Council races to close out 2013

Members of Dillon’s city government bid some fond, and not-so-fond farewells, after endorsing a half-dozen measures, half of them questioned and/or contested, at their final city council meeting of 2013.

Outgoing Mayor Marty Malesich closed the meeting by praising the efforts of his staff and members of the current city council over the past four years, but only after decrying the work of the Dillon Tribune and some Dillon residents who previously served on the city council during his 12-year reign in City Hall. [See video at]

The meeting began with Malesich asking for the council to approve a resolution for the city’s continued participation in Headwaters Resource, Conservation and Development (Headwaters R.C.&D.) and for City Treasurer Ty Cobb to continue as the city’s official representative for the program.

No one raised any objections to Dillon sticking with Headwaters R.C.&D., a southwestern Montana organization that seeks to provide clients with “access to essential resources that result in sustainable economic development and conservation management.”

But outgoing Ward 1 Councilperson Harvey Lake thought the resolution potentially granted Cobb a lifetime appointment through language in its last paragraph that called for, “the appointment of T.P. Cobb to be the City of Dillon’s representative to the Headwaters R.C.&D. program until his resignation or his removal by the Council.”
Malesich and Cobb asserted that despite how the resolution read, it would grant Cobb just a one-year appointment.

But even that seemed too much for Mayor-elect Mike Klakken, who rose from the public seating area in the City Council Chambers to object to the timing of the vote on the resolution.

“It’s not right to be doing this now,” insisted Klakken, the former city councilperson who relegated Malesich to lame duck status by defeating the mayor in the Nov. 5 election. Klakken's term begins Jan. 1, 2014.

“If this starts the first of the year, then the Mayor does not have the authority to appoint now,” asserted Klakken.

“If the position is open the first of the year, that would be in my term. So it would be my appointment, with council confirmation.”

But only councilpersons Lake and Dan Nye sided with Klakken, while councilpersons Lynn Westad, Derek Gore, Bob Cottom and City Council President David Spehar voted “aye” to pass the resolution, by a 4-2 vote.

Councilpersons Randy Gustine and Ray White were absent, and therefore did not get to vote on the matter.

Lake also questioned the resolution Confirming and Ratifying Described City Borrowings, Loans and Contracts that reasserted the city council’s support of outstanding bond resolutions totaling over $8 million and seven contracts between the city and private firms and citizens.

“There’s nothing new in here that hasn’t been properly adopted in the past,” said City Attorney Duke Gilbert, assuring that the resolution was in keeping with common practice among municipalities.

“But when you have a change of administration, lots of times questions come up essentially from bondholders, bond buyers, rating outfits and stuff like that, and they basically look at this as a thing that gives them comfort, so that’s the benefit of doing it.”

“Why are we doing this,” quipped Lake, “to bump up their self-esteem?”

The resolution passed unanimously a short time later.

Klakken also had questions about language in the first amendment to advance earnest money and an option to purchase land within the city from the estate of Frances Holliday Johnson, who passed away in 2011. Klakken wondered if a provision in the $120,000 deal could potentially favor the seller and open up the city to paying significant damages if the deal got delayed. But Gilbert stated that the language was typical and that those damages would be incurred only if the city unreasonably held up the deal, just before it gained the council’s unanimous approval.

The council went on to also unanimously approve three other measures:

  • Task Order No. 7, City of Dillon, Well No. 5 project, which gives the go-ahead to Manion Engineering LLC to manage, on an on-call basis for up to five years, the city’s efforts to create a new well to help ensure the long-term viability of Dillon’s water supply. A Missoula-based firm, Manion Engineering is currently overseeing the city’s multimillion dollar update of its wastewater treatment facilities. “This has been on the books for quite a while,” said Spehar. “Basically, this gives Mr. Manion the authority to go out and review lands, find a spot to put it, everything. But it still comes back to the council.”
  • Task Order No. 8, City of Dillon’s Beaverhead River Pipe Crossing & Water Main Replacement Project, which calls for the hiring of Manion Engineering to also oversee that project, on an on-call basis for up to five years.
  • An Ordinance Amending Dillon Municipal Code Title 10.