Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Preserving Montana's Signature Landscapes

Due to weather, this event has been postponed until June or September.

What: Conference bringing tools to help preserve land, landscapes, landmarks, monuments and historic trails

When: April 30-May 1

: Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

: $25 registration includes admission for Thursday keynote, Friday lunch and reception. $20 for MPA members. Payment will be accepted on site.

See here for the agenda

To register, call 406-457-2822.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine Flu Fact Sheet

Here is a Swine Flu fact sheet released by the City-County Health Dept.

Bills That Have Become Law

Here is a look at the legislative bills that have become laws. Effective as of April 21, 2009:

A click on the bill number will lead to bill details, including the effective date.

Special Commission Meeting

When: Wednesday, April 29 at 3:15pm
Where: Commission Chambers

The Director of Public Works will provide a presentation to the Commission for consideration of acceptance of funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 agreement for funding of 1st Avenue North and 5th Avenue South Water Main Replacements. Action: Confirm or deny acceptance of funds. [ Agenda Report 1 ]

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 agreement for funding of Wastewater Treatment Plant Clarifier Recoating Project. Action: Confirm or deny acceptance of funds. [ Agenda Report 2 ]

Modified Air Permit

According to an article in today's Tribune and a legal ad in Saturday's paper, SME is applying for a modified air permit.

If granted, this would modify a permit they already have for a coal-fired plant.

According to Tim, even though SME is still looking at the viability of a coal-fired plant, they could not operate both.

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Get The Facts"

That was a quote in Saturday's Tribune from Coleen Balzarini. The hypocrisy of the statement would be laughable, if the situation were not so serious:

She said it is upsetting that area bloggers would post the information online without more explanation, saying they should "get the facts." "All they had to do is call and ask," she said. [emphasis added]

Ms. Balzarni is not as forthcoming as she likes to make it sound. Remember the secret box?

According to City Attorney Gliko, Coleen is the one who did the "independent" review of what documents went in and what stayed out.

If you give her a ring to "get the facts", let us know the results.

Neighborhood Councils - Week of April 27, 2009

No meetings are scheduled this week.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Northside MApril Still A Go

From Aaron Weissman:

MApril is ON, and Should be Fun!

I know that a lot of you looked outside yesterday and thought "ugh, MApril cleanup in THIS?" Count me with you.

That's why I was so thrilled when I saw this weekend's weather report. Saturday is supposed to be a high of 54 degrees and sunny, with a return to rain and wet weather on Sunday.

So, MApril Clean Up is still on! Please join us at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning in the parking lot of the Rec Center. After the clean up, there still will be a picnic at noon at Black Eagle Park.

Let's all have some fun and clean up our neighborhood! I look forward to seeing you tomorrow morning!

Energy Consultant Draft Proposal

Here is the draft proposal for an energy consultant that City Manager Doyon presented to the Commissioners.

According to Commissioner Jolley, this "seemed" to be approved, but it should be coming back to them for a formal vote at a City Commission meeting. Let's hope so.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SME's Tax Form 990

IRS Form 990 is the Non-Profit tax form that SME has to complete.

Here you can find their filings from 2004-2007 (see item 10).

Very interesting reading.

Opposition To Closing 4th Street

Aaron Weissman went on the record concerning the possible closing of 4th Street. He read this at last night's City Commission meeting:

Dear Honorable Commissioners;

I write today to discuss the proposed reconfiguration or closure of 4th Street, between the County Courthouse and the County Annex. I have given the matter some thought, and I do not believe it to be in the best interests of our community for this street to be closed.

Too many streets in the Lower North Side are already closed or configured in such a way to make smooth travel difficult. 1st and 2nd Avenues North are a one way couplet, as are 5th and 6th Streets. 3rd Street is closed between Central and 1st Avenue North. I submit to you that the portion of 4th Street that you have proposed closing or reconfiguring is necessary for entrance and egress into the residential sections of the extreme Western portion of the Lower North side.

