Wednesday, May 27, 2009

City Commissioner Candidate

Yesterday, concerned and involved citizen, Kathleen Gessaman, filed for one of two City Commissioner positions.

Kathy's theme is CHAT: Citizen Involvement, Honest Answers, Accountability, Transparency.

View her press release.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Neighborhood Councils - Week of May 25, 2009

Only one council is meeting this week, mine.

When: Thursday, May 28 at 6:30pm
Where: Heritage Baptist Church, 900 52nd Street North

City recycling information
10th Avenue North speeding problems
Problem properties
Neighborhood concerns

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ducks And A Banker

Enjoy your day!!

Gas Plant Not Firm, Yet

According to this article today in the Billings Gazette, SME is making sure they do a thorough analysis before they make a firm decision to go with gas.

That's not the story Tim spun in April.

At the April ECP meeting, Gregori "discussed what was reported in the press versus what SME was actually moving forward on. With regard to a natural gas fired facility, SME is moving forward with a 120 megawatt combined cycle natural gas facility". [emphasis added].

In the meantime, Beartooth members are trying to collect 500 member signatures so they can hold a special meeting. They want to amend their bylaws to read that monies cannot continue to be spent without the approval of the majority of their members.

According to the same article, SME received this month a preliminary bond rating of "favorable" and "investment grade".

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Memorial Day Ceremony

What: Memorial Day ceremony at Montana Veterans Memorial at River Drive and 25th Street, in the vicinity of Centene Stadium and Pasta Montana.

: Monday, May 25 at 2:00pm

The Boy Scouts of America will recite the Pledge of Allegiance and Veterans Groups color guard will present our Nation's colors. Guest speakers will be Jon Tester and Brigadier General Brad Livingston of the Montana Air National Guard.

Irish tenor John McDermott will sing patriotic songs ( and there will be a Native-American warrior spirit ceremony. The names of Montana's fallen warriors of Iraq and Afghanistan will be recited.

For more information and how to order tiles for those to be honored at the Place of Honor, visit

Citizens are encouraged to bring umbrellas in the event of inclement weather and portable chairs if they so desire. Handicap parking will be available and general parking will be available in the vicinity of the baseball stadium.

Great Experience

Yesterday I was one of the judges at CMR's Senior Project. I'm very glad I elected to participate. It took two hours out of my day, but it was well worth it.

We each judged four students. Each of my presentations had four judges, although I don't know if this was the case with all of the programs. Coincidentally, all of my presentations had to do with music. I learned about the guitar, piano, dance and music composition.

During a short judge's orientation session, we were told that students were not to be wearing jeans or to use text messaging lingo or slang. I'm happy to report that none of the above occurred at my programs, although a few times we were referred to as "guys"; do you "guys" have any questions; thanks "guys". Yes, I did mark them down for that.

There were 15 criteria on our scorecard. Categories included presentation time management, subject (product) knowledge and the flow of information , visual aids, which were required (all used PowerPoint), how the student benefited from the project, what their community service entailed, appearance and articulation. They were also judged on how well they answered impromptu questions. Students could receive up to 60 points; Outstanding, 4 points, Good, 3 points, Average 2 points and Needs Improvement, 1 point. We were encouraged to leave comments, especially if the student needed improvement.

All of the students I judged indicated they had worked on their project all year. It had taught them perseverance, work ethic and for a couple of them, helped build up their self esteem. They all appreciated how rewarding community service can be. (A couple of them weren't too sure about that aspect of the project, but quickly changed their minds).

I'm looking forward to next year. More than 100 juniors have signed up so they will be looking for a lot of community help.

I graduated from CMR 30 years ago this month. This was the first time I had been back. It was a great homecoming!

Chance To Serve

For those of you who may be thinking about getting involved in city government and don't want to run for office, here is another opportunity. Seven advisory board openings are available:

1. Advisory Commission on International Relationships - 2 openings - supports international programs in the community. Call Kelly Audet at 455-8440.

2. Housing Authority Board - 1 opening - aims to provide safe, decent, sanitary and affordable housing to the city's low-income residents. Expertise in social work, accounting, architecture and engineering are desired. Call Cheryl Patton at 455-8417.

3. Library Board - 1 opening - call Jim Heckel at 453-9706.

4. Electric City Power Board - 1 opening to fill the remainder of John Gilbert's term through December 2011 - advises the city on its electric utility operation. Call Coleen Balzarini at 455-8423.

