Bridge Or Blackhole, It Doesn’t Matter, Council Member Heidi West Wants A Coffee Shop There!

by Travis Mateer

When I saw the Northside pedestrian bridge on the Climate, Conservation and Parks Committee agenda I knew I had to attend. Bridges in Missoula are a HOT topic for me, so I shook off Monday’s point-of-order drama and headed to Council chambers at 10:30am on a Wednesday, and I’m glad I did because I learned SO much!

First, let’s look at the boring stuff. Project Manager, David Selvage, is the man up to bat asking for MORE money to fix this 23 year old bridge rendered useless by winter salt and other factors. Here’s a portion of the document justifying the expense that raises the price tag of this fixing this bridge to $2.5 million dollars:

While I’m sure these numbers are fun, since they’re not coming from David Selvage’s personal bank account, I’m more interested in the upstream insanity I heard forming like dangerous fiscal storm clouds on the horizon, and since this threat is in its infancy, there’s no price tag to speak of to shock the public. Yet.

What do you see here, Missoula readers? Do you see a coffee shop? Neither do I, but that’s not going to stop Heidi West from conspiring with the financial terrorist running Parks and Rec, Donna Gaukler, to consider it a possibility. You see, Heidi West has A DREAM of seeing a coffee shop here, and Donna Gaukler thinks it’s a GREAT IDEA!

I was already getting fiscally anxious sitting there in Council chambers listening to the discussion about how UGLY this chainlink fencing is, and how it could be replaced with something more permanent and aesthetically pleasing, which I interpret to mean ALSO more expensive, but that doesn’t seem to be a consideration at this COMMITTEE stage of the “public” discussion.

Did I make public comment? Yes I did, as did the man behind MIST. My comment included a plea to NOT spend unnecessary money on things just for appearances. Mr. MIST’s comment was about the terrible alternative to Northside access, like the Orange Street underpass, which is dusty and loud with honking (poor Bob). Guess who the Missoulian quoted? Hint: NOT me (emphasis mine):

The public echoed West’s comments about the importance of rehabbing the bridge.

Bob Giordano, executive director of Free Cycles, called the bridge a “critical piece” of connectivity for the Northside community.

The other part of my question was about the possibility of restricting public access once the fix of the bridge is complete. I referenced the bridge to nowhere by the Poverello Center, explaining how my questions to David Selvage about public access have gone unanswered. The quick answer to my first question is there are no plans to restrict access to the public once the NORTHSIDE bridge is fixed.

Interestingly, I got additional perspective on the bridge to nowhere AFTER leaving the committee meeting. Turns out the security guy (who I had never seen before, but addressed me by my first name) had been listening and was interested in what I said about Black Knight Security being responsible for managing the gate that supposedly restricts public access to this bridge and West Broadway Island.

I was told that Black Knight is ONLY responsible for closing this gate. The responsibility for OPENING the gate is up to Parks and Rec. The security guy I spoke with noted that, from his recollection, the gate had been closed recently for at least a week and he wasn’t sure why. That question would be best addressed by David Selvage.

I’m going to do Selvage a favor and NOT waste his time sending another email, with the expectation that I’ll get some kind of response, because I know he’s busy listening to his boss, Donna, tell him about this GREAT idea for the Northside bridge and a coffee shop she’s seriously considering. I’m also saving MY energy so I can get back to doing on-the-ground reports, like this one:

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Thanks for reading!

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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2 Responses to Bridge Or Blackhole, It Doesn’t Matter, Council Member Heidi West Wants A Coffee Shop There!

  1. Greg Strandberg says:

    Am I the only one seeing a huge red flag here?

    The company that originally designed and built the bridge is HDR. They have no idea why the bridge is failing. They claim it’s the poor drainage leading to salt and deicer build up (i.e., blame the city). Well…isn’t that a glaring design flaw?!?

    Also, when asked, HDR had no idea what the bridge’s new lifespan might be. They guess 50 years.

    I’m sorry…but for this much money, is all we get…is a guess? The guessworkl with the 1999 construction didn’t work out too well, did it?

    Now this same company is going to redesign and rebuild their own shoddy work.

    Why are we rewarding failure?

    Of course, we all know this will sail through the approval process with the usual two no votes. Nugent might waffle a bit on his vote to try and drum up more support for his mayor run, but he’ll fall into line.

    • webdoodle says:

      I replied to your tweet last night, but got cut off, mid message, due to twitters length limitations. Here is the full message:

      There are so few food and beverage options near Partnership Health, which is right across the south side of the bridge, it might actually do well. Partnership employ’s around 280 people, many coffee addicts. Many of those employee’s don’t get enough time to go anywhere for lunch and end up eating at there desk, this is especially true of the nursing staff, which are already way over worked and underpaid.

      Aside from the Medical Resident students at PHC, of which many ride there bikes (~20), the rest of the 280 PHC staffers drive to work. As you may know, parking anywhere near downtown is a shitshow at best, and once you get a spot, you don’t dare try to move, or you might be walking 8 blocks or more. So nobody drives to get lunch, and with only 30 minutes, that doesn’t leave much time to walk anywhere.

      The only relatively close lunch options are Pie Hole and Double Front, both a 5 minute walk one way, so you get 20 minutes to order, wait for food, then eat. Friday’s tend to be ‘food delivery’ day for the few that can afford it, but the rest of the 4 days a week is up for grabs.

      I’m not sure it’s worth $104K to put a dedicated PHC lunch option, but the employee’s will likely appreciate it. I also agree with Greg, we shouldn’t be rewarding incompetence. Unfortunately that is what the Shitty Council and County Conditioners seem to like to do.

      While I was employed at PHC, they paid to have the windows and doors sealed 3 times. The first time, the contractor never even did the work, and yet was paid $20K for it. The second time they did it again, but did such a shit job, they got hired to do it for a 3rd time. Total cost to you and me? $60K. That’s just one of dozens of wasteful or flat out fraudulent uses of tax payer money I witnessed while there.

      I complained loud and often, but because I wasn’t a good quiet little ducky, got Office space red staplered out of the place. It doesn’t help, that while Union Secretary, I organized a strike, because our nursing staff was so underpaid, that we would lose them shortly after training to local hospitals for $4 more an hour for pay. The threat alone was enough, and we didn’t need to strike, and magically we stopped losing nursing staff.

      That place has so many major issues, I could write a book about it. But to be clear, it’s not the employee’s fault. As usual, its the overpaid, administrative staff that are the problem.

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