By Michael Howell
In its ongoing review of existing resolutions the Stevensville Town Council decided to dump one that requires any citizen wishing to ask a question of the mayor, town council or town staff to “provide in writing the question they wish to ask by noon of the Friday prior to the Town Council meeting at which the question will be asked. Thus allowing at least a minimum amount of time to research the question.”
Mayor Gene Mim Mack, who proposed rescinding the 2008 resolution, said that it was patently in violation of the public’s constitutional right to participate in government decision making. He said it was also in contradiction to the Council Rules that were subsequently adopted in 2010.
Council members agreed with his assessment and the resolution was rescinded by unanimous vote.
The Council approved change orders in Phase III of the Water System Improvement Project. Changes included an $803 contract change for the connection of the 6-inch water main on South Ave. The location of this main was unknown to the town until it was discovered during the work and so was not included in the original work plan. It will cost another $2,835 to remove about 150 linear feet of cast iron water main on 5th Street to allow replacement with a new PCV water main. The service line will reconnect the water service for the four-plexes at the east end of 5th Street.
The Council adopted a new Capital Reserve Policy. A capital item is defined as an asset that the town intends to hold and derive benefits from for a period of five or more years and has a cost of $5,000 or more. Capital assets include land, buildings, machinery, equipment and major software expenditures.
The policy requires the preparation of a schedule of capital items used by each department with an estimate of its useful lifespan, date of acquisition and cost. The schedule will be incorporated into the town’s budget. The budget shall provide for adequate maintenance and orderly replacement of items. The Town “strives” to maintain capital reserves sufficient to fund acquisition of needed assets and a capital plan for major repairs and replacements.
If expenses require incurring debt the following criteria shall be considered: a) The project’s useful life should equal or exceed the terms of financing, b) Financial resources are deemed sufficient and reliable to service the long-term debt, c) Market conditions should present favorable interest rates for town financing, and d) The incurrence of debt shall not adversely affect the Town’s financial position.
The council agreed, with the concurrence of Montana Department of Commerce, to release Bitterroot Tool and Machinery from the security clause in the Tax Increment Financing District agreement that would have required the company to reimburse the town about $28,000 when moving out of the district. The business plans to move out adjacent to the airport where it will expand operations. Officials understand the security agreement as being designed to keep jobs that are being created in the area. It was determined that although the company is moving out of town and out of the TIFD, it is to a location adjacent to town and the jobs will stay in the area. The company has already produced six new positions since June and expects to produce about 3 or 4 more by the end of the year and even more following the move.
The Council approved setting up an on-line utility bill payment system using www.paygov.us as the on-line pay processor. Although it will cost users a little extra to use the service, it is being added to the tool box for making payments which includes paying in person by check or credit card, paying by mail, or having a bank send payment.
“It may cost the user a little extra for the convenience, but it is their choice,” said Treasurer Stephani Mapelli. She said people are free to use any method they want, it is just another option.
The Council adopted a job description for a School Resource Officer. The council has agreed to accept a COPS grant to pay 75% of the cost of an SRO for three years. It requires the Town to fund a fourth year. The Stevensville School District has agreed to split the cost with the Town for both the 25% match over three years and the full pay for the fourth year. A full-time police officer will be hired and given a special duty assignment defined by the SRO job description.
The Council adopted four airport-related resolutions. One was a resolution of necessity and statement of infrastructure deficiency which is required to establish a taxing district there. Another resolution revamped the Town’s airport lease agreement. And another adopted hangar construction guidelines. The final resolution adopted the state’s minimum standards for aeronautical activities such as storage, fueling and repairs.
During council comments at the end of the meeting, Councilor Bill Perrin commented on a number of mistaken claims made recently in a letter to the editor by former Mayor Lew Barnett. Perrin said he felt obliged to respond since so many facts were wrong and could mislead the public.
The letter claimed that four new employees had been hired by Mayor Mim Mack. Perrin said the fact is only two were hired, a treasurer and a water and sewer employee.
Barnett wrote that $10,000 had been spent on keeping the railroad open. Perrin said that actually the Town Council agreed to spend up to $20,000 to cover any shortfall in the railroad contract. But the railroad found a new shipper and when the shortfall was assessed the Town owed only about $7,000. After a private individual came forward agreeing to pay half, the Town’s share dropped to $3,500.
Barnett wrote that the mayor spent $65,000 on a new truck for the police department. Perrin said the actual total cost was $34,000 and that the truck was needed to transport evidence and animals.
Barnett wrote that the mayor had “given” Main Street Association $10,000. Perrin pointed out that the Town paid Main Street Association $5,500 under a contract for services.
Perrin said that the letter accused Mayor Mim Mack of doing all these things when it was all actually done by the full Town Council.
Councilor Ron Klaphake added to Perrin’s remarks, saying that the letter claimed that an illegal meeting was held by the mayor and two council members meeting at the hotel. He noted that the law is very clear that, under the commission/executive (mayor) form of government which the Town operates under, it would take three council members to make a quorum. He denied that any illegal meeting occurred since there was no quorum and no decisions were made.
Councilor Robin Holcomb clarified her stand in voting against the budget because it included a 12% raise for two of the clerks but no raise for anyone else.
“I didn’t say you don’t deserve a raise,” said Holcomb. “It’s just too much.”
Councilor Desera Towle said that it was a mistake to call it a raise.
“It was an adjustment of the job payment for a certain position, not a raise given to someone for superior performance,” she said. She said the pay for certain job positions was determined to be inequitable and the pay for those positions was adjusted, it was not a pay raise based on assessment of personal performance.