5. Parking Advisory Commission - 2 openings - call Kim McCleary at 455-8405

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fire Numbers Not Quite Right

At last night's City Commission meeting, Fire Chief McCamley indicated that the fees to be collected from the fire service contract with SME were not included in his calculations concerning the levy.

This is not true. In his January 28 special City Commission presentation, the Chief indicated that $283,000/annually would be used to help offset the City's match for the SAFR grant.

Since the Commission voted last night to revise the fees to $36,000/annually, fire department revenues have now dropped by $247,000/annually.

Beecher explained last night that he thought this a fair revision. Never mind that he expressed concern at the January special meeting that an assumption was being made that SME would continue to pay their fire service contract.

It's for the best he is not running for reelection.


That's the news from the DEQ concerning SME's application for a permit application to construct and operate a gas combustion turbine facility for electric generation at the Highwood Generating Station.

On page 1 of the letter, DEQ mentioned that "the incompleteness issues identified in the main body of this letter address insufficient analyses and/or lack of transparency in methods and calculations provided in the permit application". [emphasis added].

Lack of transparency. Now why doesn't this come as a surprise?

SME has until July 20, 2009 to submit the requested information or the application will be considered withdrawn. They can request in writing an extension of time.

It IS The Gift That Keeps On Giving

At last night's City Commission meeting, the commission voted 4-1 (Jolley dissenting) to reduce the fire service fees that SME is supposed to be paying the city. I say supposed to, because they haven't paid to date what the contract stipulates.

On page 2 of the agreement: In order to facilitate development of the Facility, SME must be assured that fire protection and emergency services will commence at the time of commencement of construction.

SME broke ground on HGS on October 15, 2008.

SME didn't start to pay for services until December. To date, they have paid $47,166 for fire protection, which covers the months of December and January. They have sent $23,583 for February, which has not been credited toward this contract, but has been "sitting on account", according to Coleen. With the passage of the reduction of the fees to $3,000/month, the February payment will be applied to Feb-May coverage and "reserve amounts anticipated to be adequate to carry through the reassessment period".

According to information given by Chief McCamley, Gregori sent an email in MAY requesting this reduction. (We learned from Coleen that she initially received the email and passed it on to Fire Chief McCamley). But Coleen knew by February that Gregori would be requesting this reduction, since she did not credit the February payment against the contract. (I guess this explains why he didn't send his March or April payments).

Since he knew by February he wanted a reduction in fees, why did he wait until May to send his request?

And speaking of his request..

According to item #12 of the agreement, any correspondence to the City with regard to this, is to be accomplished in writing by first class mail and fax to the City Manager and the Fire Chief. (There is no mention of using email or first corresponding with the City's fiscal officer).

No worries though. According to Rosenbaum, this is "Montanans doing business with Montanans".

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fire Contract Review

It looks like a highlight of tomorrow night's City Commission meeting will be the possible revision of the Fire Protection and Emergency Services Fee Schedule between Southern Montana Electric G&T and the City of Great Falls Fire and Rescue.

Currently, SME is paying the City of Great Falls about $23,580/monthly. If approved, this revision will drop the fee to $3,000/monthly. (According to the revision, this amount would be retroactive to February).

At ECP's 2/02/09 meeting, "Director Gilbert inquired if the gas plant would change the terms of the fire contract with the City. Mr. Gregori responded that he would ask for some consideration since the level of construction changed. If the City responds negatively, SME will continue to pay the amount specified in the existing contract". [emphasis added].

Why has it taken Gregori 3 months to ask for a reduction in fees when he knew full well by the beginning of February he would be asking for it?

Assuming SME has paid the contract fee for May, the City has received from Feb-May $94,332 (23,583 x 4). Retroactive, the fee would be $12,000 (3,000 x 4). If the Commission approves the revision, the City will owe SME $82,332.

Given the Commission's history, this revision will pass.

The gift that keeps on giving.

Neighborhood Councils - Week of May 18, 2009

Two councils meet this week:

When: Monday, May 18 at 7:00pm
Where: GF Clinic Specialty Center conference room

City recycling information
Neighborhood concerns
Committee reports
When: Thursday, May 21 at 6:30pm
Where: GF Prerelease Women's Annex

City recycling information
Neighborhood concerns
Committee reports

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Excellent Letter To The Editor

On Saturday, May 16, a guest opinion that Larry Rezentes wrote to the Tribune editor, was published.

