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Last Update: May 20, 2015 Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana
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The Whitehall Ledger, established in 1984, is a weekly newspaper owned by Jack Smith.
The circulation is 1,150, and a typical Ledger is 24 tab-sized pages, although with special editions and special sections the paper can be as large as 40 pages. The newspaper offers extensive coverage of local activities, organizations and local government, and the paper has the following sections on a weekly basis: opinion/editorial, community/historical section, sports, agriculture, classified advertising and a real estate page. We are a five column (12 picas per column, 16 inches deep) tab. Our general circulation area is Whitehall, Pipestone, Cardwell, Silver Star, Waterloo, and Boulder. We publish the paper every Wednesday, and our deadline for news and advertising is 5 p.m. each Monday. Our business hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Monday, and 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, however, sometimes we are out of the office gathering photos and news.
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Town Council discusses
By JACK H. SMITH
At a special Town Council meeting April 21, the governing body discussed what would be appropriate action for what Town Attorney Matthew Haus described as “unfair” treatment to the town of Whitehall by Jefferson County.
Also on the agenda for the meeting was the topic of what the grounds would be for the revocation of a business license. Roughly 15 people were in attendance for the Meeting. All Town Councilors were present with the exception of Francine Giono Janik and Elizabeth Howser. Haus was in attendance as well as Town Clerk/Treasurer Summer Fellows.
The biggest topic of discussion was Jefferson County. Mayor Dale Davis said Jefferson County has not been dispatching Whitehall Ambulance with the Whitehall Fire Department as approved at the last council meeting.
“Whenever the fire truck runs; rural or city, that the Whitehall Ambulance Service will be running along with the Whitehall Fire Department as part of that dispatch,” Davis said was the agreement approved by the council. “It looks like to me, and it’s going to be up to the council what they want to do, it’s just harassment of Whitehall.”
Davis went on to state the town is not getting $112,000 worth of service from Jefferson County at this time. The Town of Whitehall pays this amount to enforce titles 8, 9, 10 and 12 city ordinances explained by Mayor Davis. Town Clerk/Treasurer Summer Fellows read the description of each ordinance.
Eight is animals; nine is public peace, safety and morale; 10 is vehicles and traffic; and 12 is streets and sidewalks,” Fellows said.
Davis said the town called a resident last week that had a problem with a neighbor’s dog, and Jefferson County said they would not enforce ordinance eight. Davis said it is in the contract with Jefferson County to enforce these ordinances and the county had outlined which city ordinances they would enforce.
Davis also discussed citations that were given to city employees by Jefferson County “The citations that were issued were to an individual who wasn’t even driving. One was for speeding and one was for disobeying a law-enforcement officer,” Davis said the citations were issued 2 days after the incident occurred.”
Haus said a town employee was cited while on job duty and had to be named aloud because of the obligation of legal expenses by the town. It was his understanding that Whitehall Ambulance Supervisor Ed Lesorfski is not going to use the town attorney as his legal representation for those citations.
Haus said it is his choice to use whatever attorney he wants, but he would be responsible for his own legal expenses and needs to be aware of that so the town doesn’t get hit with a request for Lesorfski’s legal fees.
Haus stated that if Jefferson County is not enforcing one section of the agreement without the town’s approval, it is problematic. Haus said his recommendation; in terms of the law enforcement contract, is if the Town of Whitehall wants leverage in the negotiations with the county the town would need another option.
One option Haus suggested is, since the Town of Whitehall is situated right next to three other counties, is to approach those county sheriff offices to see if they are a viable option. Davis brought an option of hiring a constable to enforce only town ordinances that are misdemeanors.
Council Member Joe Adams questioned whether organizing Whitehall’s police force again is a viable option to the situation.
Haus said it is his understanding that the reason a lot of small towns in Montana have moved away from that is the cost of government pensions are prohibitively expensive to fund. Fellows interjected by stating she had reached out to other communities one being Boulder, who has their own police force, and it is “spendy”.
Council member Gary Housman asked why the people outside of city limits get the same protection and it doesn’t cost them any extra. Haus said the idea is that you pay extra to have the county enforce city ordinances, and those are beyond what they would normally cover outside of city limits, and if they are not enforcing the ordinances what is the benefit to the town.
Davis said Jefferson County Sheriff’s office will handle things like speeding, DUI’s, and stuff like that they will handle anyway with or without a law enforcement contract Davis said.
“So we are not getting anything for that $112,000 that I can see at all,” he said.
Alderman Tom Jenkin suggested setting up a meeting with Jefferson County Commissioner Leonard Wortman and Jefferson County Sheriff Craig Doolittle to see what they will and will not enforce, and that would help determine what the town would pay for in services.
“Maybe cutting down the hours, if we are not getting the service and they aren’t going to enforce the laws for the town we should clarify that Jenkin said. We need to look into that with the new contract coming up in July of the new fiscal year,” Jenkin suggested.
Haus said he has worked closely with the four deputies that cover the town of Whitehall, and he doesn’t believe they it is not a decision they made personally but rather a directive from their officers.
“They are great guys,” Haus said.
Fellows read out loud a letter the town received from Jefferson County Undersheriff Mike Johnson.
“Now that the Whitehall Ambulance is re-licensed (Fellows interjected they had never lost their license) the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office will dispatch Whitehall Ambulance within the city limits of Whitehall and Whitehall Ambulance can accompany Whitehall Fire Department to calls within the city of Whitehall. However, if an individual requests Jefferson Valley EMS and Rescue to be dispatched; that service will be sent. Should Whitehall Ambulance self-dispatch, to calls outside the city limits of Whitehall or fail to comply with lawful directive of law enforcement to stand down, criminal charges may result.” Fellows read
After reading the letter, Fellows stated she felt there is a bit of one-sidedness there.
Davis said the problem with this is the council knows that at the last council meeting it was agreed that Whitehall Ambulance would be dispatched every time Whitehall Fire was dispatched inside or outside the city limits.
“The rural trustees agree with me, I met with them that same week. It is to protect our own employees” he s said.
Adams said he doesn’t think there is any reason why the issues can’t he “ironed out” with Jefferson County.
“It’s been settled in the past, we just need to get it where everyone is on the same page,” Adams said.
Adams made a motion to contact law enforcement, and County Commissioner and Jefferson County Sheriff to talk about it. Jenkin agreed with Adams, and seconded the motion to begin talking with Jefferson County and come to a mutual agreement.
One other topic on the agenda was the grounds for the revocation of business licenses, Two grounds for revoking a business license would be fraud, or violation of laws or misrepresentation. Fellows said there have been problems in the past of companies not being properly insured and taking advantage of elderly residents.
Davis suggested amending the code to have everyone show proof of insurance when applying for a business license. Fellows suggested having a committee assigned to look into what would all need to be changed as not all insurances would be the same, so the town could better protect the residents in Whitehall.
Garrison Shaw gets into character during last week’s Whitehall High School performance of “You Can’t Take It With You”. Ledger photo by Melissa Jenkins