Take precautions to prevent fast-melting snow from damaging your home

Spring-like weather
PHOTO: National Weather Service in Missoula

With temperatures expected to climb into the mid-50s next week (😲), the heavy snow that blanketed Missoula County throughout February will likely start to melt, and melt fast. You may not live in a floodplain, but your home could still be susceptible to flooding caused by rapid snow melt. And even if your home doesn’t flood, snow melt can lead to other problems, such as water damage and mold.

With spring* weather right around the corner, this weekend is a great time to prepare your property. The Missoula County Office of Emergency Management has compiled a few tips to help homeowners prevent problems caused by rapid snow melt:

  • Shovel snow away from your home, keeping it at least 5 feet away from your foundation.
  • Clear snow and ice from drainage areas around your home’s foundation.
  • If your home is on a grade or hill, shovel snow so that it doesn’t flow toward your home when it melts.
  • Clear snow from your roof to prevent excessive buildup, which can lead to ice damage that allows melting snow to seep through your roof. Clearing the snow also prevents a significant amount of water from flowing through your gutters during a thaw.
  • Clear snow and ice from gutter downspouts. Add downspout extensions to channel melting snow away from your home.
  • Keep drainage areas around your home clear of snow and ice buildup. This ensures melting snow will drain properly and helps prevent backups.
  • Inspect basement walls for cracks. This includes caulking around windows, too. Make repairs as necessary to prevent water from entering your basement.
  • Remove snow from the window wells around your house.
  • Test your basement sump pump now, before all the snow melts.
  • Never ignore water in your basement. Investigate and repair the source as soon as possible. If you have water in your basement or a flood from melting snow, dry and clean the area as quickly as possible.

And, while we’re talking about preparedness … have you signed up for Smart 911 yet? The Office of Emergency Management encourages all Missoula County residents to register for this free service, which will deliver timely, location-specific alerts to help keep you and your family safe during an emergency. Head to www.smart911.com or download the app!

*By Montana standards

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Missoula Project Community Connect looking for volunteers

pcc 2

Looking for an opportunity to help our community’s most vulnerable residents? Organizers are seeking about two dozen more volunteers for the 13th annual Project Community Connect, a one-day event this Friday, Feb. 1, that will provide essential services to those experiencing, or who are at risk of, homelessness.

The event, which connects participants to services and items including clothing, toiletries, food, haircuts, and medical and dental care, is slated for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Zootown Church, 3623 Brooks St. More than 100 community organizations and businesses will come together to provide critical services and hospitality to those experiencing a housing crisis.

Last year, the event served nearly 300 Missoulians, made possible with the help of 134 volunteers who offered up 604 hours of their time. Organizers have no doubt the event will once again fulfill this crucial community need this year.

“We’re grateful for the support we’ve received in the past for Project Community Connect, and we’re confident the Missoula community will step up again this year,” said Sindie Kennedy, grants administrator in Missoula County Community and Planning Services. “By sharing human connections while meeting basic needs and providing core services, we can all help participants move away from their housing crises toward self-sufficiency.”

Project Community Connect (formerly known as Project Homeless Connect) is part of a national movement and historically coincides with the Department of Housing and Urban Development Point in Time Survey, a homeless census that takes place every January. The event is facilitated by members of the Missoula At-Risk Housing Coalition, including Missoula County.

Want to help? Sign up to volunteer online.

Affected by the shutdown? These resources can help

brown bridge against green scenery
PHOTO: Andrew Kemmis Photography

As it enters its second month, the government shutdown continues to impact hundreds of federal employees and contractors in Missoula County. With more missed paychecks on the horizon, Missoula County has compiled the following list of resources that are providing assistance to furloughed federal employees and contractors in our communities.

Financial assistance

Several local banks are offering low or no-interest loans and other financial assistance to furloughed workers:

Missoula Federal Credit Union
Emergency loans for federal employees. The maximum loan size will be one month’s gross pay, up to $5,000, and there will be no payments required for the first 90 days.  Full-time financial counselor on staff to help members free of charge.

Farmers State Bank 
Emergency Assistance Consumer Loans. Designed for those affected by the government shutdown, this consumer loan is meant to assist individuals with mortgage or car payments, groceries, medical bills, etc. Proof of furlough is needed or proof of working with payment being held during shutdown. Details online.

First Interstate Bank
Offering payment due date extensions, minimal fees.

Wells Fargo
Call the recently established customer assistance line at 800-219-9739 to be connected with a team member who can assist based on needs, or visit any Wells Fargo branch for assistance. Fees waived. Individual assistance offered based on needs.

Navy Federal Credit Union
The credit union is offering 0% APR loans during the government shutdown.

First Command Financial Services
Offering clients who are federal employees interest-free payroll advances and other assistance.

Democracy Federal Credit Union
Call 800-742-5582 for information on short-term emergency loans with 0% interest.

Agencies providing unemployment information and financial advice include:

Montana Department of Labor and Industry
FAQ for furloughed federal employees. Due to high call volume, the best way to file a claim is online at www.ui4u.mt.gov. Furloughed employees needing computer access can visit the Missoula Job Service, 539 S. Third St. W.

VALIC
Can assist with emergency hardship withdrawals from retirement plans for Missoula County staff who have family members impacted by the shutdown.

Nationwide
Can assist with emergency hardship withdrawals from retirement plans for Missoula County staff who have family members impacted by the shutdown.

