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!