I recognize that some accommodation needs to be reached in order to equalize the value of the land being transferred on the West side. In addition, I think it obvious that more parking needs to be made available to the County in order to satisfy its requirements. I would like to propose a potential solution.

The First Avenue North Parking Garage is near the County’s lower North side “campus.” Ample parking is available within. I suggest to you that the city should transfer ownership or very long term leases of parking spaces in that garage that equal the amount of difference in the values of property being traded. While I cannot calculate the value of a parking space, I am sure that experts in the employ of both the city and the county could agree upon a valuation.

Such a solution would leave 4th Street as-is, give the County fair value for its land swap, fill the City’s parking garage and potentially solve the County’s parking problem. I hope that you will consider this solution.

Aaron Weissman

Northside MApril Cleanup

When: Saturday, April 25 at 9:00am
Where: Great Falls Rec. Center, 801 2nd Avenue North

Join Us for Northside MApril Cleanup!

Please join us for the Northside MApril Cleanup this weekend!

We will be picking up streets in the Lower North and South sides of Great Falls this coming Saturday, April 25. We will meet at 9 a.m. at the Great Falls Rec Center, 801 2nd Avenue North to divide up streets and pick up bags/gloves.

After the cleanup, please join Neighborworks celebrating our now clean neighborhoods for a picnic at Black Eagle Park at Noon. I look forward to seeing you there!


Not Again

Well, it seems to have happened again.

At last night's City Commission meeting, at the end when the commissioners can comment, Commissioner Jolley indicated that she was not part of a "vote" that was evidently precipitated by a memo that Commissioner Bronson wrote to the ECP board.

At last night's work session meeting, it was told to me that Bronson indicated the majority of commissioners were in favor of the City transferring their portion of costs already invested in the coal plant to Gregori's gas plant idea.

Jolley went on to say that she is very concerned that monies already invested are going to be shuffled over to the new project without any public vote.

She's probably right. After all, Rosenbaum doesn't think there needs to be public scrutiny for a project that is ongoing, and as evident by their actions, the other commissioners and mayor think the same way.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Neighborhood Councils - Week of April 20, 2009

Two councils meet this week:

When: Monday, April 20 at 7:00pm
Where: GF Clinic Specialty Center's conference room

Committee reports
MApril cleanup planning
Community Weed Pull planning
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, April 23 at 6:30pm
Where: Heritage Baptist Church - 900 52nd Street North

Request for a conditional-use permit for a daycare
Good Neighbor Award presentation to the GF Prerelease Center
Community needs survey conducted by United Way
Committee Reports
Problem properties
Neighborhood concerns

Saturday, April 18, 2009

City Commission Work Session

What: City Commission Work Session
When: Tuesday, April 21, 5:15pm in the Gibson Room

1. Employee Orientation
2. SME Update – Project and Rates – Tim Gregori
3. Energy Consultant RFP Update – Greg Doyon

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Land Exchange Passed

Today, at the City Commission's special meeting to discuss the land swap with the county, the Commission voted 4-1 in favor. Commissioner Bronson dissented.

Commissioner Bronson had several questions, including how the appraisal amount of the land was decided. He feels this agreement is setting a bad precedent by agreeing to a deal that has yet to be decided.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Special City Commission Meeting

When: Wednesday, April 15 at 3:15pm
Where: City Commission chambers

City staff will provide a presentation to the Commission for consideration of approval of the Revised Land Exchange Agreement with Cascade County. (See here for the reports)

Note: Cascade County Commissioners approved the exchange today.

KFBB Series - Part 2, HGS

This is the last of a two-part series on ECP and HGS. The first part can be found here.

The city of Great Falls plays a unique role in the power industry and right now, the city’s power board Electric City Power faces a million-dollar deficit.

A key to the finical success of ECP and the city’s future role in the industry is the construction of Highwood Generating Station. Recently major changes to the plant’s design were announced that could affect the city’s investment. However, most city officials say their investment is still safe now that developers are considering burning natural gas instead of coal.

