Friday, November 28, 2014

City of Helena Streets Plan for Weekend Storm

From: Superintendent of City of Helena Streets Department; Forwarded to Helena City Commission by City Manager
Date: November 28, 2014 at 8:53:24 AM MST

Subject: Weekend Storm


November 28th 2014
As of Friday morning November 28th the City Street crew is mostly sanding areas of ice left from the past storm and the high Thanksgiving Day temperatures that melted most of the snow.  We did have a crew of five (5) operators in for a full shift on Thanksgiving Day for the holiday travelers and in preparation for Black Friday.

In anticipation of the predicted snow storm expected to begin sometime around 4:00 am on Saturday morning  November 29th the City Street Division will operate with the following Snow Plow Plan:

This storm is predicted to have winds, very cold temperatures and snow accumulations up to five inches by Sunday morning.  Along with shopping and holiday traffic there is a Carroll College playoff football game beginning at 12:00 noon on Saturday.

We will have five operators scheduled to come to work Saturday morning and be available to work a 10 hour shift.  This effort will get travelers around town for the day and we can help traffic in and around the College.

Our “On Call” operator will be available for the weekend and on Sunday we will again have a small crew available to plow and sand depending upon the results of the storm on Saturday. We will monitor the situation through the weekend and make the appropriate response on Monday morning.  We have two operators scheduled to start shift at 4:00 am on Monday and they have authority to call other operators in if needed.

If anyone has any questions or concerns during regular working hours please call the Street Division at 447-1566. During off hours, holidays or weekends call the nonemergency dispatch number 442-3233.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Time for Fixed Routes in Helena

Today's Joint City-County meeting (4p.m., room 326, 316 N. Park) will include discussion of improvements to public transit in Helena. We have the opportunity to establish three fixed routes connecting most of Helena and East Helena using existing public transit resources. The map below shows the proposed routes. We cannot delay. These routes will make public transit more useful to everyone in our community. Further, Helena will lose federal funding if ridership number continue to decline. The City and County Commission's should follow HATAC endorsement of the following fixed routes. The City and County Commissions should dedicate resources to get them online starting Monday, January 5th, 2015. Starting the routes at the new year will serve Helena residents and guest for the 2015 Legislature, which will include a Legislative shuttle that will link the routes. Marketing and modification of the routes can take place while other initiatives, such as re-branding are being explored by HATAC as part of a federal grant. 

Monday, November 3, 2014


HELENA – People with disabilities or senior citizens who need a ride back and forth to the polls tomorrow, Election Day, Tuesday, November 4, can get a lift via an 85-cent taxi ride, thanks to a collaborative effort between the City of Helena and the Montana Independent Living Project, who are partnering with Capitol Taxi. The service is available as an alternative, since the Helena Area Transit System (HATS) will not be operating due to the designated holiday. 

“Public transportation is vital for those with limited or no access to a personal vehicle, or who do not drive,” said Bob Maffit, Executive Director of the Montana Independent Living Project. “We want to honor all those who wish to exercise their civil right to vote by making sure they have transportation to do so.”

The fare is $0.85, the same as would be available via HATS.

Persons with a disability or seniors who need transportation to the polls can call Capitol Taxi Dispatch at 449-5525 to schedule a ride. Rides will be available from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Accessible vehicles are available upon request. Riders please advise Capitol Taxi of any mobility/transportation needs in order for the taxi service to provide the most suitable vehicle.

The Montana Independent Living Project, Inc. (MILP) is a not-for-profit agency that provides services that promote independence for people with disabilities.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Upcoming Opportunities to Improve Efficiency, Service and Recycling by Public Entities and Facilities in Helena


I submitted the following document to the Helena City Commission and city staff regarding recycling last Wednesday at an administrative meeting. As I write here, our community has a great opportunity to improve efficiency, increase recycling, and address household hazardous waste.  This direction is fiscally and environmentally responsible; it meets the promises made when the transfer station and landfill were established.  

