Highlights from the 2014 Colstrip Candidate Forum

An underwhelming thirty to forty people attended the 2014 Colstrip Candidate Forum, hosted by Bicentennial Library at Colstrip High School, to meet and learn more about the candidates running for Montana Senate District 20 and House Districts 39 and 41.  The candidate turn out was excellent with all but two of the scheduled candidates attending; Rod Mogen (D) of Rosebud, running for SD 20, and Patricia Rae Peppers (D) of Lame Deer, running for HD 41, were not able attend.

The first round of moderated questions went to Mr Howard Keller (D) of Big Horn and Mrs Geri Custer (R) of Forsyth both running for the open seat in House district 39.  Prior to the start of the night, Mr Keller told the forum organizers that he felt nervous since he has never sought political office before, but when the forum began he appeared calm, prepared, and confident.  Mrs Custer presented herself confident and knowledgeable, showing her political insight from her thirty plus years of political service as Rosebud County Clerk and Recorder.

The second round featured the candidates for Senate district 20, Mr Duane Ankney (R) of Colstrip and Mr Barry Usher (R) of Billings.  In his characteristic down-to-earth manner, Mr Ankney displayed his knowledge and experience of legislative politics; having served the past eight years in the Montana House of Representatives.  Mr Usher also showed insight and readiness for the senate seat drawing from his past experience as a military veteran, police officer, and current experience as a successful small business owner in Billings.

The forum was not a debate and as such there was no declared winner from either interviewed group.  Rather, the audience was able to become better acquainted with the men and women seeking to represent them in Helena in 2015.

Mr Keller and Mrs Custer will face off during the general election to be held November 4.  While Mr Ankney and Mr Usher will face off in the primary election to be held on June 3 and the winner will compete against Rod Mogen for the final victory to be decided at the general election.  Ms Peppers is still expected to run unopposed for the House district 41 seat.

Colstrip resident, Gary Parry, performed an excellent job of moderator.  The event schedule progressed more quickly than expected due to the two absent candidates and to the efficiency and preparedness of the candidates in answering the questions.  To help lengthen the time with the candidates, Mr Parry was able to seamlessly interject relevant questions and opened the floor to questions from the audience.

Audience members were also treated by the attendance of two other political candidates; the Rosebud County Superintendent of Schools candidate Lisa Blevins (D) of Forsyth and U.S. Senate candidate Champ Edmunds (R) of Missoula.  Mrs Blevins is running for a local office that has not seen much competition in the past while Mr Edmunds is running in the high-profile race against fellow Republican and current U.S. Congressman Steve Daines, both seeking the Republican nomination for the Senate seat recently vacated by Max Baucus. Both Mrs Blevins and Mr Edmunds were able to meet fellow audience members at the end of the forum to promote their own campaigns.

Even though the audience turn out was lower than hoped for, I certainly appreciated the effort and time put forward by the candidates to travel out to Colstrip to let local residents to get to know them.  I hope that future events like this will be planned by the Rosebud County Bicentennial Library of Colstrip and that more people will take this great opportunity to meet the men and women who will serve and represent them in Forsyth, Helena, and even the U.S. capitol.

get involved icon-large

Colstrip Candidate Forum 2014 Update: All Candidates have accepted

Candidate Forum Logo 2014Patricia Rae Peppers (D) of Lame Deer has recently accepted the invitation and plans to attend the 2014 Colstrip Candidate Forum.

All the state legislative candidates filed for election have accepted and plan to attend!

Running for state Senate district 20 are Republicans Duane Ankney of Colstrip (current district 43 House Representative), Barry Usher of Billings and Democrat Rod Mogen of Rosebud.  Running for House district 39 is Democrat Howard Keller of Big Horn and Republican Geri Custer of Forsyth (current County Clerk of Rosebud County).  Running unopposed in House district 41 is Patricia Rae Peppers of Lame Deer (incumbent).

Again, the event is not a debate. All candidates will be on stage together answering a series of questions asked by the moderator.  Each candidate will have one opportunity to answer the question in turn.  The format gives the audience the opportunity to get to know the candidates and find out why they chose to run for elected office.

Come out to the 2014 Colstrip Candidate Forum, hosted by Bicentennial Library at Colstrip High School auditorium, Friday, May 2 starting at 7:00 PM.  It’s only two days away!  I’ll see you there.

