More Secession Talk in Missoula County

by jhwygirl

Most of you, by now, have probably heard a little about the Swan Valley & Condon secessionists? The group of Missoulians up on the furthest northern reaches of the county that would like to secede to Lake County?

I’ve not heard anything for some time, and while I was tempted to give a holla to the courthouse and ask around, I failed to catch any time today to do it.

Apparently, though, there are more Missoula County residents that think they’d be better off with another county: Petty Creek residents have bent the ear of state Representative Gordon Hendrick about seceding to Mineral County.

Hendrick is hot on their cause, which would bring $253,663.58 of 2009 tax assessment revenue from Missoula’s 19th precinct to Mineral County. He’s also got his eyes on the tax revenue from 50 homes in the 20th precinct also.

Missoula County’s pretty large. It’s bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island. It may, frankly, be better for both counties if either Condon or Petty Creek if they went to Mineral or Lake County. Government, any level of it, exists to serve citizens…so if either of this group feels it isn’t getting its money worth – and the cost of providing those services on these outer reaches of the county is better met by another county, well – can’t really complain about that, right? Should be about the citizens getting the best value for their tax dollar.

Missoula County might be better off to not be sprawled out so much either.

All that being said, one thing that stuck out to me was how ill-informed Rep. Hendrick was – The Clark Fork Chronicle references Hendrick as saying that Missoula County had set precedent in having portions of it secede, and then he apparently referenced the Swan/Condon group. I mean – I can see him being overeager to get at what will probably amount to close to a million in tax revenue, but jumping the gun and telling Mineral County Commissioners that Swan/Condon was now part of Lake County was a bit of an untruth.

There’s also talk about creating another county. All very interesting stuff.

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  1. CharleyCarp

    Seems to me that seceding folks ought to pay the one time costs associated with changing county lines at their request.

    More fundamentally, though, this is a step in the wrong direction. The proliferation of counties made sense in the horse and buggy, one cow/one vote era. Modern transportation and the internet, though, make it possible to have 8 counties: seats in Msla, Kal, GF, Butte, Blgs, MC, Havre, and Glasgow. Savings would be massive.

    • I don’t know, CharlieCarp – road maintenance, plowing, etc. eat up a big part of a county’s budget. The further out you get from the center of things – or the more satellite offices you have to put up – the harder it is to get those kinds of things done.

      There’s also a hell of a lot of stuff that you can’t do over the internet even at Missoula County. Hell, I don’t think you can even use a credit card to make a payment.

      Some counties don’t even have a website yet.

      • CharleyCarp

        I’m not suggesting that you’d save every dime now spent on, say, Ravalli County. Because you’d have to spend some of that money upgrading facilities in Msla, adding staff, and some of the other things — facilities for plowing, for example — you’re going to have on site in what is now Ravalli. Even so, though, after the first couple of years, I bet you’d save a bunch.

        Can’t even be looked at, of course.

  2. Jim Lang

    It is simply untrue and totally unfounded to say that Petty Creek “doesn’t get the service they need” from the county. I lived up Petty Creek for ten years. Every winter storm that road is well plowed and very early. And the county is out there grading the road practically constantly.

    There have been no public meetings or polling. This is two guys pretending to speak for a community.

    • Thanks Jim. I wasn’t making a judgment on the accuracy of the allegation that Petty Creek wasn’t getting the services…but I could see where it might be more efficient to provide police, fire and road maintenance services from a governmental body that might be in closer proximity.

      • I should say, too – I was wondering on the level of truth of their statement in relation to the other landowners up there.

        Hendrick seems to care more about bringing Mineral County a huge chunk of tax revenue – a county that was bothered by the potential lost of $36,000 in tax revenue from the potential Legacy Project purchase of Fish Creek by FWP.

        $36,000 is a huge hit to their budget? If it is, Petty Creek should beware…because the result may not be more efficient services, but it may be that those landowners are shoring up the books of Mineral County.

        • Or the residents up Petty Creek and Condon don’t think they want the services, until they can no longer get them.

          There is, of course, some basis in truth that the needs of Petty Creek and Condon are different from the priorities of folks closer to Missoula. While they may be faced with the occasional gravel pit or sweet-smelling pig farm, they generally don’t care about land-use planning or zoning. Nor do they care too much about travel demand management or even paving their roads.

          I’d reckon that if anyone did a cost accounting analysis of the outlying areas of Missoula Co., you’d find they get way more per capita than the share they pay in. But, with the way our county commissioners are elected, you probably won’t find anyone going around pointing that out.

      • Jim Lang

        Except Superior is not in closer proximity, it’s actually farther away.

        Petty Creek exit to Orange St exit: 27 miles
        Petty Creek exit to Superior exit: 30 miles

        To me it sounds like just a couple of cranks who don’t want to live in liberal Missoula County.

        • Anon

          LMAO – who can blame them?

