Fat loads will pay more - at least twice as much as before.

With a full house as witness Monday, the Missoula City Council unanimously tightened regulations on oversized loads rolling through Missoula. The votes on two related ordinances were 11-0 with Councilman Jason Wiener absent.

"It's proof positive that this body can certainly come up with a good solution when it needs to do that," said Councilman Ed Childers, noting full agreement on an issue sometimes considered controversial.

More than 50 people turned out to show support for the council's actions - and mark opposition to the big rigs. Some spilled into the hall because all the seats in Council Chambers were taken.

When Zack Porter asked those in the audience to stand if they showed up to the meeting because of concern with the high and wide modules headed to Missoula, most of the people stood. Porter, campaign coordinator for All Against the Haul, thanked them.

He also said he wanted to be sure the corporations - so far ExxonMobil's Imperial Oil and ConocoPhillips - pay their own way. Porter said taxpayers shouldn't be picking up the tab for the time it takes to review lengthy permit applications or for cumulative damage from the loads.

"I want to make sure the corporations are footing that bill and not us," Porter said.

***

Imperial Oil wants to move some 200 super-sized loads through Montana to Canada, and ConocoPhillips wants to pull four giant shipments of refinery equipment along scenic U.S. Highway 12 and through Missoula to Billings. Neither the Idaho nor the Montana departments of transportation have cleared the shipments to begin.

At the meeting, Susie Rosett thanked the council for doing its best to protect infrastructure here. Rosett, of Missoula, also urged the body to pursue other restrictions against the transports headed for the Canadian oil fields.

"I do also want to encourage the City Council to try and pass other ordinances to stop this project from happening," Rosett said.

Indeed, several councilors said they would have liked to have done more but did what was in their power.

"I try not to think that ultimately the taxpayers will be responsible (if something goes wrong)," said Councilwoman Stacy Rye. "I try to think that the corporations that might end up doing damage might be responsible. But American history does not bode well for that."

The loads have raised alarm because of their potential damage to roads and bridges and also because the trucks are hauling equipment for tar sands mining. But Councilwoman Pam Walzer said the city of Missoula can't charge based on the content of the load.

"We can't say, ‘We don't like what you're moving so we're going to charge more.' We have to be fair," Walzer said.

In August, the council adopted a similar temporary emergency ordinance, which expired Monday. On unanimous votes this week, the council adopted another emergency ordinance as well as a permanent one for oversized loads. The former takes effect immediately and the latter goes into effect in 30 days and becomes the permanent ordinance.

According to the new rules, oversized loads must get a city license and also pay a $40 or $200 permit fee, depending on the size (up from $10 and $100, respectively). If the load requires city oversight while in transit, that comes at a cost of $75 an hour. The city also may charge an overweight fee of at least $100 if the state deems an overweight fee is due.

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In other business, the council also unanimously approved design contracts and a development agreement related to building a new parking garage downtown, at the corner of Pattee and Front streets.

"The particular agenda items related to the parking structure are a big deal for downtown Missoula and a significant component of implementing the Downtown Master Plan," said Councilman Dave Strohmaier. "I don't want us to lose sight of that."

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at @KeilaSzpaller, 523-5262, or at keila.szpaller@missoulian.com.

 

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