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Officer reserve program returns

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RONAN – Ronan Police Chief Ken Weaver officially swore in two reserve officers during the last city council meeting on Monday. With their hands raised, Ronan Reserve Police Officers Brandon Smith and Robert Stentz swore to uphold the law.

The reserve officer program was suspended in 2013 after problems arose with officer training credentials, the amount of authority they have, and problems concerning compensation.

Chief Weaver was hired more than a year ago and wanted to bring the program back saying that it wouldn’t help the community to give up on it. He found a reserve training program in Helena separate from the Ronan Police Department to ensure the reserves meet the Montana Public Safety Officer Standards with 88 hours of reserve training. The department is paying for the training. Reserve officers volunteer their time without pay.

Weaver started interviewing eight candidates in March with the help of other officers within the department. The two selected applicants underwent extensive interviews, background checks, medical and psychological exams by medical providers, and they have to be residents of Lake County.

The new reserve officers will be supervised by an on-duty, full-time officer once they finish their training. The reserve officers don’t have to be in the same location as the full-time officer while on duty but they will have close contact. Reserve officers have the authority to make arrests once they finish training.

Reserve Officer Stentz has also volunteered for the St. Ignatius Volunteer Fire Department. He said he volunteered to help the police department because he wanted to be part of the town and its positive change. Reserve Officer Smith once served on a police department in California. He said he is a volunteer type of person.

“This chief is excellent,” he said. “I wouldn’t have considered this until he came along.” Chief Weaver also said that Corey White is being hired as a full-time officer. White previously served as undersheriff in Golden Valley County.

In other news, a water filtration project was approved by the council.

“The Department of Environmental Quality told us a few years back to install a filtration system for the surface water,” Ronan Public Works Director Dan Miller said after the meeting. “We are in the early stages of implementing it.”

Miller added that Ronan “has never had a bad sample” but the new system should make the water even safer. He said the city is under administrative order to install the system, and if they neglect to do so, they face significant fines.

“The water currently goes through UV treatment and it’s chlorinated,” he said. “When this project is finished, the water will also be filtered.”

Engineer Shari Johnson is working to keep the cost of the project to a minimum.

“We should be able to do this project for minimal rate increase,” Miller said adding that the city qualifies for grants and low-interest loans.

The council also approved an amended water and sewer hook-up fee schedule. It currently costs about $3,600 to hook up to the city’s system.

“This will raise it up,” Miller said of the increased fee. He added that the rate hasn’t gone up in years and the increase will help keep up with the increased cost of materials.

Folks need to put a $100 deposit down to rent the park pavilion. The sign-up sheet is available at city hall. The fee was issued to help keep the pavilion clean and to organize use during the busy season. Deposits are returned once it has been proven that the space was left clean, which can be done with a dated photo.

The council discussed a sign posted in the Polson Walmart that says Ronan received a $12,000 donation from the store. Council members said the town didn’t receive that much.

“We got one payment,” said Mayor Kim Aipperspach. He added that the one payment was about half the amount noted on the sign.

Walmart managers aren’t sure what caused the problem, but it will be looked into by the people that manage the grant department. Chief Weaver would like to hear public comment concerning the possibility of closing Main Street during parades. Public comment will be open before the next council meeting on Monday, June 20, at 5:30 p.m.

He said closing the road would allow for better visibility so children can be seen and emergency personal can access the street if needed.

“I want to have the public heavily involved before this goes into effect,” he said.

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