Fuel Tax Proposal Lacks Details, Employment Contract Ratified

By Beacon Staff

At a sparsely attended meeting Tuesday, Kalispell city council came up short of approving an agreement to allow voters in November to decide on a two-cent per gallon tax on motor fuel. Instead, council amended the language of the agreement to express intent to approve the interlocal agreement proposal, but to allow city managers for Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls, and Flathead County commissioners to further negotiate the details of the agreement.

Council members questioned details like how – if passed by the voters – the funds raised by the tax would be distributed, which roads would receive priority, and the duration of the tax. Columbia Falls and Whitefish city governments have not yet taken action on the proposal, which is being pushed urgently by the county.

Discussion became bogged down by Councilman Bob Hafferman’s requests that all signers of the interlocal agreement also agree to send letters to Montana’s state and federal elected officials to reinstate “sensible forest management” such that money from regular timber harvests once again goes to improving area roads and schools.

After a long standoff regarding back pay, the ratification of the 2006-2009 employment contract between city government and the city workers’ union passed unanimously. It will last for another year and a half.

Council voted, 6-2, to pass the first reading of a global salary ordinance for city employees allowing future compensation schedules to be decided upon by resolution. Council also debated the best way to set the salary compensation schedule for city employees, passing the schedule 6-2, with Council members Tim Kluesner and Hafferman opposed.

Planning fees to cover administrative costs of development will increase by 15 percent Oct. 1 for subdivisions and major projects. Such fees cover application processing, long range planning and other tasks. City Planner Tom Jentz said Whitefish planning fees are 75 percent higher than Kalispell’s and Flathead County’s run slightly under Kalispell’s. The resolution passed unanimously.

Council approved, 6-2, a water bond issue, part of a DNRC program, for $1.5 million in bonds for the Upper Storage Zone Water Reservoir Project at a fixed rate of 3.75 percent for 20 years.

Council also voted unanimously to approve the city airport standard operating procedure, authorizing penalties for infractions of up to $300 for an initial offense and as much as $500 penalties for subsequent offenses. A municipal judge would decide the fine in such cases.

Two small developments were platted with unanimous votes: Fox Trotter Meadows Phase I, a one-lot residential subdivision on one acre on the west side of Stillwater Road; and a single family lot on a third of an acre south of an existing home.

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