  3. Some family members of mine lived on Rumble Creek in the Swan for years; they knew a few of the secessionsts up there. Some are less concerned about county services (and let’s face it, you cross the county line just north of Liquid Louie’s in January and you notice a decline in the number of roads off 83 that are well plowed) and more about the liberal politics of Missoula County. Taxes too, of course, but thanks to all that lovely lakeside property Lake County is rapidly catching up to us in that respect. As Jim noted about Petty Creek, it’s a minority of people who want to secede.

    Are the majority of folks in the Seeley-Swan really going to want to drive up one side of the Missions, down the other side and around the lake to take care of county business in Polson just to save a few tax dollars? I doubt it.

    Geographically speaking, Petty Creekers packing their collective bags and moving to Superior at least makes some sense.

    • I just saw Jim’s last comment about the mileage from Petty Creek to Missoula and Superior. Ignore my last point up there.

  4. Doug McCoy

    below is my Opinion piece printed in the Missoulian from May, 2009.
    Doug McCoy

    Downside may outweigh perceived savings of secession
    Missoulian, May 25, 2009

    As a resident of Petty Creek, I was surprised to read the editorial comment “Unresponsive government holds Petty Creek captive,” May 18, where Larry Hayden wrote that a majority of Petty Creek residents, as shown last Winter in considerable community discussions and an informal poll, wish to be part of Mineral County rather than Missoula County. I was surprised, because no one in my Family, or any neighbor that I have talked to was aware that a discussion or poll had taken place.
    The question that Petty Creek residents should have: Is leaving Missoula County for Mineral County an advantage? Missoula County collects only a quarter of our yearly property taxes; if we become Mineral County residents, the Alberton School District and the Frenchtown Fire Department will still collect nearly 3/4 of our property taxes. It is doubtful that Petty Creek Creek residents, as new Mineral County taxpayers, are going to see any significant savings from their present property taxes.
    Perhaps the advantage is that Mineral County will provide a level of police and road maintenance services far superior to Missoula County. A Petty Creek in Mineral County will be on the eastern fringe of a large County whose County seat is in Superior, about the same distance as Missoula is from Petty Creek. Will public safety response from Mineral County to a large catastrophe, such as forest fires of 2003, be as good, or better than Missoula County? Will snow plowing, or road grading, which must service the entire 18 mile stretch of Petty Creek Road between I-90 and Highway 12, improve with Mineral County? Does Mineral County Government have the resources, or the desire, to provide government services to a small number of residents living in a large area along a poor-quality, gravel road?
    Missoula, not Superior, is where a majority of Petty Creek residents are employed or shop. Outside of the families with school-age children and the Post Office in Alberton, what connection do the majority of Petty Creek residents have with Mineral County? Petty Creek is still a rural area, but it has also become a bedroom community that is developing because Missoula County, not Mineral County is developing.
    Politically, Petty Creek in Mineral County will be on the eastern fringe of a large geographical County with a distant County seat; is that an improvement from the present situation in Missoula County? Because Mineral County has a small population, perhaps Petty Creek will be a larger fish in the pond, but what will that change: subdivision regulations in Petty Creek are administered by Missoula County under State of Montana law, the same subdivision regulations apply to Mineral County. Petty Creek could form a Community Council in Mineral County, but there has been little, or no previous desire among residents to form a Council, or join the West Valley Community Council. Petty Creek is not part of the impact zone for proposed Missoula County wood-burning regulations and there are no streamside setback regulations in either Mineral, or Missoula Counties.
    Missoula County may gain a financial and administrative advantage if they no longer had to provide public services to a large area with a small population and tax base, but again, what is the advantage to Petty Creek residents as a part of Mineral County? Secession from Missoula County may feel good to some who feel that the “Big City” is ruining our rural way of life, but it could also mean inferior public services, higher taxes and further isolation from, and less influence with the Missoula County that most of us Petty Creek residents use for our employment and services.

    Doug McCoy
    West Fork Petty Creek Road

  5. Hi
    In fairness to Rep. Gordon Hendrick, I don’t think he is among the advocates of secession – he was asked to research the issue by other citizens attending a candidate forum.

    As a state representative, he often provides such constituent services because after three terms (and a decade as Superior’s mayor) he is very familiar with state and county government and is more easily able to obtain information from fellow officials.

    As such, he has been handling similar complaints since he was first elected in 2004: Petty Creek voters were turned away from their regular Alberton polling place because Missoula County didn’t update their voter registration; residents weren’t included in community meetings because Missoula County screened out mailings to residents with the Alberton zip code; etc.

    I think it would be more accurate to say that Rep. Hendrick has been very diligent and very responsive in trying to steer constituents to the local government resources that can resolve their issues.

    His helpfulness and dedicated service to all constituents should not be seen as advocacy of any particular position but to help people participate and make their views known, and in this way, as strengthening our form of representative democracy.

