Worst-laid plans at OPG 

The Missoula City/County Office of Planning and Grants (OPG) is mismanaged and fraught with administrative problems that are costly to taxpayers, according to Fred Reed, who recently resigned from the Missoula City/County Consolidated Planning Board, which advises OPG.

Reed’s resignation letter, dated June 28, outlines the problems he sees with OPG: infrastructure plans that take 10 years to complete; overstaffing; missed deadlines; and retaliation toward developers and builders who question OPG.

“It is…clear that the problems of land use planning in Missoula County are intractable because of problems in the [OPG],” writes Reed, who himself has studied planning.

Reed says delays with the Wye-Mullan-area land-use plan prompted his resignation. “We now find ourselves with substantial building and subdivision taking place west of town with no final draft of the Wye-Mullan plan in sight,” he writes.

OPG reports to the Planning Policy Committee, which Council member Lou Ann Crowley chairs. Crowley has requested that OPG Director Cynthia Klette provide documents that address Reed’s concerns. She has not yet set a deadline for response. County Commissioner Bill Carey, who also sits on the Planning Policy Committee, believes shortcomings at OPG are the exception and not the rule.

Michael Kopitzke chairs the board from which Reed resigned. While Kopitzke does not agree with all of Reed’s allegations, he says that current and former board members have expressed similar concerns.

“It seems that we’re not getting the quantity and quality of work done that we should be from the Office of Planning and Grants,” he says.

County Commissioner Barbara Evans says she ran for reelection in large part because she hoped to correct the problems in OPG, which she believes lie at the doorstep of administration.

“I’ve heard concerns about the administration of that department for a very long time,” says Evans. The delays by OPG, she says, translate into real dollars lost to citizens, builders and developers.

“The citizen for whom the developer is working is paying the interest payments while the process drags along,” writes Evans in an e-mail.

OPG Director Klette declined to comment. Mayor Mike Kadas is on vacation and unavailable for comment.

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