"I don't know what we're thinking by doing this"; Contractor rea - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

"I don't know what we're thinking by doing this"; Contractor reacts to DEQ cuts

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Last year, we introduced you to Dan McIntyre, a resident of Conrad, who had spent tens of thousands of dollars cleaning  a rental property to comply with the state's meth contamination laws.

Thursday evening, we heard from Dan, only to find out that the program he was spending all that money on has been eliminated due to budget cuts. 

Dan is now threatening to sue the state, countless numbers of people will be losing their jobs, and even more completely innocent residents in Montana could be exposed to deadly levels of meth contamination without even knowing it. 

Lee Yellin, a certified meth-cleanup contractor with Water Rights Incorporated out of Missoula, isn't shy about his opinion. 

"I don't know what we're thinking by doing this."

Right now, meth cleanup is about 50 percent of his business.

"I have four full time employees, and I'm going to have to let them know that they better start looking for work."

Yellin says during a phone call with the DEQ this week, he was told the cut is in an effort to save about $100,000. Meanwhile, state employees in the meth cleanup department won't lose their jobs, they'll simply be transferred to the asbestos department.

"And I asked her, are you kidding me? We're going to shut down this entire program for $100,000 and they're still going to work anyways? And she said yep."

Yellin says that $100,000 savings won't even come close to the amount of unemployment the state will have to start paying for all the jobs lost. We reached out to the DEQ. Kristi Ponozzo, Public Policy Director, says the exact savings would be about $135,000, but clarified that there is not a direct correlation between funds saved in the DEQ and funds that could potentially be used to pay unemployment. 

Regardless, Yellin says lost jobs are the least of his worries.

"The ones that are really going to be harmed I think are the unsuspecting people that are going to rent or buy a meth contaminated property. And the real estate agent is going to be held liable, even though they're not going to be able to collect the data to find out if the property is contaminated."

As of today, those real estate agents, unsuspecting residents, landlords, contractors… are all left with no instruction on what comes next. 

"So we still have a law that says you've got to do this, but there's no program and there's no enforcement. So, is the state then violating it's own statute?"

Ponozzo says as a result of the cut, there will now have to be legislative changes to repeal the statute. In other words, state laws will literally have to be changed to fit with the now-cut program. 

In the meantime, Yellin says the only thing you can do to protect yourself, is to test your home for methamphetamine with a store-bought kit. 

Because in the end… 

"It's whatever the state wants to do."

To clear up some of the misconceptions around this cut: it is not in response to the Governor's recent request for a ten percent spending reduction.

By cutting the meth program, Ponozzo says this will help the DEQ fulfill the already required cuts of five percent, which is part of a routine budgeting process. 

So why this program? Ponozzo says it was the only program in the DEQ that is completely funded by the state general fund, and there were no fee revenues or federal funding to help support it. 

More cuts are expected in the DEQ to fulfill the Governor's most recent request. 

If and when Dan McIntyre decides to file that class action lawsuit, we'll be your first source for the information. 

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