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Dust in the in-box

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Leave it to a simple misunderstanding to turn a subject as potentially dry as dusty roads into something interesting.

Early on July 9, according to Flathead County Commissioner Gary Hall, an employee unlocking the commissioner’s office found a brown paper bag near the front door addressed to Hall.

The employee glanced inside and noticed a “powdery substance.”

Before the post-9/11 anthrax mailings, or the 2002 arrest of nine Flathead County residents who formed Project 7, a group that planned to assassinate local elected officials, a bag of powder might not have attracted much attention.

As it is, says Hall, the employee “wasn’t comfortable handling it.”

So he called the police, who didn’t want to handle it either. They called in a hazardous materials team.

The powdery substance, upon HAZMAT inspection, turned out to be road dust. It was accompanied by a note, the gist of which, as Hall recalls, was “Take this dirt and put it on your head and in your house and in your vehicle and on your vehicle, and see how you like it,” Hall says.

The note was sent by an as yet unidentified woman living on the North Fork Road.

That notoriously dusty road, which skirts the northwest edge of Glacier National Park, has received greater attention recently because of the newly formed nonprofit group North Fork Road Coalition for Health and Safety. The group wants the stretch of road from the pavement’s end outside Columbia Falls to Camas Creek paved.

Paving is a controversial topic in the North Fork. Some want the dust eliminated, others worry a paved road will attract more people and steer unwanted growth into the quiet valley.

Hall says he’s already working with the North Fork Road Coalition to try and find some solution to the dust problem.

He believes the package was addressed to him because he represents the section of Flathead County that includes the North Fork. But he says strange packages are not his preferred mode of communication.

“We have open meetings every single morning for people to address the county commissioners on anything that’s going on in the county.”

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