City, County Officials Discuss Potential Green Projects

By Beacon Staff

Officials from the City of Kalispell and Flathead County met June 1 to discuss pursuing federal grant money for green projects in the valley.

Kalispell Mayor Tammi Fisher and City Manager Jane Howington approached the Flathead County Commission with the idea that cooperation between the municipalities could better their chances at being awarded federal money and make large projects more affordable.

Howington said she had recently returned from a conference in Washington D.C. and the time is right for these projects, which could include biomass energy production, glass crushing and septage treatment.

A biomass facility to generate energy could be an effective use of natural resources, Howington said, but such a project would not be worthwhile if all the players, such as energy companies and the U.S. Forest Service, are not on board.

Ideally, the power would be put back onto the electrical grid, Howington said, instead of just powering one building.

Fisher noted that a biomass facility would be a huge undertaking, but efforts need to be made to preserve and promote the Flathead’s forestry industry.

Howington also presented the idea of a glass-crushing facility that could grind glass down for new uses, such as street resurfacing.

There would need to be an application for the glass product before any project got started, Howington said, noting that Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park has been permitted for the use of glass in resurfacing.

Flathead County Public Works Directory Dave Prunty said the county would need to perform a waste characterization study before pursuing a glass-recycling project. This study would determine how much glass is thrown away and how much it would cost per pound to recycle.

Howington and Fisher also presented the idea of a new septage treatment facility that could be sited in Kalispell and used by the county. The city officials said that while septage is typically a county issue because Kalispell has its own sewer system, it affects residents within the city limits as well.

Septage is currently not accepted at the city’s sewage treatment facility; it needs to be pretreated and broken down before the plant will take it.

Howington said there is grant money available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for non-point source pollution issues. These monies typically apply to rural areas, but the county and city might be able to band together and receive a grant to help build a new facility, Howington said.

Federal grants could help put local governments at ease because neither the city nor the county would be left writing the check for a new facility, Howington said.

She added that the city and county should address these issues before they become mandatory through regulations.

“If we don’t become a leader, we’ll be a follower,” Howington said.

Commissioner Joe Brenneman said that while the ideas sound beneficial, there would need to be a meeting for all interested parties before any decisions can be made moving forward.

Fisher noted that city-county coordination worked for the new 911 center. She said the next step would be to check if other areas in the county want to participate in any new programs and then perform a feasibility study.

City and county officials also agreed that the Flathead’s state lawmakers would need to be involved in future discussions.