    As the local reporter I went to a lot of meetings – Gordon Hendrick and our past two senators, Dale Mahlum and Jim Elliott, are exemplary public servants – we need more folks like them.
    Thanks
    JQ

  6. Doug McCoy

    John;
    I also heard Representative Hendrick at a Missoula County Government meeting several years ago in Alberton and was impressed with his sincerity in meeting and talking to his constituents. However, I don’t know if this statement; “”They feel like the unwanted stepchild out there,” Rep. Hendrick said. “They are not getting the service they need but paying the high taxes for it. I’d be up in arms over that too, if I was them.” is an accurate reflection of Missoula Government services. As I said in my Opinion piece, 3/4 of our property taxes are paid to the Alberton School District and the Frenchtown Fire Department. that is not going to change with Mineral County residency. Mineral County is gong to struggle with grading, plowing and providing dust abatement for an 18 mile road. Mineral County will also have to provide law enforcement for very remote areas far from Superior. Are they going to do that and substantially cut property taxes? I have contacted over the years all the Missoula County Commissioners and the managers of the Missoula Highway Department, and though I have not always got the answers I want, I have found them to be very approachable and at least willing to hear about my concerns. They, like Mineral County, with very tight maintenance budgets, have the responsibility for 100’s of miles of County, Forest Service and private easement gravel roads which serve residents spread out over large areas. I fail to see out that situation is going to improve with Mineral County governing Petty Creek.
    Doug McCoy

    • Anon

      One thing about Gordon Hendrick, he is very sincere and wants to help people, irrespective of their political party affiliation. His work with the classic cars and helping troubled kids to get back on track is great. It is too bad he is not running for office again – we need more of his kind in Helena.

  7. Hi Doug
    I think a good next step would be to go ahead with a vote on a Petty Creek Community Council that includes precincts 19 and 20.

    As you know, the five precincts making up Frenchtown, Huson/Six Mile, and the Nine Mile approved their community council last year, and the four precincts around Evaro approved their council on Tuesday.

    All of the voters in western Missoula County are now represented by community councils—except for Petty Creek. Such a vote could gauge whether Petty Creek residents want to stay with Missoula County. A close vote wouldn’t indicate much, but a big vote one way or the other would suggest what voters think about being part of Missoula County.

    Thanks
    John Q

  8. Chuck

    Rebecca,
    Ask your relatives on Rumble Creek what services they need ( or really want)from the county that are paid for with property tax dollars. They and the folks across the road on Guest Ranch Rd will tell you they need:

    Roads plowed, which they are by a local crew.
    A resident deputy.
    Both of these services are provided and done well in Condon.
    The balance of urban services offered or forced upon Condon residents are initiatives or mandates that were driven by the urban folks in Missoula. 30 years of ” mission creep”. just look at how the Office of Rural Initiatives is expanding their empire. What the he; do they need their own Landscape Architect for? The Forest Service has whole divisions of Landscape Architects. Office of Rural Initiatives..Make work, empire building.

    In Condon the fire and ambulance service is funded by a separate taxing district and run by volunteers.
    School funding is funded by a separate district and private donations.

  9. Doug McCoy

    John Q. Murray:
    As you may remember, I wrote in the Clark Fork Chronicle about three years ago an opinion piece about forming a Community Council and published my phone number. I did not receive a single phone call or email, which I took as a lack of interest. The problem I believe, besides the apathy, with forming a Community Council is trying to have enough issues to meet on every month and a lack of a public meeting place in Petty Creek. That said, I know we have no local forum for issues such as paving Petty Creek Road, road maintenance, the former Plum Creek lands in Petty Creek, etc., which frustrates some local residents, including myself. It may be better to join the West Valley Community Council with a Petty Creek representative.
    Doug

  10. Jim Lang

    I think Doug’s idea makes sense….

    • Hi
      I obtained the official minutes from the May “Petty Creek secession” meeting and posted them here:

      http://www.clarkforkchronicle.com/article.php/20091110085029777

      Thanks
      John Q

      • Jim Lang

        It is false to say or imply that anyone other than these two individuals desire to secede from Missoula county.

        Larry Hayden assertion

      • Jim Lang

        Larry Hayden’s assertion that:
        “· 70 – 80% of Petty Creek residents would be interested in joining Mineral County.”

        Is simply a falsehood.

  11. Doug McCoy

    John Q. Murray and Senator Hendrick;
    Thanks for publishing the minutes. I also wonder where the 70-80% figure came from. If you worded the question “Would you like to be a resident of Mineral County even if Mineral County could not provide the level of public services that Missoula County does?” the answer would probably be “no, I do not”.
    My general feeling (and I won’t say it is 70-80%, because I don’t know) is that most people in Petty Creek would prefer to live in a County that provides the best services for the least amount of property taxes.

  1. 1 Secession Talk, Part II « 4&20 blackbirds

    [...] Rep. Gordon Hendrick’s promotion of secession talk for parts of Missoula County continues to bug [...]




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