Underage drinking, Opportunity Zone, Town Pump, and chickens fill the Troy City Council Work agenda

By Stacy Walenter

The Troy City Council met for its monthly work meeting on Wednesday, March 14. First on the agenda was the Lincoln County Landfill lease, which has not been renewed since 1992 when Roger Kensler was mayor. Lincoln County and the City of Troy will decide on the length of the new lease.
The council addressed Troy’s declining population. In 2016, the city’s population fell to 890. According to the Montana Code Annotated Classification of Municipalities, a municipal corporation that has a population under 1,000 but more than 300 is considered a town. The council only recently found out about this potential change and will explore what altering its status from city to town would entail.
The council also reviewed the Impaired Driving Countermeasures Grant that Police Chief Katie Davis received. City Clerk Tracy Rebo said that a budget amendment would be needed to use the money. Davis hoped to be able to use grant funds for the Memorial Day weekend. The grant awarded the police department $5,000 to cover additional four-hour shifts for the holidays. The grant runs from May 1 to September 30.
Councilwoman Shawna Kelsey stated her intent to apply for an economic development plan known as “Opportunity Zone.” According to the website for the Community Development Division of the Montana Department of Commerce, “the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 established Opportunity Zones to encourage long-term private investments in low-income communities.”
Businesses will receive federal tax incentives if they invest in distressed communities. Eligibility is based on census tracts. The state of Montana has a total of 270 tracts of which 106 are eligible. The governor may nominate up to 25 tracts for consideration.
Kelsey said that Tina Oliphant of Kootenai River Development Council will assist the city with its application.
Hunter Jordan, Emma Anderson, JayLee Leighty, Rita Blanchard, Alyssa Kelso, and Regina Milde of Troy High School’s Unite for Youth made a presentation to the council concerning under-age drinking in Troy. The group hopes to partner with Troy City Council to create more family-friendly recreation to deter youth from drinking.
The students presented a map of local hot spots where their peers go to use tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana. They also created a plan to reduce underage drinking including a sticker shock campaign, partnering with healthcare providers to disperse information about the negative health impacts, consequences for adults who provide alcohol, and recognition for businesses who support measures for deterring youth substance abuse. Unite for Youth also proposed a change to the 4th of July beer garden, citing that teens in the past have easily received alcohol over the garden’s fence.
Mayor Carr said that it was surprising to him that alcohol was being passed to minors, as the beer garden, which he helps organize, has been praised in the past for its set up. He asked the kids to inform an officer if they see this activity in the future.
Maggie Anderson, who accompanied the group of students, asked the council to consider implementing an enforceable city ordinance that would forbid the removal of alcohol from the beer garden perimeter. As it stands, the 4th of July committee has a policy that forbids alcohol outside of the beer garden, but it is not an enforceable law.
The council also addressed a need to change the language of Ordinance No. 2017-730 to clearly state that permits for chickens in city limits will initially cost $25 and renewals will cost $10 per year. Residents can have up to five hens, but roosters are prohibited.
Last on the agenda was another discussion of the proposed Town Pump expansion. Bruce Cole, owner of TCO Lube and Feed, and representatives from Town Pump did not reach an agreement for the purchase of Cole’s property.
Carr said Town Pump wishes to continue with its original plan to close Second Street for its bigger site. Second Street would still be accessible via Town Pump’s parking lot but would no longer be a thoroughfare.
Since many residents raised concerns that Town Pump was acquiring city property for free, Carr said that Town Pump would now have to purchase the portion of Second Street from the city.
Town Pump would also still improve sidewalks from Second Street to Spokane Avenue and from Second to Third Street.
The council is also asking more of Town Pump, including a plan that could potentially see Town Pump incurring the costs of tearing down Pine Tree Plaza. The plan is possible only if the Plaza’s owner, Charles Curtis, can settle all of the property’s back taxes.
Citizen Larry Cripe told Carr he thought the plan sounded like a legal quagmire. Councilwoman Crystal Denton worried about the legal fees that would result from all of the research involved.
Nothing about the Pine Tree Plaza/Town Pump plan is set in stone and Carr shared the idea only because the city’s lawyer said it could be viable.
The council also asked Town Pump to equip Troy volunteer firefighters with new firefighting gear. Denton said the outfits volunteers currently wear are from the seventies. Town Pump said that they could try to outfit two firemen a year through one of its grant programs.
Town Pump also told Carr that if the Second Street plan fails, it will still build fuel pumps on the former Larson property and people will have to cross Second Street to access the convenience store.
As the meeting adjourned, Carr addressed the noticeable absence of councilman Joe Arts. Carr shared the sad news that Arts has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Troy City Council’s regular meeting will be on Wednesday, March 21 at 7 p.m. As always, the meetings are open to the public.