Troy City Council meeting overview, softball tournament considered
Troy’s City Council opened their June 17 meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. Present were Mayor Dallas Carr, Assistant City Clerk Chera Cole, City Clerk Tracy Rebo, Councilwomen Crystal Denton and Shawna Kelsey, and Councilmen T.J. Boswell and Chuck Eckstedt. City Attorney Clifton Hayden also attended virtually.
First up on the agenda was approval of a new business license for CC Cleaning Janitorial Services of Troy. Immediately following was the approval, after discussion, of a new business license for Mo’s Haircuts and Hair Salon. The brief discussion centered around and with owner Monique Hofstee taking walk ins, maintaining six feet of spacing, and providing masks for clients.
The next item concerned discussion of potential softball tournament. Thirty-four men’s and women’s teams plan to come into Troy on July 17-18, as proposed by Mr. Allen Anderson. The council discussed COVID-19 concerns related to this. Councilwoman Denton said the group would have to follow regulations set forth by the Governor. Councilman T.J. Boswell said that the group also needed to consult with the County Health Board.
The council rolled on to approve all claims, and also approved the minutes of the regular meeting held on May 20, and their work meeting held on June 10. There was some discussion centering on the Northern Lights Fiscal Year 20/21 Contract which ended up with an approval. Next, Ordinance #2020-775, concerning Dumping Animals on City Property was discussed. The council agreed that in the case of wildlife, the Montana Department of Fish & Game needed to be called and the ordinance was approved. Following that, Ordinance 2020-776, concerning Grass and Weeds Length was discussed. The council agreed that over ten inches was a concern, and after some discussion, that ordinance was also approved. There were no old business items on the agenda, so the body of council moved on to Department Reports.
Clint Taylor, Troy Power Manager, reported that his crews were busy with power outages on Freeman Ridge, Kern Road, Spokane Avenue, and Templin Drive, with most repaired with installing wildlife protectors, and in one case replacing a transformer. The crews also worked on the dam and hydros, as well as doing some work in the local subdivisions. In addition, personnel worked on the museum, utility easements, and helped pour concrete sidewalks.
Dave Norman’s Public Works Department teams have been staying busy working on sprinklers and lawns at the cemetery, lawn maintenance at the museum, and a clogged sewer line on Riverside. They also tackled checking well houses and sewer lift stations, a water leak on the Callahan bridge, opened the bathrooms at the museum, and removed old concrete sidewalk on 2nd Street, then laying down and compacting gravel, built concrete forms and poured new sidewalk.
City of Troy Police Department members will be attending firearms instructor training in July, and AED training in Whitefish in the beginning of July. Firearms training will be held again this month. Also, a Step Grant is approved, and the department will begin extra patrols on July 1. Some discussion ensued from the public comments of individual citizens attending, and after council advised these parties on how to proceed, the meeting was adjourned at approximately 8:45 p.m.
By Brian Baxter, The Montanian
businesses effected by staffing
“It wasn’t for lack of customers or lack of support from the community,” said the most recent Red Dog Saloon owner Paula Buff. The iconic local pizza joint announced on June 17 in a Facebook post that they would be ceasing operations once again, just a few months after they provided a ray of light in the pandemic lockdown by reopening and offering take and bake pizzas.
The Red Dog fell victim not to a lack of business, but to a lack of ability to find adequate and experienced staffing in the Pipe Creek area. The experience of the Red Dog is not unique, many local small businesses are having a difficult time filling their staffing requirements in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Each business has their own unique scenario and experience, but a common theme that runs among the conversations with business owners is the difficulty of competing with the $600 per week CARES package stimulus added to the normal unemployment pay as part of the COVID-19 response passed by congress to help Americans cope financially with the lockdown that was imposed in March.
The current CARES stimulus unemployment supplement is scheduled to expire on July 31, but business owners are unsure that it will not be extended. Despite Montana being well into phase two of reopening, other parts of the country are still locked down and people in the service and other industries are struggling to survive without their regular income.
The problem is compounded by the already low per capita income in Lincoln County. According to census.gov the per capita income in Lincoln County from 2014 to 2018 was $24,082. That comes out to $463.12 per week on average. Well less than that $600 stimulus that is being added to existing unemployment.
There are currently over 100 jobs on offer through the Job Service office in Libby. Despite the rich offering and 12.7% unemployment rate in Lincoln County that is tied for the highest in Montana with Mineral County, employers are having a difficult time finding qualified applicants for their positions.
According to Buff, most of the applicants that applied to the Red Dog were under the age of 21. Of the few applications that she received from candidates over the age of 21, very few of them followed up to make it to the interview stage of the hiring process.
“It’s not acceptable to ask an 18 or 19 year old to be in charge of a bar where they will be required to make judgement calls about the sobriety of patrons who are much older than they are,” Buff said. “Even if I hired all of the applicants looking for summer work, I would be missing the experience I need to run the Red Dog.”
There would also be no guarantee of enough staffing available in the fall to keep a business like the Red Dog open. If the CARES stimulus is extended, or there is a lull between when the benefit runs out and recipients begin to apply for jobs, it could have big consequences for small businesses.
In the end, Buff made the determination that the risk was too great for her to continue to revive the Red Dog. In a short period, she went taking pride in being the purveyor of one of the iconic establishments from her childhood, to being without a plan for her future.
“I remember rushing home from college to be at the Wednesday before Thanksgiving party at the Red Dog when they had live bands and all the debauchery that went along with it,” she said.
“When I was sitting on the couch watching the news and saw the retirement announcement and that the Red Dog was closing on Facebook, I immediately messaged my daughters and was on the phone with the owners the next morning.”
The decision to purchase and run the Red Dog was an emotional one according to Buff. But in the end, the risk was just too great in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that went along with it. The inability to hire experienced staff and the uncertainty of whether there would be further restrictions in the fall was just too much.
“I’m going to power through these next couple weeks and sell as much of the inventory that we have as I can,” said Buff. “Then I am going to get in my Jeep and just drive. I don’t know where I am going to end up,” she concluded.
Father’s Day was the Red Dog Saloon and Pizza’s final day to be open for business. Their Facebook post said, “This is our final day open so stop by and grab a beer and help us blow these kegs! CHEERS!
By Mati Bishop, The Montanian