Monday, November 30, 2009

City Board Openings

There are currently four city advisory boards that have openings:

Park and Rec Board - The Park and Recreation Board has three openings for three-year terms through December 31, 2012. The Board consists of seven members. The Board advises the City Commission and the City Manager on all matters related to the Park and Recreation programs in the City of Great Falls. Meetings are held on the second Monday of each month at 3:00 p.m. Applicants must live within the city limits. For more information, contact Marty Basta at 771-1265.

Mansfield Center For The Performing Arts Board - Two openings for three-year terms through December 31, 2012. The Board consists of five to seven members. The Board advises on all matters related to the successful operation of the Mansfield Center for the Performing Arts and public meeting rooms. Meetings are the third Friday of each month at noon. For more information contact Dona Hughes at 455-8495.

City-County Health Board - One opening for a three-year term through December 31, 2012. The City-County Health Board oversees the operation and management of the City-County Health Department. The Board meets on the first Wednesday of the month at noon eleven months out of the year. For more information about the Board, contact the City-County Health Department at 791-9260.

Police Commission - One opening to fill the remainder of a three-year term through June 30, 2012. Commissioners will review all Police Department applicants for police officer positions and hear disciplinary appeals for the Police Department. Candidates must be a resident of the City of Great Falls. For more information, contact Chief Grove at 771-1180.

Application deadline is Friday, December 4. Applications can be picked up at the city manager's office or downloaded here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Consultant's Report Is Here

Here is the long awaited report from Burns and McDonnell concerning the review of ECP.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

ECP And SME Write-Off Announced

According to this inter-office memo, ECP will be writing off $1,144,504; $905,019 in historical costs and $239,485 of capitalized interest.

SME will be writing off $9.1 million.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Major Problems With Bresnan

If you've been experiencing Internet problems for about the past 2 months, don't necessarily blame your computer.

During the past couple of months, our home computer upload times have been worse than pathetic. One time a webpage took more than 45 minutes to upload and that was late afternoon. By later in the evening, the problem is even worse.

A few weeks ago my husband took our speed tests to Bresnan and was told they had gotten a few complaints, but that nobody had actually brought in proof of their problems. The fellow admitted that his kids had been complaining about the speed, or lack thereof, but wouldn't admit that Bresnan was having problems. He told my husband he would look into it.

A few days later, hubby visited with them again and was told they had found a "slow relay" and would be replacing it. Well, that was more than 2 weeks ago, and quite frankly, nothing has changed.

Even though my/our frustration level is running pretty high right now, we are comforted by the fact that we are not alone.

Thanks to TinoMT who posted these links at the Tribune Forum:

Bureau of Consumer Protection (FTC)

The Better Business Bureau (BBB)

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

Montana Department of Consumer Protection

Now for the guys who helped award Bresnan with the Montana contract:

Gov. Brian Schweitzer (Montana State Govenor [sic])

Montana Department of Administration

Montana Information Technology Services Division

Montana University System

The Montana Standard (The are the guys who posted that bogus story about Bresnan fixing the speed issue)

OthersRipoff Reports

MT Supreme Court Spot Zoning Hearing

The Montana Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday over the issue of spot zoning for the coal plant.

According to this article, SME/Cascade County are now arguing that the issue is legally dead and the case moot, because the county issued new zoning regulations in August.

November 19, 2009
High court hears Highwood zoning suit
Tribune Staff Writer

HELENA — Attorneys for Cascade County and a group of landowners locked horns once more Wednesday over a 2-1 vote last year by the County Commission, which allowed construction of a power plant east of Great Falls. This time the clash came before the Montana Supreme Court.

In a surprise twist, Gary Zadick, an attorney for developer Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative, and attorney Alan McCormick, hired to represent Cascade County, told justices the disputed rezoning case is legally dead because the commission passed new countywide zoning regulations in August.

As a result, McCormick said, a Supreme Court decision would be "academic" because the lawsuit is challenging old regulations, under which the land rezoning for Highwood Generating Station was processed.

"This case is now moot," McCormick said.

The new argument, which was never raised during state District Court hearings last year because the new regulations had yet to pass, prompted immediate questions from justices.

Justice James Nelson asked that if the updated regulations render the current challenge moot, couldn't local governments always keep ahead of people who challenge rezoning requests by simply changing the zoning rules?

Justice Brian Morris questioned McCormick on why the court wasn't informed sooner about the new zoning regulations argument if it renders the case moot. McCormick said he had just learned last week that the new regulations had taken effect.

McCormick cited a Flathead County zoning case as precedent in making the argument.

The argument was flatly rejected by Roger Sullivan, the attorney for the plaintiffs — 60 landowners and the Montana Environmental Information Center.

