By Michael Howell
At its August 23 meeting, the Stevensville Town Council considered a resolution to increase the stipend paid to council members and the mayor but the council declined the opportunity in a three to one vote.
Mayor Gene Mim Mack said that, at the request of Councilor Desera Towle, he had prepared a resolution for consideration by the council that would raise the monthly stipend paid to council members from $150 to $200 and that of the mayor from $400 to $500 per month.
Councilor Towle said that her research had shown that the last change in the stipends was in 2005 and that the job, since then, has become very much more complex and time consuming
Councilor Robin Holcomb agreed and stated her support for the stipend increase, saying, “We’ve seen a big increase in our responsibilities.”
Councilor Bill Perrin said that he was in agreement with the reasoning but said, “The timing is wrong.” He was apparently referring to the flap over the water rate increase.
Councilor Ron Klaphake sided with Perrin, saying, “I agree with the reason for it, but I can’t agree right now. It’s not the message I want to send right now.”
When the vote was called, Holcomb, the first to vote, said, “I can see where this is going,” and voted against the stipend increase.
The resolution was defeated 3 to 1 with Towle casting the lone vote in favor.
The Council went on to pass a budget for FY 2012-13 with General Fund revenues forecast at $495,390 while expenses are projected to top that at $517,749. The difference of $55,935 is accounted for by the ending cash balance from the previous year. The full budget including water and sewer and other accounts outside the general fund projects expenditures of $1,618,533 and revenues of $1,852,952.
During the budget hearing process Municipal Court Judge Marty Birkeneder addressed the proposed reduction in her hours. Birkeneder said that she bills the town for 16 hours a month but that she does a lot more work than that. She said her department was half way through installing the Full Court computer accounting system and that the cut in hours could hamstring that effort. She said she accepts calls at home and does not charge the town for it, and spends a lot of time doing legal research. She said performance of key duties could be affected.
Town Attorney Brian West was asked to look into the legal aspect of the issue and reported that although the Council did have the authority to change or reduce the hours of the judge they could not change her salary for the length of her term. Birkeneder is two years into a four-year term.
Councilor Ron Klaphake said that the whole rationale behind a reduction in hours was to save money so it no longer made sense. The budget was changed to reflect that the hours of the judge would remain the same.
In other business the Council:
• adopted flood plain regulations on second reading. They do not go into effect immediately, because they must first be approved by DNRC and FEMA. The Council also passed a resolution to join the National Flood Insurance Program. This allows Stevensville residents to purchase flood insurance if they desire;
• adopted on first reading an ordinance abolishing the three one-way streets and alleys that exist in town;
• adopted an ordinance governing encroachments into the right of way which would prohibit any obstructions to pedestrians on the sidewalk by requiring at least 42 inches of clearance. A five-foot space from the wall of the building would be usable by the property owner so long as it left the required clearance. Use of the bulb outs was also restricted;
• approved Special Event Permits for Stevensville High School’s Homecoming Parade and Bonfire on September 28 and the Jacket Blackout Run on September 29, a planned fundraiser for student sports and the Fire Department’s Annual 911 Memorial celebration on September 11;
• approved Josh and Debra Downing’s request and petition to set a 15 MPH speed limit on Chilcott, Valley View, Turner, Barbara, and Smith Streets with appropriate signage;
• confirmed the appointment of Officer Sam Fawcett to the Stevensville Police Force.