Good news in housing

6f1cb53c-d946-11de-b3b0-001cc4c03286.imageThe median price of a home in urban Missoula has dropped* a hair for two years in a row, according to data from the Missoula Organization of Realtors.

In 2007, the median price was $210,000, according to the MOR. In 2008, it sank to $207,000. This year through the end of October, it was  sitting at $205,000.

That’s a little bit of an improvement if you’re trying to buy a home.

The Missoula Housing Authority has been helping people get into homes, including ones of their own through their Family Self Sufficiency program.

Here are some program stats from admissions and occupancy manager Jim McGrath.

“Since 2003, there have been 43 graduates whom have moved off all public assistance (including housing);

Since 2003, 78 participants have successfully completed the program;

(and) in this last year, the average graduate has left the program with $6,371.00 saved in their escrow account.

Since 2000, 36 participants have moved into home ownership.”

One of those homeowners spent her first Thanksgiving in her new home this year. If you missed that story about her and her family, it’s here.*

— Keila Szpaller

Energy geeks

The grand plan is here* for reducing municipal fuel consumption.

The sewer plant uses a ton of energy, and one author takes a close look dealing with waste when people flush toilets around the world. Rose George writes about fancy toilets and biogas facilities in “The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why it Matters.” Mother Jones interviews George here.*

— Keila Szpaller

The mayor’s boobs


Wanna see ’em?

Missoula Mayor John Engen will be in full drag for a special Garden City Ballet production of The Nutcracker.

“Without being too graphic, Mother Ginger is very well-endowed,” said Jed Liston, a public relations volunteer with Garden City Ballet.

Liston called this week with a tease for the Ballet’s 25th anniversary year. The audience knows a man is playing Mother Ginger, so the theater people “camp it up.”

When pressed, Liston also offered more details about turning Missoula’s  No. 1 Man into a voluptuous woman. A description of the vital undergarment?

“Gargantuan foam rubber things. It comes as a full bra. It’s already stuffed. The things sit out there, huge.”

I love things. Don’t you?

So, backache? Liston would know, ’cause he plays Mother Ginger most of the time. Ginger wears a giant hoop skirt, and little dancers run out from under it.

“No. It’s very light. It’s really a nice foam rubber,” Liston said. “I will tell you it gets very warm.”

Bet it’s sizzling hot. See Engen for yourself on Dec. 19. Liston, pictured here, dons the contraption and hoop skirt the rest of the run, from Dec. 18 through 21. Details here.*

— Keila Szpaller

Urban Ooh-la-la

These days, it seems like everyone is building a “mixed use urban village.”

I think I live in one. Planner types talk about how wonderful it will be for people in their new village to walk to a coffee shop, walk to get a gallon of milk, bustle-bustle, walkity-walkity.

I’m on the Northside. I don’t think anyone’s called the neighborhood anything fancy, but there’s plenty of walkity-walkity-bustle-bustle here.

Need a stick of butter? Walk to Ole’s. Need a beer? (Yes. I said need.) Walk to the Kettlehouse. (Disclosure: My guy works there. Aha! Walk to work.) Need a gift? Walk to the ZACC, the Zootown Arts Community Center.

How about Chinese food? Walk to Pagoda. Call in the order first, and if you time it right, it’s done by the time you get there.

I could walk to work, but I don’t. At night, though, sometimes I walk Allen the dog to Crystal Video. It’s close to work, but seems like a much shorter distance when we’re at our leisure in the evening. We walked to Safeway the other night for some groceries, and that didn’t take too long either.

The bustle-bustle happens as well. If it’s porch season and I’m outside with my guy, and our neighbor is heading to Ole’s, he always asks if we need anything. If it’s movie season, we watch people head to and from the Missoula Outdoor Cinema, and sometimes we go, too.

I’m not sure what you call it. It isn’t the Old Sawmill District coming to Missoula, although that sounds cool, or Portland’s famous Pearl District. I’m not sure if this “district” was planned that way, but there it is, the storied “urban village,” alive and well and growing right here.

You? Do you live in an urban village? Is, say, the Orange Street Food Farm your pantry? A market in Hellgate Meadows? Do tell.

— Keila Szpaller

Bender says: No bungling

As we say, there’s 87 sides to every story. In an e-mail, Bruce Bender, city chief administrative officer, said he saw the reference to “bungling” and wanted to share a few points.

“These installations were inspected and approved by both MDT and FWHA personnel but a Federal region auditor disagreed in regards to the adequacy of the use of the plates with domes (visual impaired warning device) in the ramp situations.  So additional plates will need to be installed. The primary need is in existing sidewalk ramps adjacent to the new bulbouts. These existing ramps will need to have these new plates with the domes installed. A good example is the new bulbout on S. Higgins by Paxson School.  The existing red colored concrete ramp will need to be replaced with using one of these plates (the new roundabout has these proper plates).”

As for how much all this costs, that’s another one of those 87 sides. And what the ADA folks think? Hm. Smells like a follow up story on bulbouts, doesn’t it?

— Keila Szpaller

Bulbouts: More bungling

What? Yet more trouble with bulbouts?! Some apparently aren’t ADA compliant. This from Councilman Bob Jaffe’s listserv.

“Just got some news on the safe routes to school grant. The proposal for FY11 is being put together and will be submitted mid-December. If folks have ideas for things they would like to see in the program they can post them here or send them on to Phil Smith

One caveat is that the projects may get delayed a couple of years. We just found out that we have some ADA compliance problems on the projects from this and prior years. My understanding is that wherever we have done a bulbout or modified the curblines we have to make all the corners ADA compliant. Apparently we have not done that in all cases and it looks like the feds are going to make us. So that may consume the FY10 and FY11 SR2S money.

There is a SR2S workshop planned for Dec. 1 6:30-8:30 at Lewis and Clark school.”

Well, at least they’re safer for bikes. (Just kidding.)

— Keila Szpaller

The cow stays

5890e770-d24d-11de-b7a6-001cc4c03286.imageBig Dale isn’t budging. That’s the word from Betsy Cohen in this story, a good-bye to the Johnsons who ran Dale’s Dairy for decades.

From Cohen’s story: “This is truly an end of an era,” said Kris Crawford. “I used to come to this store as a kid to buy penny candy and fresh cream from Betty Jo, who is the matriarch, the great grandmother of the neighborhood.”

Here’s to the next chapter of the Target Range community center.

— Keila Szpaller