Local gov’t review question to be on ballot


On Tuesday the Miles City Council unanimously passed the resolution (Resolution No. 3658) that would place the Local Government Review and the establishment of a study commission on the Primary Election ballot June 3 and levy two mills (one per year) for the study.

Custer County Commissioners will be voting on the county review in mid-February after they determine how much they should set aside for the study, Commission Chairman Kevin Krausz said Thursday morning.

City and county reviews are required by state law to come up for a vote by the citizens every 10 years. 

According to the law, if passed, the city and county can be studied separately or as a unit. 

If the city measure passes, five people can be voted onto the commission in the General Election Nov. 4. If enough people do not run, they can be appointed by council and the county commissioners.

The review is completed with recommendations from the commission, on which the voters can vote. 

Recommendations can include adopting a charter form of city government, consolidating city and county government, having a city manager, and more.

In 1984 the city commission recommended a manager form of city government, but it was changed back to a mayor-council format a few years later.

In 1994 the voters approved the review but voted against any recommendations made.

In 2004 voters voted against a review.

Mayor Butch Grenz said, “…I think it’s imperative that we have this thing, personally anyway. So maybe we can change that if it don’t pass there, we can take the money out of the General Fund to get this done.” 

Grenz is in favor of a charter form of government, which allows the government to tailor the laws to the city’s needs.

In the past he has said that in meetings with mayors all over the state, everyone he has met who has the charter form of government has been happy with it.

In other news from Tuesday’s meeting:

-- Resolution No. 3659, which is the Local Interlocal Agreement with the county, passed unanimously.

The agreement includes the following: the county will pay the city $1,530 for Bullard Street Sanitary Lift Station inspections and maintenance; $73,750 for central dispatch budget services; animal control services (cost is dependent on what service is provided); $100 per hour, per unit for ambulance and rescue services; $30 per city prisoner booked, $17,405 for the school resource officer, which is a third of the salary, benefits and expenses for nine months; $100 per junk vehicle stored by the city; and $6,000 for detention and transportation of prisoners.

— Resolution No. 3660, an agreement for sanitary inspection services with Michael Rinaldi of Tumblewood Development for $33,000 for 2014, was passed unanimously.

Grenz said Rinaldi is well rounded, being certified with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

—Resolution No. 3661, an agency service agreement with paygov.us for payment processing services, passed 5-2, with Roxanna Brush and Jerry Partridge voting against. Mark Ahner was absent.

This service would allow people to pay with credit or debit cards with a 3 percent convenience processing fee (with a minimum fee of $3 when paying on the phone to be charged or a $3.95 fee if paying on the Internet).

People have been asking for the option of paying with a credit or debit card for water and sewer services, and Councilperson Susanne Galbraith said it might help with collections. 

The payment service will cost the city nothing. People can continue to pay with cash or by check as they do now.

Brush said she goes nowhere where she is charged to pay a bill.

Public Utilities Director Allen Kelm said, “This is a convenience for the people who do pay by credit card or debit card who don’t carry cash and don’t have a checking account. We have numerous people that come in and basically are disgruntled with the fact that they can’t use their debit card to pay their bill.”

He said they are willing to pay the additional fee for the convenience.

“Just because you don’t care to do it, you have the option to pay cash, but don’t take that away from those people who are willing to pay that 3 percent and use that convenience,” he said to Brush.

“Al, I just think we can do better,” she replied.

— Resolution No. 3658, that provides a process for a site plan review, was passed unanimously.

— The final plat approval for phase 1 of the Southgate Subdivision passed unanimously. The subdivision contains seven lots.

— Carol Hardesty and Dawn Leidholt were reappointed to the Planning Board, Muriel Rost and Amber Trenka were reappointed to the Zoning Commission and John Hollowell was appointed to the Economic Development Board and committee.

—The council unanimously approved charging off $7,352 in unpaid water and sewer bills, as the Finance Committee recommended. The bills are mostly from renters who have moved out of town. 

This process occurs about every six months, according to the Finance agenda.

During the discussion, council members suggested perhaps property owners should be responsible for the service and have the charges included in the rent.