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

By Jack H. Smith
Ledger Publisher 

Council discusses sale of ambulance barn

 

October 18, 2017



The Whitehall Town Council voted 4-1 to give Dr. Cory Tebay of Western Veterinary Services a buy/sell agreement with contingencies for the purchase of the ambulance barn located at 207 East Legion.

At a special meeting Tuesday night, Whitehall Town Attorney Ed Guza said the offer made by Tebay for the building was $288,000. Council members Joe Adams, Tom Jenkin, Mac Smith, and Gerry Keogh voted yes on the agreement for the building last used by the Community Beacon of Hope Inc. Ambulance Service. Council member Gary Housman was the lone dissenting vote.

Council member Mac Smith made a motion to approve giving Tebay the buy/sell agreement. Smith said the Council is just moving forward to adopt a buy/sell agreement; they are not approving the sale of anything.

“The Council will have to get together and vote on the actual sale,” Smith said.

Mayor elect Mary Janacaro Hensleigh took a strong stance against the proposed sale. She stated the ambulance barn has been ten years in the making and the people of Whitehall value the property, adding to sell it for half what it was built for is a really poor business decision.

“I don’t think you will be representing the people in town by doing this. This is their property. You better think long and hard about this,” Janacaro Hensleigh said.

The incoming Mayor also expressed concern about the Town getting an appraisal on the building, as well as an agreement the Town entered with the Ladies of the Country Store that states the building cannot be sold to a private entity at anytime without full consent of the entire Council.

At the regular Town Council meeting in September, Deputy Town Attorney Elizabeth Musick said if the town decides to sell, there was a contingency placed by the Ladies of the Country Store when they pledged $50,000 to the building, that it could not be approved without a unanimous, not majority, vote of the Council. Guza said Tuesday night it his understanding the Ladies of the Country Store do approve of the proposed sale and they will communicate to town to wave the requirement

Janacaro Hensleigh suggested leasing the building, stating that would be the best solution. Guza asked Janacaro Hensleigh if she had specifics of who should move into the building, adding he was surprised there was not an offer made on the building by a local ambulance service.

The Council voted in September to advertise requests for proposals for the ambulance building. The requests ran as legal notices in two issues of the Whitehall Ledger. Tebay was the only person to respond to the request.

Guza said that Tebay saw the ad, said he was interested, and the Town is left with one offer.

Housman stated he doesn’t think the Town would be getting a fair shake with the proposed sale price.

While discussing the building, Tebay expressed concerns with the siding on the building.

Town Clerk/Treasurer Summer Fellows said last month the amount left on the current Rural Development Loan is around $85,000, and another loan for the building with Rocky Mountain Bank is a little under $188,000.

The regular Town Council meeting October 10 included an executive session to discuss the offer from Tebay. Prior to the planned session, Jefferson County Commissioner Leonard Wortman voiced concerns about the legality of the governing body discussing the matter behind closed doors. Wortman said he would like to see the portion of the statute that says discussing the matter in executive session is legal.

Town Attorney Ed Guza said they are talking about negotiations and it is not a public matter. Wortman said it is. He said the constitution guarantees people have the right to observe all deliberations of a governing body unless someone’s personal rights are being discussed that cause it to be a closed meeting, or they are discussing litigation. He said to discuss proposals for the building in executive session would be illegal.

The Town instead decided to discuss the matter in public at the October 17 special meeting.

TOWN BUDGET

The Council unanimously voted to approve Resolution 2017-6 that moves 21,096.50 from fund 3000 Fire Truck Levy. The money will be the Whitehall Fire Department budget for the fiscal year 2018-19. The vote came after tabling the matter at their October 10 meeting.

Mayor Dale Davis said at the meeting last week that if the town did not transfer the money, they would not have enough funding for the budget.

Clerk/Treasurer Summer Fellows said the Ladies of the Country Store have paid off the loan for the fire truck purchased after the levy. Davis said the money from the mill levy was sitting there and it is his suggestion to divide it over three years and use it for the fire department budget.

Whitehall Fire Chief Jeremy Ward asked the Council to not pass the resolution, stating the mill levy was intended to replace a truck that broke down and to keep it for the future and a replacement truck.

Using the funding from the mill levy money would enable to the Council to have $400 per month for health insurance for permanent town employees in the 2018-19 fiscal year budget. Fellows said the $400 would cost $24,000 a year.

“That determines where this pay raise could come from,” Davis said about transferring the money to the general fund.

Council member Joe Adams said they have very valuable employees and they need to keep them, and thinks they should do the best they can to pay them the money for the insurance.

Council member Mac Smith suggested October 10 they use 1/3 of the $63,289.49 for this year’s budget and leave the next administration to figure out what to do with the remaining 2/3’s.

OTHER BUSINESS (October 10)

Guza reported that Community Beacon of Hope Inc. has yet to payoff their balance with the Town for use of equipment and the ambulance barn. He said has been communication with Tyler Steinebach of CBOH and they are right on the threshold of more serious consequences.

In his monthly report, Mayor Dale Davis said the chip sealing of the streets was completed and they stayed on budget with project.

Guza said they currently have 11 prosecution cases, which is an uptick from the normal five or six. He said one of cases is going to a jury trial Nov. 1.

In her report, Fellows said she has been busy with budgets.

Public Works Director Kory Klapan said they had the water tank inspected and it was recommended they sandblast and coat the inside of tank. He said that every 10 years that is a common thing to do and if they let it go the bolts will eventually rust out. He said they would get a full report within three weeks.

 

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