The Town of Stevensville is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person(s) involved in the vandalism of the Maplewood Cemetery. Anyone with any information is being urged to contact the Stevensville Police Department at 777-3011.
The Maplewood Cemetery has suffered from a series of acts of vandalism since last September, but the latest is by far the worst. Fifteen gravestones were overturned by a vandal or group of vandals at the end of September. Another was reported overturned in November. But on January 4, thirty-five gravestones were discovered overturned by Cemetery Sextant Dan Whitesitt. Many of the gravestones, located in Montana’s oldest settlement, are close to 100 years old. Some can be placed upright once again, but others are damaged and will require repairs. According to Stevensville Mayor Gene Mim Mack, the cost of repairs may be in the thousands of dollars.
At last Thursday’s council meeting, Mim Mack said, “The outpouring of support and outrage by citizens of the town is what you would expect. It’s been quite vocal.” He said there had been rumblings about vigilante justice, but he stated, “I think we are going to find out who did this.” He also stated that he believed all the incidents were linked.
The Mayor said that, technically, the gravestones are the property of the individual buried at the site and due to the age of many of them there may no longer be any family members in the community to take responsibility for the repairs. But he said a comprehensive plan for restoration was in the works and many people have stepped up to offer help in any way they can, including a local 4-H club. A special fund has been set up at the Town for any contributions to the restoration efforts. Anyone interested in contributing may call 777-5271, ext. 3.
In other business, the Stevensville Town Council approved a change order in its ongoing Water Project that did not involve any cost changes but allowed for a change in how the contract time will be scheduled. The changes, due to the suspension of work for winter shutdown, will not add any days to the overall project. Additional engineering costs due to pay requests and construction inspection created by the splitting of the contract time will be covered on a time and material basis by the contractor.
A change order approved for the Sewer Project did add $3,180.80 to the cost of the project for additional asphalt work, but the overall cost of the contract remains significantly under the original contract price due to previous reductions in cost. The original contract price of $720,677.28 has been reduced to $659,762.64 after two reductions totaling $64,095.44 and the latest increase of $3,180.80.
The Council also approved a $2,060 contract with NewFields Company for additional groundwater monitoring associated with the decommissioning of the town’s sewage lagoon as part of its wastewater treatment plant improvements.
The Council approved a $400 grant from its Grants to Others fund to the St. Mary’s Mission. In its application the Mission stated that it benefits Stevensville residents by providing a national historic site for education, as well as a beautiful park setting to stroll and enjoy. The Mission serves about 5,000 to 6,000 people annually. In 2013 it hosted people from 48 states and 12 countries.
The Town of Stevensville’s criminal prosecution contract was amended to add a clause that permits attorney Brian West, if he determines a conflict of interest exists between his role of representing the town and other private practice obligations, to give notice to the mayor and refer the matter to a jointly agreed upon attorney at the same existing contract rate. It would be a limited appointment for those proceedings only.
The Council also agreed to a change in credit card vendors after the current contract expires in February. The proposal is to switch to paygov.us. The new contract would cost customers a $3.95 fee for a charge of $100 or less or 3.9% for charges over $100. Customers may still pay by check or cash if they prefer.
The Council also discussed the issue of non-receipt of tax revenues due to problems in the County Treasurer’s office and approved writing a letter to the County expressing their concerns. Tax revenue remittances to the Town have fallen far below past levels, generating concern about continued operations.
Councilor Bill Perrin was elected to serve as Council President for the coming year. Board appointments were made with new Councilor Jim Crews appointed to serve on the Planning and Zoning Board. Councilor Robin Holcomb will continue to serve on the Parks and Cemetery Boards, Councilor Ron Klaphake will continue to serve on the Airport Board and Councilor Bill Perrin will serve on the TIF District and Main Street Association Boards.