Remember, you can join the Event on Facebook.

Colstrip Candidate Forum 2014 Update: 5 of 6 Candidates have accepted

Candidate Forum Logo 2014Rod Mogen (D) of Rosebud has recently accepted the invitation and plans to attend the 2014 Colstrip Candidate Forum.

Mr Ankney, Mr Usher, Mr Keller, Mrs Custer, and Mr Mogen have agreed to participate.  We’re just missing Ms Peppers for a full stage.

Running for state Senate district 20 are Republicans Duane Ankney of Colstrip (current district 43 House Representative), Barry Usher of Billings and Democrat Rod Mogen of Rosebud.  Running for House district 39 is Democrat Howard Keller of Big Horn and Republican Gerri Custer of Forsyth (current County Clerk of Rosebud County).  Running unopposed in House district 41 is Patricia Rae Peppers of Lame Deer (incumbent).

Again, the event is not a debate. All candidates will be on stage together answering a series of questions asked by the moderator.  Each candidate will have one opportunity to answer the question in turn.  The format gives the audience the opportunity to get to know the candidates and find out why they chose to run for elected office.  Get your questions on the final list; submit a question right here at In Colstrip!

Come out to the 2014 Colstrip Candidate Forum, hosted by Bicentennial Library at Colstrip High School auditorium, Friday, May 2 starting at 7:00 PM.  It’s only two weeks away!  I’ll see you there.

Remember, you can join the Event on Facebook.

Submit a Question for the 2014 Colstrip Candidate Forum

Bicentennial Library of Colstrip and the 2014 Colstrip Candidate Forum planning team are accepting questions from the public to ask at the upcoming Colstrip Candidate Forum.

The event, held on May 2, 2014 at the Colstrip High School auditorium, will be a moderated Q&A format.  The moderator will asks questions submitted by local residents of House districts 39 and 41 and Senate district 20.  If you live in Rosebud county, the eastern edge of Big Horn and Yellowstone county, Treasure county or the western part of Powder River county, then ask a question!  Get to know your potential elected representative.  To see who is running and what district you belong to, check out the recent In Colstrip posts: One City, Two Districts and The Local Race for State Congress.

You can submit your questions one of four ways:

  1. in person at Bicentennial Library in Colstrip or Rosebud County Library in Forsyth
  2. On the Bicentennial Library Facebook page
  3. On the Colstrip Candidate Forum Facebook page
  4. or right here at In Colstrip

Just ask your question using the form below.  It’s that simple!

get involved badge large

Get to Know Your Candidates

Candidate Forum Logo 2014Three years ago Colstrip Bicentennial Library hosted the first Colstrip Candidate Forum; a moderate Q&A event where the local mayoral and council candidates answered a series of questions in front of a live audience.  It was well attend and helped shape the outcome of a crowded local race.

I’m excited to let you know that they are doing it again, but this time for candidates running for state house and senate.  On Friday, May 2 starting at 7PM Bicentennial Library will host the 2014 Colstrip Candidate Forum.  The event will be held at the Colstrip High School auditorium and four of the six candidates have accepted the invitation.

Running for state Senate district 20 are Republicans Duane Ankney of Colstrip (current district 43 House Representative), Barry Usher of Billings and Democrat Rod Mogen of Rosebud.  Running for House district 39 is Democrat Howard Keller of Big Horn and Republican Gerri Custer of Forsyth (current County Clerk of Rosebud County).  Running unopposed in House district 41 is Patricia Rae Peppers of Lame Deer (incumbent).

Mr Ankney, Mr Usher, Mr Keller, and Mrs Custer have agreed to participate.

The event is not a debate. All candidates will be on stage together answering a series of questions asked by the moderator.  Each candidate will have one opportunity to answer the question in turn.  The format gives the audience the opportunity to get to know the candidates and find out why they chose to run for elected office.

Join your neighbors and other people who live in your district at the Colstrip Candidate Forum, hosted by Bicentennial Library at Colstrip High School auditorium, Friday, May 2 starting at 7:00 PM.  It’s only three weeks away!

Join the Event on Facebook.

