Tit for tat in P-burg 

The lead paragraph of an Aug. 18 news story in the Missoulian proclaimed the following: “A midweek meeting between the University of Montana, the Philipsburg-based Project Vote Smart and the governor’s office has engendered good will among all and resulted in a commitment to work together.”

But according to sources with knowledge of what transpired at that Aug. 16 summit, not everyone is bathing in goodwill.

What the Missoulian story didn’t mention is that three Granite County commissioners were at the meeting and told PVS officials they weren’t happy about the $5,300 shortfall the county will face thanks to a recently approved property tax exemption granted to PVS by the state.

The commissioners sent a letter to Gov. Brian Schweitzer Aug. 1 questioning the wisdom of that tax exemption.

“Recent publicity indicates that your office is working to retain Project Vote Smart in the state,” the commissioners wrote to Schweitzer. “We hope that you will investigate the benefits of the project to local government before a great deal of effort is expended to retain it.”

Granite County is responsible for maintaining and plowing the long country road that leads to PVS. Since PVS is the area’s only permanent resident, sources say commissioners told project officials that given the tax deal, which shorts the county’s coffers, the road would no longer be put on “priority status” for winter snow plowing.

The only Granite County commissioner the Independent could reach by phone declined to comment for the record, but sources say the priority status enabled county employees to work overtime in order to clear the road in a timely fashion. In the future, sources say, PVS will have to wait until higher priority roads such as school bus routes are cleared, which could negatively impact PVS employees during winter months.

Project Vote Smart applied for the tax exemption as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in 2000, and was granted a partial exemption then.

According to one source, “$5,300 may not sound like a lot of money, but in a county the size of Granite, it makes a difference.”

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