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Polson police, business owners meets to improve public safety

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POLSON — Interim Polson Police Chief George Simpson held a round table discussion on June 30 to discuss strategies for keeping the community safe with those living and working in downtown Polson. 

“I’ve been in Polson about nine years now, and every summer we have an uptick in disorderly conduct calls and kind of general vagrancy stuff on Main Street there, outside some of the businesses. So, I thought it would be a good idea to get everybody in one room and ask them what their concerns were,” Simpson explained. “There’s different ways that we can address that stuff, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to address it without including them. It’s crucial that we hear from them and make them part of the solution.”

To put together the listening session, Simpson got in touch with Carol Lynn Lapotka of the Chamber of Commerce, who he said made the whole thing happen impressively quickly. “I said that’s what I want to do, the sooner you can line it up the better because we’re kind of getting into the middle of summer here. She called me back that afternoon - it was Monday - and said we could do Friday at 8:30 a.m. and I’ll probably have about 10, maybe 12 people there,” Simpson commented. “We ended up with 30, 35 people, and it ended up being about an hour and a half. It was pretty good and pretty productive, so I’m glad we did it.”

The business leaders of downtown Polson were able to bring up their concerns and discuss strategies for improvement among themselves in partnership with the local police force. One example of the issues discussed was the crowds that could occasionally develop outside of Perfect Shot Tavern. As people aren’t able to smoke inside, they often crowd outside while intoxicated, which can occasionally cause problematic antics, as well as a strong smell of smoke entering other businesses. 

One of the solutions brought forth was to have smokers exit into the alleyway instead of onto Main Street, which led to discussion of alleyway improvement. If the alleyways are cleaned up, new lighting and cameras added, Simpson explained it may make things easier for officers to patrol. 

The Polson Police Department has limited resources with 16 officers. By uncovering the problems downtown, problems faced on a consistent basis, Simpson said they’ll be better able to properly utilize their officers and solve some of those issues. 

“It’s good that we have this conversation, but it won’t be until the second meeting that you actually feel like you’re heard, so we went ahead and scheduled another meeting,” Simpson stated. “(We’ll) see if business owners saw any changes or if we need to readjust or do something different until we come up with something that fits best for our community.”

The next public safety roundtable will be held in Polson City Hall on Aug. 22 at 8 a.m. To learn more, call Polson City Hall at 406-883-8211. 

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