Meeting Minutes for March 25, 2014–Colstrip City Council

At the regular Colstrip City Council held on Wednesday, March 25, 2014 the Council considered six (6) motions and approved six (6) motions.  All council members and the mayor were present.  No members of the public spoke when the floor was opened for pubic comment.  You can read the official minutes online at cityofcolstrip.com.

The Business

Add Two Claims to the Consent Agenda

Motion: Council-member Miller made a motion to add a claim from DPS Company for the amount of $50,019.87 and a claim from Department of Revenue for $505.25 the Consent Agenda at the request of Mayor Hanser.  Council-member Jankowski seconded.

Discussion:

No discussion was offered.

No public comment was received.

Result: Motion carried all in favor.

 

Approve Consent Agenda

Motion:  Council-member Jankowski moved to approve Consent Agenda with the addition of the two claims and correction to the minutes.  Council-member Koczur seconded.

Discussion:

No discussion was offered.

No public comment was received.

Result: Motion carried with all in favor.

 

Health Insurance Benefit for Elected Officials

Motion: Council-member Williams moved to approve Resolution No. 2014-R08 to allow elected and appointed officials to participate in the city’s group health insurance program with Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority.  Council-member Miller seconded.

Discussion:

Council-member Miller “asked if it will be included in the resolution who will be paying for the health insurance”.  Attorney Ryder explained that the resolution refers to the budgetary process as the method used to decide the funding for the proposal.  Council-member Williams further explained that the “resolution only authorizes the participation of the officials and is not to decide who will pay for it”.

No public comment was received.

Result: Motion carried with all in favor.

 

Amendment 2 to Engineering Task Order No. 11

Motion: Council-member Williams moved to approve Amendment 2 to Engineering Task Order No. 11 for the Water Plant Backwash System in the amount of $97,916.00.  Council-member Miller seconded.

Discussion:

Council-member Jankowski asked “if there were any modifications to the other terms and conditions of the original task order”.  The engineer from KLJ Billings stated “there are no modifications to the original terms and conditions”.

No public comment was received.

Result: Motion carried with all in favor.

 

Chemical Purchase for Public Works Department

Motion: Council-member Jankowski moved to approve the request from Public Works Director Swan to purchase chemicals from Hawkins in the amount of $13,231.60. Council-member Koczur seconded.

Discussion:

Council-member Miller asked “if there is any risk in raising the purchasing policy limit so that it would not be necessary to come to the city council for prior approval for this type of purchase”.  This question will be placed on the agenda of the next regular meeting.

No public comment received.

Result: Motion carried with all in favor.

 

Meeting Adjournment

Motion: Council-member Jankowski moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:05 PM. Council-member Miler seconded.

Discussion:

No discussion was offered.

No public comment received.

Result: Motion carried with all in favor.

 

NOTE: The information above is from the official draft copy of the March 25, 2014 meeting minutes available to the public online and upon request from the office of Colstrip City Clerk.

meeting minutes badge large

Colstrip City Update: Week of April 6, 2014

Summary:

On Tuesday night, 4/8, starting at 7:00 PM, the Colstrip City Council will meet in regular session at City Hall.

The main business on the agenda will be:

  • Public Hearing/Wastewater Preliminary Engineering Report
  • Resolution No. 2014-R09/Health Insurance Benefit for Mayor
  • Additional Public Works Department Employee
  • Resolution No. 2014-R10/Budget Transfers
  • Fireworks Purchase
  • Concrete Pad at New City Shop
  • Anthracite Purchase for Water Treatment Plant
  • Resolution No. 2014-R11/Safety & Health Program

The meeting will begin promptly at 7:00 PM.  All are welcome to attend.  Comments and questions are welcome during specified times of the meeting.

More information:

Public Hearing/Wastewater Preliminary Engineering Report

A public hearing for “the purpose of obtaining public comments regarding the ongoing Wastewater Preliminary Engineering Report project.”  During the hearing, the City’s engineer consultant, KLJ of Billings, will: provide an overview of the report and project, highlight the problems with the wastewater system used by the City, summarizes the recommended solutions and financing options.  The system is organized into two components: collection and treatment.  KLJ will provide seven (7) proposals to fix the collection system with costs ranging from $105,000-$372,000.  KLJ will also recommend eight (8) solutions to fix the transmission system with costs ranging from $34,000-$1.5 million.

