The long and shorter of it

City Council speeds through hearing, meeting

The Dillon City Council last week cut back on its hours to just about an hour.

After convening two weeks earlier for a total of approximately four hours for a public hearing on zoning and its final regular meeting of April (plus and an additional meeting five nights later to cover agenda items the regular meeting adjourned before getting to), the Dillon City Council pulled off a zoning public hearing-regular meeting doubleheader in just about 60 minutes last Wednesday.

But despite last Wednesday’s get-together standing as one of its shortest regular meetings in recent years, the Council still managed to attend to a number of items of business.

The Council gave the go-ahead for a public hearing on the city budget later this month, decided on the means by which local voters will vote in this year’s municipal election, reviewed a pair of street closure requests, and approved a bid on pair of sprinkler projects in city parks.

Mayor Mike Klakken was not present for last week’s convening of the City Council, but the get-together still featured the traditional Mayor’s Report, which, like the rest of the meeting, was overseen by City Council President Tom Straugh.

During the Mayor’s Report, the Council voted unanimously to use a mail ballot for the upcoming municipal election, when the positions of mayor, city judge and five city councilpersons will be up before voters.

“I believe mail ballot elections reach more voters and saves about 40% in costs to taxpayers,” Beaverhead County Election Officer Debbie Scott advised in a letter included in last week’s meeting packet.

The mail-ballot decision led the Council to then vote unanimously against employing Automark voting machines that allow voters with certain disabilities to vote in private without help from an election aide.

“If it’s a mail election everyone is going to get a ballot at home,” noted Straugh.

“The Automark is an option, but there are other options for people with disabilities who would like to be able to vote, and do it in a situation where their privacy is respected,” asserted Straugh, who said he had recently discussed the issue with Scott and found out employing Automark would cost the city an additional $6000 to $7000 for the election.

During the Mayor’s Report, the Council also voted unanimously to set up a hearing to consider amendments recommended by its Finance Committee to the city’s Fiscal Year 2016–17 budget.

The public hearing will take place next Wednesday, May 17, starting at 6:45 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 125 N. Idaho St. in downtown Dillon. The amendments to the budget under consideration are available at City Hall and will be reviewed in the Dillon Tribune next week.

The Mayor’s Report also included the Council’s unanimous approval of a request to close South Montana Street in front of Beaverhead Brewing Co. last weekend to better accommodate crowds celebrating graduation from the University of Montana Western.

But the Council again tabled a street closure request by the local White Hat Coalition because Council members could not ascertain whether the group was applying for a street closure for both its Memorial Day Parade and June 10 car show, or for just one of the events.

“I look at the special events application and it’s for the car show on June 10; if we look at the certificate of liability insurance,” said Councilperson Russ Schwandt, “we’re talking about a parade and a ceremony on Memorial Day, which is, as I look across at the calendar, on May 29. So, is this application inclusive of all three events or are we missing the application for Memorial Day?”

“I share your concern. I am still confused by it,” said Straugh, who had urged the tabling of the request due to other concerns when it first came before the Council at a meeting earlier this spring.

“I believe that it would be wise for us to table this issue until we get clarification. I think we need an application for each event that is being considered.”

Later in the meeting, during the report by its Parks Committee, the Council unanimously endorsed a recommendation by that committee for a pair of bids for $11,455.80 submitted by Pelletier Sprinkler work at Ray Lynch Park and the Children’s Park in Dillon.

At a public hearing held prior to their meeting last Wednesday, the Council received comments from people on a series of proposed changes to the city’s zoning ordinances that the city’s Zoning Commission recently recommended.
Unlike a public hearing on zoning matters in April that lasted over an hour and featured plenty of contention, comments during last Wednesday’s hearing took up just a few minutes.

Proposed changes in zoning ordinances impacting parking in front yards generated some questions that were quickly addressed at the hearing.

The other proposed changes, which included a ban on “the cultivation, growing, and/or harvesting of medical marijuana for retail and/or wholesale business purposes” within the city and the prohibition of the “packaging and/or sale of medical marijuana for retail and/or wholesale business any residential (R1, R2, R3, RMH), C1 or C3 zoning district” drew no comments.

The proposed changes to the city’s zoning ordinance also include an adjustment in 17.16.170 (Manufactured Homes and Individual Lots) that would affect the process by which an application for a permit for locating a manufactured home on a lot is handled by the city; “minimum required setbacks” for yards; a number of substitutions of the term “family” for “household” in the chapter on Definitions (17.108); and the adjustment in Zoning Districts and Zoning Map (Chapter 17.08) of the abbreviation for Public Lands & Institutions from “P 1’ to “PLI”.

“I read these twice. They look great,” commented Mary Jo O’Rourke, who has been highly critical of some recent changes in the city’s zoning ordinances.

“Is this a good time to close the hearing,” joked City Councilperson and former Zoning Commission Chair Jim McIsaac.

All the latest proposed changes to the city’s zoning ordinances that were addressed at last week’s hearing will come up for a vote by the City Council at a future meeting. They can be seen, highlighted in red text, at