Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Alex Ross 

Havre council declares disaster


October 17, 2017

Havre Daily News/Floyd Brandt

Havre Mayor Tim Solomon answers a question from City Council member Jay Pyette during a discussion of declaring a disaster in the city due to damage from the Oct. 2-3 snowstorm. The declaration, which the council passed unamimously, will help the city access funds to use in the cleanup of Havre after the early winter storm.

A disaster declaration authorizing the city to levy two mills to help offset the cost of cleanup from the record-setting Oct 2-3 snowstorm was unanimously approved by Havre City Council at their meeting Monday night.

Mayor Tim Solomon said the declaration is required because the city needs to levy the two mills within 30 days. The $20,600 will be used to offset some of the immediate emergency costs of the cleanup. The city also hopes to apply to the state for additional money to offset the cleanup cost, though there is no guarantee they will get that money. Solomon added that Havre will be competing for disaster dollars with many communities effected by wildfires this summer.

"We can ask, but the state is not in great shape, either," Solomon said.

The money that has been spent so far, Havre City Clerk Finance Director Doug Kaercher said, has come from funds that had been set to go into the city budget for garbage collection.

Council member Denise Brewer asked what would happen if the city could not get additional money from the state. Solomon said they would have to take money out of the budget and deal with it in the next budget.

Kaercher said the mill levy will cost property owners an additional $2.70 per $100,000 of their property's taxable value.

Solomon said contractors were hired during the first days of the cleanup to help clear main streets of snow and debris. The price of the contractors and overtime for city employees has cost the city between $35,000 and $40,000.

He added that representatives from the Montana Disaster and Emergency Services were in Havre Friday to examine the damage.

The loose branches dangling from trees, especially those hanging above sidewalks and roads, should be considered an emergency expense, Solomon said.

Solomon said there are many large branches and the city wants to use additional money to bring in contractors to cut down some of the larger limbs hanging over streets and sidewalks.

Money from the state, he said, can be used on publicly owned property, but not private property.

Solomon said the cost of bringing in contractors for about two or three weeks to cut down those tree limbs will be roughly $60,000 to $70,000.

Council member Jay Pyette asked if the money could be used to clean up the parks.

Solomon said the city could, but he wants to focus on getting through the rest of the cleanup first.

He added that the city is asking property owners to do as much as they can to clean up the debris on their properties. So far, Solomon said, the public has been "excellent" helping out with the cleanup.

Council member Karen Swenson said she thought city crews did an outstanding job with the recovery.

Solomon said NorthWestern Energy will start replacing damaged wires later this week on street lights.

City Council candidate Marc Whitacre said he has talked to several people about the idea of using volunteer labor from the Hill County Detention Center and encouraging that courts sentence offenders to community service clearing the tree limbs around the city.

"The argument is that if we are going to have a bunch of people standing around staring at concrete walls all day, they might welcome the opportunity to be outdoors doing some kind of light, nonhazardous labor," Whitacre said.

He said he is not proposing that they use heavy machinery but that allowing them to walk behind a truck and throw branches into it might be cost effective to the city.

Solomon said the Hill County Detention Center is operated by the county and not the city and, therefore, are the ones who establish a work program for inmates. He said judges do have input and the city judge can sentence people to a work program for those who receive community punishment. Solomon said it is up to the judges.


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