Friday, April 3, 2015

Valier Public Hearing Minutes 2-29-2012

Valier Civic Center, Valier, Montana Wednesday, February 29, 2012
IN ATTENDANCE (see attached sign-in sheet)
The Honorable McKenzie Graye, Mayor
Irvin L. Derks, Task Force Member
David Widhalm, Council and Task Force Leader
Ralph Widhalm, Task Force Member
Velda Loch, Council
Mary Scriver, Resident
Jessie Wunderlich, Council
Sherill Balsley, Resident
Fuzzy Balsley, Resident
Shannon Gabbard, Council and Pondera County Sheriff’s Department Joe Christiaens, Resident
Rita Christiaens, Resident
Joseph L. Evans, Resident
Deanna Durnell, Resident
Mike Durnell, Resident
Darrell Lovering, Resident
Cathy Brandvold, Resident
Kim Kovatch, Resident
Cheryl Curry, Resident
Roy A. Davis, Resident
Cynthia Culver, Resident
Gabe Takala, Resident
Thomas Loch, Resident
Cindi Johnson, Conrad, MT
Liz Makarowski, Resident
Leo Malinak, Public Works Department
Marie Offerdahl, Resident
Amber Malinak, Resident
Sue Schleif, Resident
Jackie Sheble, Town of Valier
Becky Beard, BETA

With the overhead projector displaying the hearing “Welcome” sign, the Honorable McKenzie Graye, Mayor, called the public hearing to order at 7:00 p.m. with 30 people in attendance. After leading the Pledge of Allegiance, she reminded everyone to be sure to sign in and pick up a copy of the hearing handout. She then introduced the Community Opinion Survey Task Force members: Alderman David Widhalm, Irvin Dirks and Ralph Widhalm.
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Task Force Leader, Dave Widhalm, provided a brief summary of the Community Opinion Survey process. Referencing his meeting journal, he explained that he and the volunteer members of the task force held several meetings, including telephone conference calls, to review the 2012 Community Opinion Survey response results. He noted they worked with Becky Beard, BETA, to organize the results and summarize the community’s priorities as identified (a copy of his meeting journal is attached to these minutes). At that point, the overhead projector displayed the hearing agenda (agenda and hearing presentation attached), and he then turned the presentation over to Becky.
Referencing the table being displayed overhead, Becky identified potential funding agency resources that could help the Town of Valier better-afford public infrastructure improvements. The agencies discussed included: the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development (RD) loan and grant program; the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s State Revolving Fund (SRF) low- interest loan program; the Montana Department of Commerce’s (MDOC) Treasure State Endowment Program (aka, TSEP - coal tax trust fund grants), and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG - HUD related) program; the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s Renewable Resource Grant and Loan (RRGL) program; the Board of Investment’s INTERCAP low- interest loan program; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s State and Tribal Assistance Grant (STAG) program; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Section 595 Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) grant program; the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation program offering drought-related assistance; and the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Public Works Grants (specifically tied to job creation).
Each of the agencies’ application deadlines and general agency requirements were reviewed. She noted that RD, SRF, INTERCAP and EDA applications can be submitted anytime; the TSEP and RRGL applications are due this May and are tied to even-numbered years for subsequent review at the Legislature. The CDBG applications, specifically available to aid low-and-moderate income residents, are accepted annually, with this year’s deadline of March 16th. It was noted that both the STAG and WRDA applications are tied to Congressional appropriations and the federal budget. Unfortunately, with appropriations being postponed, no applications are being formally submitted at present.
Becky thanked everyone for taking their time to participate in the recently-completed Community Opinion Survey. She recapped the process saying the initial survey forms were distributed immediately following the 2011 holiday season to 287 addressees. A second “reminder” survey request was mailed January 12, 2012. A total of 181 responses were received and tallied, confirming that over half of Valier’s households participated. It was noted that this response rate exceeded the rate required by the MDOC to demonstrate a statistically valid representation of the entire population of the community. Based upon the MDOC formula, 144
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responses were required. Because the number of responses exceeded the rate required, the Town of Valier’s response rate resulted in 126 percent of what was required! (Copies of the final tally and comments sheets are included in the attachments.)
