Kalispell City Council Public hearing scheduled for assessment

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The public will have the opportunity to weigh in on the future changes and potential increases in storm-water and forestry assessments on Kalispell residents in Monday’s Kalispell City Council meeting.

A rise in the number of major storm-water management capital improvement projects this year has created a need for the city to raise the rate of the city’s annual storm-water assessment.

City staff will present possible methods of imposing the increase over the next three to five years.

City Manager Doug Russell has submitted four different assessment plans with differing rates of increase for the council to review. Two of the plans call for a three-year increase with higher annual rates, and two call for a five-year increase with lower annual rates.

The current improvements in progress will cost the city approximately $352,000 each year for the next 10 years.

The fourth assessment option includes funding for new development projects in the future, bringing the cost up to $465,000 a year for the next 10 years.

The proposed changes to the forestry assessment will also be up for discussion between council and the public.

At the work session, city staff will present potential funding options and review various levels of service and methods of addressing deferred maintenance.

The Urban Forestry Program is responsible for the maintenance and care of the city’s trees, including pruning, removing dead or dying trees and planting new ones. The work is paid for in part by a forestry assessment imposed on the taxpayers of Kalispell.

There are currently 8,706 trees in Kalispell’s urban forest. These include trees on city property such as parks, along roadways and in boulevards.

According to the city manager’s report, around 90 stumps need to be removed, around 160 trees need to be removed and around 700 trees need pruning.

During previous work sessions, the council decided to invest more in the city’s urban forest by increasing the contracting amount for tree removals and pruning and began discussing service levels as it relates to resources.

The removal of one tree costs between $200 and $800, depending on its size. The cost of pruning a tree is between $100 and $500. The city is also responsible for replacing and replanting trees.

City staff has estimated the cost of currently needed forest maintenance at around $201,000 per year for two years.

The cost of “deferred maintenance,” or the cost of upkeep and pruning over the next several years, will cost approximately $482,000 each year for the next seven years.

City staff will present several possible methods of generating the additional needed funding for the increase in forestry services needed to keep up Kalispell’s iconic canopies.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or mtaylor@dailyinterlake.com.

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