Who Pays When A Pedestrian Bridge Can’t Handle Cold And A Sports Field Can’t Handle Rain?

by William Skink

When an out-of-control local government has a skim and give slush fund distributed by unelected sycophants at the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, money is always the solution because there is little accountability when shit goes wrong.

Take the South Reserve Pedestrian bridge. This 4.1 million dollar project opened in 2017 and since then there have been problems with how this fancy bridge was designed to melt snow. Apparently the “composite panels” that contain “heating elements” don’t work when it’s below 20°, which is kind of a problem during Montana winters.

But don’t worry, Missoula, Ellen Buchanan is confident that a $30,000 dollar shot of public TIF money will fix this seasonal snafu. From the link:

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency (MRA) Board of Directors approved a $30,000 expenditure on Monday for the work. The bridge has experienced issues with snow removal since it was put into service years ago.

The bridge decking is made of composite panels that contain heating elements designed to melt snow and be carried off through a downspout drainage system. However, when the temperature drops below 20°, the snow refreezes before it is carried away creating a hazardous situation for bridge users.

City Parks reached out to the contractor, Anchor Electric and Controls, who provided a programming and software solution that provides both corrective measures and enhancements to the current system.

In an effort to explain why MORE public money is needed, after already blowing over 4 million on this bridge, Ellen Buchanan scapegoats the new technology used on this costly endeavor:

“Missoula was a bit of a guinea pig. This was the first time this system had been used, and we’re confident that if we made those modifications that it will not only melt the snow and the frost, but it will also carry the moisture off of the bridge so that it doesn’t refreeze,” said MRA director Ellen Buchanan.

Is telling the public that we were guinea pigs a good idea, or is Ellen Buchanan showing us why MRA needs that communication plan they are paying Spider McKnight’s Six Pony Hitch consulting firm $46,000 to develop? I don’t know, you decide.

When you are spending other people’s money, it must seem like it’s always a sunny day, and sunny days are great to spend at the park. That is why Missoula taxpayers supported a 42 million dollar bond six years ago to build shit like this:

Voters agreed to pay $42 million over the next 20 years to develop a regional park at Fort Missoula, improve city playgrounds and establish a county trails program. By far the largest share of the bond, some $38 million, will go to building and making over 146 acres of park land at Fort Missoula. The regional park concept has been in the dream and planning stages since the mid-1990s.

Now that all this work is done, we can enjoy TOP OF THE LINE sports fields, right? And if it rains, the fields were PROPERLY DESIGNED to deal with it, right?

Wrong. From the link:

A Missoula taxpayer is concerned and upset about the conditions of the Fort Missoula turf fields.

“Beautiful facility paid for by city and county taxpayers, but I mean it’s a flawed facility. I mean its flawed because the turf either it wasn’t put in properly or it isn’t being properly maintained,” Missoula resident Tony Boote said.

Officials tell us the fields are designed to drain about .6 inches of rain in an hour.

On June 29, Missoula recorded just shy of an inch of rain, on the June 30 just over a half inch fell.

All together roughly one and a half inches of rain over 48 hours.

The fields though were still muddy and wet, when they should have drained in about three hours.

So, to recap, Missoula citizens have paid over 4 million dollars for a bridge that features dangerous, icy conditions when it’s cold out, and we are STILL PAYING for sports fields that become water-logged messes when it rains too much.

I hope Missoula citizens remember this bullshit when Mayor Engen makes his case next year to continue this trend of unaccountable development that just keeps tightening the screws on the affordability crisis we are suffering.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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1 Response to Who Pays When A Pedestrian Bridge Can’t Handle Cold And A Sports Field Can’t Handle Rain?

  1. Terry L MacPheat says:

    For what it’s worth, I believe were WERE “guinea pigs” on the bridge issue. I seem to recall that being covered in news reporting before the project…the massive, massive project….started. Sorry to hear it’s still a mess. Never been on it myself….

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