The Fairfield Town Council on March 9 approved a change to the speed limit around the town park, agreed to an amendment to the animal nuisance ordinance and discussed possible staffing challenges this summer at the Fairfield swimming pool.
Following a formal public hearing that no one attended, the council approved reducing the speed limit to 15 miles per hour on Central Avenue from Fifth Street North to Sixth Street North, on Second Avenue North from Fifth Street North to Sixth Street North and on Fifth Street North from Central Avenue to Second Avenue North. The change goes into effect 30 days after the council’s approval.
Mayor Loren Tacke said the appropriate signs have been ordered and will be in place before the speed limit change.
Issues with the current speed limit (which is 25 mph on the north, south and west side of the park) were brought to the attention of the council by a resident living on one of the streets surrounding the park at several previous meetings. The council determined that children at the pool, playground and tennis court in the park frequently use this area. The street on the east side of the park is already 15 mph. Per state statute, any street within one block of a school must be 15 mph and is posted as such.
The council approved a resolution to amend the ordinance addressing animals creating a nuisance. During the February council meeting, Mayor Tacke said he had received a few complaints of dog feces being left behind and not picked up in the park and around town. Upon reviewing the town’s ordinance, it was determined it did not address this issue specifically and there wasn’t a fine structure. The resolution establishes a fine of $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second offense and $100 for the third and subsequent offenses.
When asked by the council how these complaints will be handled, Tacke said the same as any dog at large complaint. The individual reporting the offense will contact the town office. If warranted, a letter will be sent to the resident informing them of the complaint and outlining the fines that can be enforced. Tacke and several members of the council agreed this has become a concern and needs to be addressed and repeat offenders fined.
A public hearing on the change to the ordinance will be held prior to the April 13 meeting at the Fairfield town office at 6:15 p.m.
The council requested that the public be notified of both the speed limit and the animal ordinance (if approved) through advertising in the local papers and through the town’s Facebook page.
Newly elected Councilwoman Carmen Staigmiller volunteered to serve on the swimming pool committee. Others serving on the committee are community members Dianne Bremer and Trina Wilson.
Tacke stated the town has received two applications for pool manager. As of the meeting, the town has not received any applications for lifeguards. He spoke to a few lifeguards from last year and judging from their comments, the pay scale is the main reason they aren’t applying. “They can find other jobs that pay considerably more,” Tacke said. Currently the town pays lifeguard just a little above minimum wage and offers small raises based on the number of years the employee has worked at the pool. Those working as a lifeguard must be 15 years or older. The town normally hires 10 or more lifeguards who are all part-time employees.
“We have a couple more weeks before the lifeguard application deadline,” Tacke said. He outlined some suggestions from cutting back pool hours or limiting the number in the pool to match the number of lifeguards hired or possibly hiring someone to work the counter who is not a lifeguard. “These are just suggestions to consider,” he said. “Hopefully we will have enough lifeguards apply, but from what I’m hearing Fairfield isn’t the only community that is facing possible shortages of lifeguards.” The number of lifeguards could also dictate how swimming lessons are handled.
Tacke said with an already tight town budget and given the pool does not come close to breaking even, it is hard to raise salaries to match what is being paid by other businesses.
Other highlights from the council meeting:
•The fire department is looking to join a nationwide buying group to purchase self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) gear. All of the packs need to be replaced with the city responsible for the cost of replacing 10 and the county for the remainder. The packs cost approximately $6,000 each. Joining the buying group would save an estimated $2,000 for each unit.
•The town has applied for grant funding to replace worn picnic tables at the park and library with concrete tables and to help with matching funds for the SCBA gear.
•The Fairfield fire department is remodeling the two restrooms in the fire hall into one handicapped accessible restroom.
•Clerk Tammy Comer reported that Montana Disaster and Emergency Services will be facilitating the planning process with the hired contractor and the town received $22,468 in BaRSAA (Bridge and Road Safety and Accountability Act) gas tax funds.