Changes to be made to City Council Chambers

Changes to Miles City’s City Council Chambers will be made so it will work better for city court, which also uses the space. The issue was discussed at Tuesday’s council meeting.

City Judge Al Homme said the court uses the chambers 200 days a year while the council usually uses the downstairs conference room and only uses the chambers about four days a year, when there is a large attendance.

“It’s really cumbersome to do a trial, especially a jury trial, and it certainly is not laid out to do it properly,” Homme said about the chambers.

His suggestion is to take the “monster” desk out, make a permanent elevated bench for the judge, and, if the council needs to meet there, the tables and chairs simply need to be moved around. 

Homme brought a former blueprint, drawn up by Stevenson Design, for the council to look at just to get an idea of the layout, but since those ideas were estimated to cost $40,000, Homme suggested the current proposal because it was estimated to cost less than $2,000.

Homme said his other option is in “a building right across the alley. They will custom build us a space” for $1,500 a month and a five-year lease. He said he’d prefer that because it is on the ground floor and “not in City Hall.”

He said the court’s revenue is down 30 percent.

Homme said, “If you refuse this, I’m going to go to the district court judge and he can order it. That’s how simple this is. Okay? It’s not dignified to have it in that situation. And it’s important for the court to maintain dignity. So you guys do what you’ve got to do. I’m not trying to be rude on this.”

Councilman Jeff Erlenbusch, a former police officer, said he agreed with Homme. He said it was “unsafe” with the cramped quarters and “cumbersome.”

Mayor John Hollowell said there is a concern about the historic aspects for the chambers, but Homme said nothing historical in the room would be changed. 

Homme said according to state law,  “it’s the council’s responsibility to provide me with this stuff. I don’t work for you. I work for the public. I’m a separate branch of government. I’m equal with the mayor, equal to the council.”

The council unanimously approved changes in the chambers.

Previously the council asked the judge for a clearer plan and felt it was still a little vague. The issue will go to the Public Services Committee to work out the details with the judge.

In other news:

— Erlenbusch said the weed issue is getting bad with several residents and “I think the citizens need to know there is an ordinance against having weeds in their yard and their boulevard, and it’s not neighborly to do that.”

— Hollowell had a moment of silence at the meeting and a proclamation to lower flags to half staff in memory of former Miles City police officer Ken Hom, who also served as the city judge for 12 years. Hom died July 22.

The flags in the city will be flown at half-staff on Friday.

— a resolution to amend the 2015-16 budget for unanticipated expenditures and unanticipated revenue in the airport fund passed unanimously.

— a resolution to amend the 2015-16 budget for appropriate unanticipated expenses to Lighting District No. 171 Fund 2430 passed unanimously.

— Resolution No. 3945 passed unanimously. It is for $6,696,000 in sewer system revenue bonds for a Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Water Pollution Control State Revolving Loan Program.

— Resolution No. 3946 passed unanimously to amend the regulatory agreement and the termination of a lease agreement and transferring fee title to a multifamily housing project in Southgate Meadows owned by Birchwood Properties Limited Partnership.

— Resolution Nos. 3947 and 3948 passed unanimously. They were engineering services agreements with Robert Peccia and Associates for wastewater treatment facility upgrades, task order numbers five and six.

— Resolution No. 3952, involving the Montana State Library and GPS and GIS services, software and equipment, passed unanimously.

— The first reading of Resolution No. 3953 for unanticipated expenses to Lighting District No. 165 was approved unanimously.