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Havre may revisit cellphone driving ban

 


The main business of Monday's Havre City Council meeting breezed by uneventfully. In fact, without the 20-minute explanation of a smooth audit of the city's finances from fiscal year 2011, the meeting could have been one of the classic five-minute in-and-out affairs.

It was at the end of the meeting that a months-old controversy, the cellphone ban ordinance, caused some discussion.

After council members passed resolutions on historic preservation budgets and annexation, agreed to or renewed partnerships with the county and Opportunity Link Inc., Ordinance Committee Chair Andrew Brekke announced a committee meeting Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 6:30 p. m.

Brekke said he called the meeting to discuss a weed ordinance requested by the Public Works Department, "and we'll have a talk about cellphones, if we get to it. "

Rick Dow, member of both the council and that committee, was largely influenced to run for council by the passing of the cellphone ordinance last year, which he saw as the government overstepping its bounds.

Fellow council and committee member Allen "Woody" Woodwick was a vocal supporter of the ban, especially after his motorcycle was hit by driver distracted by texting.

On hearing that the cellphone ban would be brought up again at that meeting, Woodwick asked if the council needed to vote to send the discussion back to committee.

Brekke said such a vote was not necessary, but he would be willing to do one.

The vote passed 4 to 3.

Brekke, Dow, Brian Barrows and Gerry Veis voted to pick up the topic again.

Robert Kaftan, Bonnie Parenteau and Woodwick wanted to leave it as it is.

Janet Trethewey was not present for the vote.

The ban was passed last autumn, though the Havre Police Department said it would only issue warnings and educational information until people understood and signs could be erected.

The signs went up in November, at which point the department specified the warning-dispensing grace period would come to an end on Thursday, March 1, at which point the city would look into whether enforcement should be delayed any further.

This announced meeting is scheduled about two weeks before that end, leaving only one council meeting in between, on Feb. 20, to make any changes.

While such rapid change is unlikely, it is obvious there are those who believe it couldn't happen sooner.

So, by a close vote, opponents and defendants of Havre's cellphone ban will be allowed an opportunity to once again discuss the topic in City Hall at 6:30 p. m. Feb. 15.

 

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