PABLO — The Pablo Ronan District meeting hosted by Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council Ronan Representatives Carole Lankford and CSKT Tribal Council Pablo Rep. Dennis Clairmont was small in numbers, but deep in important tribal membership topics.
A dozen people joined in the CSKT tribal council meeting room last Monday to share a home cooked meal and hear updates from tribal departments: Salish Kootenai Housing Authority on a proposed utility rate increase; Tribal Legal Department on a CSKT Tribal Council decision on reapportion of voting district representation; and Natural Resource Department hazard waste and illegal dumping alerts.
SKHA Executive Director Jody Perez announced SKHA is proposing to increase water and sewer rates by 13 percent. The $4 increase from $31 to $35 per month will pay for a meter reader position. If the proposal is passed the increased rate would go into effect on January 1,2020.
Perez said the proposed utility increase rate is in the final process of public comment. It has already passed the previous steps of SKHA Board of Commissioners approval; the CSKT Tribal Council approval; and is now in the public comment period where feedback will be reported to the board and Tribal Council.
Places most affected by the increase would be SKHA home site neighborhoods; homeowners on SKHA homesite; Dixon township; and nonresidential buildings such as Nkwusm; CSKT Tribal Health; and the Long House.
Perez said the new meter reader position would help SKHA get on a base billing system where usage is measured per household and is more accurate.
“The point of doing this is so we can get on a system for billing where you get charged the base rate and if you go over that rate you get charged for your additional usage like every other utility in this area,” said Perez. Perez said it would help individuals be aware of how much water they are consuming and help with water conservation. “Instead of having someone pay this amount and everyone else is paying more, you are now billed according to your usage. So that’s our end goal to have a more accurate billing system.”
She said SKHA has meters installed on most of the service connections but some are not working or are missing. The meter reader employee would be tasked with getting the meters up and running. SKHA could analyze water consumption on an average basis, set an average base rate and then bill accordingly.
Tribal District reapportioning
Rhonda Swaney, CSKT Tribal Legal Department attorney announced CSKT Tribal Council is considering reapportionment of district representatives due to a shift in population.
Swaney said that since 1935 the district representatives have not been moved or changed. However, in the 1980s Tribal Council allowed everyone to vote for representatives reservation wide, not only in their districts.
The CSKT Constitution says Tribal Council can change the districts and representation from each district based on community organization but the total number of delegates shall not be changed. “So the total number has to remain ten, but they can be redistributed,” said Swaney.
Swaney said the population growth has “moved north.”
“Arlee and St. Ignatius used to be the largest districts; today’s largest districts are Ronan and Polson,” said Swaney.
Swaney went down the list of eligible voters in each district according to the per capita address list, which is the most current count but does not reflect where people live. Swaney said the addresses from the per capita payment list can be addresses from tribal members that may still get mail at their parent’s post office box or other situations.
She listed the eligible voter list per district: Ronan, 826; Polson, 742; Arlee, 688; Pablo, 668; St. Ignatius, 638; Elmo/Dayton, 284; Hot Springs/Camas, 117; and Dixon, 109.
“So these are unverified numbers, but it shows the population has shifted,” she said.
Tribal Council considered these population changes and decided to seek comment from the membership Swaney said. When members vote this fall during the tribal election, a separate ballot will pose the question of “In Favor” or “Not in Favor” to reapportion the districts. There is no particular reapportion plan set in place yet said Swaney. If over half of the ballots vote in favor of changing it, CSKT Tribal Council will consider reapportionment.
She mentioned there are a number of ways Tribal Council can decide to reapportion. One: they could move the two representatives from Arlee and St. Ignatius - that have two each - to Ronan and Polson. Other options include making the representatives All-At-Large, or splitting the reservation in half. “They can do any numbers of things, but there is not a particular plan in mind at this time.”
She said Tribal Council wants to know how the general population feels about the idea. “And it’s a non-binding vote. So Council doesn’t have to do anything even if 90 percent of the people say yes we want it. It’s still a Council decision that is made separately,” Swaney said.
One attendee asked if the question could be mailed out to the members. Swaney said Tribal Council decided to do it during the tribal election but could change their minds. Swaney said the problem with mail-outs is that some people do not send them back in and it ends up being an additional cost without a good return.
Ronan Rep. Carole Lankford added that responses to surveys sent out to the tribal membership in the past were never good.
CSKT NRD Environmental Protection Division Hazard Waste Program Manager MaryRose Morigeau said an August Household Hazard Waste event was held to educate community members about the hazard.
Morigeau listed off examples of hazardous materials people have in their homes and may not realize are dangerous. In the Garage: antifreeze, auto batteries, brake fluid, gasoline, oil, etc.; lawn and garden: herbicides, fungicides, weed killers, etc.; hobby items: computers, batteries, fireworks, flea powder, ammunition, nail polish remover, televisions, photo chemicals, etc.; outdoor/pool: chlorine, muriatic acid, spa chemicals, propane cylinders; and home maintenance: ammonia, bleach, fluorescent light bulbs, thermostats, paint, paint thinners, etc.
If waste is dumped on the ground or soil it eventually reaches human drinking water sources and can affect wildlife food sources and drinking water said Morigeau.
Not only is it hazard to environmental and human health it is also illegal to dump anywhere outside of a transfer station or landfill facility.
She said if anyone has household hazard wastes they can take it to their local transfer station to see if they will accept it. If not, attendees could call her office to learn how to properly dispose the materials.
Morigeau said dumping hazardous household material anywhere that is not a proper landfill is illegal. She advised that if anyone sees illegal dumping, get the license plate and description of a vehicle or person and call in the local law enforcement or her office.
“Improperly disposing of hazardous materials in our environment and illegally dumping household hazards or household wastes creates a serious threat to human health and the environment. We like to promote waste prevention, composting, reuse and recycling and properly disposing of waste,” said Morigeau.
She praised the local youth efforts called EAGLES (Environmental Advocates for Global and Local Ecological Sustainability) for promoting and implementing recycling in their schools. EAGLES is a reservation-wide, youth-led groups within the Flathead reservation schools. Its purpose is to support efforts to help empower interested tribal and other local youth to become engaged and informed citizens regarding environmental and climate change issues on the Reservation, and at a state, regional, national and global level.
Morigeau said the EAGLES groups are continuing their recycling efforts and are ranging from 300-500 pounds of recyclables every two weeks. The schools involved are Polson Middle School, Polson High School, Dixon, Charlo, Arlee, St. Ignatius Middle and High Schools, Nkwusm Language School, and Two Eagle River School. Two other schools working towards getting active again are Hot Springs and Ronan Schools.
To report and get advice on properly disposing household hazard waste material, call CSKT Brownsfield Tribal Response Program and Solid Hazardous Waste Program Manager MaryRose Morigeau at (406) 883-2888, ext. 7215; or email at Maryrose.firstname.lastname@example.org.
For SKHA utility rate increase public comment, call Bud Gillin, CSKT Water and Sewer Operation Manager at (406) 675-4491, ext. 1532; or drop off written comments at the SKHA front desk.