TANF
Income-based cash assistance program providing temporary assistance for families in need.

Missoula County Clerk and Treasurer
Will offer temporary assistance for motor vehicle registration and property tax payments. Federal employees can fill out a form before renewing their registration at the courthouse, and the department will place a hold on cashing checks until the shutdown ends. Should the shutdown last through May, when the next property tax bills are due, property tax payments will be discussed.

Temporary work

Furloughed employees seeking temporary work can tap into the following resources:

Missoula County Human Resources 
Missoula County frequently has openings for short-term employment. Go online or call 258-4874 for more information.

Temp agencies in Missoula
Express
Nelson
People Ready
Work Force
LC Staffing
A to Z Personnel

Energy, utility and housing assistance

The following programs can offer assistance with household utilities during the shutdown:

LIEAP
Provides supplemental heating assistance for a household’s primary source of heat. To apply, call the Human Resource Council at 728-3710 or walk in from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Located at 1801 S. Higgins Ave.

Energy Share
Helps households facing an immediate energy emergency when they have exhausted all other resources. Energy Share can help households who have used up their energy assistance benefit or do not qualify for LIEAP. To apply, call the Human Resource Council at 728-3710 or walk in during business hours.

Missoula Electric Cooperative
Furloughed employees should contact billing department at 541-4433 to discuss payment options.

Missoula Water
Offers a monthly credit to LIEAP-eligible households. Complete a request form at the Human Resource Council, 1801 S. Higgins Ave.

Salvation Army Winter Shelter Program
Helps with rent for individuals and families who are at risk of being evicted. Call 549-0710 to make an appointment.

Grocery assistance

Those needing assistance with grocery costs during the shutdown can access the following programs and services:

Missoula Food Bank
No criteria or questions. Those in need of food should go to 1720 Wyoming St.

WIC
Call 258-4740 and state that you are furloughed employee; month by month eligibility; based on family income.

SNAP
Provides supplemental food assistance to individuals and families with qualifying incomes.

Other assistance

Partnership Health Center
Provides integrated primary care health services to the public including medical and dental care, behavioral health counseling, pharmacy and a lab. Offers a sliding fee scale for those with and without insurance.

Human Resource Council/2-1-1
Provides general information and resources for those affected by the shutdown online at http://211.org/services/govshutdown.

Is your organization offering a service or other benefit to furloughed workers? Let us know by filling out the Community Services for Furloughed Workers form.

New Seeley ice rink, other county parks benefit from Matching Grants Program

ice rink 2
PHOTO: Betty Vanderwielen, Seeley-Swan Pathfinder

On the otherwise sleepy Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s, around 200 kiddos and their families laced up skates and took to the ice – slipping, falling and, eventually, gliding – during the grand opening of a new open-air rink in Seeley Lake.

The event served as the community’s introduction to the ice rink, which has been in the works for about a year. Located at the elementary school’s athletic fields, it’ll provide a new way for families and others to get out and about during long Montana winters.

“Kids here don’t have as much opportunity to be active during the winter months,” says Garry Swain, a board member of the Regional Outdoor Center for Kinetic Sports (ROCKS), which spearheaded the project. “This gives them another outlet to get down there and just have a ball, for free.”

The rink will be open during daylight hours, with a crew of volunteers committed to keeping the ice clear and flooding the rink to smooth it over whenever necessary. ROCKS also keeps about 40 pairs of skates in various sizes at the rink, free for anyone to borrow.

The organization, which provided $7,000 in seed money to kick-start the project, was able to put the finishing touches on the rink, including purchasing a snow blower to help clear the ice, thanks to a $10,000 matching grant awarded by the Missoula County Parks and Trails Advisory Board.

ice rink 3
PHOTO: Betty Vanderwielen, Seeley-Swan Pathfinder

The Parks and Trails Matching Grants Program leverages partnerships with local nonprofits and community groups to maintain county parks and other public recreation areas. In these partnerships, the Parks and Trails Advisory Board provides planning assistance and funding, while the partner organization matches those funds through a combination of project expenses, in-kind donations and volunteer service hours.

Four other grants, which range from $1,500 to $12,000, will help fund critical capital and maintenance projects to improve parks, trails and recreation areas  in 2019:

  • $1,500 to perform maintenance on the playground and double tennis courts located in Seeley Lake Community Park (Sponsoring organization: Seeley Lake Elementary School District No. 34)
  • $12,000 to install wayfinding markers, benches and/or tables, and finance placement of portalets along the Bitterroot Trail (Bitterroot Trail Preservation Alliance)
  • $4,500 to apply weed and feed lawn treatments and install an irrigation system for the play area east of the barn at Hellgate Lions Park in Bonner (Friends of 2 Rivers)
  • $8,800 for general maintenance of East Missoula Lions Park (East Missoula Lions Club)

“Awarding the matching grants is always an exciting time of year, because we get to see what types of recreation projects county residents are prioritizing,” said Parks and Trails Coordinator John Stegmaier. “It is truly remarkable what our community partners are able to achieve through the use of these matching funds.”

Is there a park or other public recreation site in your area in need of a little TLC? The Parks and Trails Matching Grant Program could help! Applications typically become available in late August, with a mid-October deadline. You can find more details on the ins and outs of applying on the Parks and Trails website. (A quick note: Only sites outside the City of Missoula are eligible for these grants.)

ice rink 1
PHOTO: Betty Vanderwielen, Seeley-Swan Pathfinder