By Michael Howell
The Stevensville Town Council heard from representatives of NorthWestern Energy that a new location had been found for the company’s proposed electric substation in Stevensville. The company began looking for alternatives when the site originally proposed drew substantial resistance from residents of the Winslett subdivision. The first site under consideration was located behind Ace Hardware and immediately adjacent to the Winslett subdivision.
Mayor Gene Mim Mack worked closely with the company to explore alternatives. A potential location at the town’s sewer plant was pursued but fell apart over access problems through adjoining private land. The newly proposed location is north of the Eastside Highway and east of the existing Selway Corporation manufacturing plant on property owned by Warren Pollard.
Community relations specialist Vicki Judd and design engineer Tim Moody from NorthWestern Energy told the council that the four acre site would initially only house a small substation, but use of the grounds would grow as the company moved ahead with plans to upgrade the lines serving the Bitterroot Valley from a 60 kilovolt service line to 161 kv service line. They said when that was achieved the two other existing substations in Stevensville would be removed and all activity would take place at the newly proposed substation.
According to Judd and Moody, the new substation would link the two lines serving the valley, one coming down Highway 93 and the other down the railroad tracks. The result would be enhanced redundancy in the system and greater alternatives in case of some breakdown in the system.
They said the company would immediately install about a half million dollars in improvements on the new site and, over time, it would develop into a $3 million investment. Some new power line poles would have to be installed to bring the line from Highway 93 to the new site. The new transmission poles would begin on the north side of the Stevensville Cut-off Road but cross to the south side of the road once across the river. This would be to avoid conflicts with the town-to-river walking path and trees and benches located on the north side of the road.
Asked about the effects of electromagnetic radiation from the substation, Moody said that studies done by the National Science Foundation show a small amount of radiation coming from the substation machinery but it quickly degrades over a small distance. He said the equipment puts out less electromagnetic radiation than the average refrigerator or computer.
A neighbor to the north of the proposed new site, Mr. Gensmer, said that his property would be directly affected by light and noise from the proposed substation.
Moody said that there would be some noise but that it would be substantially less than the noise currently produced by Selway Corporation. He said modern design changes in the machinery had reduced the noise produced by the machines and that fencing around the facility mitigates what noise is produced. He said the company had not received any complaints about the noise from existing substations in the town which are located next to residences.
Gensmer said that any noise produced by the facility would be in addition to the noise already generated by Selway and that was already too much for him to stand.
Mayor Mim Mack said after the meeting that Gensmer and company officials had exchanged contact information and the company would work on addressing Gensmer’s concerns.
Farmers market to move to 3rd and Main
The Town Council agreed to accept a request from Stevensville Farmers Market market master Stacey Barker to allow the market to relocate onto Third Street between Main Street and the alley. It will require obtaining a Special Events Permit and involve a closure of that half block of Third Street, between Main Street and the alley, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The market would be open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from May through October.
The market has been operating in the parking lot behind Rocky Mountain Bank and wants more visibility for the market.
Michael Sharkey, President of Main Street Association, said that the Main Street Association was in support of the Farmers Market in its relocation efforts. Councilor Robin Holcomb said that she had no problem the last time the market was located on Third Street and has no problem this time. The council approved the move unanimously.
Hotdog stand moves to allow view of sculpture
After receiving letters of complaint about the location of a hotdog stand that obscures viewing of the public sculpture on the corner of Third and Main in front of Rocky Mountain Bank, town officials got together with bank officials and the owners of the hotdog stand and worked out an amicable arrangement to accommodate the concerns. The hotdog stand will continue to operate in front of the bank, but relocate about twenty feet further north on the sidewalk from the corner where the sculpture is located.
A former member of the Stevensville Art and Sculpture Society who contributed to the purchase of the public art piece, Bobbie McKibbin, and founding member and former president of the group, Celia Grohmann, both wrote expressing dismay at the location of the hotdog stand and how it obscures a view of the sculpture.
They describe the efforts that went into purchasing and installing the art work and what an asset it is for the community. It is the creation of Blackfeet artist Jay Laber and is entitled “Two Left Feet Dancing Free.” The sculpture was described as a “feather in the cap” for the town that deserves continued recognition and prominent display.
“It is a great disservice to the sculpture, the artist, to the Town of Stevensville, and, quite frankly, to Rocky Mountain Bank,” wrote McKibbin. “I have nothing against the young entrepreneurs operating within the town but, really, there are many street corners where they could be located. It is my hope and the hope of others that a change in location for the hotdog stand will be forthcoming.”
Grohmann stated that the purpose of public art was to make it accessible for viewing and that the current arrangement showed disrespect and bad taste. She suggested that the stand possibly be moved down the sidewalk closer to the bank’s drive through exit.
After hearing about the concerns and discussing it, that’s exactly what the bank and the operators of the hotdog stand, Jim and Ally Lester, decided to do. Only twenty feet from the corner, customers of the hot dog stand can still sit on the bench located at the corner and eat their hotdogs next to a fine work of art that everyone, including those driving by, can enjoy.
In other business:
• The Council accepted the official audit reports for Fiscal Years 2009-2010, 2010-2011, and 2011-2012. The first two audits offered no opinion due to a lack of documentation and unbalanced accounts. The audit for FY 2011-2012, along with a federal audit, stated concerns about possibly not meeting Davis-Bacon wage requirements on federally funded projects. But upon investigation it was found that a number of the town’s projects were not subject to the Davis-Bacon requirements. While projects funded by the Army Corps of Engineers and work at the airport using FAA funds did have Davis-Bacon wage requirements, the large amount of work being done with Rural Development funds on the water and sewer projects was not.
• The Council adopted a Fixed Asset Capitalization Policy for planning long-term capital improvements and acquisitions. A proper reflection of the Town’s capital assets, in accordance with the Governmental Accounting Standards Board’s rules, is now required by the Montana Department of Administration. The information is also necessary to certify values for long-term financing. The true value of the Town’s fixed assets and inventory is also needed to properly complete the Town’s regular audits and will assist in the annual review and evaluation of assets for insurance purposes.
The resolution defines a fixed asset as being tangible in nature, of relative permanence and of significant value. All assets costing less than $5,000 shall be expensed in the fiscal year of purchase or acquisition. Assets that are to be capitalized will be carried in a Fixed Asset Account of the Town of Stevensville by fund type, i.e. General Fund and Enterprise Fund, and depreciated as appropriate. This applies to machinery, equipment, infrastructure and land.
The useful life of land is considered unlimited and is not depreciated. Equipment and machinery can be depreciated over 5 to 20 years; buildings over 20 to 50 years; improvements other than buildings over 10 to 50 years; and infrastructure from 5 to 50 years.
• The Council adopted a Revised and Restated Worker’s Compensation Program Agreement authorizing Montana Municipal Insurance Association to refund overpayments and collect on underpayments in the program.
• The Council approved the appointment of Kent Myers and Paul Rosenberg as the two Urban Supervisors on the Bitterroot Conservation District Board of Supervisors. The men will represent the interests of Darby, Hamilton and Stevensville on the board.
• Work on the sewer main improvement project and the water main improvements that were suspended due to cold and snowy conditions have resumed. From the beginning of March, more than three months remain on one time schedule for completion and just under two months on the second in the water project. Twenty-two calendar days remain under the contract for the sewer main improvements.
Mayor Mim Mack noted that $613.44 in overtime was paid for snow plowing during the last big snow event.