Resolution No. 2014-R09/Health Insurance Benefit for Mayor

This resolution is a follow up to the previous Council meeting and a recent Personnel Committee recommendation.  The committee recommended the Council allow the Mayor “to be eligible for the payment of the individual Madison Plan Single Coverage premium available to (sic) the City’s health insurance provider, MMIA” and advised that there is enough funds in the Mayor’s budget to pay the premium.  They also noted that the cost to continue of the benefit into future budget years should be addressed in the upcoming budget year.

Additional Public Works Department Employee

The Public Works Committee met on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 to consider the request to create one more employee position within the Public Works Department.  The committee recommended that the Council approve one additional Union position within the Public Works Department.  Mayor Hanser also stated in a memo to the Council, “it is anticipated that the City would have two (2) Senior Operator Positions; two (2) Utility/Maintenance 1 Positions; one (1) Solid Water Position; one (1) Lead Operator Position.”  Public Works Directory Bryan Swan wrote in a memo to the Council that, “the hiring of an additional employee would be a first step toward that goal” of starting up new and improving current department programs.

On a related note, the Mayor also requested in a memo written to the Council that the Council would consider creating a position of assistant to the Public Works director in the future.

Resolution No. 2014-R10/Budget Transfers

This is a standard resolution that if passed would authorize the City to transfer various funds from one budget appropriation to another.  New money will not be added to the current budget, but merely moved to another account within the current budget.

Fireworks Purchase

The Colstrip Volunteer Fire Department will request permission to purchase fireworks for Colstrip Days celebration for the quoted amount of $7,378.50 from Big Sky Fireworks in Helena, MT.  This is an annual request and planned for in the annual budget.

Concrete Pad at New City Shop

When the new city shop was designed, a 1317 sq/ft concrete pad located in the front of the building was included.  However, this was taken out of the original design “to bring the bid price down”.  The Public Works Director now wants the concrete pad to be constructed.  It will “be used for parking and for a vehicle wash-down area” and :serve to protect shop foundation integrity by providing drainage away from the building”.  The shop building project came in under budget and the new concrete pad can be paid for from the shop building fund.  The total bid amount from Total Asphalt Repair is $10,410.50.

Anthracite Purchase for Water Treatment Plant

Anthracite coal is one of the three main components used in the water filters at the Water Treatment Plant; the other two being garnet sand and gravel.  The anthracite coal layer of the filter system is “at least 12 inches low in all 4 filters” and has not been re-added “for some time”.  In order to bring the anthracite layer back to an efficient layer, at least 1500 cubic feet is needed.  The Public Works Director solicited two bids from both suppliers the City has used in the past and received a bid from only one.  The supplier. Brentag, offered a bid for a total of $27,662.50.

Resolution No. 2014-R11/Safety & Health Program

The City utilizes an employee focused safety and health program with the goal of reducing “the number of job-related fatalities, illnesses, and injuries” and “applies to hazards covered by the Montana Safety Culture Act, General Duty Clause and by OSHA standards”.  The Council will discuss and possibly update the current health and safety program policies and procedures.

Note: All citations and quotes were taken from public documents provided by the office of Colstrip City Clerk.

regular meeting badge

Speak Up: How, When, & Where

What should you do when you want to share ideas with your city government?  How should you bring a complaint to the ears of the people elected to represent you?

One of the great things about government in Montana is that everything dealing with public money, from official elected government all the way to appointed and temporary committees, everything must be transparent; Montana state law requires it.  All meetings where official business is considered and discussed, with a quorum of the elected or appointed members present, must be open to the public.  This doesn’t mean that the audience is allowed to join the discussion and debate at every point of the meeting, but it does mean that all deliberation must be done in the potential view of a public audience and the audience has the opportunity to speak up and speak out.  The only time a public audience is not allowed or required is when a board will discuss personal matters involving an employee of the organization or active litigation.

Often titled “Public Comment” on the official business agenda, this time looks different depending on what meeting you go to.  Some groups place public comments at the end of the meeting, others at the beginning, others in the middle.  Some boards provide only one scheduled portion of the meeting for the audience to speak while others allow the audience to provide comment during the official discussion and debate of each item on the agenda.  Some groups restrict the public comment time to only items not on the meeting agenda and other groups give unrestricted opportunity for a person to speak about whatever they desire.   Whichever way it’s organized, the same basic allowance must be offered at every meeting; you get a chance to listen, watch, and speak about issues of public interest associated with public funds.

