By Ross Markman
Gildford resident Mark Keeley III's grandchildren can sometimes be found playing in the town's park until 10:30 at night, Keeley said.
An ordinance being considered by the Hill County commissioners could change that.
Thursday at 10 a.m., the commissioners will consider adopting an ordinance establishing a countywide curfew for people under 18. If adopted, the curfew would take effect in 30 days.
Keeley is one of a number of county residents who oppose the ordinance.
"We don't have the tires being slashed, the windows being smashed and all the B.S. they have up there in Havre. These kids are pretty decent," Keeley said today.
Keeley, who will not attend Thursday's County Commission meeting, said it's the parents' responsibility to establish their own curfew.
"Granted, kids shouldn't be running around at midnight, but if you bring your kids up right, you don't need that curfew," he said.
Helen Green of Gildford agreed.
"The parents in this town know where their children are and they're usually with them," she said. "You think about these little bitty towns where the kids are up at the park playing at night. They don't have a watch on to know what time it is."
The idea for a Hill County curfew came from state Rep. John Musgrove, D-Havre, who spearheaded last year's House Bill 127, enabling counties to adopt a curfew.
The county ordinance would duplicate Havre's curfew in the unincorporated areas of Hill County. Havre's curfew for kids ages 14 to 18 is 12:30 a.m. on weekends and 10:30 p.m. on weekdays. For children 13 and under, it's 10:30 p.m. on weekends and 9:30 p.m. on weekdays. The times haven't changed since the curfew's inception in 1964.
Some kids go to Fresno Reservoir, others to Beaver Creek Park during late-night hours to bypass Havre's curfew. Some are drinking alcohol or vandalizing property, according to Robin Morris, executive director of the HELP Committee and Hi-Line Boys & Girls Club in Havre.
The 22-year-old HELP Committee, which focuses on long-range drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention, supported the bill. Morris said she's confident the commissioners will adopt the ordinance.
"This is based on safety and on many years of success on the city level," Morris said.
"We haven't heard any negative feedback about it. There was one letter to the editor in the paper," she added. "But all of the issues are addressed in the writing of the ordinance."
The public had a chance to voice its opinion two weeks ago at the ordinance's first reading. Commissioner Kathy Bessette said six community members attended. None were against the ordinance, she said.
But the cause isn't lost for those opposed to a county curfew.
If enough people are against its adoption or show reason why it should be modified, the ordinance can be put on hold, Bessette said.
"Basically, the process would begin again and we would start it over," she said. "It depends on the comments we get tomorrow."