Flathead County

County Commission Approves FLAP Application for Road Improvements

Federal partnership will rehabilitate parts of Belton Stage and Blankenship roads; commission also approves stump disposal fee increase

By Micah Drew
North Fork Road. Beacon File Photo

The Flathead County Commission at its May 11 meeting voted to move forward with a last-minute application for funding through the Montana Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) to make improvements along sections of Belton Stage and Blankenship roads between Coram and West Glacier.

Flathead County Public Works Director Dave Prunty put forth the project, which had an application deadline of May 15, after recently finding a matching federal partner in Glacier National Park, which gives the county asphalt millings that come from annual maintenance along Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The project is the smallest FLAP request the county has put forward in recent years, coming to an estimated total of $528,550. The county’s matching portion, which is required by FLAP, would be just under $71,000.

The maintenance work would consist of three sections along Blankenship and Belton Stage roads.

Blankenship Road will be finished off with millings along 0.8 miles from its intersection with Belton Stage, as will Belton Stage for about a mile south to the highway and along another nearly mile-long stretch to the north between sections of pavement.

Prunty said the main job would be to lay down the millings with some minor drainage improvements, road shaping and signing improvements.

“We’re hopeful that this job could go next year. With FLAP involved, it’s hard to say that will occur; it could be a year or two later,” Prunty said. “But we put in the application we’d like to see this completed before 2024.”

Flathead County has been involved in another FLAP project to make improvements along sections of North Fork Road. The initial application process began in 2016, but the project has since experienced multiple delays.  

The Blankenship-Belton Stage project has received support from Rob Davies, the Hungry Horse district ranger, as well as Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele.

“It’s a really good project,” Prunty said. “This will tie up the whole network coming from West Glacier to North Fork (Road) where this road gets beat up by a lot of tourists, rafters and locals too in the summertime.”

The commissioners also unanimously voted to increase the solid waste disposal fees for tree stumps from $31.05 per ton to $90.

Prunty said this fee more accurately covers the Solid Waste Management District’s cost of handling and disposing of tree stumps.

“We see trucks, dump trucks with 20 tons of stumps on them, and we’re not built to handle that type of material coming in,” Prunty said. “Whether we grind them, whether we send them to the landfill or, less likely, burn them … we’re getting a rate established that is commensurable with what we feel it takes to process these things.”

The fee increase will go into effect July 1, after a 30-day comment period for county residents.

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