By Michael Howell –
A month ago the Stevensville Town Council approved an Emergency Ordinance to change the town’s billing procedure for water service from quarterly to monthly billing and establish a new bill collections process. That emergency ordinance was effective upon passage but only lasts for 90 days. At its April 25 meeting, the council considered a permanent ordinance that would require approval at two consecutive town council meetings and would go into effect 30 days after the approval on second reading.
According to the proposed ordinance the water bills would be sent out within the first five days of the month and payment would be due on the 15th. If no payment is received by the end of the month the bill would become delinquent. At that time the customer would be notified that if payment is not received within 10 days the water will be shut off. Water would not be turned on again until payment is made and a $50 fee will be charged for restoring the use. If no payment is received after shut-off the Town could either place a tax lien on the property or seek redress in Justice Court.
Mayor Barnett read the proposed ordinance but no action was taken by the council.
Discussion of a proposed change to the Sewer Ordinance was delayed.
LOW BIDDER AWARDED TEST WELL PROJECT
The Town Council awarded the bid for drilling a test well on the Kelly property, where the town hopes to establish a new well field, to the low bidder Kallison Drilling for $22,440. The first round of bidding was scrapped when only one bid was received. In the latest round the town received three bids including bids from AK Drilling for $22,640 and Jerome’s Drilling for $46,400.
The council unanimously accepted the low bid from Kallison.
CLOSED SESSION RAISES CONCERNS
Stating that the next topic for discussion at the April 25th meeting could involve some personnel issues, Mayor Barnett closed the meeting to the public. Barnett first noted that if the issue to be discussed was simply wages that the discussion would have to be conducted in the open, however, since it might involve personnel issues it was going to be closed. He asked town Attorney Keithi Worthington if the person had to be named and Worthington said, “I don’t believe so.”
Barnett said that the issue to be discussed was paying bonuses and it involved a number of employees.
Bitterroot Star publisher Victoria Howell objected, stating that the issue as advertised on the agenda was not sufficient for closing the meeting.
Councilor Desera Towle excused herself from participating in the closed session.
Upon returning to open session Mayor Barnett remarked, “We had a discussion on the performance of employees and there’s not a performance issue at this time. The issue we have to deal with is financial.”
Barnett said that a motion was discussed in the closed session and Councilor Robin Holcomb stated that the motion was for Mayor Barnett to hire/appoint Sue Gibson as Clerk/Treasurer with pay to be retroactive to February 21, when former Clerk Roni Kimp resigned. The retroactive pay would apply to both Gibson and Utility Clerk Denise Philley who both covered for the missing clerk. The amount of the retroactive pay would depend on the wage set for Gibson’s new clerk position.
Mayor Barnett asked, “Where do we get the money?”
Councilor Dan Mullan said, “The question is more what that amount might be.”
Barnett said it would be the difference in what Gibson was being paid in the interim and the new $12 per hour wage as clerk.
Councilor Pat Groninger stated that the $12 per hour wage was agreed to as an interim pay during the transition period until a new clerk was hired. He said to make it a long term pay raise was not discussed. Councilor Holcomb agreed that the interim pay amount was not meant to be a long term thing.
Mayor Barnett said that he was under the impression that the $12 per hour figure was set for the long term.
It was agreed that the mayor and Gibson would get together and discuss the pay amount and figure out where the money would come from and bring it back to a future council meeting.
Attorney Worthington stated at the end of the meeting that Councilor Towle was leaving meetings and that the issue should be discussed.
“Maybe there should be some investigation into whether she is shirking her duties as a council person,” said Worthington.
Councilor Towle also excused herself from an unadvertised meeting held on March 23, following a scheduled town council meeting, out of concerns about the legality of the meeting, which was not advertised and had no published agenda.
By Michael Howell –