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Vacant home on North Main Street

A vacant house with a collapsed roof on North Main Street is blocked off by a barrier.

Butte-Silver Bow is bringing back a single-location Alley Rally soon and planning to plant new trees along Elizabeth Warren Avenue among other initiatives this spring and summer.

But as officials with the county’s Community Enrichment Department gear up for a busy warm season, they’re asking for your help in sprucing up Butte.

“Winters in Butte are long, but the snow is melting, so get out in your alleys and get in your yards,” said Ed Randall, the department’s director. “We understand you can’t mow right now, but let’s get things picked up.”

That includes not only picking up trash and pet waste but trimming trees and bushes. If folks need some knowledgeable tips on the latter, county Arborist Kathleen Humpa is a phone call away and will even visit your place to demonstrate best practices.

The county will be doing its part with weeds, spraying roadsides and other county property to keep them in check. That should start by the end of this month, said John Moodry, assistant director of Community Enrichment.

The landfill is open seven days a week, except on holidays, from 8 a.m. to 5:50 p.m., although trucks and trailers have to be unloaded and out of Area C — the main landfill — by 5:30 p.m. Small household garbage is accepted until 5:45 p.m. at the bins behind the scale house.

But now through Oct. 31, people can take small household loads to an after-hours disposal area on the other side of Browns Gulch Road from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. each evening. No commercial loads, large loads, trailers, tires, or appliances.

During normal hours, people can take yard waste — grass and bush clippings, leaves, and tree limbs — to the compost area of the landfill. They can also put those in the bins, including after hours, but officials prefer vegetation be put in the compost area.

Although property owners in Butte-Silver Bow pay an annual landfill fee as part of their local taxes, small household loads can be dumped at the landfill for no extra charge.

Return of Alley Rally

The annual seasonal Alley Rally, where large garbage receptacles are made available in town so folks don’t have to drive out to the landfill, has been popular since its inception years ago.

Last year, the containers were moved to different sites around town and were open only on Fridays and Saturdays.

For example, one week they were placed near Hillcrest Elementary School, the Civic Center, and the race track near Grand Avenue. The next week, they were near the Spolar addition off of South Montana Street, the High Altitude Center off of Continental Drive, and off of Sesame Street between South Warren Avenue and South Arizona Street.

There were other locations, too, but the experiment was not a success.

“We thought it would be a little better to move them around in the community and the neighborhoods, but it didn’t seem to work,” Moodry said. “We had some issues with it, with people trying to find it. That was the biggest complaint — where was it going to be?"

This year it will be at a single place again from about mid-May to early or mid-August, although the location has not been determined and will be announced later.

Vacant properties, old buildings, junk vehicles

Officials say this is the time for owners to inspect old or vacant properties, which might have sustained more damage than usual because of the heavy snow and bitter cold weather in February and early March.

The roofs on at least two buildings — one a vacant house on North Main Street and one a warehouse on Arizona Street Uptown used primarily to store cars and boats — collapsed because of the heavy snow. There are now plans to demolish the house.

Others might have been affected, Moodry says.

“This is a good time to get into your vacant buildings if you haven’t been in them all winter,” he said. “It’s a good time to look at structural issues, roofing issues, and a great time to get them repaired. Demolition by neglect is our biggest issue with a lot of these old buildings in Uptown Butte.”

Got a junk vehicle or two sitting around collecting rust? If you call Community Enrichment, they will tow them away for free and take them to Pacific Steel for recycling.

Tree trimming, logging, planting

Humpa, the county’s arborist, has been busy and will stay busy.

She joined parks officials last year in assessing all the trees in popular Clark Park on the Flat to determine if they were overgrown, dangerous, or in need of trimming. County crews trimmed the ones they could and had a contractor take down the “widow-maker" branches.

The county has received a $9,000 grant from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation that it will use to inventory all trees on Butte-Silver Bow property this year.

Community Enrichment will hire two interns, and they will work with Humpa and the GIS department in measuring and logging all trees, determining any cutting or trimming needed, and noting any health concerns such as disease or broken branches.

When it’s completed, Humpa said, “We will be able to pull up a map of all the trees on our computer” and quickly locate those needing attention.

Because most of the trees planted about four years ago in the medians down Elizabeth Warren Avenue have died, new ones will be planted this year.

Humpa said the old ones were mostly sensation maples which are native to Wyoming and have brilliant red-orange leaves in the fall. But Humpa said they do better when they are next to buildings that give them some cover.

The new ones will be Brandon elms, a larger, heartier tree that is disease resistant and can provide “a little bit of a canopy” over the street, Humpa said. They should fare much better, she said.

On Saturday, April 27, at noon, the county is co-sponsoring a free, community-wide tree-planting at the Lexington Mine yard. The program is a collaboration of Community Enrichment, the county's Superfund Division, and Montana Tech's Native Plant Program with funding from the Butte Natural Resource Damage Restoration Council.

There will be 1,000 trees and other plants to put in the ground, and the holes will be prepared ahead of time.

"That makes it a low-labor-intensity event, so you can bring kids and the whole family,” said Julia Crain, the county’s special projects coordinator.

Community service

The county and residents should continue to benefit from a program started last year that allows people who commit adult misdemeanors to do community service instead of jail time or pay hefty fines.

Former City Judge Glen Granger got the ball rolling with the program early last year, and Jerome McCarthy, who was appointed to the post when Granger retired, has expanded it.

The program is a collaboration between McCarthy, Sheriff Ed Lester, and Community Enrichment, which oversees the community service work. The duties can include cleaning up lots, parks, or alleys; shoveling snow; and working events.

The program benefits the county by freeing up jail space, avoiding detention costs that include food and medication expenses, and getting labor. Offenders can avoid custody and stay on their own or with their families.

Randall said the county has saved $20,000 in detention costs, not including medical services, and gotten 4,754 hours of work done since the program began.

“That is work that our employees don’t have to do,” he said. “We are very proud of that, and it’s going to double this next year. We are pretty positive about that.”

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Government and politics reporter

Mike Smith is a reporter at the Montana Standard with an emphasis on government and politics.

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