West side

The City of Helena has plans of annexing certain Lewis and Clark County land surrounded by the city on Helena's Westside.

Thom Bridge, Independent Record

Helena’s City Commission on Monday unanimously agreed to annex portions of three streets on the city’s Westside despite pleas from area residents that a section of one street be omitted.

The request to leave some of Granite Avenue out of the annexation was also made in a letter from Eric Bryson, chief administrative officer for Lewis and Clark County, that was read by each of the three county commissioners.

Both Westside residents and Bryson had sought to leave a portion of Granite Avenue in county custody so the properties between it and the city limits wouldn’t be wholly surrounded by the city.

Lands that are wholly surrounded by a municipality can be annexed without residents’ approval.

The city’s bid to annex one such area, also in Helena’s Westside, is being challenged in District Court.

Portions of the land in that annexation had been wholly surrounded by the city limits for 20 or 25 years while another part had been surrounded for 13 years, it was noted during the commission meeting.

City Manager Ron Alles said he had no plans to bring forward an annexation of the land that became wholly surrounded by the annexation of Granite Avenue or the land that became surrounded as a result of annexing portions of Cannon and Hiawatha streets.

Annexation, he added, could be at least three or four years in the future.

Annexation didn’t seem to be a focal point for concern as some of 11 people who spoke noted instead the potential costs they envisioned to receive city services.

An engineering report estimated the cost of hooking up to both water and wastewater service at $32,000.

Still others said annexation will devalue their property because potential buyers must be advised of it. Another concern was that home owners would have to pay off hookup costs before selling their homes.

The city has plans to install water and wastewater mains under the streets to serve those living there who are using wells for water and septic systems for wastewater disposal.

While providing services, particularly wastewater service for those whose septic tanks fail, the city also wants the ability to loop dead end water mains to avoid health concerns from stagnant water and to improve the supply of water for fighting fires.

Because of the infrastructure that is planned for installation, the city wants to have control of the streets, city staff said.

Requirements for protecting the safety and security of those mains were another concern for City Attorney Thomas Jodoin.

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I am a staff writer at the Independent Record covering primarily city and county governments.

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