By Tim Leeds
A public open house was held at the Havre-Hill County Library Wednesday from 4-8 p.m. to give information and collect public comments on the proposals to put a fence in Beaver Creek Park.
Hill County Commissioner Pat Conway said he thought it went very well. 65 to 70 people attended the open house. Members of the commission, park board president Kathryn Eskestrand, advisory committee member Lou Hagener, Mick Johnson, head of the Great Falls division Montana Department of Transportation, Ross Gammon of the Havre office of the MDT, and Bob Thompson and Rick Rust, engineers from the Great Falls MDT were at the meeting to answer questions.
The meeting was held to show the different options available if the waiver sought from the legislature to excuse the county from putting up the fence fails.
The material at the open house included photographs and maps posted at the open house showing the variable corridor fence option recommended by the advisory board if the waiver request fail; the expanded corridor fence option; draft legislation requesting the waiver; information on the issues at hand and all options available.
Conway said the materials will remain posted in the library today and part of tomorrow.
Commissioner Doug Kaercher said he thinks that those that took the time to review the maps and information displayed and ask questions got a better understanding of the issues. He said several people thanked them for giving the opportunity to view the information.
Conway said that many people filled out the sheets provided to make written comments at the open house, and others took them home to fill out. The sheets have to be returned to the commissioners' office by June 10.
Conway said once the sheets are all collected, the comments will be summarized and the names of the people making comments listed, then forwarded to Dan Norderud of Peccia & Associates, who are making the environmental assessment for the MDT. Once assessments are concluded, they will be put out for public scrutiny. Conway said he believes there is a 30 window for people to respond to the assessment.
Commissioner Kathy Bessette said they heard comments way to the extremes of both sides of the issue. She said one question was how much the cattle revenue will be offset by the cost of maintaining the fence and springs proposed. She said while there will be an expense, it will be much less than the current expense of maintaining the highway.
Kaercher said they are currently averaging about $30,000 a year to maintain the highway. Bessette said the expense is increasing every year as well, as the highway deteriorates more.
Conway said they would like to thank the fence advisory committee for putting in so much work on the proposal.
"The commission would once again like to thank the citizen advisory for their diligent work," he said "and a special thank you to Lou Hagener who has taken on the responsibility to organize the material and proceedings that have occurred on this project."
The fence is required under Montana state law to reduce safety and environmental problems on state roads. Maintenance of all paved state secondary roads will revert to the state from the counties in 2001. Since cattle are allowed on the park from after Labor Day to the first of the new year, fences keeping them off of the road are required under state law.