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Ronan police officer joins force, misdemeanor fee added

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RONAN – Ronan police officers wearing their uniforms filled one side of Ronan City Hall during the regular council meeting on Monday, Feb. 5.

The officers were in attendance to support Joel Diaz who was sworn in as the newest member of the department. “This will completely fill our staff with a Chief of Police and five officers,” Ronan Police Chief Ken Weaver said.   

Diaz’s family, including his wife and two children, were also at the meeting. Diaz’s son was asked to pin a badge on his father’s uniform, and then Chief Weaver read the oath.

Weaver said Diaz graduated from Ronan High School before attending Montana State University. The Ronan department first hired Diaz in 2008, which is also when he attended the Montana Law Enforcement Academy. Diaz was hired under a Traffic Safety Grant, but the grant ended, so in 2010, he went to work for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office until returning to Ronan. 

“We look forward to having Diaz come back to the department he started with,” Weaver said. “He will be a great addition to the department and the citizens of Ronan.”

Weaver mentioned Diaz’s list of qualifications including basic and advanced certificates from the Peace Officer Standards and Training Program. He is a field-training officer, and he has attended several courses including basic crash investigation, a vehicle operator instructor course, basic SWAT, critical incident management courses, drug interdiction, and leadership courses.  

“Diaz will bring a wealth of knowledge to the department,” Weaver said. 

In other police news, the board also passed the second reading of an ordinance to create a Police Technology Fee and Fund to defray costs to assist the department, effective March 7. 

The ordinance states that the City of Ronan recognizes that technology is constantly evolving in the operation of the police department, and the creation of a police technology fee and fund is necessary to defray costs for things like computer systems, police cameras, record management systems, communication devices, and other technology systems for the police department.  

The fee will be assessed on every person convicted of a misdemeanor in Ronan City Court, except those that are voided, declined for prosecution, dismissed without costs or acquitted. The police technology fee was established at $25 for each violation in addition to and not a substitution for other costs, fees, fines or penalties. 

The town’s surface water filtration project was also on the agenda. The board unanimously voted to hire a contractor called Outback Construction from Missoula for about $392,000 to start construction in the spring of 2018. 

Shari Johnson, the town’s engineer, recommended Outback Construction, saying they came in with the lowest bid. She also said bids came in higher than expected, but the project needs to be done or the state could fine the town $10,000 a day for a non-compliant water system.

It will take the contractor a scheduled 60 days to put an additional filtration system on the surface water coming out of the mountains, which is utilized by the town. 

Public Works Director Dan Miller said the town’s water is clean, but federal and state requirements call for additional filtration measures for surface water. The water is currently cleaned with ultraviolet light and chlorination. Planning for the additional filtration project started in 2013 and is projected to cost a total of $1 million.    

Johnson gave Ronan’s current water system an “excellent” rating even before the construction of an additional filtration system. 

In other news, Chris Atkinson, Marilynn Tanner and Raquel Davis were reappointed to the planning board for two-year terms. Concerning the Board of Adjustments, Robert McCrea replaced Doug Lindon, and Robin Nelson and Ray Aylesworth were both reappointed. The next board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 21. The date has been changed due to a holiday. 

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