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Another Dust Bowl?

 

Added to the direct costs inflicted on us by the inept, realtor-dominated county commissioners there are indirect costs that negatively impact both our fiscal and physical well-being.

In about 1999 some of us on the west side engaged a contractor to oil a stretch of our road thereby protecting our health and property from road dust which is harmful to lungs, electronics, and other possessions. We had good results with the oiling and continued doing it each of the following years.

In 2005 the County entered the fray, undercutting the contractor’s reasonable prices and for the last nine years has annually encouraged residents on dirt and gravel roads to participate in its dust abatement program. This year, as in the past nine years, we thought we’d “oil” again thereby reducing the clouds of harmful dust. Even many who don’t participate derive some benefit from the application of the chemical used. Further, treated roads usually require less maintenance by the County.

Whoa! In early April the Road Department mailed a notice to participants that the program was canceled this year, citing that large amounts of gravel were washed out during the March floods and the Department needed to use its resources to replace materials (gravel?) on County roads.

Their letter stated they had a list of private contractors who’d do the oiling. I visited the office and was given the names and phone numbers of just two firms. I expressed dismay over the cancellation of the program and was told it was the result of a shortage of drivers (Remember the Commissioners terminated a number of drivers in late 2013). So, was it the need for gravel, or the lack of drivers, that precipitated cancellation of this year’s Dust Abatement plan? Great Scott, can’t they get their stories straight?

What are the costs? Now it’s $118 to treat 100 feet; last year to treat that distance was $53, though for effective coverage it’s best to treat at least 300 feet. In fact the county required that a minimum of 300 feet be treated and would treat nothing less. $354 now vs. $159 before. Ouch!

Thanks commissioners! $70,000 (so far) for your so-called County Treasurer problem with more costs likely over the next 4-5 years per the County Attorney. And how about that nearly $250,000 you’re paying a non-working Asst. County Attorney you didn’t like. Then you refused $40,000 of Title X funds (Family Planning and Preventive Health Care) although we taxpayers had already paid Federal taxes to support the program. Next you fired a competent Road Supervisor resulting in a law suit that may run into a million (or more) dollar judgment against the county (and I hope he wins so you’ll have to explain the resulting increase in our property taxes; wisely he’s filed his suit in Federal Court where he’ll get an unbiased jury). Maybe then county taxpayers will begin thinking about whom they elect and not just pulling the lever for the political party in power. Curiously, you supposedly represent the party which I’ve supported since 1936. But frankly, commissioners, you are nothing but imposters in the Grand Old Party.

Meanwhile folks – enjoy the commissioners’ gift to you of the 2014 version of the Dust Bowl.

They’ve put up signs by the hundreds all over the county urging you to re-elect them. Folks, ask yourselves, do these “Hallelujah Hooligans” honestly deserve another term?

W.C. Bolen

Hamilton

One Response to Another Dust Bowl?
  1. Larry Campbell
    May 2, 2014 | 3:32 pm

    I too am dismayed that the County is abdicating any responsibility for the heavy toll on health created by the dust from dirt roads. The Montana Constitution guarantees citizens the right to a clean and healthy environment. Road dust from county roads is a serious health hazard caused to citizens by public actions on public property. Now there will be no effort by public officials to mitigate it. This situation seems irresponsible, illegal and immoral. I see that the County goes to the trouble of cleaning off the sand they put on paved roads during the winter, but they do nothing to reduce the much more severe problem of dust from dirt roads. After the wrongful discharge suit by former Road Department Supervisor Ohnstedt comes home to roost, there will be even less money to deal with the problem. This issue needs to be addressed, and I don\’t see our County Commissioners dealing with this real world problem. Maybe they can\’t see the dust through their fog. I think it is time to get it on their agenda somehow. At the very least this situation should be addressed and mitigated in planning and regulations for new homebuilding along dirt roads. Thank you WC Bolen for bringing up this important issue.

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