Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Nathan Bourne

Equal assessment method chosen

Seeley Lake Sewer


SEELEY LAKE – The Seeley Lake Sewer District Board appointed Cheri Thompson to serve on the Board and adopted an equal assessment method for next year’s tax assessment at their May 20 meeting. In other business, the Board hired an interim manager, heard a presentation on a water study in the area and discussed studying the groundwater with the Health Department.

Thompson was the only applicant to fill Director Walt Hill’s seat after he resigned in February. The Board interviewed Thompson at the meeting.

Thompson said the reason she applied is because the community needs a solution to the wastewater situation and that everyone needs to be a part of it. She said she wants to be a part of the process of mitigating the problem. She wants to see the ability for town to have workforce housing and other projects but doesn’t think it should create a huge burden on the people of the community.

Thompson felt that without a doubt, the people voted against the proposed system not just the funding of the system. She said the proposed system was “taken out of a drawer” by engineers 25 years ago and the community was told that was the answer. She felt there was never any research based upon community members and alternatives were not considered.

“I really think this is an opportunity to stop and take a deep breath and move forward in a more modern way,” said Thompson.

The Board voted unanimously to appoint Thompson to fill the vacant seat until May 2022 when the seat is up for election.

The Board was presented last month with three options for spreading the annual administrative budget across the landowners including last year’s method using market values of the land, equal assessments or an option based on area combined with the use of the land.

Board President Tom Morris moved to use the equal assessment method where every lot pays an equal amount. He said it was the fairest method.

Morris said the Board received a lot of feedback that the market value method used last year was not fair to lakefront landowners. Regarding the third option Morris spent some time with the spreadsheet changing the percentages charged to each type of land use and he felt that method was not fair to large landowners no matter how he changed it.

The Board unanimously voted to use the equal assessment method. Under this method each parcel within the District will pay $245.75 for the year on their property tax bill.

The Board then set a public hearing for June 28 at 6 p.m. to hear any protests to the assessment methodology. The hearing will be held in person and on Zoom at the Seeley Lake Historical Museum and Visitor Center (The Barn) located at 2920 Highway 83. Any landowner wishing to protest this must do so in writing before 4 p.m. on June 28. For more information see the public notice on page 19.

In other business, the Board voted to hire their secretary Felicity Derry as the interim General Manager. Current Manager Jean Curtiss put in her notice that she will retire at the end of June.

Director Beth Hutchinson said having an interim manager would allow the Board to go through a proper process in hiring a new manager.

Caryn Miske from Clearwater Resource Council presented the Board with CRC’s plans to do more robust water sampling in the valley’s lakes this summer, testing for many contaminates including nitrogen, phosphorus and E. coli. Miske said it will not show trends over time because it is only over one season but it should give a pretty good idea about the water quality in the lakes.

CRC is also considering applying for a study in the area from the Montana Bureau of Mines & Geology to look at water quality.

Missoula City-County Health Department Environmental Health Specialist Jim Erven said the Health Department is considering a proposal for the same study and hopes that they can work something up collaboratively so they are not competing for it.

Erven said the Health Department is continuing to look at possibilities on collecting more data on the groundwater contamination. He said the Special Management Area limiting new or expanded uses in Seeley Lake will remain in effect and there is no plan on changing that for the time being.

Hutchinson asked if the Health Department has any intention of taking regulatory action against the RV dump located in town. Erven said no action has been taken at this time and that the dump station is a legal permitted use.

The permit, granted in 1989 shows the system consists of an earlier installed metal tank with two three-ring seepage pits for the drain field. The permit does not show how many gallons per day it was designed for.

“We know that that dump station is a large contributor to the issue. We also know it’s not the only contributor,” said Erven. “In our line of work, we try not to single out sources without a really solid evidence-based method for determining that they are the problem or the bulk of the problem.”

The Board moved it’s regular June meeting to follow the assessment hearing June 28. The agenda and information on how to participate will be posted on the District’s website


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