No street improvement referendum this fall
Havre council rejects mayor’s proposal, wants to wait a year
Last updated 8/2/2016 at 7:10pm
Havre residents will not be voting on a street reconstruction program in this November’s elections,
Mayor Tim Solomon made a last-ditch attempt to get a proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot that would approve a 75 mill levy for 20 years to begin work on the city’s streets as soon as possible.
But City Council rejected the proposal 7-1, with only council member Caleb Hutchins siding with the mayor.
Many of those voting against the proposal said they were conflicted and would like to have the matter voted on this year, but for a variety of reasons felt that a delay would be best.
Former council member Pam Hillery strongly supported the mayor’s proposal, telling her former colleagues that the streets are in horrible condition and are getting worse.
The council’s Streets and Sidewalks Committee has passed a proposal to put it on the 2017 ballot. Members were fearful that having the matter on the ballot this year, when the Government Study Commission has a city-manager proposal on the ballot, would cause some voters to reject both proposals.
The streets proposal lost by about 200 votes in the 2015 elections.
Hillery’s husband, Paul Tuss. read her statement to council because she has ALS and had trouble speaking.
Hillery said one of the comments she heard most often during the 2015 campaign was that “it should have been done a long time ago.”
“If not now, when?” she said.
The street repair program is such a pressing need that it should not be delayed, she said.
But Hillery’s longtime ally on the subject, council member Terry Lilletvedt, said she reluctantly agreed to support the one-year delay.
The delay would give supporters more time to work out the details of the proposal, she said. Postponing the vote would give supporters a year to launch an educational campaign. And it would make it easier to pass the city manager form of government this year, which she believes in.
Lilletvedt called on state and federal governments to come up with infrastructure programs that would supplement the city’s expenditures.
Other council members agreed with Lilletvedt’s reasoning.
Council member Andrew Brekke said he would support the streets plan if the vote is delayed one year, it is for a lesser amount than the 2015 proposal and if it calls for some kind of combination of tax dollars and money raised through Special Improvement Districts. The proposal approved by the Streets and Sidewalks Committee meets those standards, he said, and he will support it.
Brekke was the lone council member to oppose the proposal last year. Hillery was not persuaded by the arguments against Solomon’s proposal.
“The infrastructure and roads are being sacrificed on the altar of the study commission,” she wrote in an email to the Havre Daily News Monday night. “I think the majority of the council believes the Havre voters are easily confused. I am quite disgusted with the failure of the resolution.”