Myhre recognized at City Commission meeting

Deb Hill
News-Argus Managing Editor

Kevin Myhre attended his final Commission meeting as Lewistown’s City manager Monday evening, an event which did not go unnoticed. Commissioner Frank Gremaux read a list of Myhre’s accomplishments, and presented him with a plaque thanking him for 25 years of dedicated service.

“Thank you for a fabulous and incredible job serving the City,” Commission Chairman Dave Byerly said. Byerly also acknowledged the toll that being city manager takes on the manager’s family and personal life, recognizing Chris Myhre for her part in Kevin’s accomplishments.

Other commissioners, city staff and citizens also spoke, many saying Kevin will be missed.

“I can say this, being the longest city employee here, this is the best the city has ever been and it is running the smoothest,” said Parks and Recreation Director Jim Daniels.

“This city has a great future and we are prepared for it,” Myhre said.

An open house for Myhre is planned for Thursday, June 30 at 3-5 p.m. at the Council on Aging.


Commission takes action

The commission wrestled with a few items on their agenda, but passed others with ease.

A discussion about paying commissioners who miss meetings due to illness or because they are on other City business reached no decision at Monday’s meeting, and will be brought back at an upcoming meeting. Commissioners differed in their understanding of a resolution passed last July authorizing payment of the $100 stipend under certain circumstances. Further discussion will be necessary to sort out exactly what that resolution was intended to mean.

A proposal that the City pay the back taxes owed by Ron LaFontaine on his portion of the Reid’s building was supported by several community members, and opposed by at least one in the audience.

Myhre told the commissioners that LaFontaine had not paid his property taxes or assessments, including the assessment for new sidewalks, since the second half of 2011. An investment company, Investment Properties Finance Group, LLC, out of Great Falls has paid the back taxes for 2011, 2012 and the first half of 2013, amounting to a total of $5,032.95.

“If we do nothing, IPFG gets the tax deed to the property in July,” City Attorney Monte Boettger told the commissioners. “If the city pays those back taxes, it would be in an interesting position to prevent the property going to someone who is likely to sell it at auction.”

The City, Boettger explained, could redeem the assignment from IPFG, and could even pay more of the taxes owed, because the City has a stake in what happens to the building. Boettger said he had received notice that an anonymous donor was willing to make a donation of $5,853.34 toward buying out IPFG’s position, as well as paying off  the second half of the 2013 taxes.

The commissioners were given copies of a letter dated June 6 from County Attorney Tom Meissner.

“It is my opinion that the City of Lewistown would qualify as an entity to redeem the property,” Meissner wrote. “I believe the City is ‘the holder of an unrecorded or improperly recorded interest,’ or is an interested party, in that they are a ‘lienholder’ or ‘other person [or entity] who has a properly recorded interest in the property.”

Lewistown Downtown Association president Chris Cooler addressed the commission, urging them to take action on the back taxes in order to prevent the building from going into other hands.

“This building is a big part of downtown and has so much potential,” Cooler said. “There are groups working on projects to enhance downtown, and this building could be a key in some of those plans.”

City Commission regular Richard Battrick told the commissioners he felt paying someone’s back taxes set a bad precedent.

“If I couldn’t pay my taxes and got behind, no one would pay them for me,” he said.

Saying she felt the city had a stake in what happens to the building, Commissioner Gayle Doney made a motion to accept the donation and to pay off the delinquent taxes. Commissioner Beth Putnam seconded Doney’s motion, which was approved by unanimous vote.


Other business

•As recommended by Public Works Directory Holly Phelps, the commission approved awarding the curb and gutter project job to Century Companies, for a bid of $100,000.

•The commission also approved an amended agreement between Fergus County and the City of Lewistown regarding the City Attorney’s office, upon recommendation of Boettger.

•The commission voted to sponsor a Community Development Block Grant planning grant request for a $30,000 planning grant for a Preliminary Architectural Report on the building and an in-depth feasibility study on the highest and best uses.




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