Havre Daily News
Members of the North Central Regional Water Authority voted Tuesday to accept the city of Havre as a new member, despite the absence of any city representatives or a signed agreement.
The Havre City Council voted Monday to join the authority and asked Havre Mayor Bob Rice to appoint three city representatives.
No Havre representatives attended the meeting in Shelby on Tuesday, and the project's coordinator said the authority has not yet received a signed agreement from the city.
Bear Paw Development Corp. deputy director Annmarie Robinson said today that members voted the city into the authority without waiting for Rice to sign an interlocal agreement, based on the City Council's vote Monday.
"The authority made the motion based on what was passed by the council," Robinson said. "We did it all in good faith."
Havre City Council member and mayoral candidate Pam Hillery said today that she was "very frustrated" that no representatives from Havre attended Tuesday's meeting.
She said she had not yet talked to Rice and did not know why no one attended the meeting. At Monday's City Council meeting, Hillery suggested that Rice name himself, public works director Dave Peterson and one City Council member to the authority.
Hillery said she didn't expect there to be any problem with Rice signing the interlocal agreement to join the authority.
"Clearly, he was instructed to do that with a unanimous vote by the City Council," she said. "I wouldn't expect there to be any problem with him signing it."
Rice could not be reached for comment.
Membership in the authority is the penultimate step in the process to join the Rocky Boy's/North Central Regional Water System, which will bring drinking water treated at Lake Elwell to about 18,000 users on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation and in communities across north-central Montana.
The authority will meet next on Oct. 18. The location is tentatively set for Shelby.
At the meeting, the authority will finalize a participation agreement, which will be taken back to the governing bodies of the cities, towns and water districts involved in the authority. The participation agreement is the final step. After it is signed, the members will become permanent participants in the system.
A member of the authority told the City Council Monday that the deadline on whether to sign the participation agreement might be as late as March.
Robinson said today that the authority voted to schedule the October meeting, in order to get the agreement finalized and enable member communities to take it back for final consideration. She said the authority will require that the agreements be signed by January.
Each system must decide how it will make the final decision. Some municipalities have left it up to their councils, while others have decided to go out for a vote of their people.
"Every system is a little different," Robinson said.
Regional water system coordinating committee member Dean Hanson said today that Havre's membership in the authority gives city officials the opportunity to learn more about the system.
"They'll be a part of the inner workings of the thing," Hanson said.
The coordinating committee consists of five members of the authority and five members of the Chippewa Cree tribe.
At Tuesday's meeting in Shelby, the authority voted to approve two requests for withdrawal from the authority.
Chester and the Sage Creek Water District had both requested to be removed from the authority.
Sage Creek gets its water from a spring-fed source in the Sweet Grass Hills and decided to stick with that, Hanson said. Chester also elected to stay with its current water source.
State Department of Natural Resources and Conservation officials asked the authority to consider hiring a full-time coordinator to handle the project as it moves forward. The authority voted to move forward with the request. Robinson has worked with the project on a part-time basis since 1997.
"As we move this project forward, it's going to need somebody that's going to be full time on it," she said.