My concern is that if we wait too long to get the Committee up and running, we may lose some time in getting the entire animal control/enforcement/shelter operations issues resolved".
[emphasis added]

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Neighborhood Council #7 - August Agenda


Please find attached the agenda for Neighborhood Council 7 for our meeting on this coming Monday, August 11.

Aaron Weissman, Chairman
Neighborhood Council 7
Representing the Lower North and South Sides of Historic Great Falls
Live. Right. Here.

Monday, August 11, 2008, Community Rec Center, 801 2nd Ave. North at 7:00 p.m.

Please note: This agenda format allows citizens to speak on each issue prior to Council discussion. We encourage your participation. In the interest that all parties can be heard, please limit your comments.

Approval of July minutes
Status of Gibson Park lighting project
Discussion of Problem Properties
Weed and Seed project
Downtown Grocery Store
Harvest Thunder Triathlon
Disorderly Premises Ordinance status
Other Old Business

Montana PBS; Great Falls Transmitter – Lisa Titus
Upcoming Council of Councils presentation on public safety budgets
Neighborhood Concerns

Weed and Seed
Downtown Task Force
Police Advisory Board
Other Reports

Next meeting September 8, 2008—Longfellow Elementary Library

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ed's Charts And Graphs

For quite some time, Ed McKnight has been tracking the cost of power between what Northwestern Energy charges and SME. It's my understanding he sent this information to the City Manager who forwarded it to the Commissioners.

If you have any questions, you're welcome to post them here and Ed will answer them.

I address two issues:

1. The wholesale cost of power from SME. Colleen constantly claims the cost is the generation contract price of $46.44 per MWh averaged from the three blocks. I received a spreadsheet from the city for all payments to SME by month for Generation, Transmission, Imbalances and administration. In other words the real cost of power. The spreadsheet also contains the monthly totals of KWh's so it's simply a matter of dividing the two.

I then took NWE's GS-1 (comercial General Service) non-demand, and residential rates, included all charges plus transmission because SME includes transmission, to set an upper and lower bounds of how the costs would compare.

I used $1,000,000 a year as an estimate because I know that is close enough to get an idea for the amounts of money involved for the city. These are the un-accounted for losses.

2. Selling at a loss. To distinguish from un-accounted losses I made a graph showing the real wholesale cost vs various ECP customer contract prices to show the accounted for losses on the sheet titled customer price accounted losses.

38th Street North Rezoning

According to this scanned article from the Tribune (the online version seems to be no longer available), the zoning board voted 4-2 to recommend a zoning change to the city property located at 38th Street North and River Drive.

At last night's City Commission meeting, a few folks spoke against the rezoning and the chair of Neighborhood Council 4 indicated that her council had never received word about the recommendation. In fact, the first time she heard about it was from the July 23 Tribune article.

This may not seem like a big deal to some, but it is. Neighborhood Councils are always to be advised when zoning changes are being recommended. In almost all cases, this one being an exception for some reason, the zoning board will ask what the recommendation is from the appropriate Neighborhood Council before they vote.

NC#4 will have this on their August agenda, and based upon input from the public, the City planning department and Brett Doney, they will offer a recommendation at the September 2 public hearing.

If you have questions or concerns, you're invited to contact the chair of NC#4, Sandra Guynn, at

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Harvest Thunder Needs Help


Here is a little bit more info. concerning the help needed from 6:00am to 2:30pm:

They need 10 to 20 people to help set up and take down, hand out water, man the swimming pool, transition area, run course, bicycle course, the kids run and bicycle course and of course the finish line.

You can work anytime during the day. Any volunteers who work the race will be provided with food, refreshments, t-shirts and other goodies.


The Harvest Thunder Triathlon needs 5-10 volunteers to man stations directing athletes and giving out water.

If you are not signed up to compete (although there is still time to register), can you volunteer to help?

Volunteers should call Greg Hall at Gold's Gym, 727-8888.


Clerk Of Court Problems?

