By Michael Howell
A proposal to build a skate park in Stevensville got a major boost at the Stevensville Town Council meeting on January 22, when the council voted unanimously to approve locating the proposed facility at Lewis and Clark Park.
Raymond Smith, Chair of the town’s Park and Recreation Advisory Board and Co-Chair of the Skatepark Committee, made a presentation to the council describing what the project might entail and how it would fit into the existing and planned uses for Lewis and Clark Park.
Smith said the proposal would be to place a 125’ x 65’ concrete Skate Park off the edge of the basketball court over to the well/pump house. He said it would be away from the Bear Mountain Playground facility and the proposed Splash Park that may be located by the pool. He noted that the Bike Camp being considered could also be accommodated and showers could be included in the bathroom improvements.
“We worked hard to be sure that it would fit in with all the existing and planned uses of the park,” said Smith.
The cost of the whole project is estimated at $150,000. But only $100,000 goes directly into construction of the concrete skating facility. Smith said $25,000 will be used to make improvements and additions to the existing bathroom facility, $15,000 would be set aside for contingencies and another $10,000 placed into a maintenance fund.
Smith said there were a lot of good reasons to have a skate park in town. He said it gives kids of a certain age group a place to recreate. He said it would be separated from the Bear Mountain Playground development but it would still provide the opportunity for the older youth to meet younger and older folks in a community setting. He said it was a good healthy activity that should be encouraged.
“You don’t see a lot of obese skaters,” he said, jokingly.
He also noted the potential economic benefit for the town as it broadens the appeal of the park to all age groups and draws more people to town. He said skateboarding was a $2.5 billion industry. He said after the initial investment, the cost of maintenance was minimal.
Councilor Robin Holcomb said that while campaigning what she heard repeatedly was that there is nothing in this town for a young person to do.
“I’m one hundred percent behind the skate park,” said Holcomb.
Councilor Jim Crews asked about liability insurance.
Smith said that MMIA, the Town’s insurer, would accept it as long as it was signed appropriately, warning that the use of safety equipment was advised.
Smith also said that drug use was not generally a problem at existing skate parks.
“Not every skater is a drug user or a delinquent,” he said. He said some skaters might come off as punks, “but they are a great community.”
Mayor Mim Mack concurred, saying that he had observed the skaters in his neighborhood and watched how they behaved and the things they did to “improve” the local sidewalk scheme. He said they were a generally well behaved and respectful group. He cautioned against stigmatizing any group as being unlawful, especially when statistically it’s not true. He said it was unfair.
Smith noted that having a skate park would “create a more inclusive community.” He emphasized that having a location was necessary to begin pursuing available grants and other funding.
The council voted unanimously to approve the location for the skate park.
Smith said later that he thought it was important to move ahead with a skate park at the same time the Bear Mountain Playground was going in. He said from what he read in the literature, park improvements that benefit only a certain age group can often raise resentment in the age groups that feel left out.
“We’ve got to let the older kids know that they are being thought about,” he said.
Smith said that he had contacted a few companies about the project and had heard back from Evergreen Skate Parks out of Portland, Oregon recently that some funding may be available but the donor could not be named.
“But he is in a band,” said Smith, “and has been involved in sponsoring several skate parks around Montana.”
Smith said he is very excited about the prospect of a skate park in Stevensville. “To me, it’s all about the kids. They are our future.”
No one from the public showed up for the public hearing concerning the adoption of Revised Building and Technical Codes. The revisions were adopted unanimously on second reading and will go into effect in 30 days.
In response to a request from the Adams Family Trust to waive a $750 subdivision fee because it was excessive, Mayor Mim Mack proposed that the Council change the fee structure and lower the fee for a 1- to 2-lot subdivision to $250, keep the $750 fee for subdivisions of 3 to 5 lots and have a $900 fee for any subdivisions over five lots. He said the Adams Family Trust had agreed to the resolution. A motion was made and approved unanimously to waive the $750 fee and assess a new fee of $250.
The Council approved calling a public hearing to consider a budget amendment for accepting funds from Big Sky Trust. The Mayor explained that Big Sky Trust required that the project be included in the town’s budget.
The Council approved a $13,250 contract with Wipfli, LLC for auditing services. But first, Councilor Bill Perrin questioned the expense. He thought it was a big expense and questioned the need.
The Treasurer stated that any municipality that receives over $500,000 in federal funds is required to do an audit.
Perrin said, “My difficulty is with the concept and that they have to do it.” But the motion to approve it was unanimous.
Dan Cranston and County Commissioner Greg Chilcott were reappointed to the Planning and Zoning Board.
As a matter of discussion, in response to a request that the Town adopt a set of definitions that it would use in its ordinances, Mayor Mim Mack said the Town’s attorney advised against it. He said it was the rule for the most part in law that the words used are to be interpreted as they are “commonly understood,” sometimes referred to as the “plain meaning” of the words.
Councilor Crews said that his concern was that they should have a standard for words used in conducting council business.
“Must, may, should, shall, have standard legal references in Montana for definition. I wasn’t asking for a Stevensville Dictionary. I was asking for a standard reference that we could go back to for writing ordinances and codes. Words change meaning from time to time. If an attorney has to look up a word, what dictionary does he use?”
Mim Mack said that the solution, as described by legal counsel, is to let the council make their laws based on the common language, common usage and common understandings.