STEVENSVILLE – After a heated debate the Stevensville Town Council votes to meet with the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office to see if the county can contract to provide some law enforcement services.
The step comes as some members of the council have expressed concern about the department’s expenses and short manpower.
With a couple of resignations, Police Chief James Marble is the only regular uniformed officer on duty now. That’s prompting members of the Town Council to suggest Mayor Brandon Dewey reach out to the Ravalli County Sheriff to see if its time for Stevensville to contract for some law enforcement services.
"We have to bring it forward sometime because we’re down to one officer and some volunteers now," said councilman Bob Michaels. "And is that a safe town 24/7? I don’t think so."
"I hate to say it but there’s a confidence problem at this point I feel, at the top," said councilman Ray Smith. "We need to change. We need to make some bold changes. And whether that is with the chief presently and the department we have, then so be it. But at least we go and see what our options are."
"To say that there’s a confidence issue because a person’s choice that occurred off duty somehow reflects on me is incredibly offensive," said Stevensville Police Chief James Marble.
The suggestion for the meeting sparked an immediate reaction from the crowd, who jumped to Chief Marble’s defense, criticizing the Mayor and council for not offering him more support. And they said the idea of turning to the county for law enforcement has come up before.
"When you get rid of the chief you lose your personal insight and the way you want the city to run," said former police chief and mayor Lew Barnett.
"Something’s got to change sooner or later," Michaels said. "And I’m not saying the police department has to go. I’m just saying we need to. It doesn’t hurt to look at other options."
"I think that there are some issues, but I’m optimistic that those are overcomeable," said Stevensville Mayor Brandon Dewey. "We’ve had issues before and that’s the business we’re in. We’re in the issue business and we just solve those. So, I’m not beyond addressing those with the chief and we’ve had some conversations."
On a split vote, the council approved having Dewey, Michalson and Chief Marble hold an initial meeting with the Sheriff to explore "options". But it’s also expected the dispute will continue to come up as Stevensville wrestles with a potential budget deficit for next year.