“In the long run I expect to see the city’s investment paid back. Southern Montana or SME has not abandoned plans to build a facility out there. Once a gas plant is up and operating and becomes part of their portfolio, we as an original investor in the project hope to see some returns from that,” said City Commissioner Bill Bronson.

“We’ve put in about 2.2 million dollars…a lot of those costs still have value to the project whatever it ends up being,” said ECP Executive Director Coleen Balzarini.

But City Commissioner Mary Jolley says changing from coal to gas won’t change existing problems. “It already has the same problems. How can you have a productive, cost effective gas plant if you’re already according to various pronouncements of the backers of the past plant 20-30-40 million dollars has already been spent on a coal plant? The main question is where is our 2.3 million dollars…is it down a rathole? I suggest it is,” said Mary Jolley.

According to some critics much more than that will be lost because they believe the plant will never actually be built. “The concern about the impacts from this facility on air and water led us to go digging through the city’s files and try to determine what was going on and how the city was involved in this plant,” said Anne Hedges with the Montana Environmental Information Council. “Our estimates are that they’re about six million dollars into this project and that doesn’t take into account the staff time and their travels going back and forth to billings on a regular basis,” said Hedges.

“Between 6 and 6 and a half million dollars is the amount is that the city has invested in this potentially lost as a result of the operations of Electric City Power and the investment in Highwood Generating Station,” said local CPA Larry Rezentes. City Manager Greg Doyon acknowledges millions could be lost if the project folds. “There’s no doubt that the city took a risk up front when then embarked on this and um I’m not sure if they knew at the time the extent of that risk,” he said.

Critics say the potential loss of public funds through Electric City Power and investment in Highwood is unacceptable. “The city does not have a problem with their continuing to operate Electric City Power in violation of the law. As a result the taxpayers have continued to loose money and to me that is unacceptable,” said Rezentes.

Hedges echoed that sentiment, “What could the city have done with this six million dollars that would have been better spent, would have been a better investment? We certainly told the city all along that we thought this was a poor economic decision. I think this just proves what happens when government officials feel like no one is watching and they have unfettered discretion to do what they want with tax payer funds.”

So while most city officials believe their investment is safe and critics believe the money’s gone it all hinges on if the plant will actually be completed and if ECP can somehow overcome their deficit.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Neighborhood Councils - Week of April 13, 2009

Four councils are meeting this week:

When: Monday, April 13 at 7:00pm
Where: Community Rec Center
Agenda: See here.

When: Tuesday, April 14 at 7:00pm
Where: Bethel Lutheran Church, 1009 18th Ave. S.W.

Emergency Preparedness
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Wednesday, April 15 at 7:00pm
Where: West Elementary School cafeteria

Special meeting to plan improvements and funding for West Bank Park

When: Thursday, April 16 at 6:30pm
Where: Great Falls Prerelease Women's annex

Appointment of a new member
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

"Fast-Talking Captain Leaves Sinking Behind"

Here is a whimcisal look at SME: (A letter to the editor at the Billings Gazette):

Five years ago, five rural Montana electrical co-ops, including Beartooth, became convinced their mother ship, the USS Bonneville Power Administration, was sinking.

A lifeboat appeared, captained by a rather dapper gentleman, talking really fast. "I am here to save you!" called the captain, pointing to the dog picture and charts. "This puppy's 'Highwood.' He's a big'urn all right: more'n twice what you need. But that's his beauty: we'll sell the extra power to fools not as smart as us for more'n twice what it costs. 'Highwood' won't cost a penny over $440 million: a bargain at twice the price. Sign here."

Global warming and coal's massive role in it were apparently unconsidered.

After checking with some "experts," mostly certified by the captain, everybody signed. Signed what? "Can't say: trade secrets.

"Citing a projected $990 million plant cost and no market for half the power, Highwood's prospective financier, Rural Utility Service, declined. Wall Street's 10 percent loan sharks now circled the lifeboat. Shouting, "Stay the course!" the captain cursed arithmetic, environmentalists and Henry Waxman.

