By Tim Leeds
Gov. Judy Martz says she will hold a meeting on the Hi-Line to address "misinformation" about the bill adopted by the last Legislature to widen U.S. Highway 2 to a four-lane road.
Mary Schwarz, director of communications for Martz, said Havre has been selected to serve as Capitol for a Day on Nov. 14, and that Martz will set aside time to discuss the widening of Highway 2 while she's in town that day.
Schwarz said Martz hopes to be able to clear up confusion about Senate Bill 3 that exists on both sides of the discussion.
The sponsor of Senate Bill 3, Glasgow Republican Sam Kitzenberg, has several times publicly accused the Department of Transportation of trying to scuttle the law, which calls on the state to secure federal funding for the project.
In a recent letter to Martz and the Montana Highway Commission, Kitzenberg said that after hearing a presentation about the bill from MDT director David Galt, the Legislature's Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee issued an interpretation of SB3 that effectively kills the bill.
In the letter, Kitzenberg claimed that MDT is doing everything it can to "thwart" building a four-lane highway across northern Montana.
In a recent interview, Kitzenberg also said he thinks it was "dirty pool" for Galt to go to the meeting of the interim committee and bring up the issue without notifying Kitzenberg. He also said it was inappropriate for MDT to present possible problems it perceives with widening Highway 2 to the Havre City Council since SB3 has already been debated and approved in the Legislature.
Kitzenberg said Galt and Mick Johnson, administrator of the Great Falls Division of the MDT, used "scare tactics" to try to keep the Havre council members from voting to support SB3. The council voted to support the project.
In her letter, Martz said Kitzenberg "admonishes Director Galt for telling the truth about impacts of Senate Bill 3" to the Havre City Council and the interim committee. She stated that Galt was invited to both the interim committee meeting and to the council meeting.
Havre City Council member Tom Farnham said in a recent interview that the City Council didn't invite Galt. He said he received a call from Galt asking if MDT officials could attend the council meeting on Sept. 10, which had been scheduled to talk about the four-lane project, and Farnham told Galt it would be all right if MDT attended.
State Rep. Ron Erickson, chair of the Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee, said last week that the committee voted to form a subcommittee to write an interpretation of SB3 at its meeting Sept. 13-14.
Galt, as MDT director, attends all meetings of the committee, according to committee staffers.
Martz wrote in her letter that the bill she signed into law directs MDT to build the four-lane only with federal money appropriated specifically for that project. The state has not received any money for that purpose, she wrote.