Council discusses sewage plans, repair needs for Old Jail

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A man of his word, Plains Mayor Dan Rowan shows off the completed framing of the new City Hall window he had promised to complete by Christmas. (Carolyn Hidy/Clark Fork Valley Press)

Plains Mayor Dan Rowan reported on the status of grants related to upgrading the sewer plant and fortifying it against the encroaching Clark Fork River at the Jan. 7 Town Council meeting.

Though the application with the Montana Renewable Resource Grant and Loan (RRGL) program project received a low ranking, the sheet steel barrier project ranked No. 11 out of 40 applications for a Treasure Statement Endowment Program (TSEP) infrastructure grant, meaning Plains is likely to receive it. The Town will also apply for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) asking for the maximum $5,000 for planning to “update the PER (preliminary engineering report) with a detailed look at a mechanical plant option.” A mechanical plant would take far less land and therefore has many more options for location, but is very expensive and would likely require the long-term cost of an additional full-time city employee.

Rowan met with mason Rich Culbertson to assess the repair needs on the rock work at the Old Jail. Culbertson is willing to consult on the repairs but will not do the work. Roof leaks were repaired last summer, but the building is likely to collapse if the mortar is not repaired on the stonework. The expected cost of $10,000 to $15,000 could be spread out over three to four years of work, and paid from the city parks budget. However, it was recently found that the jail and property belong to Sanders County, not the Town of Plains, so this will be discussed with the county.

Distribution of tax revenues that would have ordinarily been received by now has been delayed at least until February. Rowan said new County Treasurer Nicole Scribner had assured him the revenue is there, but some accounting must be straightened out after the previous clerk retired before it can be released.

A COMPLEX SET of questions arose around a lot-owner request for a boundary adjustment that would create two lots from the current three. While the two would not meet current size standards of 7,500 square feet for new lots, there have been many other such adjustments and the size would be an improvement over the current size. A special meeting was held Thursday, where the council voted unanimously for a variance to allow the adjustment.

Out of 3,707,000 gallons of water pumped this month, 3,060,030 were sold — showing a loss of 21.14 percent, an improvement showing repairs have been helping.

The police department reported that due to Ford quitting production, the two new Ford cars they had ordered would not be available, even though they had met the deadline. However, a Phoenix department was willing to give up two from their order and take 2020 models, freeing up two for Plains, which should arrive in February.

A shielding definition that would be added as an amendment to the decay ordinance will be voted on at next month’s meeting.

The city hall computer system is not adequate to run the software. An upgrade will be needed.

Chris Allen was elected to serve another year as council president. A candidate to fill the vacant Ward 2 seat will be voted on at next month’s meeting. Candidates to serve on the police commission are still being sought.

THE PLAINS Town Council discussed three variance requests, codification of ordinances and revision of the Top 5 Roads list previously created by the council during the regular meeting held Monday, Nov. 5.

Also during the meeting, the council received member Sandy Chenoweth’s resignation from her Ward 2 seat.

Discussion was held regarding the variance request application submitted to the Plains Planning Board by Shannon Hedahl. The planning board recommended the council deny a setback requested at 113 Vine St. since it does not meet the minimum 5-foot setback from the property line. By a 6-0 vote, the variance request was denied.

The second variance request was submitted by Clint Larson. The planning board did not have a recommendation to the council. Chenoweth moved to approve Larson’s variance with the stipulation that he would have to enter into a contract with the Town of Plains to have the structure — located at 301 S. Hubbard St. — be moveable, and to have the ability to move the structure within 24 hours notice. After a second, the motion failed by a 4-2 vote and the variance request was denied.

Plains County Ambulance submitted a variance request to the planning board, and the board made the distinction that the application contains two requests — one for a side and another for the back of the property at 102 Blake St. The board recommended that the council approve the rear setback as presented, and deny the side setback as it does not meet the 5-foot minimum. By a 6-0 vote, the variance request for the back setback was approved and the side setback was denied.

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