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Congratulations Colstrip!! We have just completed a very successful twenty years as an incorporated City. I would like to share a brief history on how we became incorporated and why.
This all began when Montana Power Company, as the operating owner of the power plants, advised the community that they would be removing themselves of any responsibility of providing services. They were planning on eliminating all of the services provided by Colstrip Community Services. This process began in 1997 and early 1998 with a reorganization of the Power Plant Administration Services. The companies initiated a program they called ‘Vision 2000’. They hired a con-sultant group out of California and gave them the task of reviewing their organiza-tional structure to make it more streamlined and cost efficient. As one of their Vice Presidents stated “We need to became more like Enron” (little did they know).
As all of this was unfolding, a group of residents formed its own committee and became very active in investigating the process of incorporating as a city - the benefits and the risks. The makeup of this group included Mark Stevens, Jim Ob-land, Larry Miller, Dennis Davenport, Rita Navasio, Peggy Skiles, John Jutila, Nancy Brennan and myself. We utilized the help of the Local Government Center at MSU Bozeman, the Montana League of Cities and Towns, the State of Montana’s Department of Commerce and legal advice from Gary Ryder, who continues to serve as our City Attorney. We established incorporated boundaries and success-fully incorporated with overwhelming approval from our resident voters.
The next step of the process was to establish our City Government with an elec-tion of officers. This election occurred in April 1999. The officers elected included Gale Palmer, Larry Pattison, Jim Obland and Mark Stevens as Council Members and John Williams as Mayor. Initially we hired Carol Waples as a temporary City Clerk. Our first two regular employees were Michelle Richards as City Clerk/Treasurer and John Bleth as Public Works Director. We set up offices in the old Environmental Building which now houses the Boilermakers Training Center.
To begin our government operations, we borrowed $40,000. Our first budget was a “challenge”. The words of advice I received still remain with me - “Do it right the first time”, and we did. Much of the credit goes to our City Clerk/Treasurer Michelle Richards and Public Works Director John Bleth. They developed the budget. Also, most importantly, our first City Council members that approved and adopted the first budget. We were under tremendous pressure from the power plant owners, mostly Montana Power Company. They attempted to influence that first budget . They hired an outside consultant from Helena and exerted tremendous pressure on our City Council. Our City Council stayed the course and I give them the credit of doing it right the first time. The first year’s budget was so important because it established the basis for our financial fu-ture!
I would also like to give credit and appreciation to all of our employees and volunteer firefighters over the past twenty years. Our City has been blessed with quality individuals striving to do their very best with quality service to our residents. Thank you also to our many board members that give of their time to serve our City and its residents.
Since our incorporation we have made major changes and improvements in all areas of the city’s responsibilities to our residents. Major improvements in our infrastructure system - water, sewer and streets. Major changes in our fire protection with funding and equipment improvements for our Volunteer Fire Department. Establishment and staffing of our Police Department with the recognition of being one of the safest places to live in Montana.
Even with the challenges and threats of closure of Units 1 and 2 of the power plants by 2022, we remain optimistic about our future and will continue to work in a positive manner toward any opportunity of diversification and eco-nomic development. The city’s financial health remains strong and continues to improve. The city has been in a unique situation with having the ability to levy mills less than the maximum mill levy authorized under state law. This provided us the opportunity to bank mills and then use them later to make improvements to our water infra-structure. We will be able to continue accumulating unused mills. This has provided us the opportunity to make improvements without impacting the rates to our residents. The position of our financial health is indicated by our net position. From year 2017 to 2018 our net position increased by $1,652,713 to our new total of $21,814,153. I would like to invite any resident interested to come into City Hall and review our city’s financial statements.
I would like to close out my article with an expression of appreciation to City Judge Gail Beckham. Judge Beckham will be retiring on May 1, 2019 after serving as our City Judge since January 1, 2007. We have been very fortunate to have had Judge Beckham in our service as our City Judge. Judge Beckham came to work for the city after having been a Justice of the Peace for Rosebud County for 12 years. We have appreciated her service and dedication to our city and its residents. Congratulations to you, Judge Beckham, on your retirement.
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A vacancy has occurred on the Colstrip City Council. The term for which the appointment will be made is from the date of the appointment through the remainder of the term ending December 31, 2021. To be eligible, a person must be a resident of the City at least one year prior to appointment.
Persons interested in being appointed to fill the vacant term should submit a letter indicating the reasons for their interest and describing their relevant background. Letters of interest should include the following information:
Reason(s) you want to be on the City Council
Skills, knowledge or experiences you have that would contribute to your service on the council
Top three priorities for changes or improvements to the community
Letters of interest should be hand delivered to the City Clerk’s Office at 12 Cherry Street, emailed to email@example.com or mailed to Michelle Richards, City Clerk/Treasurer, PO Box 1902, Colstrip, MT 59323.