It is an excellent commentary on the boondoggle that ECP has become.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Additional Info. About 4th Street

From Aaron Weissman, chair of NC7:

At our NC7 meeting on Monday, the County presented their plans for 4th Street. Basically, they want to narrow the sidewalks on either side of the street in order to accommodate squared-in parking. Along with this, they want the parking meters removed from the streets. This section of 4th Street would have its traffic slowed to 10-15 mph, and speed bumps may be installed. Lane width would be 12-13 feet, which would accommodate city buses.

Most of the spaces would be reserved for County employees and handicapped jurors, with a few spaces reserved for citizens doing business in county offices. The county feels that this approving and implementing this proposal would equal the $200 thousand they are owed by the city for the land that will be used to create 3rd Street NW.

A drawing of the proposal is attached. I apologize for the quality of my scanner, but it should make the idea at least relatively clear.

We will be discussing signing a letter of support of this proposal at our June council meeting. I look forward to your thoughts.


County Plans For 4th Street

At Neighborhood Council 7's meeting Monday night, County Commissioners Briggs and Salina and County Planning Director Brian Clifton presented their plans for 4th Street.

This update was sent to me from a citizen who attended:

The county had Big Sky Engineering come up with 5 Parking Options for 4th Street and their "Campus". They chose Option E which provides for 34 total additional parking spaces and still allows two-way traffic on 4th Street.

4th Street would have its parking meters removed, be widened to roughly the east edge of the existing east sidewalk, a raised pedestrian walkway (similar to those in front of Albertsons stores) installed from the Courthouse to the Annex, speed bumps placed at the north and south ends, and have 90 degree head-in parking placed on both sides (total 40 spaces).

Most or all of the existing trees would be saved by leaving green spaces in the parking areas. The 4th Street Parking Project would also include revamping the existing Courthouse parking lot, the old jail parking lot, re-landscaping the whole campus, etc.

No estimate of costs was presented.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Whitter Carnival And Street Fair, May 15

See their poster here.

The event will be held at Whittier School at 305 8th Street North.

The Whittier PTA will be holding their annual carnival this coming Friday, May 15, from 6-8 p.m. This year, the event will also be a street fair with hamburgers and fry bread. Cub Scout Pack 26 will also be holding their open house at the event and we will be helping to staff the booths. All proceeds will help with the construction of the new Whittier Playground, so please come and join in on the fun!

Gilbert Resigns

Citing health reasons, John Gilbert resigned last week from the ECP board.

This is unfortunate news for the citizens of Great Falls. Mr. Gilbert has been the only board member to ask questions. He was also the only member who has the accounting knowledge and background to critique Coleen's numbers.

Mr. Bob Pancich, a previous chair and current member of the board, indicated that Mr. Gilbert "did a great job. He dug in and asked questions".

Too bad the other members haven't performed their duty and done the same.

Mr. Gilbert will be missed. I wish him the best.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Neighborhood Councils - Week of May 11, 2009

Four councils are meeting this week:

When: Monday, May 11 at 7:00pm
Where: NeighborWorks, 509 1st Ave. South

See here

When: Tuesday, May 12 at 7:00pm
Where: Meadow Lark School library

Info. on city recycling
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Wednesday, May 13 at 7:00pm
Where: West Elementary School cafeteria

Introduction to the new Expo Park general manager
Update from the Cascade County Sheriff's office
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, May 14 at 7:00pm
Where: GF High South Campus, room 105

Info. on MApril clean-up efforts
Info. on city recycling
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

According to their respective web sites, Councils 1 and 2 will not meet during June, July and August.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Neighborhood Council 7 - May Meeting

Monday, May 11, 2009
NeighborWorks Great Falls, 509 1st Avenue South
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 April Minutes

City Recycling—Jim Rearden
Grant idea for pedestrian safety groups—Sheila Rice
Neighborhood Council 7 election filing information

County’s plans for 4th Street alongside Courthouse—Brian Clifton
Public Safety Levy
Gibson Park Lighting, CTEP grant update
Beautiful Minds Walk update—Greg Hall
Problem Properties
Other Old Business

City Commission
Other Reports

Next meeting June 8, 2009— Community Rec Center

Reception For Russian Delegation

What: Reception for Russian Delegation
When: Friday, May 15 at 5:00pm at the GF Public Library

This event is free and open to the public.

