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City commission approves bonds, discusses fire analysis

POLSON — Polson City Commissioners and Mayor Heather Knudson approved $473,000 in water system bonds for the downtown water loop, “the last piece of the funding package,” according to Cindy Dooley, Polson finance officer. The project is replacing and reconnecting water pipes in the area north and east of the North Lake County Public Library.   

In other business, commissioners waived the open container ordinance and street closure for the Cove Deli and Pizza. The business plans to have live music on their deck so Third Avenue East between Main Street and First Street West will be closed Friday, May 29 between 5:30 and 10:30 p.m. 

Commissioners whittled down the twelve applications for Economic Development Council into a seven-member group. One of the council’s first duties will be to discuss the pros and cons of a resort tax for Polson. 

Chosen were Gerry Browning, Louis Cross, Becky Dupuis, Rich Forbis, Rick LaPiana and Carlisa London with a tie for the seventh member. The tie between Paul Briney and Lou Marchello will be broken at the May 18 meeting if both candidates are still interested in the job. 

Mayor Knutson led a discussion regarding the fire department analysis prepared by Chief Curt Belts, the retired Missoula Rural Fire Chief who was hired for the job. She noted that she and Shrives met with Polson Rural Fire Department leadership R. Jack Clapp, chair, and Jack Konitz, vice chair. 

One thing they talked about was regular meetings with the PRFD chair and/or vice chair and Shrives to improve communication between the city and the PRFD. 

The group also discussed the two departments and helping to identify the structure of the fire department as a whole, according to Knutson, including roles for each entity and what standard operating procedures would improve them. 

The suggested direction all four agreed on at the meeting was to support the current structure by moving forward together, improving policies and procedures and fine tuning the department, according to Knutson.

Commenting on the information, City Commissioner John Campbell said, “No matter what you do, the membership as a whole should always be the final word. This whole thing just breaks my heart. Man, I did this (firefighting) for 23 years.”

The fire departments wouldn’t gain anything by separating, Campbell said, adding that it’s an excellent fire department. He complimented Mayor Knutson, Clapp, Konitz and Shrives on their work to keep the departments together and said smaller groups like this can open lines of communication.

“Commissioner Campbell hit the nail squarely on the head. It’s important to keep the volunteer department. From the rural fire department, it’s important we be supportive of the process and the chief,” Clapp said. 

Regarding the city and rural departments, “I think we are all clearly on the same page,” Clapp said. “I don’t see anything that divides us.”

When asked for this opinion by Commissioner Todd Erickson, Polson Fire Chief John Fairchild said the rural and city fire departments coming together was a positive step. He also said the volunteer organization needs to have a common goal and come together.  

Firefighter Drew Hoel told the group he felt Campbell’s comments were perfect and he appreciated the time the city leaders and the PRFD Board took to meet.

“I was encouraged by the meeting. We have a great department with an awful lot of commitment,” Knutson said.

The next city commission meeting will be May 18 at 7 p.m.

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