At a special meeting on November 22, the Stevensville Town Council appointed Nancy Lowell to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Marilyn Wolff, whose letter of resignation was read into the record at the November 10 meeting. Lowell was chosen from among the three candidates who applied. The other candidates were Scott Butler and Wallace Smith. Lowell served as the town clerk for 18 years, from 1991 to 2009. She was sworn in on November 23.
At the December 8 regular council meeting, the council declined to approve the mayor’s appointment of Jim Crews, former mayor and council member, to the park board.
Crews told the council he wanted to serve on the park board “because we have a lot of stuff going on in our parks. We have six parks in town and some things have not been addressed that need to be addressed. I use one of the parks every single day and there’s stuff that I wanted to see if we could get done over five years ago that hasn’t been touched…”
Council member Bob Michalson said that while he recognized that Crews was passionate about the town, he was concerned about Crews’ sometimes “aggressive” attitude. Michalson said that since he’s been on the council he’s received 34 emails from Crews and some of them were aggressive. “Being on the park board, are you going to be aggressive to them [the park board] like that, are you going to be able to work with them?”
“I don’t know where the term ‘aggressive’ comes in,” said Crews. “I’m passionate and I believe in following the rules and using the rules to the advantage of the citizens… I’m not aggressive to my coworkers and I never have been… If someone has an opposing view, I do listen to them, I pay attention to what they say. I don’t rush to judgment… the reason I want to be on the park board is because I want to help improve our town and the things that go on in our town and make this a better place to live.”
Although council member Cindy Brown, who is married to Crews, made the original motion to approve Crews, and Michalson seconded it, Brown abstained from voting along with Stacie Barker, and Michalson voted against, with Lowell casting the lone vote in favor.
Later in the agenda, the council heard from Crews regarding his concerns about the bike path on the Stevensville Cutoff Road. Crews had submitted information about the bollards on each side of a footbridge on the path that goes over a slough. Crews said the bollards were installed too close to the bridge, causing a hindrance to people on certain types of cycles. He said the bollards are a hazard and should be removed. Mayor Steve Gibson interrupted Crews’ presentation to say that the Town does not have jurisdiction over the bike path or the bridge. He also said that he plans to meet with the head of the Montana Department of Transportation in January and this issue could be brought up then. The council made no decision but in general, the feeling was that the bollards were placed there for safety and removing them would be a liability.
Crews also submitted another agenda item regarding the bike path and bike routes/lanes in town. In his submission, he wrote that there needed to be signs placed on all areas where the bike path is intercepted by a driveway or road directing vehicle traffic to not block the bike path. He also wrote that “areas where bicycles are frequently used need to be adequately marked indicating that they are bike lanes and or shared use lanes in the same manner as Hamilton and Missoula.” These items were identified in the 2016 Growth Policy but were never completed. Crews asked that this be sent to the park board for development of a plan of implementation. However, the council decided they would wait until a new growth policy is developed. Updates to the growth policy are slated to be initiated by the planning board sometime next year.
In other business, the council:
• approved the confirmation of Stevensville Police Officer Todd Schafer
• approved the mayor’s appointment of Nancy Lowell to the TIFD/TEDD board
• approved cancellation of the December 22 council meeting and authorized paying claims out of cycle due to the Christmas holiday
• approved allocation of $35,460 to complete a global water rights permit application
• approved advertising for a town prosecutor
• approved a master agreement for planning services with Morrison-Maierle for the Stevensville Airport
• approved Task Order #1 for the Stevensville Airport Master Plan Update
During council comments at the November 10 meeting, Michalson asked that items submitted for the agenda actually be placed on the agenda. “…if there are two council members that have signed an agenda item there would be no excuse for it to not be on the agenda. It doesn’t matter if a department head or whatever doesn’t like it. It doesn’t matter if some businessman in town doesn’t like it, they can come to the meeting and voice their concerns right at the podium just like everyone here. So, I would ask respectfully from now on that if there is two signatures on a council agenda [item], that it goes in front of the council.”
Council member Barker read a prepared statement stating her concern about the way citizens and town employees were treated at the previous meeting. “Some were heckled for comments that were made… These comments could be hurtful and disrespectful. We are representatives of the town and we need to show them the respect they deserve… As a council member I feel we are skipped over or not heard. We all have the right to speak even if it’s something that some don’t want to listen to… It was also brought to my attention that boards and citizens have brought agenda items forth to be put on upcoming council meetings and these folks have not had the opportunity to be heard. When are we going to start putting these items forth so the council can get things done?…”