Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Polson Commission adopts mill levy, approves TIF grants

Editor | September 14, 2023 12:00 AM

District Court Judge Kim Christopher made a trip to Polson City Hall last Wednesday to swear in the city’s new police chief, George Simpson.

Christopher, who worked with Simpson when he was a Lake County deputy, praised him as a “consummate professional who makes time to involve himself with the community in positive ways.” In her courtroom, she said she could count on Simpson to bring “calm, thoughtful balanced and grounded consideration to highly charged circumstances,” while also applying integrity and common sense to his duties.

A Navy veteran from Florida, Simpson has been employed in Montana law enforcement for a decade and served as a sergeant and captain of the Polson Police Department for eight years, including his recent stint as interim chief. He was selected for the post after a nationwide search.

Commissioners also received updates on recent street renovations. Crews continue to work on Fourth Avenue East, which runs past Linderman School, where progress was slowed by recent rainfall. The goal, said City Manager Ed Meece, is to pave it on Friday and allow it to cure over the weekend, so it’s ready for traffic by Monday.

The 17th Avenue project drew praise from commissioner Carolyn Pardini. “Not only are kids using it, but I saw several people with assisted devices using that new sidewalk,” she said. “I’m super glad to see it done.”

“I make about six trips up and down 17th a day just because I think it’s the coolest road in Polson right now,” Meece said.

In other business, the city commission approved second readings on two code amendments – one that tweaks the way meetings are conducted and another that assigns the task of placing traffic-control devices to the public works director instead of the police chief.

The commission also adopted the mill levy for 2023-’24, including a general levy of 108.99 mills, a permissive medical levy, which covers medical benefits for employees, of 8.51 mills; and the municipal services levy, approved by voters in 2006 to pay for public safety and equipment, of 19.95 mills.

Because of the recent increase in taxable values, the share of taxes each homeowner is responsible for has actually decreased. In the three examples included in the resolution approved by commissioners, city taxes will be $49 on a home valued at $100,000, $146 for a home valued at $300,000, and $292 for a home valued at $600,000.

Commissioners also approved two requests for Tax Increment Finance District grants – both requested to address sewer issues behind Main Street businesses. The requests were from adjacent businesses owned by Susan Hartman (All in Stitches at 210 Main) and Carol Lynn Lapotka (handMADE Montana at 212 Main), whose sewer hookups are conjoined.

The commissioners okayed both projects, which involve replacing sewer line, installing a new connection to the city sewer for each business, and patching the asphalt in the alley following excavation. Each property owner will pay $1,900, while the city will contribute $3,800, for a total cost of $5,700 for each project.

Lapotka told commissioners she’s been dealing with sewer issues since she purchased the building, and said the previous owners reported similar problems.

“I’ve invested $13,000 of my own money” to scope and reline the dated Orangburg pipe, and decided that “starting from scratch makes more sense than trying to maintain it.”

“It’s not an emergency situation but it’s going to be,” she added.

She’s also visited with other property owners on that block but none reported current sewer problems.

The project will take one or two days and require closure of the alley for construction.

Commissioner Carolyn Pardini asked if it would make sense to place weight limits on the alley after the project is complete “to protect the investment these guys are making and we’re making.” Meece said he would discuss the matter with the Public Works Department.

During the discussion about TIF district financing, Meece also mentioned that the city may have a windfall of over $600,000 in that account for the coming year, in addition to the $300,000 in the current budget.

Meece called the increase an “astonishing number,” but cautioned that the total influx needs to be verified before the administration recommends “a couple of large infrastructure projects” for the TIF district.

The commission meets again Sept 18. The regular meeting at 7 p.m. will be preceded by a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. on proposed budget amendments for FY 2023-24.

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