"This controversy is still very much alive," Sullivan said.

Additionally, SME has replaced its original plans for a coal-fired power plant with a smaller, cleaner-burning natural gas facility, but Sullivan said that doesn't change the arguments. The county still erred in allowing an industrial facility — gas or coal — amidst farmland, with the decision amounting to spot zoning and special legislation for SME, he said.

MEIC and the landowners living in the vicinity of the proposed plant are asking the Supreme Court to reverse District Judge Wayne Phillips' decision upholding the county's action. Such a decision would declare the rezoning unlawful.

Landowners say their quality of life and agricultural operations are at stake in the case.

After the hearing, Kent Holtz, a plaintiff and farmer who listened from the second row, said he didn't understand all of the technical arguments, but wants farmland protected from the power plant.

"There are so many other places in the state it could be put that would not destroy productive land," Holtz said.

SME officials say a reliable source of electricity for its customers is at stake in the case.

SME, which has sunk $40 million into the power plant, purchased the property on which the plant would sit for $3 million, said Zadick. SME intervened in the case on the side of the county.

Located in a rural setting, with just seven homes within 3 miles, the site is ideal for a power plant, Zadick said, with the electricity benefiting the general public.

"Where do generating plants get built?" he asked.

SME, which provides power to five rural electric cooperatives and the city of Great Falls' utility arm, is proposing to construct a 120-megawatt, $210 million facility powered by natural gas to replace electricity it's losing as a result of canceled power contracts.

If the court overturns the county's decision to rezone, the Highwood project could be returned to county commissioners or the District Court, said Brian Hopkins, an attorney with Cascade County.

At the conclusion of Wednesday's hearing, the seven justices quickly exited without comment. A decision could take months, Hopkins said, noting the court could still ask for additional written briefs.

The courtroom was packed Wednesday with residents from Great Falls and SME representatives, who sat on opposite sides of the courtroom.

The case stems back to March 2008, when Cascade County commissioners Joe Briggs and Peggy Beltrone and then-commissioner Lance Olson voted 2-1 to rezone 668 acres of land east of Great Falls from farmland to heavy industrial. Beltrone was the sole no vote.

MEIC and the landowners later sued, with Phillips siding with the county in a decision handed down in November 2008, prompting the appeal to the Supreme Court.

In the liveliest moment of a hearing fraught with zoning jargon, Sullivan, the attorney for the landowners and MEIC, left the designated podium and moved closer to the justices, pacing before them and theatrically holding up thick binders of technical zoning information and sometimes pointing to his clients in the audience.

"This is a classic case of the county making up its regulations on the fly," he said, his voice rising.

Sullivan took aim at the way in which 11 conditions proposed by SME were added to the rezoning approval. The conditions themselves are not the issue, he said, but he is concerned that they were submitted to the county two days before a public hearing in the rezoning request, not affording the public a chance to comment.

SME's Zadick countered that the 11 conditions actually benefit the general public, dding they were based on public feedback. For example, one of the conditions is that roads be maintained.

Sullivan also charged that SME submitted hundreds of pages of technical information in the 11th hour. In addition, Sullivan said, no guarantees exist in the zoning regulations, ensuring enforcement of the attached conditions.

That amounts to illegal "special legislation" for SME, Sullivan said.

Wondering aloud whether such conditions aren't just "part and parcel" of any rezoning proceeding, District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock, sitting in for the retiring Justice John Warner, who recused himself from the case, questioned the special legislation assertion.

Sullivan also said Judge Phillips erroneously concluded that a coal-fired power plant already is permitted in an agriculturally zoned area if a special use permit is granted.

Sullivan said a special use permit, while allowing wind farms and electrical generation facilities, would prohibit a coal-fired power plant.

Zadick disagreed, saying special use permits allow a broad range of uses from garbage dumps to hospitals to generation facilities.

But if that were the case, a justice asked Zadick, why didn't SME just ask for a special use permit in the first place instead of seeking rezoning. Zadick said that rezoning was preferred because of the type of financing the developer sought at the time.

Facing the seven justices and a digital time clock that allowed each side 30 minutes to make its case, the attorneys raised many of the same arguments Wednesday that they did at the District Court level.

"We'll just have to wait and see how the court decides," SME General Manager Tim Gregori said after the hearing. "At this time, the property we purchased is zoned appropriately for what we have planned."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Neighborhood Councils - Week of Nov. 16, 2009

Three councils are meeting this week:

: Monday, Nov. 16 at 7:00pm
Where: GF Clinic Speciality Center conference room

Map Your Neighborhood
Committee reports, including Russell Park update
Neighborhood concerns

Everyone is also invited for a "get acquainted time", complete with refreshments. This is their last meeting for the year.

