The Stevensville Town Council decided last week to reinstate charging late fees in relation to the town’s water and sewer billing and resume shut-offs for non-payment. Both the late fees and the shut-offs were suspended when the COVID-19 emergency was declared. After some discussion of the pros and cons about the timing, council members first considered delaying the resumption until December 1, billing to give people time to prepare. After further consideration it was decided that any delay could just compound the dilemma. The final motion was to begin with re-instating the late fees and shut-offs starting October 1. Late fees apply to any payment made 60 days from when the bill was received. If the bill is not paid in 120 days, shut-off may occur.
The council also approved moving forward with a $15,000 upgrade to the Town’s phone system. Mayor Dewey said the town’s phone system was in poor condition and that service has become more complicated as the town’s services are spreading out around the community from the sewer and water plants to the new location of the Police Department. He said by upgrading their system and tying it to the town’s computers and the internet that there would also be related cost savings and it would resolve the problem of having employees use their cell phones for town business by using a special app.
The Stevensville Booster Club got permission to paint Yellowjackets on the sidewalks on Main Street. Fran Schmitz, who is organizing the event as a fund raiser for the club, said that in the past the Yellowjackets were painted in front of the businesses who donated to the club, but this time they would be painted at regular intervals down the street with no consideration for who donated and who did not. The permission was granted with a provision for “extended maintenance” so that they could be re-painted every year without seeking any further permission.
The Council set a time-limit on public comment on non-agenda items of 5 minutes and a time-limit on agenda items of 8 minutes. This will apply to all meetings.
The council approved dispersal of state gas tax many from the Bridge and Road Safety Program Funds for fiscal year 2020-2021.
Councilor Bob Michalson read a letter from Dan Clark of the Local Government Study Center in response to his inquiry into the council’s rules for replacing an elected official when a seat is vacated. Michalson noted that, “According to Stevensville’s council rules a council member who is vacating his position can sit and vote on his or her predecessor. I cannot find this in state law.”
Clark wrote back that, “Either the council seat is vacant, or it is not. If it is vacant then the remaining members of the council vote to fill the vacancy. The outgoing is gone and no longer is a council person nor should have a seat on the council to vote for their predecessor.” He went on to suggest having the city attorney review the rule for legality.
Mayor Brandon Dewey suggested that the question to Clark was not properly posed. He said what is being considered in the rules is when a council member announces his intention to resign at a certain later date. In that case they are still a member of the council until that date and may participate in a vote on their potential replacement since they have not yet vacated the seat.
The council voted unanimously to get an opinion on the rule from the Town’s attorney.