YVEC jumped overboard anyway. The captain celebrated by donning a bigger hat over his first. Beartooth, shorn of capital and any marketable power contracts, raised rates 50 percent. Members squawked: the increase was cut, the interval doubled. Highwood's picture was retouched: more svelte by half, and no cigar.

Isn't it time for the lifeboat to leave? Who, besides the captain, will be aboard? Beartooth's Board? Beartooth's new manager? Brad Molnar? Scott Boggio? The rest? Not a chance: They're overboard.

Charlie Donnes
Red Lodge

KFBB Series - Part 1, ECP

Beginning last night, KFBB began a 2 part series on ECP and HGS. Here is the video and dialogue for their ECP interview aired last night:

The city of Great Falls plays a unique role in the power industry. Currently the city faces two major challenges: distributing power purchased from Southern Montana Electric through a program known as Electric City Power and its involvement in the controversial Highwood Generating Station. We begin with a closer look at Electric City Power.

It was created back in 2004 when the city entered the electricity business with the goal of bringing affordable power to its residents. However year after year, it’s fallen further and further into debt. Now five years after the program began it is more than a million dollars in the hole, which is in violation of city law.

According to city ordinance, Electric City Power must, "operate on a self-sufficient and self-sustaining basis and produce revenues at all times sufficient to pay all operating, maintenance, debt service, repair and replacement costs," but that’s something it’s never done. “It was never profitable. Not day 1, not day 2 and not today,” said City Commissioner Mary Jolley.

“Through February 2009 its still at a 1.2 million dollar deficit,” according to Coleen Balzarini, Executive Director of Electric City Power.

Taxpayers we talked to aren’t too happy about that. One man said, “If that’s the law, they should abide by it, we have to abide by our laws why shouldn’t they abide by theirs.” Another Great Falls resident suggested, “They shouldn’t be allowed to do that public ought to speak out.”

We asked City Commissioner Bill Bronson how a city program could be allowed to violate the law for so long. “We recognize that for most of the last four to five years it has been running in a deficit but that’s largely due to factor outside of our control.”

So who’s to blame?

According to Bronson the 2007 the legislature. They passed a law allowing Northwestern Energy to be the sole power provider in our area and essentially froze the Electric City Power or ECP customer base to whoever was signed up at the time. “Prior to the legislative change ECP had budgeted for much larger power supply and customer base that’s one of the primary reasons we were put into a deficit. Not because of any problems on our end but because of actions by outsiders,” Bronson said. That left the city’s power arm with excess amounts of electricity and over the years they’ve lost more and more money trying to sell it all off at competitive rates.

The newest city commissioner wants to end the program. “There are many many funds in the city of Great Falls that are used for instance the library, the sewer fund, the water fund all kinds of funds and the losses that Electric City Power is experiencing now are made up as loans from all these other funds,” said Jolley.

Still, others argue the million-dollar plus deficit can be made up. “Were looking at such things as revenue increases, the move to the blended rate to decrease our expenses,” said Bronson. “We anticipate that the deficit will disappear and the goal is to have that gone at the same time as the current long term contracts which go through 2011 at the same time that those expire so June 30th 2011 that we will have the deficit removed at that point.”

A key to the future finical success of Electric City Power is the Highwood Generating Station. The city has invested millions of dollars in the project and recently builders decided to change the power plant from a coal-fired to a natural gas facility.

But what do these changes mean for the city’s investment?

For part two of this story, tune in tomorrow (4/13) night.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Where Did $25 Million Come From?

Yesterday, in Joilet, Beartooth co-op members held a meeting to discuss their rate increases, their management and the direction of their electrical future.

According to one member's calculations, $41 million has been spent, but only $16 million can be accounted for as coming from the co-ops. Where did the rest come from? (SME and Beartooth representatives were invited to the meeting, but didn't attend).

These folks aren't able to track the spending, because just like the problems we are facing in Great Falls, the records are confidential.

As another by-product of this fiasco, homes that are for sale, which are currently being serviced by Beartooth, are not selling.

