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Drug-related community issues dominate commission meeting

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POLSON — Vandalism, decreased property value, threats to public health and safety were among the concerns that a Polson City Commission meeting attendee attributed to drug addiction in the city. A Polson resident, who wished to remain anonymous out of concern for his safety, said that he owns property on Second Street East adjacent to a home where drug arrests were made on June 27. He said that he was concerned that the value of his property and of others in the vicinity had decreased because the home is “insanely gross.”

“We’ve lost the liberty to walk out of our house any time of day,” he said.

He added that through independent research, he discovered that the house had been foreclosed on, but that no action had been taken to remove the residents.

City Manager Mark Shrives said that city staff was working to solve the problem but that there had been a delay before the city became aware that the house had been foreclosed on.

The community member also expressed his concern over an increase in graffiti on private and city property. He pointed out that it costs the taxpayer money every time the city repaints part of a city building to remove graffiti and that he thinks the messages being painted could be related to a gang or cult.

The same community member said that the house on Second Street East, and others in the city where drug arrests have been made, are hazards to public health because the conditions in and around them are unsanitary. He said that business owners in the vicinity have expressed worry that people who are high on drugs will harm their employees by driving recklessly through alleys. He also said that he worries that young people who use O’Malley Park, near the property where the arrests were made, could be in danger. 

Commissioner Jan Howlett said that her home is located near a different property where drug arrests have been made, and echoed the anonymous community member’s concerns about safety and property value. Commissioner Ian Donovan said that a drive-by shooting in his neighborhood in the last year made him worry for the safety of his family around their home.

“Everyone is in fear that these drug addicts and drug cartels are going to shoot them,” the anonymous attendee said.

Mayor Paul Briney said that the problem is that those brought in on drug charges are released from the justice system soon after they are arrested.

“They can beat the cops home,” he said.

Police Chief Wade Nash, who the anonymous citizen said had attended the meeting at his request, said that his officers had spent “hundreds of hours investigating meth heads.”

Nash echoed Briney’s complaint about prosecution of accused drug users.

“There’s not accountability in our courts,” he said. 

Commissioner Bob Martin asked Nash why drug users weren’t being prosecuted. Nash said that part of the reason was that the county attorney and district judges see addiction as a disease.

“In my opinion that’s BS,” Nash said. “It’s a self-induced disease.”

Nash recommended that the anonymous citizen speak to the county attorney and the district judges, who prosecute drug offenders.

Martin suggested that the commission and city staff compose a letter to send to the county attorneys office and district judges. Commissioners and city staff agreed that the letter should ask that those who are arrested on drug charges be prosecuted to curb the impacts of drug addiction in the Polson community. 

Commissioners and the anonymous community member also spoke about breaking the cycle of chronic drug addiction in families by supporting children in the community through programs like the Boys and Girls Club.

Upon the anonymous resident’s urging, Shrives agreed to install security cameras to monitor city property that has been regularly vandalized.

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