Becoming a part of a very short list of cities, Missoula voted to officially divest from Wells Fargo over the bank’s financial support of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The ordinance, approved unanimously Monday night by Missoula City Council, was written by Ward 2 representative Ruth Swaney and Ward 1 representative Heidi West.
West also wrote the council’s resolution opposing the pipeline, to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Tribe, in November 2016.
Ten members of the public commented in support of divesting, while twice as many showed up just to witness the vote.
The message from many was thanks, but don’t stop here.
“It is a critical issue that faces Montana,” Joseph Grady said. “Those banking entities that operate in North Dakota have their eyes on our state.”
Wells Fargo works with Energy Transfer Partners, which is building the pipeline.
Divestment will pull around $2.6 million from the city’s cash-on-hand account with Wells Fargo.
The largest city to divest its holdings from Wells Fargo to date is Seattle, whose city council voted in February to pull more than $3 billion of its annual cash flow out of the bank.
The Missoula council also approved a trade that will result in a long-desired sidewalk on Brooks Street in front of Little Caesar’s.
The 8-4 vote could have been much closer, as many council members expressed reluctance in approving the deal, citing the high bar for giving up public right-of-ways and the landowner’s unwillingness to negotiate.
“We’re giving away commercially viable and profitable land to a landowner that has been less than a great neighbor,” Ward 5 representative Julie Armstrong, who voted against the deal, said. “I just feel like we’re being held over a barrel.”
The trade will give the Holiday Village owners the city’s two blocks of right-of-way on Holborn Street and North Avenue that wrap around Little Caesar’s in exchange for a nine-foot sidewalk easement.
The owner plans to redevelop the site by demolishing the Pet Nebula building and redoing the exteriors of the rest of that building and Little Caesar’s.
The Public Works committee voted 4-3 March 29 to deny the request, but committee chair Jordan Hess asked for the full council’s support on a trade that he said “provides more public good” than not.
“I don’t take right-of-way vacations lightly,” he said. “It releases city right-of-way that’’s not strategic or productive for us to retain.”
The council also approved a $48,000 graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrophotometry system for the wastewater treatment plant, which will save the plant about $15,000 a year in lab fees.
Wastewater Lab Manager Sherri Kenyon told the Public Works Committee that metal analysis is required on a monthly basis. Federal regulators are considering reducing acceptable levels of copper, iron and lead levels. And Missoula's water is close to the proposed lower standards.
The lab equipment would reduce the city's research time from two weeks to two days.
“Not only is it saving us money, but it allows us to even do more research'' and allows it to be done in house, Kenyon said.