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Plains Council won't support revote on road levy

by TRACY SCOTT Valley Press
| April 10, 2024 12:00 AM

Plains Town Council at its April meeting unanimously voted to delay a road district ballot levy scheduled for this year.

Last year, the levy failed to pass during the election by three votes. 

“The election came out a week after we all got our taxes raised by a substantial amount, and so no more taxes. I understand why that didn’t pass,” said Plains Mayor Joel Banham.

He asked for a discussion if the council should try again this year. Banham said the levy could potentially raise property taxes on the average household around $200 per year. This would give the town $50,000 per year for road maintenance for the next five years. 

"There is some concern about putting this burden on people that actually live with a medium income under $25,000 a year," Banham said. "Is it worth it for the $50,000 or should we find the money to fix these roads from grants? That doesn’t guarantee we could find those grants.” 

“The general consensus in my area is that the cost ratio in my area is too big a spread for what we get out of it," Council Member John Roesler said. "$200 a year is quite a bit of money on a fixed income. I would rather see us promote for grants.” 

Council member Connie Foust was concerned about the cost for elderly residents.

"They are Social Security people," Foust said. "To put another burden on them, I am not in favor of doing that.” 

Council members voted to take the road district off the agenda for the time being. 

The meeting opened with approval of the previous months’ minutes, as well as the treasurer’s report and all claims and payroll expenses. 

The judge’s report for the month of March included 47 new cases with 64 pending. Fifty-six cases were settled in March and 97 warrants are still active. The town collected $4,465 in fines during the month of March. 

Banham welcomed back Plains Police Officer Rob Geenen, who recently graduated from the Montana Law Enforcement Academy in Helena. 

The mayor’s report started out with the town’s water usage. Water loss due to leakage was within acceptable limits at 13%. 

Banham discussed the upcoming municipal summit in Columbia Falls on June 12. He also spoke on soliciting the help of the Plains Volunteer Fire Department to help install house numbers on the 129 homes in town that currently do not have any displayed. 

Banham said, “That’s a concern to emergency services, particularly the ambulance.” 

Installing the house numbers would take place during the upcoming Plains Cleanup day on May 18 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Fire, Police and Public Works Department heads were not in attendance during the council meeting. Banham read the police activity report for March. It consisted of 45 calls for service, 11 arrests, 145 citations and warnings, and 11 other agencies’ assists.

Under new business, the parking of motor vehicles discussion was tabled. Banham asked council members to submit any improvements or corrections to the ordinance to him. He said the council may need a special meeting to review the ordinance. 

Under new business, the council voted to approve a loan for a new ambulance for the Plains Community Ambulance. All costs for the loan and upkeep for the ambulance will be paid for by Plains Community Ambulance. Council member John Sheridan was appointed as the Floodplain Administrator. Brandon Wilson was appointed by Plains Council members, as well as Sanders County Commissioners, to the library board.