Libby council discusses settlement attorney, hears about PD grants

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*EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated to correct an error in size of grants recently awarded to the Libby Police Department.*

The Libby City Council discussed hiring a new city attorney and heard from Police Chief Scott Kessel about grant money recently awarded to the police department, Monday at their regular meeting.

Chief Kessel said the police department received two grants which will be used to fund new cameras and reported lower numbers of service calls.

The police department will use a $4,900 grant from Flathead Electric Cooperative to fund a downpayment on a first year contract for body cameras, he said.

The second grant, from the Mason Moore Foundation, awarded the Libby police department $6,800, he said. The grant money will be used to purchase dash cams for the remaining four police cars without cameras.

The last cameras those cars used were VHS, he said. They were never updated.

“Now we’re in the 21st century,” he said. It is normally a given that law enforcement officers use newer cameras.

Previous grant money received from the DUI Task Forces funded the two cameras the department uses today, he said.

Service calls for the month of March are down from last year by 18, he said. The lower rate is mainly due to less parking tickets and disturbances.

The police department arrested four fewer people and gave out 11 fewer citations this month as well, he said. The numbers do fluctuate, he said.

The council also discussed hiring a specialized lawyer, replacing Allan Payne, to renegotiate the city’s settlement with International Paper Company, which is ending on June 30.

Dean Chisholm, city attorney for Libby, said he already has spoken with a few people interested in taking the environmental attorney position.

The council agreed to inquire to International Paper about what intentions they have with the contract come June.

The settlement with the city will automatically renew unless they give notice prior to June 30, Chisholm said.

“The elephant in the room is,” the fact that the city already pays for an attorney and they have a year left in their contract, he said.

There could be negotiations to terminate the current attorney contract with the city, but who knows how it would play out, he said.

Jim Hammons, the city administrator, said International Paper might try to back out and say they think 10 years is good enough.

Hiring an attorney is about getting someone to actually negotiate for Libby again to continue the contract, he said. It is based on whatever International Paper’s next plan of action is.

The question is if International Paper will just ignore it and say “‘yeah, we’ll keep going’ or are they going to say ‘nope, we’re done paying,’” he said.

Hiring a new lawyer is probably not cheap, he said.

“We want to be ready in case they decide they don’t want to deal with us anymore,” he said.

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