Thrussell, getting wonky

A scope of work is in the works. It’s for the Russell peer review and Public Works director Steve King reviewed it last night with a council subcommittee. Sounds like there will be a lot of traffic modeling going on. This is may be a bit wonky but here it is anyway. It sounds like the consultants will make sure the preferred alternative really is the best pick when measured against the “purpose and need” statements. But it doesn’t sound like they’ll take another look at the “purpose and need” itself. Doing so might mess things up, sounds like. But I know some people who worked on that P&N didn’t think the final version reflected all the points they’d made. At least one point had migrated off that list and landed elsewhere — in “goals and objectives” land, I think, where it apparently doesn’t hold quite the weight it would in the other section. So however you slice it, the ruler they’re measuring all the alternatives against isn’t the ruler some people thought they’d set. Maybe that’s OK now — I haven’t asked the people who worked on it. Also, the cost of the peer review is estimated at $100,000 to $200,000 instead of some $30,000. Much more money — though last night King said it’s still a fraction of the cost of the entire project.

— Keila Szpaller

Planning downtown

“Worst in decades.” “Quite dramatic and quite serious.” “The perfect storm.” “This is a scary market.” “This is a pretty deep crevasse.” “Tough sledding.”

Ouch. That’s our economy and the retail market and those are phrases spoken by an economist who presented Wednesday at a meeting of the Greater Downtown Master Plan. Depressed? “We will come out of this,” said Tom Moriarty. Moriarty also said Missoula’s going to have to ride out the economy like everyone else. (“Worst in decades … ” He said focus on survival in the meantime and not on growth.)

— Keila Szpaller

Thrussell again

Here’s an update from the mayor. Building all of the Russell Street project looks like it’s on the table again, as opposed to splitting the project at Third Street and postponing the southern portion. Officials are counting in part on hoped-for earmarks to get the whole thing off the ground. There’s more — read away.

— Keila Szpaller

Beyond the stacks

The Missoula Public Library is making some changes in response to its patrons, says public relations librarian Joyce Doyle. And there’s plenty of them, changes and patrons both. In the month of September, “National Library Card Signup Month,” the library signed up 750 new users, a 10 percent increase over the same month last year. Patrons checked out 14 percent more items the same month for a total of 61,914 checkouts in September 2008. In 2007, the library circulated 693,719 items. Doyle also shared these stats:

— Registered card holders: 53,492

— Books/printed materials: 192,055

— Electronic Books: 9,198

— Videos/DVD: 11,561

— Audio tapes and CDs: 17,276

— Magazines, newspapers and serial titles in print: 533

— Electronic databases: 32

Also, check out the library blog here, pictures and everything.

— Keila Szpaller


Here’s an idea for helping the Parks and Recreation Department with its budget. OK, some of you don’t want to do that. Read no further. But for those of you who do and walk dogs — Bring Your Own Mutt Mitt. Or, you know, plastic grocery bags — and supposedly some are biodegradable. Anyway, city department heads are squeezing any excess out of their budgets, and Parks and Recreation is among them. The Mutt Mitts aren’t on the chopping block this year, but Director Donna Gaukler said they’re in the wings. She doesn’t want them to be because citizens asked for them, and they help keep parks clean. She herself recently saw what happens when people don’t pick up doo. “A kid got tackled into somebody’s dog waste that the owner just didn’t pick up,” Gaukler said.  But the mitts — which are biodegradable — cost the city $10,000 a year. That’s real money, isn’t it? Anyway, when I walk Allen the dog, the Mutt Mitt dispensers are always full, and I think it’s a pretty cool service. But I’m going to try to remember to stuff my coat jackets with plastic bags and BY(M)OMM.

Maybe related, maybe not: I think some town in Italy recently started identifying poop-scoop offenders by doing DNA tests on dog poop. I guess it’s not too expensive, or so said the Italians. I don’t remember details, but offering those handy baggies is much friendlier than hiring scientist-dooty-patrols. So why not conserve them when you can and BYO?

— Keila Szpaller


Couple more comments that didn’t make it into a story about Monday’s council meeting:

* Libertarian Mike Fellows to government: Back off. So the new growth policy amendment isn’t a zoning change but it could lead to zoning changes, he said. “We do have to consider the rights of property owners.”

*Rattlesnaker and city critic Will Snodgrass on growth: Can it. Snodgrass asked for a moratorium on growth ’til the valley is clean enough for people to live. Exhaust from dryers and particles from car tires wearing down poison the air and there’s toxins floating around that are making people ill, he said. “This place is no longer a safe place to live. It does not sustain life.”

Hmmm. Interesting argument and perhaps one the NIMBYs want to grab onto. Don’t come here — and I say this for your own good — it’s just not safe. The message isn’t coming from government, though. At the meeting, OPG director Roger Millar said no one told planners to stop growth.

— Keila Szpaller

Scoop on the loop

Some UM and city officials drew the ire of several council members Wednesday for keeping them in the dark on budding plans for Arthur-Fifth-Sixth. Plans for the road fell apart a while ago but Public Works director Steve King said the idea to rebuild has always stayed on the table. Safety is a big reason.

“I’m not saying it should or shouldn’t go,” said Ward 5 Councilwoman Renee Mitchell of the plan. “I’m just saying that we’re out of the loop.”

Ward 2 Councilman John Hendrickson, who asked for an update, agreed. Why wasn’t the council informed when the idea called for the city to contribute labor worth some $500,000? “Not a drop in the bucket,” he said.

At the Public Works Committee meeting, council members talked over each other at one point, but Ward 6 Councilman Ed Childers basically told his peers to unknot their knickers. Sometimes, council knows before everyone else, and sometimes it knows after everyone else, he said. Childers figured this time it was finding out before some folks and after others, and that was OK.

A UM architect said the plans weren’t ready for a great unveiling. Unlike the idea floated earlier, which entailed moving a road, current plans call for smaller changes, King said. A sketch he distributed shows three lanes on Arthur from the Madison Bridge to Sixth Street and traffic lights (if small circles represent traffic signals … ) at Fifth and Sixth.

Missoulians sometimes go loopy over lanes (Too many! Not enough!!) so the topic will probably come up again.

— Keila Szpaller

Google me this

Where are your lawyers and local board members turning for definitions of things like “parapet” and other terms, architectural and otherwise? At a Wednesday council committee meeting on signs, Worden Thane lawyer Colleen Dowdall said they’re turning to Google. She admitted looking there herself. This at a meeting about how signs should look at an incoming Montana Lil’s Casino on Brooks and Reserve. Lil’s appealed a decision by the Design and Review Board on its sign designs and the council is hearing the matter in December. And parapet? Here’s the second entry on a Google search, from Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry: par·a·pet 

Pronunciation: \ˈpa-rə-pət, –ˌpet\
Function: noun
Etymology: Italian parapetto, from parare to shield (from Latin, to prepare) + petto chest, from Latin pectus — more at pare, pectoral
Date: 1590
1 : a wall, rampart, or elevation of earth or stone to protect soldiers 2 : a low wall or railing to protect the edge of a platform, roof, or bridge —called also parapet wall  par·a·pet·ed  \-ˌpe-təd\ adjective
— Keila Szpaller

Green light for affordable housing

The Missoula City Council approved on Monday the mayor’s community housing resolution. The City Clerk’s marked up agenda puts the vote at 9-3 with Hellegaard, Hendrickson and Mitchell voting no. The resolution basically directs city staff to come up with ways to help close the gap between the earnings and the cost of homes here.

— Keila Szpaller