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Council moves forward on water plans

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| March 4, 2009 11:00 PM

The Libby City Council moved forward Monday with its discussions on how to spend $400,000 the city received for its water budget in a December settlement with International Paper Co.   

The water and sewer committee presented its written recommendation, which proposed reducing city water users’ base rate by $30 per month for July, August and September, and spending the remainder of the settlement on water system infrastructure.

The proposed city water rate reduction would cost roughly $90,000, according to Councilmember Lee Bothman, which, figuring in the settlement’s attorney fees, would leave approximately $230,000 toward repairing and replacing underground water pipes.

The council has over the months discussed different ways to spend the money, but always agreed that a portion of it should go toward water bill relief.

The settlement was granted to the city because Libby’s groundwater has been unusable since International Paper Co.’s predecessor released toxic creosote into the ground. A city ordinance prohibits residents from using well water and, as a result, Libby’s water system endures a higher volume of use and residents must use metered water to irrigate their lawns.

The council will listen to comments on the topic at a public hearing on Monday, April 6 at 6:30 p.m., a half-hour before the regularly scheduled council meeting.

In other news at Monday’s meeting:

• In a 5-0 vote, the council reduced the speed limit at the Cedar Street Extension and Main Avenue intersection to 15 mph. In addition, the lights, streets and sidewalk committee proposed increased police patrols in the vicinity.

• The council voted unanimously to charge a $50 fee and $300 damage deposit to reserve the Fred Brown Pavilion at Riverfront Park for gatherings. The council agreed to revisit the $50 fee next year to determine if it should be raised or not. The cemetery and parks committee is still working out additional details, such as requiring event insurance and portable toilets for large gatherings.

• Bothman became the new council president in a 5-0 vote. Former council president Charlene Leckrone resigned last month because of plans to move to Washington state.

• The council agreed in a 5-0 vote to allow the Igniters Car Club to close off Mineral Avenue for the club’s annual Ignite the Nights event. The street will be closed in the business district on Friday, Aug. 14 from 6-10 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 15 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• The Libby Police Department delivered its monthly report, which included 117 calls, 29 arrests and 26 citations.

• The council indicated that it would be willing to put $4,200 toward purchasing a de-ice and sand truck that Dan Thede, supervisor of city services, applied for from the Department of Transportation. The vehicle’s price tag would normally be $32,000, said Thede. Mayor Doug Roll mentioned that the truck’s capability of spreading washed gravel made it a good investment as the city occasionally uses the county’s equipment for that purpose.

• Ed Levert, Lincoln County forester, proposed that Libby become a designated Firewise Community, which has several requirements, such as creating a fire board, arranging annual city fire safety inspections, and spending a certain amount of money or resources – such as volunteers – on fire safety each year.

• The council went into closed session to discuss whether or not to change Libby Police Officer Terry Watson’s employment status from temporary to permanent, which would allow him to receive health insurance.