Council talks goals, gives kudos to police department

by Chris Peterson
Editor | June 24, 2020 7:17 AM

The Columbia Falls City Council went over its goals for the upcoming fiscal year last week, an exercise it does annually. One of the top goals was to finish up projects that have already been brought up before, but never completed, or in some cases, never started due to lack of funds.

That includes a new bathroom at River’s Edge Park, some improvements for access to the fishing pond, street lighting on Nucleus Avenue and Highway 2 and other park improvements.

The city does have funding for a new bathroom at River’s Edge — it just hasn’t been contracted out yet.

Other projects are hamstrung due to funding. For example, Mayor Don Barnhart has long sought a sidewalk down Railroad Street, but it’s a state highway and as such, requires an engineering study, which boosts the cost exponentially.

Another project Barnhart would like to see is street lighting from Nucleus down to Third Avenue East.

But that’s another project that would require Montana Department of Transportation approval.

“We’re running into MDT with no help from the state,” he said.

The lighting should have been done when the state rebuilt Highway 2 not too long ago, but the project ran out of money.

City manager Susan Nicosia said the sidewalk on Railroad Street should be addressed if the city is successful in getting a federal BUILD grant.

The grant would rebuild the street as well as Fourth Avenue and Thirteenth Street West in front of the high school.

The city also recently run into problems with the railroad. It would like to expand Depot Park at the end of Nucleus and have the Chamber of Commerce set up there, along with trailhead signs for bike paths up the North Fork.

But BNSF declined the city’s request to modestly expand its lease on BNSF right-of-way.

The railroad didn’t even give an explanation, Nicosia noted.

Looking at the big picture, councilman Mike Shepard said the city needs to look at expansion at some point.

“We’re running out of space,” he noted.

In another big picture request, city councilwoman Jenny Lovering said she’d like the city to work on more affordable housing. The city does have some modest grant funding for a project.

In other news:

• Shepard and councilman John Piper both commended the Columbia Falls Police Department and the job chief Clint Peters is doing. Piper said the police recently did a great job in getting a veteran that had wandered from the Montana Veterans’ Home back to the home safely. Piper is a manager at the home. The council plans on adopting a resolution supporting its police department at its next meeting.