Havre Daily News
The Havre City Council is joining local governments across the state in support of long-distance passenger rail service on Amtrak. At a meeting on Monday, City Council members approved a resolution urging Congress and President George W. Bush to fund the service, which has been threatened with federal funding cuts.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice said the city's resolution would be packaged together with similar resolutions passed by other members of the Montana League of Cities and Towns and sent to Washington, D.C.
Rice said today that the rail service is vital to Havre and its economy.
"For us to lose Amtrak, it's like losing a limb," he said. "We have two major lifelines in Havre as far as economics goes. One of them is the college and one of them is the railroad. Amtrak is vital. Some of the people making these decisions in Washington need to come out here and see what they're making a decision on."
Council member Jack Brandon said after the meeting that Amtrak is a crucial mode of travel along the Hi-Line.
"It's the main route of transportation along this corridor," he said. "We rely on Amtrak. We have a lot of jobs in Havre that are tied to Amtrak. Some merchants in town rely on the trains for special shipments."
Brandon said his family members had used the service to travel to and from Havre.
"It's a great service to have, especially in the wintertime when the roads are bad," he added.
Council member Tom Farnham echoed Brandon's comments.
"We're very isolated here and it is a great way to travel," he said. Farnham said he has used the train to travel to Spokane, Wash., to visit relatives. A whistle-stop tour in support of the passenger train service will come to Havre on June 1. Gov. Brian Schweitzer will be on board, along with Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and representatives of Montana's congressional delegation. Residents will have the opportunity to voice their support at a town meeting and a rally.
In other City Council news:
Council members voted to approve an agreement between the city and the Montana Department of Transportation regarding the construction of a new storm drainage system beneath First Street. The storm sewers will be replaced in conjunction with the First Street reconstruction project, which is set to begin in 2007.
The drainage project is estimated to cost about $8 million, public works director Dave Peterson said. The city will be responsible for 13 percent of the cost of the replacements, with an additional 16 percent coming out of the city's state-allocated urban street funds, he said. Hill County will pay for 7 percent of the project, and MDT will pay for the rest.
The city will also replace storm sewers beneath several streets that connect to First Street while the work is being done, Peterson said. The city will be responsible for all of those costs, he added.
Brandon thanked Rice and Peterson for the work they've done to coordinate the projects with MDT.
"Without your initiative, this never would have been done," he said.
Council members approved the closing of several city streets for an annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament at the request of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce. Fourth Avenue will be closed between Second and Fourth streets for the July 30 tournament. About 60 teams competed last year.
Council members approved a budget transfer request from the Public Works Department for repairs at the city water plant. At an earlier Finance Committee meeting, Peterson requested that $23,500 previously budgeted for the purchase of three new pump control valves be used to purchase new parts for one of the plant's three pumps. The pump has lost 33 percent of its efficiency, he said.
"It's something that's pretty critical, especially during the summer months," Peterson said.
The city will pay Havre-based Jacobson Drilling more than $18,000 to purchase and install a new motor and pump control valve. The city had already purchased new pumping equipment for use elsewhere in the plant that will instead be used on the faulty pump, Peterson said.
The council members also approved a transfer of $11,500 from the electricity fund to the natural gas fund to cover increased costs.