The final "Operational Efficiency Study of Solid Waste System" is not yet available. However, the "short-term" items listed below are improvements that can be implemented in coming months and guided by the final study.  The recommendations are based on the draft report, long standing and recent city commission discussions and meetings, your suggestions, and my experience in the recycling field.  I suspect the primary recommendation by city and county staff will be to pursue new political and fiscal structures for the current waste utilities, the transfer station, and public landfill. Such an exploration, if it is indeed warranted, should not delay implementing the concepts below and exploring the additional items outlined here

I proposed the City join this study nearly a year ago, in part to prevent plans by city staff at the executive level to spend a million dollars on capital projects that were not needed. The projects did not include looking at improved recycling, additional waste diversion, or addressing household hazardous waste.  The draft report validates concerns raised that the projects were not needed. Thankfully, the projects were not build and the funds remain available for investment in improved services for Helena. 


- Matt E

Matthew Elsaesser, Commissioner
City of Helena, Montana, USA
316 N Park, 59625

[ Start Document Text]

Recycling and efficiency improvements at the City of Helena Transfer Station and Lewis & Clark County Landfill:


1.  Allow Scratch Gravel Solid Waste District permit holders to replace lost permits at the transfer station, charge a convenience fee if necessary.

2.  Establish trial winter hours at the transfer station that may include closing one day a week (Monday for example) and limiting hours on other days (10a.m. to 4:45p.m., two hours less, on Sundays for example).

Distributed to the City of Helena Commission and city staff
by Commissioner Elsaesser at October 15, 2014, at a
City of Helena administrative meeting. Click to view.
3.  Allow the landfill to close on weekends during winter, either Saturday or Sunday or both days, unless transfer station makes an appointment for the landfill weekend during the business week.

4.  Extend the default replacement cycle for all trucks and equipment based on savings seen by extending the life of the city residential fleet and deferred replacement of landfill equipment outlined in the draft solid waste efficiency study.

5.  Consolidate recycling area to allow recycling common items from one parking area, add shelter for staff and recyclers, and evaluate using an automated compactor for cardboard. [details and examples posted here here]

click on link below for full post containing this graphic
Image from recent post

6.  Cancel additional shop and expanded contractor bays at transfer station [discussed here]. 

7.  Charge tipping fee for bio-solids to cover costs of composting program.

8.  Reimburse recycling program for motor oil used for heating based on market rate.


1. Evaluate RFP’s for various levels of recycling services at the transfer station, a modified blue bag program, and full-service or partnerships with curbside service.

2. Setup unloading areas separate from tipping floor for trailers of heavy C & D waste, soft fill, and non-dumping trailers.

3. Establish a point system for residential customers to replace tonnage quota to allow accounting for higher cost disposal items such as electronic and household hazardous waste.

4. Approach Scratch Gravel/County regarding a renter permit for recycling similar to city’s renter recycling permit.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Powerful stories featuring Montana Legend Jason DeShaw

[Email from my great friend Jason DeShaw]


Here is a news piece that came out this week on mental illness and suicide that I was a part of. I hope this finds you well.

[More about Jason at]

Helena City Commission DRAFT Agenda for Wednesday, October 15: Major Budget Items to be Acted On

The Helena City Commission will discuss and set direction for several major budget items this Wednesday. This will include the dedication of half a million dollars of gas tax revenue for road projects (item 5a-public works), the disposition of $1.89 million dollars in revenue for a tax settlement with telecommunication companies (item 5a-admin services), and exploring next steps to fund accessible walking and biking infrastructure in Helena. 

DRAFT Agenda:

In regards to the use of one time funds from the recent tax settlement, I will be supporting the funding of a railroad quiet zone, a pedestrian bridge over Henderson near the rail underpass, a capital fund to match grants, funds for emergency services, and a conservation fund to help setup a voluntary district for residents to invest in alternative energy and water conservation. I also look forward to proposals from other commissioners and your suggestions. 

