Archive for November 30th, 2008

by jhwygirl


by jhwygirl

I can’t seem to vanquish this now untimely thought from my head, so consider this some blog-pimping self-therapy.

Last Monday’s city council voted 10-2 (Rye, Strohmaier voting nay) to approve a 90-day emergency ordinance that would allow the use of salt as deicer on Missoula’s roadways.

One would have thought something like that would have been dealt with handily and quickly, but the hearing lasted nearly an hour (maybe more) on the issue.

More than a decade ago, Missoula’s air quality rules were rewritten to prohibit the use of salt with the belief that the use of magnesium would help keep dust down and it would reduce the need for particulate-producing sand.

Now, I listened to the better part of the hearing, and I had read the pre-hearing Missoulian article on the matter, and one of the things that struck out to me is that there wasn’t any real cost analysis done on the issue.

Yep – unless I’m missing something – there was no real true cost analysis done on the matter.

During the hearing Jaffe asked about whether a cost study had been done, and staff basically reiterated what had been said in the Missoulian article. I’ll paraphrase: “Not really (in reference to the cost analysis), but what I can tell you is that the stuff (magnesium chloride) that I buy is diluted down to 30% strength. We’re basically paying for water. The salt we’d buy would be 95% salt. You do the math.”

Now – that isn’t a cost analysis.

Magnesium is $130/ton, salt is $110. Last year the city had $135,000 allocated, but spent $220,000.

Didn’t we have a big winter last year? I remember shoveling a bit more. Plus there were more than the usual ice storms.

What was the de-icing allocation the fiscal year before last year? Did the $135,000 represent a cut to the typical budget allocation?

Do some minor look-see into the issue and you’ll find that magnesium chloride is less caustic than salt. That’s pretty well known. You’ll also find that magnesium chloride is more effective at lower temperatures. That’s a plus, no?

Steve Robertson, of Missoula, points out in a Missoulian letter to the editor that “once salt is applied, more is needed to prevent liquid refreezing.”

So salt isn’t as effective as magnesium chloride at lower temperatures, and salt has to be reapplied once it melts the ice to keep from refreezing the road surface.

One thing that I couldn’t find, but you can see how the stuff works, is what is the cost-per-yard or cost-per-square mile of application? I’m talking just the product. I see the mag chloride being put down and it’s being dripped down on the roads. Salt – that stuff is tossed out at a much heavier ration that the dripping of liquid. So it appears to me – and I am admittedly no expert on the matter – that there is less mag chloride being used to cover the same area on a pound-per-pound basis. Remember – we’re buying both by the ton.

Beyond that, Missoula is going to have to retool equipment to spread salt. Now, maybe we’ve got the stuff in stash, I don’t know, but that is going to cost labor. Labor that might be better spent elsewhere. It’s a cost. Regardless.

Plus – the city doesn’t even have enough equipment to spread salt – it’ll have to phase in new equipment over the next few years to move to salt.

Further – did I mention salt is caustic? – is equipment going to break and have to be replaced at a higher rate with the use of salt?

Then I could ask what the salt is going to do to our fisheries, as opposed to magnesium. And if we’re using more salt that magnesium..well….

Regarding that – the Health Board had to make a change to its regulations for water quality to allow for the use of salt.

Read: Missoula just lowered its water quality standards so that we can use salt.

AND, the whole water quality thing’ll have to come back to the Health Board and the Missoula County Commissioners to allow for the use of salt.

Seriously? Am I reading that correctly?

Anyways…there it is. Had to get it out of my head.

by jhwygirl

The 61st Legislative session may not convene until Thursday, January 5th, but start-up tasks are being dispatched quickly, with committee assignment having been rolled out this past week.

With the state House split 50-50 and a Democratic governor, the Speaker of the House went to the Democratic party. Initially, Speaker Bob Bergren (Havre) said he was going to pick democrats for all committee assignments, but later relented, announcing that republicans would hold the chairs of 3 of 5 of the state house’s most powerful committees. Overall, committee chairs are split 50-50.

Locally, Missoulians have Rep. Michele Reinhardt (D) as vice-chair of the Business & Labor Committee; Robin Hamilton (D) as vice-chair of both the Education Committee and of Ethics; Dave McAlpin (D) as vice-chair of both Fish, Wildlife & Parks (Superior’s Gordon Hendrick (R) co-chairs this spot) and Legislative Administration; and Betsy Hands (D) vice-chair’s Local Government – and shares this seat with Victor’s Gary MacLaren (R).

Other notables with chairs are Mike Jopek (D – Whitefish) who is chairing Agriculture (where Julie French (D – Scobey) vice-chairs); Franke Wilmer (D – Bozeman) who chairs Ethics; Kendall Van Dyk (D – Billings) chairing Fish, Wildlife & Parks; JP Pomnichowski (D – Bozeman) vice-chairs Natural Resources; and Jill Cohenour (D – Helena) vice-chairs Taxation.

For a full list of committee assigns, check this link out.

In the Senate, there isn’t anything for Missoulians in terms of chair or vice-chair seats – the Senate’s 50 seats are controlled by 27 republicans – but committee assigns for local representation include Ron Erickson (D) on Taxation and Local Government and Energy & Telecommunications; Carolyn Squires (D) on State Administration and Business, Labor & Economic Affairs; Carol Williams (D) and Dave Wanzenried (D) on both Rules and Finance & Claims; Cliff Larsen (D) on Public Health, Welfare, and Safety and Judiciary and Agriculture, Livestock & Irrigation; and Wanzenried (again) on Natural Resources and Highways & Transportation.

Other notables to watch in the senate committees include Jonathan Windy Boy (D – Box Elder) in Business, Labor & Economic Affairs; Energy & Telecommunications includes Linda Moss (D – Billings) and Bob Hawks (D – Bozeman); Local Government includes Steve Gallus (D – Butte), Kim Gillan (D – Billings) and Jesse Laslovich (D – Anaconda); and Jim Keane (D – Butte) and Christine Kaufmann (D – Helena) on Natural Resources.

Another notable (as in WTH?! notable) is Rick Laible, who is chairing Education and Cultural Resources. Laible sponsored one education related bill in the 2007 session – SB 396 – in which he proposed to cut state funding support for schools by $84.5 million in FY 2008; $82.5 million in FY 2009; $80.7 million in FY 2010 and $79 million in FY 2011. It would have reduced general fund revenue by nearly $100 million in FY 2009 and FY 2010, while resulting in the need to hire two additional tax examiners for the Department of Revenue. It would have repealed county school transportation grants, quality educator payments and American Indian achievement gap payments.

A full listing of Senate committee assigns is here.

As an aside – The state Legislative Services Division is offering classes to the public to teach how to use the online Legislative Audit Workflow System (LAWS). While 2 sessions have already been held, there is one more being offered December 4th, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. For more information on that, click here.

The 2009 LAWS is already up and running. I’ll be putting the link over on the right, under Citizen’s Info.

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