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Belfield hopes to move on from officer firing

BELFIELD — City officials here tried to move forward Monday night after firing a police officer last month.

Belfield City Council members fired former Sgt. Travis Carlson at their June 2 meeting after discovering that he had intercourse with a woman multiple times while on duty. Belfield Police Chief Nicky Barnhard told council members that advertisements have been placed to fill Carlson’s position.

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Ben Novak, who has been with Belfield police since January, has replaced Carlson as the department’s K-9 officer after receiving adequate training.

Though council members Jeff Iverson and Ed Roller were absent, officials decided a number of other matters during a dense, four-hour meeting.

- City officials said they would like to see police more stringently enforce traffic ordinances and weight limits for trucks heading through town.

“Instead of people getting a $20 ticket, you’re gonna get your car towed,” city engineer John Wilczek said.

Mayor Leo Schneider drafted a preliminary truck route through the city, which will be subject to a public hearing when finalized.

City attorney Sandra Kuntz proposed a strict permitting system for trucks in the meantime that would prevent parking congestion and semis wrapped around street corners. Truck drivers would have to register permits through the city’s police department.

- Belfield has an involvement problem, Belfield Area Chamber of Commerce president Terry Johnson said during the meeting.

The Belfield Area Chamber of Commerce will soon end completely, as few businesses have participated in recent meetings since last year, Johnson said. Its effective replacement will come in the form the new visitor’s committee.

“We’re tired that no one wants to participate,” Johnson said.

City leaders are mulling purchasing the chamber’s downtown office building, which has a market value of $72,000. Kuntz said she would first arrange for the building to be inspected before the city makes a decision.

The Belfield Theatre, staffed entirely by volunteers, has not shown a movie since April. Its volunteer corps has dissolved, city auditor Cindy Ewoniuk said.

The city will advertise for a manager to take over theater operations. Theater proposal bids must be received by Aug. 1.

Crews may also be hired by the city to repair the theater’s roof.

- New water infrastructure projects, funded by Energy Impact Fund grants, are moving along well, Wilczek said.

The council voted to buy a polyethylene liner for its $1.7 million wastewater lagoon expansion project southeast of the city. Prior to studying the issue further, workers had initially planned to fill the lagoon with rocks, or riprap, Wilczek said.

The change will save the city approximately $82,000, he said.

“All the lagoons in Montana are done with these liners,” Wilczek said. “It’s a good deduction and we end up with a better product.”

Crews are beginning soil work on the lagoon system expansion, he said.

Contractor Phoenix Fabricators will begin work next month on the city’s $1.5 million, 500,000-gallon water tower north of Highway 10. Contracts for the new tower are being signed, Wilczek said.

- Anyone spending less than 30 days in a Belfield hotel, motel or trailer court will have to pay a 2 percent tax, starting Oct. 1.

Tax funds will be deposited into a visitor’s promotion fund, which will encourage tourism in the city.

The city had repealed the tax in October 2012, after it became unpopular with inn owners, Ewoniuk said. However, council members found it necessary to bring back the tax to bolster Belfield’s economy, Kuntz said.

An advisory committee to administer the tax will be established during a meeting set for Aug. 4, Ewoniuk said.