The audience’s attention was directed to the overhead projector to review the tallied survey results. Becky advised the audience the tallies would be reviewed, and asked that comments and questions be noted on the handout “comment section” for discussion in a few minutes. She explained the goal of tonight’s hearing is to confirm the identified priorities to update the Town of Valier’s Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) – last updated in 2008.
The review of the survey results began with confirmation that over 60 percent of the respondents believe the community is “a good place to live,” and that 65 percent have lived in Valier more than a decade. The majority of the respondents are aged 50 to 65 years old, and over half of them have college degrees. An overwhelming majority (93.4%) own their homes.
Becky noted that this year’s survey format included ample opportunities for respondents to write in comments on various topics. For those questions with this option, individual comments were itemized and then summarized on subsequent pages. She did comment at this juncture that it seems a number of folks have plenty of comments to include. She proceeded to review the survey responses, including items of high-level interest related to street maintenance and storm drainage. Only 20.4 percent of the respondents declined any interest in street repair and/or improvements, and half indicate a lack of support for SIDs to pay for street paving. She projected on the overhead some comments received regarding willingness to have property tax assessments levied to pay for street paving, ranging from $20 per lot, to $75to $100 and even $200 per year, and an idea of 10 percent per year.
One of the questions on the survey asked about support for grants to add sidewalks (i.e., Safe Routes to School). Almost half of the respondents indicate support here, while 15 percent have no opinion. There also seems to be a majority not in favor of an SID levy to pay for street paving equipment.
Over half the respondents (99) are not in support of paying for a multi-purpose sports field. Having a section of town zoned for horses seems to generate interest.
Since the Town maintains the Lake Frances camp recreation area as a revenue source, the survey included a question and comment opportunity about what improvements are needed there. A number of responses include the need for better grounds maintenance at the recreation area. Comments include the need for concessions and vendors, restrooms and showers, parking lot maintenance, picnic area maintenance, boat launches and dock maintenance, camping hookups, and swimming access to name a few.
A number of respondents indicate need for an assisted-living facility and senior housing. Over half the residents feel that ADA-access is adequate in the community.
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Another question relating to recreational opportunities asked residents what services/facilities they would like to have. Comments included skating rinks, bowling, walking/jogging trails, sports fields, year-around pool, golf, playgrounds, public restrooms, and youth activities.
Sixty-five percent (65%) of the respondents are in support of obtaining grants and/or low-interest loans to replace the sewer mains and upgrade the wastewater treatment facility. Half are in favor of using water and sewer enterprise funds to have new services engineered to meet the growing demand for housing.
Most everyone believes the community’s street lights are adequate; however, there are comments to better maintain light-bulb replacements, addition of a couple more lights, to install historic-style lights, and to use energy-efficient technology.
Because flooding was an issue during the spring of 2011, the issue of storm drains was addressed during the survey. Comments received from respondents indicate there is increasing interest in developing a storm drain system. Forty percent (40%) indicate support for a system and 41 percent do not, and 19 percent have no opinion. However, when asked about developing a storm drain system prior to paving streets, 45 percent indicate interest, with 37 percent in the “no” column.
Becky then summarized the balance of the comments not previously mentioned, but included in the final survey form question, denoting a call for additional housing, town beautification, growth and economic development, and a strengthened local government.
The next four overhead slides itemized the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) process. Becky assured the audience that we would return to this section to get the audience’s input and ideas.
The next slide listed the Summary of Priorities Identified and itemized by the Task Force. They are based upon the survey results, and as having generated considerable interest among the respondents. Becky advised that the 14 priorities as identified are to be confirmed by participants during this hearing process’s SWOT process, and will then be added to the upcoming CIP update to be submitted to the Town Council for incorporation.
