IN THE MAIL

Monday, August 27, 2018

Kudos for Livingston upgrades, but more work remains

Editor:

Sidewalks! Livingston has completed quite a bit of upgrading and meeting new codes and regulations concerning sidewalks. Nice job! Now as a Livingston resident I have to ask when will the city complete the sidewalk from I Street to the Vets Bridge east of town? Also, when will Livingston ask the railroad to improve their sidewalk crosswalks and install sidewalks on their side of the road through town?

Jim Knoelke

Livingston

The stories that Livingston potholes have to tell

Editor:

Let’s talk potholes. In particular, let’s talk about the monster at the corner of Park and 5th streets. You know the one. The one that will swallow a Volkswagen, bust your tires and bruise your kidneys. That’s the one. Would someone — anyone — please repair it. The fact that it has been there unrepaired since mid-winter is unacceptable and inexcusable.

Now I know that the first whine I’m going to hear is that the city can’t fix it because Park Street is part of U.S. 89 and is the responsibility of the state. Park and 5th is one of the busiest, if not the busiest, intersection in the city and this pothole effects and endangers a significant percentage of the citizens of Livingston (disclosure — I’m a northsider) and that makes it the city’s responsibility. And that brings us to the core of a much bigger issue.

Now I realize that in the greater scheme of things a pothole is a small thing. Sometimes a pothole is just a pothole. Sometimes though, there is more to tell. In this case this particular pothole shows a clear lack of leadership. By that I mean that the pothole buck stops on the city manager’s desk. When the new manager arrived on the job I met with him for an extended conversation and I came away with high hopes. I thought he might be the manager that Livingston has been looking for since the mid-nineties.

This pothole says I was wrong. Let me explain.

My good friend and former City Manager John Orndorff used to tell me that on a normal day the manager’s regular managerial duties were over by 10 a.m. That is, if the city was functioning normally, he could count on the various department heads to set out the work for their employees and then make sure the work was done competently and efficiently. When an issue arose, the department head took responsibility and solved the problem. That is their job. If that system failed, then it was time for the manager to step in and find a person who could take responsibility and get the job done.

That is his job.

Then, with this system working as it should, after 10 a.m., the manager was free to pursue the special jobs and functions that only the manager can do.

While those special jobs include things like budgeting and working for and with the City Commission, there are other much wider ranging jobs. Things like grant writing and meeting with individuals and groups within the community in order to get input on the needs of the city as seen by the citizens comes to mind. And yes, in this case, dealing with our monster pothole is also a special job. When a problem becomes a menace to the community, and in this case a running sore, the city manager needs to step in if for no other reason than he has the authority and administrative position to command some respect. In this particular case, he should have the Montana Department of Transportation Director, Mike Tooley, on speed dial (his number is 406-444-6201) and should be calling Mr. Tooley morning and night to find out when our pothole is going to be repaired. You know the old cliché about the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.

Yes, I know that in recent days the pothole was “patched.” In this case that isn’t the end of the problem because a dab of cold mix in a water logged hole will be gone in a matter of days. The real issue is that the problem can’t be fixed because the street and ground underneath have literally failed. I’m not going to place the entire blame for that at the feet of MDOT because the intersection is under designed and under built. As a bit of institutional memory, when the city was about to get the left turn signal, the MDOT wanted to completely rebuild the corner as part of the project. The City Commission, in its infinite wisdom, wouldn’t hear of moving so much as a blade of grass. It was just one more case of long standing failures on the part of the city to work with and cooperate with MDOT. We got the light (after further delays) and nothing else.

This is one of those special jobs where the manager earns his pay. He must attempt to put aside years of conflict with MDOT and get serious about schmoozing Mr. Tooley. He could take him out to lunch. The manager could lay out the needs of our community and make his case for rebuilding the intersection. Possibly the two could establish some sort of rapport and next time the MDOT has money to spend, they might spend it here rather than in Bozeman. Frankly, I’m not going to hold my breath, but it could happen.

I do appreciate the fact that The Enterprise is here and provides a forum for citizens to air their concerns and grievances. As Arnold said, “I’ll be back.”

Oh, and by the way, could someone do something about the pothole at the entrance to the post office driveway? I’m just asking.

Fred Hall

Livingston

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