By Michael Howell
Hamilton City Councilors are obviously upset over the condition of the roadside when entering the city from the north. The problem is the entranceway to the city is not under the city’s control and following a highway reconstruction project is suffering from a failed landscaping effort.
Following the reconstruction of Highway 93 north of town, Ravalli County took responsibility from the Montana Department of Transportation for the upkeep of the landscaping along the roadside. A line of trees was planted but through lack of maintenance the trees have died. Hamilton City Council members feel that the county has been too slow to correct the situation.
“It’s insulting,” said Councilor Nancy Joy Volk. “We have that sign that says ‘10 year Tree City status’ and right after that is a line of dead trees.”
Trees have been a top priority for the City Council for a number of years. The city was recently awarded its third grant from DNRC’s Urban Forestry Development Grant. The grant, for $11,750, was accepted at last week’s Council meeting. The money will be used, first of all, to remove or prune trees that have been identified by an arborist as hazardous to public safety and any remaining funds will be used to purchase and plant new trees in the city. According to Hamilton’s Special Projects Director, Dennis Stranger, they are hoping to plant up to 55 new trees as either replacements for dead and dying trees or in new open spots, a few hundred of which have been identified.
The project is estimated to cost about $18,750. The City’s contribution will include about $6,800 in in-kind labor to do the planting.
At the last Committee of the Whole meeting on January 22, when the issue of the entranceway to the city was discussed, Mayor Jerry Steele said, “The entrance to the City looks like crap. The county signed a contract with the state to take care of it and, like everything else, they crap out.”
Councilor Joe Petrusaitis suggested that they approach the commissioners and suggest that if the county would fork over the CTEP funds that it owes the city for Fairgrounds Road improvements then the city will take care of the roadside landscaping north of town.
“That’s already an agreement,” snapped Mayor Steele. “We are not going to bargain with that.”
“Did we get the money?” asked Petrusaitis.
“We’ll take them to court if we have to,” retorted Steele.
“We need a gentler approach,” said Petrusaitis.
“No, I think we’ve done all the gentler approach,” said Steele. He said it would just be more work for the already overworked Parks Department.
“If we just go ahead and do it and cover up for the county’s lack of responsibility…” said Petrusaitis.
The Mayor shot back, “Why would we cover up for the county’s blow up?”
Councilor Lynette Helgeland said, “We have sitting around this table a lot of people with a lot of resources in the county. We know that the county is not going to do it. Our Parks Department could do it. We know it would be a hardship, but we know they would do it. But we have other resources. We can approach our civic organizations and perhaps get someone to adopt that area as a project.”
Stranger noted that the state was about to take the area back from the county due to the lack of action.
Mon, Jan 28,2013 10:48 AM
County Commissioner J.R. Iman said later that he does not believe the state is about to take over the roadside landscaping. But the county is bogged down in a hodgepodge of separate contracts having to do with landscaping along the highway with every town along the road, he said. He said that the county does have a watering system established along the roadway into Hamilton at this time but is still trying to put a program together to deal with new plantings.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “We have a water system in but we don’t have a management program in place yet.” He said the county is probably responsible for the trees that were killed by a bitter frost a few years back and he hopes to work out some sort of solution which may involve the City of Hamilton in the near future.
The matter was kept in committee.
In other business at the January 15 meeting the Council:
• established a fee schedule of $15 a day for special events in city streets, city parks and city park facilities.
• approved placement of 90 minute Parking Signs along the west side of Claudia Driscoll Park along 10th Street.
• approved purchase of a Skid Steer Loader and the disposal of a 1997 Scat Trak 15000CX. The Council decided to accept the bid from Triple W in Missoula for a John Deere loader at the cost of $37,554.23 with a trade in of the Scat Trak. The only other bid was about $1,500 lower for a Bobcat from H&E. But since the bid was received, the dealership in Missoula handling H&E products shut down and the closest outlet for H&E equipment would be in Kalispell which would add significantly to the cost of maintenance and repair for the Bobcat.
At its last Committee of the Whole meeting, the Council discussed amending the Hamilton Municipal Code regarding clear sight triangles at intersections. The plan would be to adopt ASHTO standards that are used by the county and the state at controlled intersections, where there is a traffic sign on one or more of the corners, but to use the current city standards at uncontrolled intersections where there is no signage. Standards for intersections of alleys and sidewalks and alleys and streets are also under consideration. They are also considering to move those regulations out of the zoning regulations and place them under traffic regulations.
The Council heard a suggestion from Andy Orr that they consider establishing an ice skating rink in the city. He said it could be a big asset to the city. He noted that Darby had one and that it was working out well. He said ice hockey was a growing sport in the valley but that kids and families would also enjoy the chance for some wintertime activity.
Mayor Steele noted the longstanding interest in establishing a skateboard park near River Park on property currently owned by the Hamilton School District. He said the long delay in negotiating any sort of agreement with the school district does not bode well with getting anything accomplished. He suggested it might make more sense to do a combined skateboard park and ice skating park at the Jerry Stevens Memorial Park being developed by the County. The item was kept in committee.
The Council is also continuing to work on prioritizing future issues to be dealt with, which includes a non-motorized transportation map, a Tax Increment Financing District, a weed policy, a new gazebo in River Park, baseball contracts and more.