FREE Concert Tonight

Info. provided by Aaron Weissman:

Yehudah Katz, the lead singer of the hit Israeli rock and soul group Reva L'Sheva, will be performing at a free concert in Great Falls, May 7, at Baker Bob's at 6 p.m. courtesy of the Israeli Outreach group Soultrain!

The concert is FREE; donations will be gratefully accepted to help cover our costs. Help spread the word!

We look forward to seeing you at the concert!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Not Amusing

An interesting remark was made at the ECP meeting last night.

The executive director and the board discussed the request for proposals for an independent consultant. The topic of cost and who would pay for this review was mentioned.

Coleen suggested the "city" pay for it, since it was the "city" who requested it. If ECP pays for it, well, it will just make the bottom line more negative than it already is. She and some of the others thought this incredibly amusing.

Please remind me again who employs Ms. Balzarini.

A Good Example Of Why I Am Running

The ECP meetings are a good example of why I decided to run for the Great Falls mayoral position.

I attended last night's meeting and the same thing happened as has happened in the past: NO copies of the paperwork discussed are provided to the citizens in attendance at these meetings; however, the documentation magically appears about a week or so AFTER the meetings on the city's ECP's website page.

This doesn't happen because Coleen doesn't have the packet prepared by the time of the meeting. Every board member has the packet as well as other city officials, including the assistant city manager, who sat just a couple of seats away from me.

So much for operating in a fishbowl.

Monday, May 4, 2009

City Commission Work Session, May 5, 2009

What: City Commission Work Session
When: Tuesday, May 5 at 5:30pm in the Gibson Room, Civic Center

Wind-powered Electricity Systems changes to Land Development Code – Bill Walters
Budget Update – Greg Doyon

ECP Meeting, May 4, 2009

What: ECP board meeting
When: Monday, May 4 at 5:30pm in the Gibson Room, Civic Center

Call to Order 5:30 PM
Roll Call


1. Financial Reports
Financials - Year to Date and Projected
Energy Consumption Charts

2. Miscellaneous Reports
Request for Proposals – Energy Consultant
PSC – Petition of ECP for Certification of an Eligible Renewable Resource
City of Great Falls, et al. v PSC (Cause No. CDV-2009-127) – Defendant NWE’s Answer and Amended Answer to Complaint and Petition for Judicial Review

Accept Board Meeting Minutes from April 6, 2009


Public Comment

June 1, 2009


Neighborhood Councils - Week of May 4, 2009

Two councils are meeting this week:

When: Wednesday, May 6 at 7:00pm
Where: Sunnyside School music room

Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, May 7 at 7:00pm
Where: Westgate Mall conference room

Info. from Marty Basta, Parks and Rec. director, about underutilized city parks
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

Saturday, May 2, 2009


This is a personal post from me, Sandra Guynn, aka GFGirl and the author of Cataract City.

I have made the decision to run for the Great Falls mayoral position.

I have been involved in Great Falls government for about four years. I am currently in my second year as the chair of Neighborhood Council 4.

My platform is very simple:

According to the city's organizational chart, the citizens are #1. Unfortunately, the citizens have not been treated as #1 for a number of years. If elected, I will change that.

A separate campaign blog will be up and running soon. I will continue to post to Cataract City as I always have.

A press release was sent yesterday. KFBB came and did a short interview, which aired last night on the 10:00p.m. news. (For the record, my last name rhymes with "win").

(Here is the Tribune's article from Sunday's (5/03) paper).

"For Citizens To Win, Vote For Guynn"

Thanks in advance for your support!

Friday, May 1, 2009

SME's Modified Air Permit

The DEQ has posted SME's Air Quality Permit Application for their gas plant. Here you can find the Appendix A-H. (Additional appendices are not yet online).

On page 12 of the application: "Southern provides wholesale electric energy and related services to approximately 100,000 Montanans". [emphasis added].

I guess it's a good thing SME does not update their website, because it seems that they are still including the citizens of Great Falls in this number: "The five member cooperatives serve approximately 65,000 Montanans, and the City of Great Falls has a population of 57,000".

According to Yellowstone Valley Electric, they have 12,000 members. If you deduct that from 65,000, (they are not a member of the "new" SME) then SME only provides electricity to about 53,000 Montanans, not 100,000 as quoted.

MApril Postponed

Just in case you were planning to continue MApril clean-up efforts this weekend, the event has been rescheduled to Saturday, May 16. For more info., call Carrie Koppy at 761-5861.