Letters of interest will be accepted until noon on Friday, April 5, 2019.
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Greetings! As we prepare for the winter season, we should be ever thankful that although it may be easy to complain about the weather and snow and cold that comes with winter, we don’t have hurricanes and the terrible issues those people are going through with the loss of their homes and services.
I would like to welcome and introduce three new employees to our staff: Wendy Acton, Cindy Larsen-Stevens and Ben Hitt. Cindy is a part-time dispatcher in the police department and has experience as a dispatcher with Rosebud County. Wendy is a long time resident of Colstrip and joins us as a Deputy City Clerk. Ben is brand new to Colstrip and joins our Police Department as a Police Officer. Welcome Wendy, Cindy & Ben!
It has been a very busy summer for our city and it’s employees. We have successfully completed our employee/ labor negotiations and now have four-year contracts in place. Although we have been very productive in many areas, two of our major projects have not yet been completed. They are our Wastewater Treatment Rehabilitation Project and the Zone 3 Water Storage Tank Project. The Wastewater Treatment Rehabilitation Project is about 90 percent complete but due to contractor issues, the City is in the process of changing contractors. We plan on having this project completed by year end. This is $2.2 million project that was partially funded by the Montana Coal Board with a $500,000 grant.
The Zone 3 Water Storage Tank Replacement project has been delayed because of land and property ownership issues. What started out as a relatively simple process of the city receiving an easement onto an area within the Winchester Park boundaries became very complicated and time consuming with differing opinions on an easement and use of the property to place a 450,000 gallon water storage tank. It became necessary for us to seek an outside legal opinion to support the City Attorney’s opinion and to also seek the involvement of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The construction of this tank is now scheduled to begin in the Spring of 2019, a delay of almost two years after our first meeting with the Rosebud County Commissioners. This is a $2.3 million project. Upon its completion the residents in the Zone 3 area will see an increase in their water pressure, similar to what some other residents have seen when we combined Zones 1 and 2 east of the highway.
We have completed the budgeting process for fiscal year 2018-2019 and are looking forward to several major street projects that includes Power Road, Main Street and Homestead Boulevard. Estimated costs for these projects is $2.7 million. We will also be doing chip sealing on Pine Butte Drive and Sweetgrass Drive. Also included in the budget is the replacement of High Service Pumps at the Water Treatment Plant. This will improve service and reliability as the current pumps were originally installed almost 40 years ago. The budgeted capital costs for streets, water and sewer totals $6.7 million.
The Colstrip Community Impact Advisory Group (CCIAG) continues to move forward with many ideas on the utilization of the $10 million Puget Sound Energy Settlement Funds. The direction as of this writing appears to be headed towards the establishment of a Colstrip Community Foundation. The foundation would establish a board that would set up rules on the administration of the funds. The details remain to be worked out.
A settlement between the City of Colstrip, Avista Corporation and Hydro One remains on hold awaiting approval by Commissions in the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. That determination is scheduled to occur on or before December 15, 2018.
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Pursuant to Title 1, Chapter 6A of the Colstrip Municipal Code, the City of Colstrip is accepting proposals for the position of City Judge. The position of City Judge is appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council. The appointment is to fill a vacancy for the remainder of a four year term and expires the first Monday in January 2020. Successful applicant will be eligible for reappointment for a four-year term beginning in January 2020.
The Colstrip City Judge is a ¾ FTE position or approximately 130 hours per month. Benefits are pro-rated and compensation is set by resolution of the City Council. City Court maintains office hours on Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and must be open to the public during this time.
Education & Experience:
1. No specific educational requirements; High School Diploma or GED equivalent preferred and two years general office and computer experience, preferably in local government or the legal field; or an equivalent combination of education, training and experience.
2. Must meet the qualifications as set forth in Montana Code Annotated Section 3-11-202. Must be a resident of Rosebud County. (Ordinance 99-12, 8-15-1999; amd. 2003 Code)
The appointed person is required to complete the orientation course of study held under the direction of the Montana Supreme Court or has been excused by the Montana Supreme Court. If a person is appointed after the course is offered, the appointee must agree to take the course at the next offering, and upon failure to do so, will be disqualified.
Those interested in appointment as City Judge should submit a proposal describing their qualifications, together with a resume or vita. Please submit proposals for consideration to the City of Colstrip, Attention City Clerk/Treasurer Michelle Richards, PO Box 1902, Colstrip, MT 59323 no later than 5:00 pm on Friday March 22, 2019. An information packet for this appointment is available at Colstrip City Hall, 12 Cherry Street, or by calling (406) 748-2300