City agrees to work with KPFL on shelter
By BRENT SHRUM Western News Reporter
The Libby City Council agreed Monday to work with Kootenai Pets for Life on a request from the group for a long-term lease of property on which to build a "no-kill" animal shelter.
KPFL president Eileen Carney initially asked the council to consider a variance allowing a shelter to be built within city limits. The group has been looking at property at the end of Treasure Avenue — near the city cemetery — as a possible location, Carney said.
"It's a piece of land that's pretty isolated for being in the city," she said.
In lieu of a variance, Carney proposed a lease of city property across the Kootenai River, adjacent to the county's animal shelter — which is also housed on leased city property.
Council members have expressed concerns about having an animal shelter within the city, Councilman Doug Roll indicated.
"I would like to pursue another option other than putting it in town," he said.
Mayor Tony Berget said concerns have been raised about a shelter negatively impacting "the peacefulness of the cemetery."
The council offered no motion for a variance to allow a shelter to be built on the Treasure Avenue site but agreed to work with KPFL on a possible lease of a site next to the county shelter.
"We work closely with the county on a lot of things, so that would be a very good place for us to be," Carney said.
In other business, the council:
* Approved annexation of city property where the city's sewer treatment plant is located but tabled a proposal to annex additional city-owned property across the Kootenai River.
The proposal to annex both parcels, which are owned by the city but outside city limits, had initially been proposed by Berget and had been put on hold pending legal research by City Attorney Charles Evans into the proper procedure for annexation. At Monday's meeting, Berget said Evans — who wasn't present — had given the go-ahead.
While a motion to annex the sewer plant property passed unanimously, the second annexation proposal stalled in a 3-3 tie. Berget said the city has received numerous inquiries about selling the property and while the offers have always been turned down, he suggested that the land should be brought into the city limits prior to any future sale. Annexation of the property was also included in the city's 1972-vintage growth plan, he said.
But council members Gary Huntsberger and Stu Crismore questioned the need to annex the property now and raised issues about liabilities including road maintenance and police protection.
"I don't know why we're doing it at this time," Crismore said.
Roll countered by asking what reason exists not to annex the land.
"It's there, it's our property, why not now?" he said.
Roll, Charlene Leckrone and Lee Bothman voted to annex the land while Huntsberger, Crismore and Wally McElmurry voted against. Berget declined to vote to break the tie and declared the issue tabled, citing a legal opinion from former city attorney Scott Spencer regarding council bylaws governing voting procedures and the need for a majority of council members to pass a motion. In previous instances of a tie, the mayor has cast a vote in accordance with state law, which declares that the mayor has no vote except to decide ties.
* Heard a report from Lee Disney on behalf of Friends of Historic Libby High School on the group's efforts to save the structure at the corner of Mineral Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard from demolition. In light of recently expressed interest in the property by a Spokane developer, the council agreed at Disney's request to provide a letter of general support for preservation and renovation efforts.
Leckrone moved to write the letter, and McElmurry seconded the motion. Crismore said he thinks something should be done but doesn't want to see the building sitting vacant with nothing happening for five more years. Disney said the school board has made it clear that the building will be demolished if nothing else happens within a relatively short period of time.
The motion passed 5-1, with Huntsberger voting against. Huntsberger has been an outspoken advocate for demolition, lobbying the school board to tear down the building and conducting his own research into costs. He said at Monday's council meeting that he thinks renovation of the structure is financially out of reach and has "minimal" community support.
* Declined participation in a joint city-county board of health but expressed interest in appointing a council member to an expanded county health board.
The possibility of creating a combined city-county board had been presented by county sanitarian Ron Anderson. Anderson said he had proposed the same idea to Troy, Eureka and Rexford and found little interest. The councils, including Libby's, showed more enthusiasm for an alternate proposal from Anderson for a larger county board that could include representatives from each city.
The health board currently consists of the county commissioners, the county health nurse, the county sanitarian and the county health officer. Anderson said the board is considering expansion to nine members with a wider range of representation from around the county.
* Met new city police officer Chris Scauflaire, who was administered the oath of office by Berget.
Scauflaire told the council he was born in Libby in 1972 but was raised mostly in Europe. He said he served eight years in the Army, working in counter-intelligence, before deciding on a career in law enforcement.