One co-op member indicated that more than one Beartooth board member might be open to the idea of selling Beartooth's interest in Highwood.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Neighborhood Council 7 - April Meeting


Please find attached and appended Neighborhood Council 7's agenda for our upcoming meeting on Monday, April 13. It has been a busy month, and there is a lot to discuss! Thank you for all you are doing to help keep our neighborhood a great place to live, work and play. Please forward this email along to anyone you think interested.

The meeting on Monday will also be the bi-monthly meeting of the Northside Neighborhood Watch. I look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, April 13, 2009
Community Rec Center, 801 2nd Ave. N
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.

Problem Properties


APPROVAL OF March Minutes

County’s proposal to close 4th Street alongside Courthouse
Public Safety Levy information
MApril Cleanup
Upcoming CTEP grant for Gibson Park Lighting
Changes/Increases to City Pool fees
Neighborhood Concerns

Traffic concerns along 5th Avenue North near CM Russell Museum
Other Old Business

Police Advisory Board
City Commission
Other Reports


Next meeting May 11, 2009— NeighborWorks Great Falls, 509 1st Avenue South

Yom HaShoah Holocaust Memorial Day

What: Yom HaShoah Holocaust Memorial Day service
When: Sunday, April 19 at 1:30pm at the YWCA

Good afternoon.

As you may be aware, during the month of April we remember Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. Yom HaShoah is the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising which began on April 12, 1943.

I write today to invite you to attend a short service commemorating the holiday at the YWCA of Great Falls, at 1:30 p.m. on April 19.

The service is being organized by congregation Aitz Chaim, the Great Falls Hebrew Association. The service will be led by Student Rabbi Brian Immerman.

If your schedule allows your attendance, I look forward to seeing you on Sunday. Please forward this along to anyone you think may be interested in attending.

Aaron Weissman
Congregation Aitz Chaim

Friday, April 10, 2009

Editorial Board Weighs In

In today's paper, the Tribune's editorial board is taking the county to task concerning the latest snafu regarding a proposed land exchange.

According to a comment County Commissioner Joe Briggs made here: "Aaron (Weissman) is correct that the details are sketchy as this proposal was just floated in recent days as a way for the city to acquire the land they need without having to compensate the county for the differences in the value of the land". [emphasis added].

This development has been in the works for quite some time. Wouldn't you think this would have been a detail worked out in the beginning?

Why do I have a feeling there is more to this story than we are hearing?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What Next?

Now we learn that the land exchange between the county and city has hit a snag.

For the time being, I am going to give the City Commissioners the benefit of the doubt that they didn't have all of the details concerning this debacle.

If this is the case, why didn't they?

I attended the City Commission work session and not one city staff member, nor the city manager, piped up when Commissioner Bronson indicated the motion had to be amended. According to the article in today's paper, that amendment has now made the agreement null and void.

Can anything proceed like it should?

"We Must Take America Back"

A local patriot who is helping to organize next Wednesday's Tea Party contacted the writer and performer of WE MUST TAKE AMERICA BACK. For the time being, he is giving folks permission to download it for free. All he asks is that you play it very LOUD!

Dear Jack,
I want nothing to stand in the way of folks enjoying and spreading the message of WE MUST TAKE AMERICA BACK.

So for the time being I have made it a completely FREE download without restrictions on my web site.

Please tell your friends - and those pesky radio and tv personalities - to come and get it!

And don't forget to watch the video when you visit the site -

Thanks for all your kind words of encouragement.
Steve Vaus

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Public Safety Levy To Move Forward

At last night's City Commission work session, the Commission agreed to hold the public safety levy on August 4. By a 3-2 vote, the proposed levies (fire/rescue and police) will be separated on the ballot.

Commissioners Beecher and Rosenbaum thought the levies should be combined.

"Rosenbaum expressed concern that voters might get the wrong idea with two separate levies and vote for only one of them. "I'd like both of them to pass, obviously," Rosenbaum said.

