Havre Daily News
Havre city officials say they're in the dark about the progress of the proposed Rocky Boy's/North Central Montana Regional Water System, but the project's coordinator says those officials have not made efforts to follow up on it.
During Tuesday's City Council meeting, Havre resident and former City Council candidate Bob Kaul asked Mayor Bob Rice whether he had any new information about the project, which will bring drinking water to more than 18,000 residents on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation and across north-central Montana.
In September, the City Council voted to join the North Central Montana Regional Water Authority, a penultimate step to joining the full system. The water authority is made up of nontribal communities that are considering participation in the system. Project organizers had said that the entire water authority would meet in October to review a final participation agreement, which would bind to the system all communities that sign it.
The meeting was canceled, and both Rice and City Council member Gerry Veis said they have not heard anything recently about the project.
Kaul said he was concerned about the apparent lack of communication.
“For some reason, the ball has been dropped, one way or another,” he said.
Bear Paw Development Corp. deputy director Annmarie Robinson said today that notice would be sent out for the meeting, now set for Jan. 17 in Shelby.
The meeting was delayed because an attorney, under contract to the state, had to review the final agreement before it could go before the authority's membership, she said. The attorney added extra language to the agreement to ensure the various communities know what they are getting into, Robinson said.
Veis, Kaul and Rice also said they were concerned that Havre had not been notified of a meeting held last month. Robinson, who is the water project coordinator, said today that the meeting, held Dec. 21, was the regular meeting of the project's coordinating committee, which is made up of five representatives of the water authority and five from the Chippewa Cree Tribe.
Rice said he has not been able to get ahold of Dan Keil, who chairs the North Central Montana Regional Water Authority. Rice said Tuesday that he left five messages for Keil.
Robinson said today that Keil does not have an answering machine.
“(Rice) has never wrote to Mr. Keil, and he's never called me at all, period,” Robinson said. “I can get ahold of Mr. Keil if the mayor would ask me. I would relay a message.
“He's never spoken to me. He's never called me on the phone, ever, about this project,” she added.
Rice said today he talked to two other people, asking them to relay messages to Keil. He also said he remembers leaving a message on an answering machine at least once.
He said he wants to speak to Keil about financial statements the water authority provided to the city in the spring.
“We were concerned over the financial statements and some of the expenditures,” he said.
Robinson said she has never been contacted by Rice or city public works director Dave Peterson, whom Rice appointed, along with Veis, to serve with him as Havre's three representatives on the water authority.
Several city officials and residents have said they think the water authority hasn't done enough to lobby the city to join the system.
Robinson said today that she and authority members are available to provide more information whenever the city requests it.
“We have never been the ones to push this system,” she said. “If they ask us to be at a meeting, we'll come to a meeting. We're not going to sell the city anything. It's their decision.”
Some residents have come to Bear Paw Development and done their own research about the project, Robinson added. The project's Web site also is a great source for information, she said.
On the Net: www.northcentralmontanawater.org