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City of Libby considers mail-in ballots

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| June 4, 2009 12:00 AM

Libby City Council may decide to hold its municipal election completely by mail-in ballot this November.

Tammy Lauer, county elections administrator, told the council at Monday’s meeting that she hoped to get all four Lincoln County municipals to implement mail-in elections this year. 

“I’m here to ask Libby to consider it,” Lauer said. “It’s far less expensive, and we’re running out of election judges.”

Libby, Troy, Eureka and Rexford municipals contract the county to hold their elections. Rexford has held mail-in elections for years, Lauer said, and Eureka and Troy have already voiced their support to change their format this year.

Mail-in elections cost less because the county doesn’t have to hire election judges, Lauer said, and voter turn-out increases when people can vote in the comfort of their homes.

Only 16 percent of voters participated in Libby’s last municipal election, Lauer said, meaning the election cost $8.09 per voter.

“All the costs are still there, whether people show up or not,” she said.

Lauer will present the council with a cost estimation for a mail-in election at the next council meeting June 15. Mayor Doug Roll foresees making a decision at that meeting because deadlines for the election are fast approaching.

“We’ll probably discuss it and vote on it then,” Roll said. “It closes July 2 to put your name in for a position.”

The city has never considered implementing a mail-in election, but Roll supports it.

“I think we get better participation,” Roll said. “I would really like to see that happen.”

Mail ballots were first implemented in Montana in 1985 and are used for municipal, school and special elections.

In other news at Monday’s meeting:

• The council performed the final reading for an amendment to the skateboard ordinance. Skateboarding on the Fred Brown Pavilion floor in Riverside Park is now illegal.

• The city did not grant Scott Foss $16,820 to build a new fence around the Lee Gehring Field. Councilmember Walt McElmurry recommended not funding the project due to a diminishing city budget. Councilmember Ron Carter then made a motion, which was not seconded, to authorize one-third of the funding this year, and fund the rest of the project in future years. The city expressed its willingness to work with Foss the next fiscal year, sometime in September. 

• The city received word that the over $58,000 of stimulus funding that was originally earmarked for the Cabinet Heights sewer extension may go toward another approved project if the city wishes. The council discussed not using the funds on the sewer extension because the amount would only lower the number of grant dollars the city receives for the project.

• The council should have a job description for Dan Thede’s position by next week. Thede will retire Oct. 1 as supervisor of city services, and the council will soon be advertising for a replacement.

• Roll mentioned that the city must purchase a new car since the “other car kind of blew up.” The vehicle was purchased new in 1991.

• The council had a hang-up with payroll and claims, and agreed to withhold payment to Libby Main Street until the problem is looked into. The city paid Libby Main Street $5,000 in May 2008 out of the Streetscape fund for Trent Oelberg’s initial planning work on the Streetscape project. Now it is uncertain whether the $5,000, which will put the project over budget, should have come out of that fund or not. If Oelberg did the work before the bid was finalized, then the $5,000 was not part of the bid and it should have come out of the parks fund.

• Maggie Anderson of the Northwest Montana Community Change Project requested that the city put additional measures in place to reduce alcohol consumption among minors and over-drinking among adults.