In Missoula, apparently, the only thing more confusing than learning to use a roundabout is figuring out how to vote on whether to build one. After voting last summer in favor of a traffic light over a roundabout at the Higgins Avenue/Hill Street/Beckwith Avenue intersection, the Missoula Valley Church changed its tune on April 24 and voted to allow a part of its property to be used to fit a roundabout. Reflected in the church’s 180 is a miscommunication about which Rev. Don Partain prefers not to be specific.

“We didn’t understand the gravity of our decision,” Partain says of his church’s first vote, claiming parishioners didn’t appreciate that their vote could impact what the city could or would build. Yet last August, City Council member and Missoula Valley parishioner Bob Lovegrove told the Independent that city engineers had told the church that “our input would be the determining factor” among the intersection options.

Essentially, Partain says, the church was busy last summer when the city asked for their intersection preference. They were in the midst of merging two congregations into one, and their to-do list was long enough without researching the ramifications of an unidentified flying roundabout landing on their doorstep. On second thought, the church is absolutely willing, Partain says, to accommodate whatever decision the city finds appropriate.

Too little too late, apparently. Traffic-light designs are already underway, and only a City Council member can ask for reconsideration of a roundabout to bring the issue, um, full circle.

•••

Usually, when the mail brings bags of white powder to Indy World Headquarters, we surreptitiously snort half in the bathroom, call the cops to test the rest, and hope like hell it wasn’t anthrax. This time, though, the powder came in a plastic bag marked “cornmeal,” which in turn was contained in a fake burlap sack, which itself was packed into a round cardboard tub printed to mimic a provisions barrel, and the return address was something called “Explore the Big Sky” in Great Falls, a promotion of the Montana Department of Commerce, so we skipped the snorting.

The schwag tub is designed to help us help tourists spend money on Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Signature events in Great Falls (e.g. the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Ballet, June 4-5), and to that end, the tub contained 1) the cornmeal, donated by Montana Milling; 2) two CDs of press materials; 3) a brochure schedule of events; 4) a 1.7-ounce bag of “ranch” flavored corn nuts; and 5) a wadded-up piece of brown paper.

So, in the interest of public service (and in hopes that the apparently expensive packaging won’t be a complete waste of taxpayer money), we, as responsible members of the Montana media corps, hereby invite the world to please come to Montana and enjoy our cornmeal, our corn nuts and our paper waste.

Hope to see you all soon.

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