Yes, voters. One of our elected officials, who is supposed to represent us, didn't want us to have a choice, because we might make the "wrong" decision. (Beecher did not share why he was opposed to separating the levies).

County And City Land Exchange

At last night's City Commission work session and City Commission meeting, the proposed land swap, here and here, between the county and city, was discussed.

The current wording of the city's motion read: “I move that the City Commission approve/deny the Land Exchange Agreement with Cascade County and authorize the City Manager to execute the agreement and deeds of transfer.”

At the work session, Commissioner Bronson was right when he said the cart was being brought before the horse. In essence, the end result was being agreed to without the process being adhered to, which includes public input. To date, the county has not met with the Neighborhood Councils involved, which are 2 and 7.

For this reason, he amended the wording of the motion. After reading the amendment, the commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the MOU (memorandum of understanding) which will authorize the process to begin, but makes clear the end result, which is the exchange, may not be agreed to.

For more details, see today's article in the Tribune.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

More About the Proposed Land Exchange

Here are more thoughts from Aaron concerning the MOU about the land exchange between the city and county:

Attached is the agenda report and MOU that the City is being asked to approve tonight. The majority of this agreement centers around land the city wants to receive in order to construct 3rd Avenue NW, near the new Federal courthouse. The city's "vacation" of 4th Street North seems to be an add-on to the MOU, and not even mentioned in the City's Agenda Report.

I further understand that the County plans for this new parking to be for law enforcement and for County employees, not the general public.

Speaking as one of the neighbors affected, I don't know whether this is a good idea or not. At a minimum, I want to see impartial studies that will describe what it will do to traffic flows and parking in the surrounding streets.

I encourage you to attend the City Commission meeting tonight and express your views. I will be there, and I plan to ask the Commission not to act until more information is available.


Possible Street Closure

From Aaron Weissman, chair of Neighborhood Council 7:

One of the items that is going to come up at the City Commission meeting tonight is a proposal by the County for the City to "vacate" 4th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Ave N, so that the County can use it for additional parking. The details are sketchy now, but this might result in permanent closure of this section of 4th Street, much like the closure on 3rd Street for Davidson Plaza.

The street in question is between the County Annex and the County Courthouse. I have attached an image of the area in question to this email.

The County is asking for this closure as part of a land swap the city is requesting for land near the soon-to-be completed Federal courthouse.

I will be at the meeting tonight. If you are interested in the issue, I encourage you to attend as well. In any case, before the meeting, can you send me your thoughts about this proposal?


Monday, April 6, 2009

City Commission Work Session - Apr. 7, 2009

When: Tuesday, April 7 at 5:30pm
Where: Gibson Room, Civic Center

Revised Agenda:

I guess Tim had a scheduling conflict and couldn't make this meeting, but he will be at the ECP meeting on Monday.

What Are The Odds?

In perusing the consent agenda for tomorrow night's City Commission meeting, I noticed that there was a payment to SME for $650,000 for February power.

What are the odds the bill was exactly $650,000?

Neighborhood Councils - Week of April 6, 2009

Two councils meet this week:

When: Wednesday, April 8 at 7:00pm
Where: West Elementary cafeteria

Expo Park presentation by County Commissioner Joe Briggs
Emergency Preparedness presentation
MApril clean-up efforts
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, April 9 at 7:00pm
Where: Camp Fire office at 1925 2nd Ave. So.

MApril clean-up efforts
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

Sunday, April 5, 2009

ECP April 2009 Meeting

Where: Gibson Room, Civic Center
When: Monday, April 6 at 5:30pm


1. Financial Reports
2. Year to Date Financials
3. Projected Financials
4. Energy Consumption Charts
5. 2008 - Energy, Transmission, G&A, Deferred Imbalances

Miscellaneous Reports

1. YVEC vs. SME, et al. (Cause No. DV 08-1797)
2. The City of Great Falls, et al. vs. The Montana Dept. of Public Service Commission and NorthWestern Energy (Cause No. CDV 2009-127)
3. MEIC vs. City of Great Falls, et al. (Cause No. CDV 07-614(b))
4. Copy of letter to Pilot Program customers

Accept Board Meeting Minutes from March 2, 2009
Generating Facility and Energy Supply Contracts update – Tim Gregori


Public Comment

May 4, 2009


Saturday, April 4, 2009

It Seems To Be Finally Hitting Home

It never fails.

