By Michael Howell
The Town of Stevensville approved a $364,100 increase in Phase III of its Water System Improvement Project. $329,100 will come in the form of a USDA grant and the Town will contribute the remaining $35,000 in matching funds. The deal includes paying off the interim financing that helped get the project underway and replacing it with a long term loan from Rural Development. The Council also approved a $3,590 payment to NorthWestern Energy to provide gas service to the Town’s well field.
The Council took action to correct an oversight in the approval of the Animal Regulation Ordinance passed at its previous meeting. The ordinance, which allows ducks, chickens, and rabbits in town, was approved “as amended” but the proposed amendments were not actually adopted. Councilor Ron Klaphake explained that while the council cannot reconsider an ordinance that was adopted, it could still amend it if it had not yet been implemented. The amendments were then added to the ordinance by a unanimous vote of 3 to 0 with Councilor Robin Holcomb absent.
In other action, the Council declined to alter the parkland and cash-in-lieu of parkland agreement attached to the Twin Creeks subdivision. Nathan Lucke of Territorial Landworks, consultant for the new owner of the subdivision Missoula Federal Credit Union, asked the Council to drop the cash-in-lieu requirement of $9,760. He argued that the amount of land being dedicated met the requirements of the law. State law requires that a developer set aside 11 percent of the subdivision for use as parkland. The local governing body may ask for cash-in-lieu of parkland if the proposed parkland does not meet its planning needs. The money may be used to establish parklands elsewhere in the community.
Lucke claimed that the developer set aside 3.51 acres as parkland when the total required by law was only 2.97 acres. He said since the land was more than what is required, the accompanying cash-in-lieu payment requirement was not legal.
Councilor Klaphake pointed out that the original deal negotiated over the parkland dedication involved a determination by the previous council that the land being offered did not meet the requirements of parkland for recreational purposes. He said it consisted of drainage ways and other wastelands that could not be built upon.
“They looked at it and said it was not really parkland and discounted the acreage by 50 percent,” said Klaphake. “They took the remaining in a cash-in-lieu payment of $9,760, equal to 1.22 acres valued at $8,000 per acre.” He asked if the land being offered was really parkland or if it was common area. Parkland would be controlled by the Town and would be open to public use, while common areas would be in control of the Homeowners Association and not necessarily open to the public. Klaphake also pointed out that the past Council could have asked for cash-in-lieu for the whole thing and not accepted any of the land. He called it a reasonable compromise that he was reluctant to change.
Asked if he would consider another option such as dedicating 1.22 acres adjoining the well field that was dedicated to the town, Lucke said that he considered it in the best interest of his clients to have an up or down vote on the request.
A motion was made to approve the request for a waiver of the cash-in-lieu donation but it was rejected in a 3 to 0 vote by the Council.
The Council also considered a request from Lucke to grant a latecomers agreement that would allow the developer to recoup money spent on water and sewer infrastructure development if someone in the future used those mainline extensions, installed at the developer’s expense, to connect to their development.
Councilor Desera Towle supported the idea, saying that she had experience with latecomer agreements prior to moving to the Bitterroot and they worked well at encouraging development in communities.
Councilor Klaphake was critical of the agreements in general, arguing that they encourage sprawl and leapfrogging developments.
Councilor Bill Perrin also raised the question about fairness to the developer of the Creekside Meadows subdivision. The Town’s sewer and water lines were extended at that developer’s expense with no latecomer’s agreement and directly taken advantage of by the developer of Twin Creeks. Perrin raised questions of fairness. He said if the developer pushed it he would not vote for it. But if given more time to research and discuss the issue he would consider it.
The issue was postponed until August. Other issues concerning the certification of the roads were also slated for discussion. One core sample of the asphalt on the roadways failed to meet specifications.
The Council approved a Conditional Use Permit for the building that once housed the Peak Fitness training facility at 116 Valley View. The permit would allow the manufacturing of homeopathic remedies at the facility. Councilor Towle offered an amendment that would restrict the business from operating after 10 p.m. at night and before 7 a.m. in the morning, but the amendment failed due to lack of a second. The permit was approved on a 2 to 1 vote, with Towle dissenting.
Police Chief James Marble told the council that hundreds of dollars in damage had been incurred due to vandalism of the bathrooms at Lewis and Clark Park. He said a sink had been pulled from the wall. He said the vandalism was not occurring at night but in the evening before the park is closed. He suggested installing a camera in the park that could monitor people entering the bathroom.
Marble also recounted recent problems concerning transient vendors in town. He said there were vendors selling spray bottles of cleaner in the area and some people were reporting that the salesmen were ”pushy.” He said one came to the door of his residence and identified himself as a deputy. He said his wife, who knows all the police officers, knew that it was not true and was concerned.
Marble said the men had obtained a transient business license and that the company’s manager was going to handle the complaints. He said that subsequently one of the salesmen was arrested for soliciting sex from a 15 year old girl at the Western Heritage Days celebration and that another was arrested on an outstanding out of state warrant that was extraditable. He suggested that the Town review its transient business license requirements and perhaps do some background checks.
Mayor Gene Mim Mack said that he had already made an administrative change requiring a driver’s license and was seeking advice from the Better Business Bureau.
At a recent Committee of the Whole meeting, Mayor Mim Mack presented the Council with a few “philosophical issues” concerning next year’s budget.
One proposal he is considering, he said, is to institutionalize the use of honorariums, used to reward volunteer services, so that it is equal and administered the same to all recipients, which includes the Fire Chief, Assistant Fire Chief, Cemetery Sextant and Reserve Officers. He suggested setting the honorarium at $125 per month.
The Mayor said that he was also considering a Cost of Living Allowance based on the federal government’s regional determination as well as a possible merit increase based upon the employee evaluation reports to replace the system of longevity bonuses.
Mim Mack said that following his review of the salaries, he was concerned that there was an inequality of pay that had been instituted, whether intentionally or not, in which administrative clerks, including the Clerk, Utility Clerk and Treasurer, were being paid less than other employees. He said that those jobs were also jobs that traditionally have been filled by women. Mim Mack said that the jobs were very important and that if the administration failed the whole town would fail. He proposes incrementally increasing the wages for those clerks to bring them into line with other salaries. The first raise would be a 12% hike.
Councilor Desera Towle praised the Mayor for taking steps to equalize pay for women. Mim Mack said that there was a need to equalize the pay for equal work regardless of whether the positions were held by men or women. He said he would be getting feedback from all the employees before finalizing his proposal and bringing it to the Council.
Council budget meetings are scheduled for July 15, 18 and 22.