NC#4 & NC#8
When: Thursday, Nov. 19 at 6:30pm (Council 4 rescheduled due to Thanksgiving)

Where: Great Falls Pre Release, Women's annex

Map Your Neighborhood workshop
Committee reports
Problem properties update (#4)
Roosevelt School project (#8)
Neighborhood concerns

Friday, November 13, 2009

GFDA Plans

UPDATE: I emailed Brett Doney on 11/13 and he is tentatively scheduled to meet with NC#4 in December.

It seems the GFDA is planning a heavy industrial park that would fall within Neighborhood Council 4's boundaries, if annexed into the city.

Not only did Commissioner Jolley not have any details, but Council 4 has been left in the dark as well. Following is correspondence that Commissioner Jolley has had with Greg Doyon and Brett Doney. (These comments were first posted here) :

November 13, 2007, 7:48am - From Commissioner Jolley:

I am trying at the moment to get more info on...

Dear Greg & Lisa
Today's Tribune has this...."GFDA previously worked with private developers to create a heavy industrial site, but those efforts haven't come to fruition. The organization now is partnering with the city to develop the industrial park." Brett speaks. He says something might happen before Christmas. What might happen?What is the nature of this "partnering"? Who in the city is working on this? I would like as much background information (within reason) as possible. You could sent attachments of emails, Memos and such.
Mary Jolley

An email received by Mary from Greg Doyon:

Thanks for making me read the paper…

Brett and I are in contact frequently about potential development in and around the city. I was at the meeting, where he mentioned this opportunity and believe it is undeveloped land N-NW of MAFB. He has also been working on the area around the Malteurop.

His comments that the city is working/partnering with GFDA are accurate to the extent that Brett is in regular contact with the planning department, city engineering, community development, and my office to facilitate development in the city (i.e., permit processes, infrastructure extension, required zone changes)- it happens all the time. Not only is the city a major investor in GFDA, but we are their partner as well.

If I read between the lines, it sounds like you may have concerns that the City is making promises regarding a new development opportunity. Should there be a development/annexation agreement in the future, the Commission will have to approve all of that (like it normally does). The City has not made any promises or commitments with any new developer/business and I have not seen any annexation/development agreement drafts. I am aware of Brett’s efforts to land manufacturing/heavy industrial businesses and will continue to assist him with those endeavors.

I’ll copy Brett should he want to provide more information about the prospect he was referencing.

- Gtd
Gregory T. Doyon
City Manager Great Falls, Montana

And an email from Brett....

I’d love to get together with you to bring you up to date on our industrial park efforts. We’ve negotiated an option agreement on land east of North Industrial Park on 18th Avenue North. If the appraisals come in with values that are acceptable to both the property owners and us, we hope to be able to finalize the option agreement and sign it by the end of the year. That’s the “announcement” I referred to Wednesday. The next step Is to design the infrastructure for the first phase and put together budget estimates. City staff have been very helpful in helping us look for industrial sites and sites for a rail industrial park. There haven’t been any promises or agreements made, formal or informal.We do hope for City support of the project. As soon as we have a site secured and a preliminary plan and budget, we’ll be ready to work with the City to try to find a way to build the infrastructure for the first phase.
Brett Doney President Great Falls Development Authority

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

ECP Report Not Ready

The report we have all been waiting for with bated breath is not ready.

City Manger Doyon thought it would be available by today, but according to a short blurb in today's paper, he will contact them soon to find out when we can expect it.

Rather than be discouraged by this delay, I think it's a good sign that they are weighing all of the data, including additional information that has been sent to them since they were here in August.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

URGENT: The Talking Rustlers Need Your Help

The CMR speech and debate teams are short volunteers to help judge their tournament this Friday and Saturday. They are especially short of volunteers to judge debate.

No prior experience is necessary.

If you can help, log-on to their website and sign-up or call Kandi at 866-0085.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Neighborhood Councils - Week of Nov. 9, 2009

Four councils are meeting this week:

NC# 7
When: Monday, Nov. 9, 2009 at 7:00pm
Where: Great Falls Community Rec. Center

Carol Bronson- new Weed & Seed Program Site Director
Pit bull attack on 3rd Avenue North
Council election results
Neighborhood Concerns

Status on project to lower Speed Limits on Park Drive near Gibson Park
Status of Whittier & Longfellow speed petitions
Status of Gibson Park Lighting project
NC sponsored City Commission forum
Problem Properties
Other Old Business

City Commission
Council of Councils
Other Reports

Next meeting – Dec. 14, 2009, 7 p.m., at NeighborWorks

When: Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 7:00pm
Where: Meadow Lark School Library

Swan Court Traffic study
Update on the residential sound insulation project near the airport
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 7:00pm
Where: West Elementary School cafeteria

Update on the residential sound insulation project near the airport
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, Nov. 12 at 7:00pm
Where: GF High School South Campus

Info. on the "Map Your Neighborhood" program
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Congratulations Mr.Winters

Congratulations to Mike Winters for his resounding win.

