The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Melissa Jenkins
Staff Writer 

Town Council tables ambulance lease

 


At their regular meeting Monday night, the Whitehall Town Council tabled voting on a possible new lease agreement with the Community Beacon of Hope Inc. Ambulance Service.

The matter was tabled and contingent upon the ambulance service paying some outstanding bills.

The ambulance service must pay all outstanding bills (power bill and repair bill on an ambulance) before signing a new lease with the Town of Whitehall. In the meantime, Beacon of Hope Inc. will be under the previous lease agreement with the town. The new lease would be increased to $2,000 dollars per month from the current $1 on the previous lease. A meeting to discuss the lease was set for Monday, June 19. The town will be posting the agenda and time around Whitehall on Thursday, June 15.

Alderman Joe Adams added a personal statement about Beacon of Hope.

“I have one problem; I have a big problem that is we gave you access going in to this community’s home and the rest of the county. You go in to some one’s home, you put them in a lift and strap them down. In the meantime, you have access to their credit cards, money and valuables and that is quite a responsibility. We found out in the last 100 days two of you guys (Community Beacon of Hope staff) have committed 49 illegal transactions of credit card theft. It is pretty clear what you guys did, defrauding people and why should we allow a person with those kinds of ideas and thoughts to go in to the homes of our fellow residents. You defrauded the state taxes on fuel; it is a federal offense. I don’t think you should be trusted. Stealing a credit card and using it is illegal and anybody with common sense knows it,” Adams said.

Steinebach replied to Adams, stating they had permission to use the credit card, it (credit card) was left in there (ambulance barn), they had an agreement and paid the bill, more than the bill was. He said that is why they have bags with security tags to protect people’s property.

Mayor Dale Davis said you had permission to use the cards when you were a city employee.

Steinebach said they are still town employees, and they did not receive termination letters from their volunteer positions.

Town Attorney Ed Guza said he can appreciate Joe Adams sentiment, and the town is trying to work it out and avoid any further realm than simply resolving it. Guza said he certainly agrees with the Mayor in that there wasn’t permission.

“When it came to us that this was not something you (town) wanted us doing, we ceased and paid that bill. We made contact with the appropriate people and received an email from the deputy town attorney and she felt that it had been dealt with appropriately and was passed along to the town attorney. We didn’t hear anything else about it; we were trying to find out we need to bring to show you if there was something else to be said. I don’t think this discussion is appropriate because there is a lot of gray area, I think it was dealt with pretty professionally. We had a meeting about it, about the circumstances and that is not stuff that is being discussed here,” Steinebach said.

Mayor Dale Davis added as soon as they found out about the charges within 48 hours they were reimbursed, everything on the card was brought up to a zero balance, so that has been handled.

Mayor Davis had some questions during a report from Jefferson County Sheriff Craig Doolittle’s report.

“We had a meeting about three years ago, and the problem we are having with drugs here you promised there would be something done and there would be drug busts and nothing has been done,” Davis said.

Doolittle countered Davis with a response there have been drug busts in Whitehall, there was a situation with an agent working for the drug taskforce who had an issue with his job and some of his cases were dismissed, not by anything his office did or didn’t do.

“Whitehall is not unique to drug problems, any cop in the state and any drug task force will tell you; Whitehall has a drug problem, Boulder has a drug problem, Helena Montana has a drug problem, Butte has a drug problem, I-90 has a drug problem, Doolittle said. “A lot of times our hands are tied to try and make cases, we check them out, deputies go to their houses, and there is only so much we can do with what we have within the law.”

Doolittle went on to state his office has spent almost 1,000 extra hours in Whitehall.

“Basically you got a donation from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department in the amount of $40,000, sometimes it’s not about the money, it’s about the people in the town,” he said.

Doolittle used a recent case an example.

“There are just certain things we can’t discuss because of the federal nature of some of the drug cases. “I will tell you one of the largest drug busts in the state was made right here in Whitehall, if not the largest about six months ago” Doolittle said.

Council member Tom Jenkin voiced concern about not getting a quarterly report from the Sheriff’s office.

“When my constituents ask me, I don’t feel adequately prepared to discuss that with them,” Jenkin said.

A committee of council members (Tom Jenkin and Mac Smith) was set forth to help (per the contract with the Sheriff’s department) with communication between the town and the sheriff’s office. Doolittle agreed to set a meeting to discuss any concerns and answer any questions the council has.

 

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