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Stevensville Town Council

Council meeting minutes cause concern –
By Michael Howell –

At the May 9 Stevensville Town Council meeting, Councilor Desera Towle asked that the minutes of the previous meeting be amended to show that she refused to participate in a closed session that was held for reasons that at the time were unclear. She noted that the minutes did not even reflect that a closed meeting was held.
Town Attorney Keithi Worthington said that the Town adopted a policy about a year ago that the council’s minutes are only required to include motions made and votes taken. Towle insisted that the record also reflect her statement to the effect that she was not participating in the closed session. A member of the public, Clayton Floyd, agreed with Towle, stating that anything that a council member expressly stated be included in the record should be included in the record. Bitterroot Star publisher Michael Howell also stated that closing a meeting to the public was a significant act in itself and should also be noted in the minutes of the meeting.
The minutes were approved as written on a 3 to 1 vote with Towle casting the lone dissenting vote.
The claims were approved with the exception of a charge related to an Attorney General’s opinion that no councilor had any knowledge or recollection concerning.
The second reading of the Town’s amended Water Ordinance was postponed so that the first reading could be repeated with a vote of adoption, following a point of order made by Bitterroot Star publisher Michael Howell noting that no vote was taken to approve the first reading at the previous meeting. A second reading is scheduled for the next regular Council meeting.
The consultant for the Twin Creeks Subdivision, Nathan Lucke, responded to rumors he had heard concerning remarks made at the last council meeting to the effect that subdivider John Anderson was in bankruptcy. Lucke stated for the record that Anderson was not in bankruptcy.
He noted that the approval of the water rights involved in the proposed well field associated with the subdivision by DNRC was “a huge step forward.” Lucke also noted that a change in the subdivision laws now allows towns and counties to grant extensions to subdividers involved in the plat approval process for a mutually agreed upon time frame. No limit was placed on the time frames that might be agreed to.
Lucke told the town that he would probably be asking for an extension of the time frame that expires on Twin Creeks on December 31, 2011. He suggested that the town consider changing the timing of the phases to include an increased span of time for each phase, with the time frame for Phase I being 2011 at the earliest and 2015 at the latest. Completion of Phase II would be by 2013 at the earliest or 2020 at the latest, while completion of Phase III would be by 2014 at the earliest or 2025 at the latest.
In response to a question about the lease that clouds the title to the well field property, Anderson said that he was currently sticking by the validity of an eviction notice that he had given the Wortmans, but he was also working on another solution that looked promising and may have it resolved by the next council meeting.
The proposed extension agreement was placed on the next council agenda.
The Town received a draft of a proposed Interlocal Agreement between  the city and rural fire districts and the Town of Stevensville regarding use of town water and other matters. Payment to the town for water use by the fire districts on a quarterly basis rather than bi-annually was an agreed upon change to be made to the draft which still must get final review and acceptance by both the Fire District Boards and the Town.
Fire Chief Jeff Motley said, “This document conveys the attitude of cooperation and gives us a platform from which to work together in the future.”
The Council discussed proposed pay compensation for Clerk/Treasurer Sue Gibson and Utility Clerk Denise Philley for time spent doing the work of the treasurer following the resignation of former treasurer Roni Kimp. The clerks have suggested that compensation to the tune of $2.55 per hour over and above the wages that were paid for the hours logged would be fair. That would mean a payment to Gibson of $674.47 and a payment to Philley of $785.40.
Mayor Barnett questioned where the money would come from since the budget for salaries was already destined to fall short by the end of the fiscal year. He has relayed a question to the town’s auditor as to whether money from the NOW Account, which is considered a Reserve Fund, could be used for the wage compensation. The matter will be taken up again at the next council meeting.
The council discussed how town employees would be compensated for work done at special events. Mayor Barnett explained that the Town’s policy was that employees could not be paid, so the practice has been to allow time off during the week to make up for time spent on special events over the weekend.
The council agreed to release the $12,435 owed to Kleen-Rite for emergency work in town hall related to a water leak and subsequent mold problem. The clerk had withheld payment due to a $435 charge for materials unrelated to the emergency.
Kleen-Rite owner Mark Gauthier explained that the cracked toilet needed to be replaced as did some plumbing lines, faucets and toilet paper holders. The Council agreed to pay the bill.
Councilor Pat Groninger once again tabled a discussion of “items of concern” with regard to the Mayor’s performance of his duties.
The Council also tabled a discussion concerning a TSEP grant related management plan.
The council also tabled discussion of a proposed amendment to the Town’s Sewer Ordinance because the Town’s attorney had not yet prepared a draft document for review.

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