As a working example of the prioritization process, Becky displayed the table of Recently Completed Projects over the past ten years. She highlighted some of the major capital projects and programs completed, highlighting the Town’s successes at obtaining considerable amounts of grants and low- interest funds, due in large part by the community’s concerted support to accomplish the goals. She indicated it is this working-together-relationship, that makes the community successful. Another recently completed project – the completion of the multi-jurisdictional area Growth Policy – will help the Town’s upcoming funding applications be highly competitive during the state and federal agencies’ review processes.
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Upon conclusion of the survey response recap, Becky asked if anyone had any quick questions or comments. She then suggested that everyone help themselves to some coffee and cookies before proceeding with the SWOT process.
After having some refreshments, Becky resumed the hearing to begin the 2012 SWOT process. She asked for comments from the hearing participants, beginning with “strengths.” After some hesitation, a resident suggested that the 2008 strengths all remain viable. Additional strengths were incorporated, providing an overall itemization of strengths as follow:
  1. Valier is an “inviting” community
  2. Valier is a “safe” community
  3. Valier is a “caring” community
  4. Valier offers “beauty and recreation – psychic benefits”
  5. Valier has good schools and good churches with religious diversity
  6. Valier has fresh air and lots of it
  7. Valier has “room for growth”
  8. Valier has access to medical facilities
  9. Valier has an airport
  10. Valier has a great location
  11. Residents are passionate
  12. It’s a good place to raise families
  13. Diversity in businesses available for a town of 500 people
  14. Valier has a good library
  15. Oil industry potential
The weaknesses identified included:
  1. Too much focus on 50 to 65 age group, not on the youth
  2. Lack of housing
  3. Lack of planning for the “oil boom”
Opportunities were then itemized:
  1. There is a market age group of 50 to 65
  2. Our youth
  3. Solicit a student representative to the Town Council
  4. Plan now for events such as the oil boom
  5. Network with local municipalities with experience in oil-boom stresses
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And finally, the threats to the community’s well being and development include:
  1. Lack of community involvement
  2. EMS/EMT volunteers
  3. Burn-out factor from limited volunteer pool
  4. Mediocrity is becoming acceptable
  5. Oil boom
At the conclusion of the SWOT process discussions, Becky redirected everyone’s attention to the Task Force’s Summary of Priorities Identified. She asked if the audience had any edits or additions. They concluded the priorities should be revised to reflect the following items and order:
  1. Obtain funding to replace sewer mains and/or upgrade the wastewater treatment facility.
  2. Develop Zoning ordinances.
  3. Obtain a planning grant to proceed with an engineering study to map out water and sewer
    services to meet growing housing demands, then utilized water and sewer enterprise funds to
    engineer the new services.
  4. Obtain technical assistance to develop and implement service connection fees.
  5. Obtain funding (i.e., Safe Routes to School grants) to add more sidewalks.
  6. Address flooding issues from weather events: obtain a planning grant to proceed with an
    engineering study to develop a storm-drain system.
  7. Add a storm-drain system before paving or chip sealing the streets.
  8. Promote the development of an assisted living facility.
  9. Promote the development of an “Over 55" housing development (or condominium).
  10. Street improvements (paving, grading and/or graveling).
  11. Develop a policy for boarding horses in town.
  12. Support an SID to fund the purchase of street paving equipment.
  13. Support an SIDs to pave streets.
  14. Support the addition of a new multi-purpose sports field, and develop recreational services and
  15. Develop an American Disabilities Act Inventory and plan.
  16. Promote economic development.
Finally, it was determined that before this above priority list is finalized, the full CIP Update as drafted is to be presented to the community. At that time, the community will be provided another review before the CIP and associated priorities are presented to the Town Council for adoption. Becky confirmed she will prepare the final draft and present it at the next public forum, likely to occur in April.
With no further discussion or comments, the public hearing concluded at 8:50 p.m. cc: Craig Nowak, P.E., Morrison-Maierle, Inc. 

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