Newly elected Stevensville Town Council member Bob Michalson was selected to serve as Council President at the January 9 Town Council meeting. Michalson served previously on the council and as president before resigning because of what he claimed were on-going illegal activities by Mayor Brandon Dewey. None of the legal complaints lodged with the Town Attorney, the Commissioner of Political Practices and the County Attorney’s office were deemed valid by any of the officials. He did not withdraw his candidacy for the position, however, and won his seat back in the last election.
In the discussion preceding the vote for the position of Council President last week, Councilor Jaime Devlin, who is new to the council, raised the issue of Michalson’s past actions and behavior.
“In the past, there has been conflict between Mr. Michalson and the administration,” she said, “so I am curious as to what policies, procedures, and regulations have been put in place so we are not going to have that happen.”
Michalson responded, saying, “It’s a new year. I took six months off. If Mayor Dewey is open to discussion like he says and has an open office, I’m willing to come in. There’s a lot of things that we have to get done.”
“Your willingness is great,” said Devlin, “and I appreciate that you are willing to step up to the plate and that you want to do that. Thank you, it’s a big job. I just have some concerns. I know in the past that you two have had meetings that just haven’t gone well. So just what exactly are we going to do to make sure that we are moving forward positively together?”
“I know you took six months off, and it’s not just on your plate or just directed at you, but something has to change so that we don’t end up in the same place that we came from,” said Devlin.
“I agree,” said Michalson.
“So that’s what I’m asking, what has changed?” asked Devlin.
Michalson said, “I’ll stick to my job as much as I can, running by the rules that I see fit. I will not step across the line to tell him how to do his job and he knows that.” He said that he does not come to the town’s office much and doesn’t plan on hanging out there a lot.
“If there is a time frame involved and he has to set up appointments for me I can work with that, and we can go forward from there,” said Michalson. “It’s going to be baby steps for a while. Brandon and I do have history. I’m not going to deny that.”
“That’s my concern,” said Devlin.
Mayor Dewey noted in response to Devlin’s original question about changes in policy or rules, that a Code of Conduct had been adopted, although not rigidly enforced, and is used by the office staff to help analyze their own conduct and how they interact with each other. He said those kinds of reminders could be employed in discussions by the council as well.
In the public comment portion of the meeting, Joe Moore spoke against the selection of Michalson for council president, saying it was not personal, but there was a past history to be considered “not just with the mayor but with other community members as well.”
“We have a past history that has not been resolved,” Moore said, “and I don’t know if I want to go through another year thinking about it.”
Carolyn Mickens stood up for Michalson, saying he did a lot of research when he was on the council and won the election.
“If the town’s people believed that he wasn’t doing a necessary job, they wouldn’t have voted him into the seat. So, I think that we ought to give him a chance at the seat of President instead of making remarks,” said Mickens.
The council approved Michalson as Council President by a 3 to 1 vote, with Devlin casting the dissenting vote.
New board appointments included:
Planning and Zoning Board – Bob Michalson
Park Board – Jaime Devlin
TIFID/TEDD Board – Robin Holcomb
Airport Board – Dempsey Vick
Katie Coleman-Assad was confirmed as Airport Manager.
In other business, the council unanimously approved an ordinance on first reading to update the town’s building and technical codes. According to Mayor Dewey, the State of Montana has adopted several updated building codes with amendments in 2018 and by law, local municipalities are given 90 days to formally adopt updated codes that are adopted by the State for effective implementation and enforcement.
The council split over the issue of closing Town Hall on every 5th Friday of the month (approximately four times a year), to allow the full staff to attend training and catch up on office work without interruptions. One argument in favor of the closure was to save over-time pay for the training sessions. One argument against it was the inconvenience to the public. After some discussion, the original motion was amended to be a one-time closure to see how it worked and then re-evaluate. Michalson and Holcomb voted against the one-time closure and Devlin and Vick voted in favor. Mayor Dewey broke the tie in favor of trying the experimental closure.
The council voted unanimously to place the issue of amending the Council Rules on the agenda for a meeting of the Committee of the Whole scheduled for January 30 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.
The council unanimously approved the purchase of a new backhoe for $82,585. The town’s current backhoe will be exchanged for $24,000 credit, leaving an outstanding balance for the new backhoe at $58,585.