By Tim Eberly
When is a vehicle no longer operable, and therefore worthy of impounding? That's what Havre police want to know, and Police Chief Kevin Olson isn't getting answers from the city ordinance on abandoned or junk vehicles.
Havre city ordinance defines a nonoperative vehicle as one that "in all likelihood will not be restored to the use intended and in its present condition can no longer be used for the purpose for which it was intended."
Ambiguous to Olson and his police officers is the phrase "in all likelihood will not be restored." During a Havre City Council ordinance committee meeting last week, Olson requested the wording of the ordinance be altered to eliminate confusion. For instance, Olson said at the meeting, a car that appears in absolute disrepair to one person may be one step away from functioning to his neighbor. Who can judge whether a vehicle has one foot in the grave?
"The verbiage of it is unclear," said Olson, who also said Havre police rarely have problems with abandoned vehicles. "It could be better defined. And that's why we're looking into revising our city ordinance by using some of the language the Great Falls ordinance uses."
One of Great Falls' prosecuting attorneys, Kory Larsen, is in the process of revising that city's ordinance dealing with abandoned automobiles on public property. However, Great Falls' ordinance pertaining to vehicles on private property is sound, Olson said.
In Great Falls, an inoperative vehicle is defined as "any vehicle which does not have lawfully affixed thereto both an unexpired license plate or plates and the condition of which is wrecked, dismantled, inoperative, abandoned or discarded," and, "is not being utilized for its manufactured or intended purpose and has been discarded, abandoned, wrecked, junked, dismantled or partially dismantled, including parts thereof."
"It gives a clearer definition of what constitutes a junk vehicle and a vehicle that is in the process of being restored," Olson said.