In less than a month, the Clerk of Court's office has botched two pretty big items:

1. Taking a month to notify MEIC and the City of Great Falls of the lawsuit ruling that draft documents are public record:

The ruling was dated June 12, but a mixup in the Clerk of Courts office prevented the parties from being notified until this week.

2. Forgetting to tell Judge Macek that she needs to appoint another judge to hear the Highwood Rezoning suit:

The would-be neighbors of the power plant and the Helena-based Montana Environmental Information Center, who brought the lawsuit against the county, filed a motion to substitute District Judge Laurie McKinnon on June 16 but Macek said the Clerk of Court's office didn't notify her.

I don't know anything about the logistics of this office, but it seems kind of interesting that both oversights are related to the coal plant.

Makes one wonder what else has been overlooked.

Monday, August 4, 2008

What's Going On?

At Tuesday night's (8/05) City Commission meeting, the Commissioners will vote to approve the consent agenda, which includes payments made in excess of $5,000.

There are two payments to SME for power:

June power expense - $769,303
April "additional power" - $110,819

Total: $880,122

In the past, the invoices for additional power (used to be called "imbalance") have ranged between $30,000 to $60,000. Now all of a sudden, the April imbalance is almost 2 to 3 times more than what we have seen so far:

(January's initial power expense was never reported on the $5,000 report)

Thanks to Ed McKnight for pointing out Coleen Balzarini's comments at the 7/15 meeting:

"Mr. McKnight inquired how the City came up with the figure $9.5 million in the budget for ECP. Ms. Balzarini responded that she assumed that was the expenditure line. She believes that the cost of energy is $730,000 per month times 12 months. Mr. McKnight stated that every year there is a prediction of how much money will be spent on power and believes this is severely under-budgeted".
I don't mean to be picky, but her math doesn't work - $730,000 x 12 = $8,760,000; only about $1,000,000 short of what was budgeted.

If the fiscal services director, who lives and breathes this power business, thinks the monthly cost of energy is $730,000, why was April's total bill $820,348?

Harvest Thunder Triathlon

Friends and Neighborhood Council Volunteers;

There is still time to register for the Harvest Thunder Triathlon on Sunday, August 10. While some earlier reports may have indicated that you had to register by last week, that deadline has been extended up through the day before the race.

Last year, the triathlon earned the city a profit of over $4 thousand. This year, it has been announced that profit from the event will be given to the Park and Rec foundation, to be earmarked toward the Gibson Park lighting project.

By registering for the event, you do your physical fitness a favor and help make our park lighting project a reality. You can compete individually or as a team. Shorter youth events are also available.

To register for the race, please visit

You'll be glad you did!

Aaron Weissman,
Representing the Lower North and South Sides of Historic Great Falls
Live. Right. Here.
Work. Right. Here.
Play. Right. Here

City Commission Work Session Meeting

Tomorrow's work session meeting begins at 4:00pm rather than 5:30pm as is normally the case.

On the agenda:

1. Legislative issues
2. An Econocmic Development Update by Brett Doney
3. Water Rights Update by Water Rights Solutions.

Neighborhood Councils - Week of August 4, 2008

No meetings are scheduled this week.

Council 9 is looking for a new member to fill a vacancy. You must be a resident of that neighborhood and a registered voter to qualify.

Friday, August 1, 2008

ECP IS In Violation Of City Code

Well, what do you know. A city staff member has gone on record as indicating that ECP has been in violation of City Code. According to the city attorney, Dave Gliko:

"...So, to operate at a deficit is a violation of City Code. Financing difficulties are also a result.

Another problem is that 69-7-201 M.C.A., requires a municipality operating a utility to adopt rules and regulations for the operation of the utility. ECP has never accomplished such adoption or recommendation to the City Commission for such adoption. The adoption of such rules is also a requirement of City Code, 5.20.080".
I wonder if this means Coleen Balzarini will stop rolling her eyes at City Commission meetings whenever ECP's violations are mentioned?

Sometimes It Pays To Listen

Husband is going teach his wife how to handle a gun. He tells her not to handle it beforehand, but she doesn't listen. Husband has his revenge.