For the use of gas tax funds, I hope the Commission will support funding safety improvements and green storm water management along Front Street to compliment a million dollar plus project by other city utilities (details and pictures here), as well as establishing a four-way stop at Joslyn, Leslie and Country Club.

- Matt E

Matthew Elsaesser, Commissioner
City of Helena, Montana, USA

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Lewis & Clark County Commission is seeking interested citizens to serve on the following boards:




The Lewis & Clark County Commission is seeking interested citizens to serve 
on the following boards:

Augusta Solid Waste Management District

Two Citizens to serve on the Augusta Solid Waste Management District Board; 
3 year term. Applicants must reside within the boundaries of the Augusta 
Stolid Waste Management District.

City-County Consolidated Planning Board

Three citizens to serve on the City-County Consolidated Planning Board. The 
purpose of the board is to ensure the promotion of public health, safety, 
morals, convenience, order and general welfare for the sake of efficiency 
and economy in the process of community development; 3 year term.

City-County Library Board

One citizen to serve on the City-County Library Board. The board is 
responsible for hiring staff and setting policy for the library; 5 year 

Fair Board
One citizen to serve on the Fair Board. The board generally oversees the 
overall management and operation of the fairgrounds for Lewis and Clark 
County; 4 year term.

Forestvale Historic Preservation Committee

Two citizens to serve on the Forestvale Historic Preservation Committee who 
reside within Forestvale Cemetery District; generally described as School 
Dist. No 1; 3 year term. This board reviews and approves development 
proposals related to the Forestvale Cemetery and are responsible for 
assuring compliance will all relevant local, state and federal regulations 
and requirements pertaining to the Cemetery’s designation on the Federal 
Register or History Sites.

Investment Committee

One citizen to serve on the Investment Committee who makes recommendations 
to the Board of County Commissioners with regard to investing the financial 
assets of all funds of the County and all other participants in the County 
Investment Pool Program; 3 year term.

Lincoln Solid Waste District Board

One citizen to serve on the Lincoln Solid Waste District Board who owns 
residential or commercial property and pays the Lincoln Solid Waste 
assessment; 3 year term.

Mental Health Local Advisory Council

Two citizens to serve on the Mental Health Local Advisory Council who are 
consumers of mental health services. The council assists in the improvement 
of public mental health services in the local community; 2 year and 3 year 

Mosquito District – Craig

Two citizens to serve on the Craig Mosquito District Board who reside in the 
district limits. This board develops and administers a program for abatement 
and alleviation on mosquito pest conditions within the district and makes 
recommendations on appropriations and expenditure of funds to be levied on 
residents in the district; 4 year term.

Mosquito District – Helena Valley

One citizen to serve on the Helena Valley Mosquito District Board who 
resides in the district limits. This board develops and administers a 
program for abatement and alleviation on mosquito pest conditions within the 
district and makes recommendations on appropriations and expenditure of 
funds to be levied on residents in the district; 4 year term.

Open Lands Citizens Advisory Council

Five citizens to serve on the Open Lands Citizens Advisory Council. The 
primary purpose of the Program is to conserve resources on private lands in 
Lewis and Clark County that fulfill the objectives of the bond measure. The 
BOCC appointed the Citizens Advisory Committee on Open Lands (CAC) to make 
recommendations on project applications.

Planning & Zoning Commission

One citizen to serve on the Planning & Zoning Commission whom resides within 
an existing citizen-initiated Special Zoning District within Lewis and Clark 
County (SZD#45). This board shall perform issues dealing with zoning 
functions for the County; 3 year terms.

Scratchgravel Solid Waste District Board

One citizen to serve on the Scratchgravel Solid Waste District Board who 
resides in the SGSW Landfill District; 4 year term.

