October 2, 2013 | Volume 100 / Number 40

Analyzing The Issues In St. Marie

This reporter is attempting to analyze and report activity on both sides of the St. Marie issues with diligence and a devil’s advocate approach. Factual data, legal rulings and various opinions are the result. As reported in previous Courier articles, a small group of folks are attempting a Village Board takeover combined with the reversal of a Village Bylaw amendment. The attempted Village Board takeover has yet to be ruled legal. So, the current board and bylaw amendment remain in force. The amendment states that an owner must be in good standing to vote (bills paid current). The reason for this amendment was because only 29 percent of Village members (owners) provide the income to pay for street lights, snow removal, street pot hole repairs and mosquito abatement. These 29 percent folks are the “bedrock bill paying” residents (taxes and water/sewer too) that keep St Marie going! So the alleged new “protective covenant board” and alleged “new Village Board” are “boards of nothing” unless proven legal in court. That’s the rest of the story.

TOWNHALL MEETING – Mike Mitchell, who owns 375 condos, met with the Water/Sewer board as well as many resident folks on Sept. 24. His opening statements were as follows: “I’m not a developer but saw that St. Marie needs serious investment. I see that the local residents are committed and like living in St. Marie. I would like to have a master plan outlined by all boards and the county. I am presently working on straightening out the titles on my 375 condos. What does the Village Association want and don’t want?” Later someone responded, “Don’t want unreasonably heavy dues or special assessments.” Mitchell then said that he needed a plan to connect water to 15-20 units at a time. He said that he would submit a written proposal to the Water Board. Hank Endler stated that the Water/Sewer District is a non-profit municipal entity and can’t cut deals. Jerry Ketchum stated that Montana Rural Water Systems was contacted at the start of the District. Donna Bruschi asked how did 90 people keep St. Marie going? This reporter answered, “By paying their bills!” Many other side issues were discussed with enthusiasm by all. Mike Mitchell’s closing statement was, “Whatever we come up with, it must be agreed by all.”

PHONE CONVERSATION – On Sept. 26 Mitchell called this reporter. Mitchell was asked about his background. He graduated from Montana State University in 1985, was an account manager with NCR, and at age 28 started a lumber business. He owns a lumber treatment plant in Texas. Mitchell also owns farms with 20,000 cherry trees. When asked about the Village Board takeover lawsuit filed in his name, Mitchell said he’s having it dropped. He spoke of many promises made and broken in the past. To that this reporter said, “That’s why many folks, myself included, are cautious of investors coming in trying to take over.” The past history is not easily forgotten. Mitchell said that he doesn’t want to take control and never wanted to. He said that he wants to get together and go forward. He said that he owns 100 percent of St. Marie Development Corporation. He said he supports St .Marie Condo Association (SMCA) and all other associations. He said that he will survey out his condos and SMCA and members own their own condos with their land without any third party. Mitchell stated that others are trying to break up the Village Association; he is not. He wants to develop a consensus, establish trust and create a win-win-win situation with the county, the people of St. Marie and himself. Mitchell said that he looks forward to many more meetings.

OPINION – In time, with positive equitable actions and paying the bills, trust could be established.

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