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Council amends snow ordinance

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| January 7, 2009 11:00 PM

The Libby City Council at Monday’s meeting unanimously passed an emergency ordinance amendment that outlaws pushing snow into city streets.

“The city’s ordinance right now is very vague,” Mayor Doug Roll said after introducing the measure, “so we’re going to clarify it.”

The motion added a paragraph to the city’s existing obstruction ordinance to specifically mention snow. According to the amendment, placing snow anywhere on the street is considered an obstruction. Residents must place snow from their sidewalks and driveways onto their own property, even if city equipment is responsible for some of that snow.

Businesses that have no place to put snow from their sidewalks are exempt from the ordinance and may continue to shovel it into the street.

In the past the city used the obstruction ordinance and a garbage-dumping ordinance to cite citizens for placing snow into city highways, roads, streets and alleys, but the laws were open to interpretation as neither of them directly mentioned snow.

Roll introduced the new measure as an emergency amendment so that it would take effect immediately. The measure is only good for 90 days or until the council puts it through the standard ordinance process, which takes at least a month-and-a-half.

At the meeting a Libby resident pointed out that the snow at his house is piled almost as high as the top of a street sign. He told council members that snow plowed from city streets is pushing against his carport.

“You reach a point,” he said, “where there’s no place else to put it.”

Roll took the man’s address and said he would look into the matter, but also noted that some residents may have to pay to have snow removed from their property.

“If it’s on your property, it’s your responsibility to move it,” said Roll.

“We’re not trying to be in argument with anyone in the city,” Roll said, explaining the measure to council members, “but it’s a bad year for snow.

As of early this week, the city road crew had removed 500 dump trucks full of snow so far this winter, which is in line with last year’s snow removal load. However, it is an exorbitant amount from previous years—and a lot for only one month’s time.

Dan Thede, supervisor of city services, doesn’t foresee more citations written than in the past, but believes it will support road crew efforts.

“It’s just something so that when (city road crew members) see that type of thing happening, they can go to the person and say, ‘we have an ordinance, you can’t do that,’ and give out a warning,” Thede said. “If it’s a repeat offender, yeah, they will be cited.

In other business from Monday’s meeting:

• Terry Watson was sworn in as an officer for the Libby Police Department. Watson was a reserve for the department for about a year and has 10 years experience at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

• The council passed a motion, 6-0, to change its Tuesday meetings to Monday. City council meetings are now the first and third Monday of every month, unless a national holiday lands on Monday such as the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In such cases, meetings will be held on Tuesdays.

• The council agreed to save some discussion for its annual retreat on Saturday at the Venture Inn from 9 a.m. to the mid-afternoon. If the city’s budget is prepared in time, it will be a key topic, along with weed control, increasing cemetery plot fees and a number of others.

• The council voted, 6-0, to not grant Ted Werner a concession on water and sewer hookups at a condominium/apartment project on the corner of Eighth Street and Dakota Avenue. Council members expressed their belief that the standard fees are fair enough.

• The council discussed increasing the salary of the council president by $100 per month. Currently, all council members’ monthly salary is $300, while the mayor’s salary is $600. Chuck Evans, the city attorney, agreed to look into the legality of the council raising a member’s salary.

• The council voted, 6-0, to amend the city’s water budget to include a $400,000 payment from International Paper Co. The vote also called for compensating attorney Allan Payne $80,000 for his role in negotiating the agreement. 

• Chief of Police Clay Coker read Libby Police Department’s 2008 statistics. Last year, the department received 3,419 calls and made 348 arrests. Coker pointed out that the numbers were consistent with other years.