Years ago, the Colstrip City Council meetings were organized to allow public comment to occur right before the old and new business was discussed.  The comment time was open to items on the agenda and items off agenda.  In the last two years, this has slightly changed.  Now the audience is provided a formal time to speak on issues not related to items listed on the meeting agenda and then provided a second opportunity during the Council’s discussion and debate of a business item.

When you attend a council meeting you will receive a printed agenda and be asked to sign a guest book, whether you plan to speak or not.  You will see “Public Comment” listed on the schedule, usually the third or fourth item; just before the old and new business begins.  When the time arrives for Public Comment, the facilitator/chair of the meeting, most often the mayor, will announce something like, “We have now reached the Public Comment time of the meeting.  Any members of the public wishing to speak may do so at this time.”  Pretty simple, right?

Now it’s your turn. To speak, you simply stand up and walk to the podium and microphone in the front center of the room; the order of who speaks is determined on a “first come first serve” basis.  At the podium, take a few seconds to gather your thoughts, then look at the mayor (who will be directly in front of you), state your name, your physical address, and tell the council what’s on your mind. It’s that easy (if you overlook the nervous jitters and dry mouth you may feel; but that’s normal!).

Formal meeting etiquette dictates that you should speak to the whole council instead of just one person.  However, may feel more comfortable speaking to the facilitator of the meeting (i.e. the mayor) instead of speaking to the whole council.  This is helpful if you are nervous; as it provides you with a central focal point.  The formality also helps keep a professional and constructive tone during the meeting (this is really helpful during a tense discussion).  You state your name so that everyone knows who you are and it provides a level of accountability to the discussion.  Although anonymous statements are useful at times, it’s always more helpful for someone to stand by and own their comments.  You state your address to indicate whether you live in Colstrip or are visiting from another location.

The general rule of thumb is that you will get two to three minutes to speak, but this depends more on the size of the audience and the amount of people wishing to speak.  In a less crowded meeting there is usually not a strict time limit.  You are guaranteed at least one chance to speak.  Speaking a second time, however, is a privilege granted by the facilitator or consent of the council members as they choose.  Again, public comment is not designed for debate and rebuttals, but for comments and sharing of ideas.

Don’t worry about getting into an argument with the mayor or a council member.  The formal rule is that the council and mayor will remain quiet while you speak.  Even if you ask a question or make an accusation, don’t be alarmed if no one answers you.  This is the way it is supposed to work.  The public comment time is not for dialogue between you and the elected officials, but rather a time for the elected officials to hear you.  Usually, if you ask a question, the mayor will provide a short answer or advise you of a better time to meet with an official to receive more details.  This is extremely important because it can get ugly quickly if everyone started debating and arguing.  The goal is to provide you a time to speak with little fear or concern of rebuke, correction, or challenge.

After the formal public comment time ends, the council will move into the old and new business.  When the council enters discussion and debate of a business item, the mayor will provide more opportunity for the audience to participate and ask questions or make statements.  However, even though the council members will debate and argue over an issue, the audience is not permitted to join the debate or argument.  A person in the audience is allowed to make a statement either for or against the item and to ask questions which may or may not receive a direct answer.  The council members are not supposed to start an argument with you.  This is a time for you to persuade or convince the council to your perspective on the issue, but not argue with them.

Are you ready to speak up and speak out?  Let me know if you have any questions or ideas to add.

get involved badge

 

Notice of Committee Meeting-Public Works 4-2-2014

On Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 2:00 PM, the Colstrip City Council’s Public Works Committee will meet at City Hall to discuss:

  • the Public Works director’s request to hire an additional employee for the department

The meeting is open to the public.

 

Start Time: 2:00 PM
Location: City Hall
Committee: Public Works

Notice of Committee Meeting-Committee of the Whole 4-2-2014

On Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 1:00 PM, the Colstrip City Council’s Committee of the Whole will meet at City Hall to discuss:

  • the city safety program
  • budget transfers
  • items regarding the Public Works department

 

The meeting is open to the public.

 

Start Time: 1:00 PM
Location: City Hall
Committee: Committee of the Whole