STOP DUI Task Force

Seven citizens to serve on the STOP DUI Task Force. The Task Force provides 
a link between individuals, agencies and organization interested in reducing 
the number of DUI crashes in the county. The Task Force provides information and funding for the study and recommendation of programs for the prevention, reduction, and education of 
the public on the dangers of DUI’s; 2 year term.

Weed Board
Five citizens to serve on the Weed Board. The board administers the district’s 
noxious weed program by establishing management criteria for noxious weed on 
all lands within the district; 3 year term.

Applications are available at or by 
calling 447-8304 and can be submitted to the Commissioner’s Office, 316 N. 
Park Ave., Rm. 345, Helena, MT 59623. All positions open until filled.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Upcoming Meetings and Agendas

Agenda for this Thursday, October 2nd (click image to enlarge):

The City of Helena Commission Agenda and Packets are always available for download here:

Agenda for this coming Monday, October 6th (click image to enlarge):

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Plastics Recycling and a Sheltered Recycle Area

I distributed the following document in response to the City of Helena Staff plastics recycling proposal at the start of this year. Of note is the idea of having the recycling area arranged so one recycling multiple items does not need to move their vehicle. The proposed configuration would also allow for a basic shelter to protect those recycling and staff assisting with recycling from weather. Unfortunately, the recent "Operational Efficiency Study of Solid Waste," does not focus on improving recycling. 

The report does recommend eliminating recycling programs, including the composting operation, the recently established plastics program based on "City" estimates of costs, and the City's once a month curbside program. The report is on the agenda for the upcoming City/County meeting to be held this coming Thursday, October 2nd, at 3pm in room 326 at the City County Building on 316 Park

This post includes a summary of additional material regarding recycling in Helena over the last year. 

- Matt E

New Zoning Designations Needed for Helena


I send the following proposal to my peers on the Helena City Commission last week.  The article cited is linked here. Please let me know if you have any questions. 


- Matt E

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The City of Helena has the following board openings:

DATE:  August 28, 2014

CONTACT: Debbie Havens, Clerk of the Commission
447-8410 – 


The City of Helena has the following board openings:

Board of Adjustment
One citizen to serve as the alternate member on the Board of Adjustment.  The term will begin upon appointment and expire October 1, 2015.

The five-member board acts on applications for variances in the zoning ordinance. 

Business Improvement District/Helena Parking Commission
One citizen to serve on the Business Improvement District/Helena Parking Commission.  Applicants must be the owner of property within the BID District or be the owner’s personal representative, agent or guardian.  The term will begin November 1, 2014 and expire October 31, 2018.

City-County Parks Board
One citizen to serve on the City-County Parks Board as a city representative.  The term would begin October 1, 2014 and expire September 30, 2017.

The City-County Parks Board shall perform various functions for the City and County related to parks, recreation, and open space.

Lewis & Clark County Heritage Preservation and Tourism Council
One city resident to serve on the Lewis & Clark County Heritage Preservation and Tourism Council.  The term would begin upon appointment and expire June 30, 2017.

The seven-member Council advises the City and the County on various issues affecting historic resources and focuses on education, planning and zoning, and economic development. 

Zoning Commission
One city resident to serve on the Zoning Commission and one city resident to serve as the alternate member on the Zoning Commission.   The term for the member of the Zoning Commission would begin on October 1, 2014 and expire September 30, 2012017 and the un-expired term as the alternate would begin upon appointment and expire September 30, 2015.

This commission shall perform zoning functions for the city and shall be the sole Zoning Commission for the City of Helena.

Applications are available at /commission/boards and committees or by calling 447-8410 and can be submitted to the City Clerk’s Office, 316 N. Park Avenue, Room 323, Helena, MT 59623.  The deadline for all board applications is 4:00 p.m., Thursday, September 11, 2014.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Final Race in Montana Enduro Series to Take Place at Local Family Ski Hill Great Divide Outside Helena!

