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Director's Report January, 2001
- January was busy with legislative issues as the 57th Montana Legislature went into session on January 4th. The following briefly highlights the issues and bills that focused on the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial planning (weekly updates from the state Commission office and Travel Montana have been distributed during the month to offer more details to coincide with Hearing dates and times, etc.):
- HB-16: this is a bill to create a Heritage Tourism Program in Montana by establishing a coal tax loan of up to $40 Million to be repaid over 20+ years via a 1% increase in the Accommodations Tax. At the proposed level, Lewis & Clark-related projects could access up to $6.75 Million by enhancing the Commission's existing grant program. This bill was heard by the House Taxation Committee on January 23rd. The bill was also heard by the Joint Long Range Planning Committee on January 31st. Given the Governor's "no new taxes" pledge, HB-16 is now being presented as a "Referendum Bill" which, if passed, would put the measure to a public vote.
- Montana Historical Society Budget: As the state Commission is administratively attached to the Society, a request for general fund monies was made within the Society's proposed agency budget for $100,000/year to be accessed by the state Commission for "local matches" should private-sector and/or federal grant programs become available and matching funds needed. In Executive Session this committee gave approval to the concept of making this "contingency" funding available within the Society's budget, but from Accommodation Tax monies, not general fund dollars.
- Bicentennial License Plate Legislation: The draft legislation (in draft form is referred to as LC 49) to create a Montana Bicentennial Plate will be introduced in early February by Senator Fred Thomas. SB-191, legislation that would significantly alter how 'special issue plates' would be approved, was heard in committee on January 25. If approved, SB-191 would facilitate the creation of not only a Bicentennial Plate, but potentially numerous other specialty plates for the purpose of generating revenue for qualifying non-profit sponsors.
- Throughout January I reviewed and offered editing suggestions to the script of the 'Lewis & Clark 101' video currently in production. The Montana Superhost Program, the project-coordinating group, will utilize this new video to train front-line employees on the basics of Lewis & Clark's journey through Montana in 1805 and 1806. This new video, now officially titled Lewis & Clark: Montana's Story, will be debuted during the annual tourism conference in late March 2001.
- On January 4th I traveled to Missoula to address a meeting of the Western Montana Regional Bicentennial Commission, and to make a presentation on Bicentennial planning to the Travelers' Rest Chapter.
- On January 10th a memo was sent to the Commission's Grant Committee requesting approval of 18 applications for Organization & Planning Grants for 2001 ($2,500 maximum for each). All 14 Regional Bicentennial Commissions and 4 Indian tribes made application. The Committee unanimously voted to commit $43,473 to this program. Letters of Agreement have been drafted and once signed, funds will be disbursed (targeted in early February).
- Also on January 10th I participated in a conference call of the key parties to the issue of a grain loading facility being built adjacent to Pompeys Pillar. Facilitated by the Montana Consensus Council, this call generated a better understanding of all concerned, and set in motion additional efforts for resolution. A second, and final, conference call was held on January 31st. It was agreed to continue "one-on-one" negotiations in an effort to relocate the United Harvest facility.
- As the current chair of the Circle of State Advisors, I participated in a conference call of the Events Committee on January 11th (a committee established by the National Bicentennial Council to recommend events for possible selection by the National Council for Signature and Commemorative Events trail-wide). In summary it was agreed that more review would be required by this committee before making recommendations. No final decisions were made regarding Montana's three Signature Event Proposals submitted in mid-September, 2000. Some Signature Event selections are anticipated to be announced by the National Council at its next Board meeting in Omaha, Nebr. on April 23rd.
- On January 18th I traveled to Seeley Lake to make a presentation to the newly formed Blackfoot River Chapter of the National Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. Ten of the 28 chapters of the Foundation are located in Montana. This local chapter will also be very involved with Bicentennial planning locally.
- On January 19th I traveled to Billings to address a meeting of the emerging Montana Tribal Tourism Alliance (MTTA). Comprised of representatives from all but one Montana's seven Indian Reservations, this new group has as its mission the coordination of not only Bicentennial planning, but also other tourism-related projects. This group will greatly assist with Indian communication and coordination.
- The effort to create a statewide Public Safety Plan for Montana's Bicentennial Observance is now underway. On January 23rd I met with the Directors of the Montana Sheriff's & Peace Officer's Association, and the Montana Disaster & Emergency Services Division to plan a stakeholders meeting. Funding was requested for this initial effort through a National Park Service Challenge Cost Share grant application in late December 2000. This statewide planning effort will coordinate closely with a similar project now nearing completion in Idaho and three western Montana counties.
- The effort to facilitate the delivery of Community Infrastructure Planning has also taken its first step. On January 24th I met with representatives from the Local Government Assistance Division of the Montana Department of Commerce. Rather than contract for the development of a statewide infrastructure assessment, as was suggested in the new Bicentennial Master Plan, efforts will be made to let interested communities know of existing infrastructure planning and funding programs.
- On January 26th I traveled to Missoula again, this time to participate in a planning process for the acquisition, interpretation and "maintenance" of the Travelers' Rest campsite. A funding, and possibly a public-sector management entity, has come forward to insure that this historical site is moved from private ownership into protective public ownership. It was suggested that the pending acquisition and management "deal" could be completed as early as March of this year.
- The interagency Bicentennial Focus Team met in Bozeman on December 30th. Plans were reviewed and set in motion to initiate the first phase of implementation for the statewide Interpretive Sign Strategy. An NPS Challenge Cost Share Grant application was made prior to the 12/31/00 submittal deadline requesting partnership funding for this effort. It was also agreed that the Focus Team coordinate closely with Travel Montana's update process for their L&C web site. It was very encouraging that this meeting was well attended by Indian representatives as well as state and federal agencies.
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