Missoula’s County Commissioners Dave Strohmaier, Josh Slotnick and Juanita Vero, along with Public Works Supervisor Shane Stack all appeared on the KGVO Montana Morning News Show for their monthly ‘County Talk’ program.

One of the main topics was the continuing process of bringing back passenger rail service to the state, of which Dave Strohmaier has been a guiding force, helping to form the Montana Passenger Rail Authority.

“One of the big stories here is the ability to work across jurisdictional lines on a big bold project, and we can still do that here in America,” said Strohmaier. “And rather than focusing on what are the impediments or the hurdles to cross, how about the opportunities? How do we remove those hurdles? How do we get to yes and find real solutions for Montanans?

Josh Slotnick addressed some of the callers who criticized the county’s emphasis on ‘Operation Shelter’. One caller said the fence around the Reserve Street Bridge homeless camp had open spaces for transients to enter and leave freely.

“This is a really big problem and just putting up a fence isn't going to solve the problem,” said Slotnick. “And I kind of applaud them, (the Montana Department of Transportation) especially the folks that work locally here for being expansive and thinking about how we best deal with this. So you'll see there's a fence up but there are also holes where a gate is going to be and those gates won't be installed as far as I understand, until we have created these other spaces for folks to go, at which point the gates will be installed and then we will enforce trespassing laws.”

One caller said the county has been ‘catering to these people’ rather than finding ways to move them out of Missoula, to which Slotnick responded that the work really hasn’t even started yet with ‘Operation Shelter’.

“We've been ‘catering to these people and it hasn't worked’ and I just have to push back because we haven't been catering to anybody,” he said. “We haven't done much yet. Nonprofits have attempted to do things, such as churches, and we've had government efforts come together and try and create plans and look at this holistically. But I'd say I don't really believe strong action has been taken, which is what we’re about to do.”

Public Works Director Shane Stack provided a list of projects that may be funded by the new federal infrastructure money designated for the Missoula area.

“There's the proposed $2.82 billion for Montana highways, another $225 million just for bridges, $164 million in public transit and then another $144 million that would go to Montana airports,” said Stack. “And so I think if we can just delve into some of those pieces, just 144 million going into Montana airports and we have Phase One out at the Missoula airport under construction right now and there's potential funding there that would roll into that second phase and help the airport move into that next phase.”

The County Commissioners appear monthly on KGVO to answer questions and take comments from listeners.

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