The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Jack H. Smith
Ledger Publisher 

Town Council votes to pay water related bill


October 25, 2017

After a lengthy discussion about what the role NCI Engineering has been taking in helping to address water issues, the Whitehall Town Council voted unanimously October 17 to pay an over $28,000 bill to the firm based out of Great Falls.

According to Mayor Dale Davis, the town received a bill two weeks, and did not get a contract from the firm until three weeks ago.

Davis said it seems like they are not getting anything accomplished, they need more water samples from test wells, adding it feels the town is out of the loop because they don’t have anything to show what the firm has accomplished.

Davis and Town Attorney Ed Guza both discussed a lack of communication between the firm and the governing body. Davis said they have not received any emails about work being done and they should be in the loop of any correspondence.

“We should have a record of what is going on,” Davis said.

NCI Senior Project Manager Lyle Meeks told the governing body their work began with addressing misinformation about the uranium issue in the town.

At a public informational meeting in February, Meeks said the Town of Whitehall engaged the firm to help with the uranium problem.

“What we are headed for, or hope to head for, is to find an alternate water source; another well that doesn’t have uranium in it. We strongly believe that is a preferred alternative as opposed to building a treatment plant,” Meeks said at the meeting.

Meeks also informed the governing body last week his firm has worked with the Department of Environmental Quality to set up a compliance plan for an outstanding administrative order, and have applied for planning grants. He added the compliance plan was approved by the DEQ on June 1.

Meeks admitted to the governing body there was a certain lack of motivation on his part on getting a contract back to the town, saying they had been working for months without a paycheck. Davis said they need to get more water sampling done on wells, and Meeks responded he has been relying on Town Public Works Director Kory Klapan and Town consulting geologist Fess Foster for the sampling protocol.

Guza said he thinks the relationship has started on the wrong foot, and they need to work on repairing it.

Prior to the unanimous approval by the Council, Alderman Tom Jenkin said he did not know anything about the bill until the night of the meeting, and the amount of the bill is a lot. He suggested working as a team. Meeks also discussed the two entities working together as a team.

Davis said they have an outstanding bill, they should pay for it, and leave it up to the next council if they would like to proceed to negotiate with NCI, or do something else.

Mayor elect Mary Janacaro Hensleigh said she could not speak for the incoming members of the governing body, but it seems to her they should pay the bill and let the new Council take it from there.


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