By Tracy McNew
Prior to the City Council meeting on Monday, May 6, a public hearing was held at City Hall regarding the proposal to vacate Larch Street between U.S. Hwy. 2 and Millwood Loop. It was reported that only one person voiced concerns. The Council then met at 7 p.m. at with all members in present. After the Pledge of Allegiance, minutes from April 1 and April 15 council meetings were approved.
Announcements included that the planning board would not meet this month and that a water/sewer meeting was being scheduled. The council then moved into committee reports starting with City Administrator, Jim Hammons, who reported that the small “pocket” park next to the Police station now has sidewalks, a bench and a picnic table. The table will soon be made wheelchair assessible, he said. In addition, the city has opened the bathrooms at Riverfront Park and they plan to open the new bathrooms at Fireman’s Park once concrete work is completed. Fire and police calls were discussed next, and Police Chief Kessel also told the council that cameras are being installed in patrol vehicles, their Firearms instructor, Jonathan Graham, will compete in the Governor’s shooting match, and he requested that the “pocket” park be officially named after the only Libby police officer ever lost in the line of duty, John Ferdinand Bockman. Bockman was shot and killed while questioning a shooting suspect in 1924.
During public comments, D.C. Orr expressed concerns regarding transparency and groundwater contamination getting into the river.
Resolution 1935-A was approved after a short discussion of whether it would cut off access to the Stinger building. It was decided that access isn’t open anyhow, and the resolution to discontinue and vacate Larch Street was then unanimously approved.
Next, the Council approved an $80,000 expenditure from the International Paper fund to purchase a camera capable of visualizing underground piping for problems and concerns in the sewer. The $80,000 price includes training and delivery of equipment that will be housed in an existing city-owned vehicle.
Transparency week was discussed next. This year, it will be held during the week of June 17 and Councilman Taylor volunteered to spearhead planning and preparing. Events will focus on transparency and public involvement in government.
Six business licenses were approved for in-home assistance services, a consignment and retail shop on Mineral Ave., a real estate services business, an excavation and sprinkler system business, a health insurance broker, and a modular home and prefab cabin builder.
During the unfinished business portion of the agenda, possible negotiations with International Paper were discussed. Mayor Teske said that he will follow up with attorney Allan Payne per the advice of City Attorney, Dean Chisholm. Orr then told the council that he would scrutinize every move the city makes in dealing with Payne.
The council also approved the independent contractor agreement for the Lincoln County Park District Manager of Parks, Tony Petrusha, after a presentation by Petrusha on projects he is involved in and funding to date. Petrusha briefly discussed the greater Libby area trails project, the proposed community swimming pool, and the bridge of voices project. His position as a contractor is funded equally by the City of Libby, Lincoln County, and the Parks District at $10,000 each per year. Over the last year however, only about $5,000 has been spent and Petrusha anticipates no need for additional funding for several months. The contract renewal was only narrowly passed with Mayor Teske casting the tie breaking vote in favor of renewal.
General comments from the council included discussion of appointment of a City Judge that will take place this summer. Discussion of forming a committee to organize the appointment process will be added to next council agenda. Reviewing and updating the business license code, the permitting process for digging in City streets, and the City growth policy were also briefly touched on prior to the meeting being adjourned at 8:05 p.m.