The Road to Nowhere
The test of a millings mulcher on a commissioner's personal property raises concerns with Granite County residents
GRANITE COUNTY - Things happen in small towns that just don't happen anywhere else.
And sometimes the right things happen for the wrong reason.
In early September Granite County workers tested a Millings Mulcher that was purchased last year as part of a state auction on the property of Commissioner Scott Adler. The result: A partial driveway for Adler and what appeared to country residents as a commissioner using tax dollars for his own gain.
"I can't blame people for being upset. I'm upset with myself," said Adler, "I should have known better to do it there, but where else were we gonna do it?
QSPNLive received several calls last week and into the weekend regarding a project on Adler's property September 6 & 7, 2017 that reportedly used county equipment and materials to pave a driveway. Adler, who won re-election last November to a six-year term, is one of three Granite County Commissioners along with Bill Slaughter and Bart Bonney. The witnesses had to no idea what was going on and had no explanation.
Rumors circulated until September 21, 2017 when an announcement appeared in the Philipsburg Mail that appeared among the advertisements on Page 7. A copy of that statement was released to QSPNLive as well and reads as follows:
In an effort to maintain the public’s trust, the Granite County Commissioners wish to acknowledge an error in judgement. In order to test a milling mulcher on some poor millings which we planned to use on county roads, we showed poor judgement in conducting the test on a commissioner’s personal property. We acknowledge that this was wrong and any benefit to the property will be paid by that commissioner. We vow to never do it again.
Granite County Commissioners
Scott C. Adler, Commissioner
Bill Slaughter, Commissioner
While the letter states the commissioners' regret at the incident, it does not contain Commissioner Bonney's name as part of the text/letter.
According to both Slaughter and Adler, a discussion outside of a formal meeting was had to try and figure out how and where to test the new millings mulcher. Several venues were discussed, but each came with a set of negatives for the county that ranged from potentially contaminated water to the surface being unusable and having to then being shaved off and removed. Both men said that Adler's property presented a venue that would provide the county with little downside as far as cleanup or ecological hazards.
Apparently what they forgot to consider at that time was the way the residents of the county might perceive it.
"I knew better and there's no way to make this look good," said Slaughter. "The optics (way it appears) are horrible.
"I just knew it was a bad idea when I heard they had actually done it. We didn't do anything on the agenda or in the minutes. ... I didn't know it was actually going to go through. I should have known better. I saw a belly truck coming down that road, the Frontage Road, and I thought, 'Oh no, I hope they didn't do that.' I drove down there and it was done."
"It was stupid to do it in my yard," said an apologetic Adler. "I shouldn't have done it there. The deal was that we wanted to test that new mulcher and had a dozer there and we wanted to test it somewhere before we went out and put it on somebody's road."
The millings - the recovered asphalt from when part of the freeway is resurfaced - had been sitting in a pile for over a year on a state land. While the county had used hot millings previously to patch various areas of county roads, they had never used the newly-purchased mulcher on an older pile. This the perceived need for the test.
While Adler and Slaughter have both been overtly apologetic about the whole incident, some residents feel that one or both should be held accountable.
The newspaper posting by the commissioners only seems to have fueled the fire with some Granite County residents as QSPNLive received additional calls over the weekend. One resident, who wished to remain anonymous due to their fear of retribution by the parties involved, provided QSPNLive with pictures of the work as it was being done on Adler's property.
"There were three pieces of equipment that weren't even the county's," said Adler. "The only piece of equipment that was out (that belonged to Granite County) was the roller. It was too wide for my driveway and rolled right over my phone box.
"I didn't get a lot out of this. Some of it (millings) went into my wife's yard and killed the grass. If you think I got some big advantage out of this, ask my wife. She's pissed."
Granite County Attorney Blaine Bradshaw confirmed that he has been contacted about the incident by country residents and that he will be referring the matter to the Montana Attorney General's Office. Bradshaw said in a text message that, "They may very well investigate."
Among the callers and emails received by QSPNLive, some felt that the commissioners involved should be recalled or held criminally negligent. Others just wanted repayment for man hours, machine and materials used by the county.
The statement issued by the commissioners, as well as both Adler and Slaughter, acknowledged that Adler will be required to pay for the work that was done and the independent contractor who will determine the value of said work.
The Granite County Commissioners will hold their next meeting October 3, 2017 at 11 a.m. According to several residents they are on the agenda and plan to address the issue directly with the commission.
NOTE - This article originally ran on QSPNLive.com Sept. 27, 2017.