August 27th, 2014

The Montana Enduro Series will make its final stop at Great Divide Ski Area in Marysville, MT, on Saturday, September 6.  The fourth leg of the mountain bike race series will feature a trail maintained by the members of the Helena-based Gravity Guild mountain bike club.  The series is in its inaugural year and is run by the Montana Bicycle Guild, a Helena-based nonprofit.

"We've been working hard with Great Divide to make our last race of the season the best one yet," said Denny Palmer, of the Montana Bicycle Guild.  "It has been a bit of a process to make this race happen, but everyone involved has been really great to work with and we're excited to run this race in a location where many people may not have gotten a chance to ride."

Great Divide will be running its grill and the Missing Lynx Saloon will be open for the racers and spectators. JP Stanek, Mountain Manager at Great Divide, said that "We are excited to host the final event in the Montana Enduro Series and hope to provide a fun experience for Montana’s vibrant and enthusiastic mountain biking community."

The race is an enduro-style mountain bike race which combines cross-country and downhill riding.  Competitors are given an allotted period of time to ride to the top of each downhill segment.  They are timed as they race downhill to the start of the next climb.  There are various categories of racers based on skill level, gender, and age.  The winner of each category is the racer with the fastest combined time from all of the timed segments.

"Enduro racing is the most popular kind of mountain bike racing there is right now.  We've had people from all over the state traveling to each of our races this summer," Palmer said.  "This last race at Great Divide will be a great send-off for the season."
More information is available at , , and .

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Helena Area Long Range Transportation Plan Meeting September 3rd

August 20, 2014


For more information:
Jeff Key, Project Manager, RPA, (406) 447-5000

Informational meeting to discuss the Greater Helena Area Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) – Lewis and Clark County & City of Helena

Helena - Lewis and Clark County, the City of Helena, and the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) have initiated a community transportation planning process to update their existing Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP).  The Plan provides a blueprint for guiding transportation infrastructure investments based on identified needs.  The second of three informational meetings will be held on Wednesday, September 3, 2014 at the West Valley Fire Station, 1151 Forestvale Road. The meeting will begin with a presentation at 6:00 p.m., followed by a question and answer period. Time for informal discussions with the project team will be available after the conclusion of the question and answer period.

The purpose of the meeting is to review the transportation system issues and areas of concern, and to ensure that all of the major transportation problems have been identified and included in the analysis. A summary of the existing and projected transportation system conditions will be presented. This is an important opportunity to learn about the LRTP Update and to express your thoughts on existing and future transportation conditions in the Greater Helena area.

The LRTP is intended to facilitate community goals and improve the transportation infrastructure and services within the Greater Helena area to meet the needs of existing and future demands.   

Participation is a very important part of the process, and citizens are encouraged to attend the meeting and participate.  Opinion, comments and concerns may be submitted in writing at the meeting, by mail to Jeff Key, Project Manager, Robert Peccia and Associates, PO Box 5653, Helena, MT. 59604, or by email to
Please indicate comments are for the Greater Helena Area LRTP.  RPA and the project partners will collect and consider all comments to better understand the potential transportation system issues and concerns within the Greater Helena area.

Future announcements will be made prior to all events through the local media and the LRTP mailing list.  Interested parties are encouraged to join the study mailing list by submitting their name and contact information to Jeff Key at email: Jeff dot Key at rep-hln dot com. 

A website has been developed and can be accessed at:


or, visit the project’s Facebook page at:

Lewis and Clark County, the City of Helena, MDT and RPA attempt to provide accommodations for any known disability that may interfere with a person participating in this meeting.  Alternative accessible formats of information presented at the meeting can be provided upon request.   Accommodation requests are encouraged at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.  For further information, call (406) 447-5000 or (406) 447-8099.

Project name:  Greater Helena Area Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) - 2014
Lewis and Clark County & City of Helena

Great News! Caird Will be Cleaned up to Residential Standards!