A few weeks ago I was the speaker at a meeting Mike was chairing. He was very efficient and no nonsense. He told me later that if elected, that is how the city's meetings will be conducted. He will also thank everyone for coming to the meeting and shake their hands.

He also told me that one of the first things he would do if elected, would be to ask for the resignation of Coleen Balzarini as the executive director of ECP. As he stated, and rightly so, having her in that position is a conflict of interest.

I look forward to Mike's presence on the commission.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sour Grapes

How else can one describe Bronson's remarks that "candidates sometimes find it difficult to carry out their promises when they take office". He also added that people who voted for change "may or may not get it".

You thought you were going to win. You didn't. Get over it.

And The Winners Are....

According to unofficial results:

Winters - 8,430
Bronson - 5,759
Fred Burow - 7,629
Bob Jones - 7,256
Donna Zook - 6,805
John Rosenbaum - 5,442

I think it safe to say that those who voted in the primary for myself, John Hubbard and Mike Witsoe, 3,652 total votes, voted for Winters. He then picked up an additional 450+ votes.

Great job to Fred Burow and Donna Zook, even though Donna just missed getting in.

After the primary, when both candidates picked up only 23.64% of the total vote, they came out swinging for the general and knocked out Rosenbaum, who at this time, picked up only 142 additional votes then he had in the primary. Of all the candidates, he had the worse showing.

Thanks Great Falls for voting and listening!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Another Contentious ECP Meeting

I wasn't at last night's ECP meeting, but from the sounds of it, it was typical; Coleen having to defend herself and Tim about why they continue to not be forthcoming with documents and information.

According to this article in the Tribune, Coleen was taken to task for not revealing the credit rating SME was given by Standard's & Poor. (On Oct. 10, the Tribune published that SME was given a BBB rating, which is one step above junk bond status). According to her, this rating was discussed at board meetings. Yes, it was "discussed", even at a City Commission meeting, but the most important part was never revealed, at least not to the public. She claims this is "a good rating to get for a start-up company". If so, why was it kept such a secret?

There also was a letter (page 37 of 85) dated Sept. 30 from the US Department of the Interior reiterating their criticism of building a power plant adjacent to the Great Falls Portage National Historic Landmark and the Lewis and Clark National Trail. Coleen claimed it's all based on perspective and that "some of it is incorrect". As usual, she did not elaborate on what was incorrect.

If this project is so fantastic,why do she and Tim continue to work so hard to keep everything about it so secret?

If you attended last night's meeting, feel free to tell us about it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

City Commission Work Session

When: Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 5:45pm
Where: Gibson Room, Civic Center

Equipment Revolving Schedule – Jim Rearden and Tom Hugg
Street Maintenance – Jim Rearden and Jim Turnbow

Neighborhood Councils - Week of Nov. 2, 2009

Two councils are meeting this week:

When: Wed. Nov. 4 at 7:00pm
Where: Sunnyside School music room

Verde Park report
Council of Councils meeting update
Victory Christian Church annexation
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, Nov. 5 at 7:00pm
Where: Westgate Mall

Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

ECP Board Meeting - November 2009

When: Monday, Nov. 2 at 5:30pm
Where: Gibson Room, Civic Center


1. Financial Reports
2. U.S. Department of Interior letter dated September 30, 2009
3. City of Great Falls, et al. vs. PSC/NWE (Cause No. CDV- 09-127), Reply Brief in Support of Plaintiffs/Petitioners’ Motion to Reverse or Vacate Final Order and Remand
4. In the Matter of Electric City Power Petition for Certification of an Eligible Renewable Resource and Request for Waivers (Docket No. D2009.5.61), Order No. 7037
5. In the Matter of Renewable Portfolio Standard Compliance Filings for Compliance Year 2008 (Docket No. N2009.10.137), Notice of Commission Action

1. Accept Board Meeting Minutes from October 5, 2009
2. NWE Natural Gas Utility Unit Rate Adjustments/Proposed Rates and NWE Monthly Electric Supply Tracker Rate Change Detail - November


Handouts from October 5, 2009, meeting
Public Comment

December 7, 2009

Tonight's meeting packet.