Taking a hit in the pocketbook is usually what finally gets folks to wake up and smell the coffee. It doesn't hurt either when co-op members of SME can't attend their own annual meeting.

Dissension In The Ranks

A week from now a very interesting meeting is planned in Joilet to discuss HGS, SME and an "attempt to follow the money" by requesting an independent audit of SME.

Wouldn't it be nice to be a fly on the wall at this meeting to not only hear what is being said but who actually shows up?
Exorbitant electric bills will be the subject of a meeting at 2 p.m. April 11 at the Joliet Community Center. The meeting is open to all members of Beartooth, Yellowstone Valley, Fergus, Mid-Yellowstone, and Tongue River electric cooperatives.

Please attend to discuss the history of southern Montana G & T and history of Highwood generating station; use of the Chicken Little, Henny Penny scare tactics; conflict of interest issues; cost of power and need for a Highwood plant. Also on the agenda is an attempt to follow the money with requests for an independent audit of Southern Montana G & T and proof of a water right from the Missouri River.

We will request that managers of all the cooperatives be present. Attorney General Steve Bullock, State Auditor Monica Lindeen, Public Service Commissioner Brad Molnar, representatives from MDU, NorthWestern Energy and PPL have been asked to attend or send representatives.

Larry Luloff

Ed's Letter To The Editor

In yesterday's Tribune, a letter from Ed McKnight was published:

I would like to thank the Tribune for the March 16th articles discussing the security of our investments and the losses at ECP. I believe the release of my spreadsheets, showing that SME was more expensive than NorthWestern Energy, led to the new blended rate in an attempt to cut losses.

I would also like to thank everyone who listened to me and supported my candidacy for Mayor two years ago. Many people witnessed the struggle I and others had first getting real information, and then getting the Commission to listen to what the numbers meant.

With an open and transparent government, none of this would have happened, and we could have saved millions.

Energy will be a big part of our future, and the jobs created will be a boon to our city, county and state. As a technology professional, I thoroughly understand both the technology and economics.

A new political season is fast approaching. I do plan on continuing my efforts to correct the problems now very apparent at City Hall.

I would like to support candidates who advocate transparent, open and fair government. If you would like to help in any way, run for the Commission, or simply spread the word to your friends and family. Please contact me I will answer any question or meet with anyone.

There is a lot right with Great Falls, my intent is to correct what is wrong.

Please help if you can.
Ed McKnight

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Public Safety Levy Presentations

Here are the presentations the fire and police chiefs presented at the Council of Councils meeting Tuesday night.

A couple of things to remember:

1. Slides 4 and 5 of the fire department's presentation are estimates only since the budget is not yet completed.

2. When reviewing the estimated additional property tax costs for a $100,000-$200,000 home, remember these figures are based upon your home's TAXABLE market value. This is NOT what your home can sell for on the open market. (Hopefully, your home could sell for a lot more). To find out the taxable market value of your home, go here. If your taxable market value is under $100,000 or $200,000 then you would pay less than what is estimated. If it's more, well, you get the idea.

Chief McCamley is working on getting a calculator on the city's website to help folks get a more accurate representation of what they would pay.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No New Firefighters...

if the public safety levy does not pass.

This new information came out at last night's Council of Councils Meeting by Fire Chief McCamley. He said he has been instructed, he didn't say by whom, that if the public safety levy does not pass, the city will not hire 16 new firefighters.

Since the January 28 special City Commission meeting held to discuss accepting the SAFR grant, firefighters and members of the public have been led to believe that regardless of the levy outcome, new fire personnel would be hired.

This is welcomed news since there isn't any spare change lying around City Hall.