The Caird property, currently owned by Montana Businesses Assistance Connections (MBAC), will be cleaned up to residential standards. Cleaning up to residential standards will allow the property to be sold without deed restrictions based on the industrial/commercial standard of cleanup initial planned and allow for full utilization of the B1 zoning. The additional cost will be around $58,000. Two-third of the cost can be addressed with funds available by an environmental trust. More details soon. - Matt E

Monday, August 18, 2014

City of Helena Sign Ordinance Update:

From City of Helena Zoning Officer Elroy Goleman:

The City of Helena Website has  link to the information for the proposed sign ordinance update. The information can be viewed by going to the following link: 

Under current project you will need to click on the 2014 Sign Ordinance Update link. this will take you to the general website write up which contains links at the bottom to the Summary of Changes and to the copy of the Proposed Sign Ordinance. 

Also if you have questions concerning the proposed changes, please contact the City Planning Division of the Community Development Department at 447-8490 or by email at: 

[From an email sent to City Employees August 2014]

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Green Infrastructure Amendments for Helena's Boulevards!

[Update: Both amendments passed. The storm water amendment was modified to clarify that City approval of such features could be conditional on requirements for both installation and maintenance, which "may" include additional cost to adjoining property owners.]


Click to View Amendment 1
This coming Monday, August 18th, I will propose two amendments to the City of Helena Boulevard Landscaping and Public Tree Ordinance (Title 7, Chapter 10 of Helena City Code). Details of the ordinance linked here.

One amendment [shown right] is to ensure that fruit trees be allowed with the condition that the adjacent property owner collect fruit to prevent nutrient diversion into city storm water collection. This will allow residents or perhaps even public parks, such as the envisioned green concepts of an "Edible Forest" in the 6th Ward.

Click to View Amendment 2
The second amendment [shown right, fact sheet below] allows for additional green infrastructure concepts that can help meet regulatory requirements for storm water, allow narrower safer streets, and help maintain the health of boulevard trees by directing rain water to the boulevards rather than expensive central treatment

Please let me know if you have any questions and let your Helena City Commission know of your support for these amendments.


Matt E

Matthew Elsaesesr, Commisser
City of Helena, Montana, USA

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Montana Country Singer Jason DeShaw Wins National Award!


TO:             ALL MEDIA
FROM:       Legendary Artists/Joy Novota, Executive Agent – 406-227-6961
RE:             Montana Country Singer Wins National Award from National Alliance on Mental Illness
DATE:         July 3, 2014

Jason DeShaw, Montana’s own country singer, has been selected to receive NAMI’s (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Lionel Aldridge Champions Award. This award recognizes an individual living with a mental illness who has exhibited courage, leadership, and service on behalf of all people living with mental illness.  In selecting DeShaw for this award, the NAMI Board recognizes him for his efforts to be a voice for those who struggle with mental illness.  DeShaw will receive the Champions Award at the 2014 NAMI National Convention this September in Washington, D.C. where he will also perform for the attendees. 

Jason DeShaw is a beacon of light in a dark world of mental illness and addiction. As a presenter, DeShaw is sharing his hard-fought struggles through story and song.  His goal is to reach out to others who are looking for hope with mental illness and addictions.  His authenticity gives people permission to feel and acknowledges them as valued members of humanity.  As a country singer, DeShaw has opened for The Oak Ridge Boys, Little Big Town, and Emerson Drive.  Having performed across the United States, Canada, and Europe, he has been featured in two television specials.  His is a down-home, front-porch style with a soulful sound.  

Emmy award winning documentary filmmaker, Justin Lubke, is researching a potential documentary about DeShaw, and an NBC affiliate is also exploring a new television special. In October, DeShaw will be the featured speaker for the NAMI South Dakota state convention which will present a special focus on mental illness beginning in childhood and adolescence.  For information on booking speaking/singing engagements for Jason DeShaw, contact 406-227-6961.  

View short video: