New mayor, council member ready for duty in Polson

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Polson Mayor Paul Briney reads items off the agenda moments after he was sworn in on Wednesday, Jan. 3. (Ashley Fox/Lake County Leader)

Polson has a new mayor, who began his leadership role Wednesday, Jan. 3.

Paul Briney, who ran unopposed, succeeds Heather Knutson, whose four-year term expired at the end of 2017.

His term expires Dec. 31, 2021.

In the crowd, Knutson’s and Briney’s families came to mark the moment.

“It’s been both a long and a fast four years,” Knutson said as she addressed the commissioners from the podium.

Knutson thanked the commission and community for helping her along the way, who answered questions she had so she could make informed decisions for the city.

Leading up to the new mayor taking the gavel, Knutson swore in Ward 2 City Commissioner Bob Martin, who came to the commission in August 2017, succeeding Jill Southerland.

Martin’s term expires Dec. 31, 2021.

Next, Knutson swore in Ward 3 City Commissioner Grady “Brodie” Moll, who ran unopposed last fall. He’s succeeding Ken Siler.

Moll’s term expires Dec. 31, 2021.

Brinley’s first order of business was handing out plaques to commissioners, as well as Knutson, who also received flowers.

Taking the podium as a citizen, Knutson addressed the city as well as the commissioners.

Briney, 60, is a government and history teacher at Polson High School.

In the last several years, he has served on the economic development council.

The new mayor, who was Knutson’s basketball couch and later teacher, said that a discussion with Knutson and Polson School District Superintendent Rex Weltz inspired him to run for mayor.

“Rex Weltz was the first person to come in my office and say, ‘have I got a job for you,’” Briney shared during the commission meeting.

Following the meeting, he said he wanted to give back to the community, who rallied around him and his family two years ago when his granddaughter was diagnosed with cancer.

Also weighing on his decision to run is what he called the “positive” trajectory the commissioners and mayor have steered the city into over the last four years.

After the new positions were sworn in, City Manager Mark Shrives discussed calls he and commissioners have received regarding snow removal within the city.

Shrives shared that some calls that the city has received regarding snow removal have “amazed” him.

“With the amount of snow we’ve had, we’ve had every piece of city equipment, that is not normally involved in snow removal, has been out; we’ve had the plows, our front-end loaders” along with employees from the water and sewer department, parks and golf department and street department working to remove snow from roadways.

Shrives added that Polson City Fire Chief Clint Cottle has pitched in, driving one of the plow trucks while the city’s building inspector, Dave Simons, has been manning a front-end loader.

Local contractors with dump trucks have been hired by the city to haul snow off the roadways, he said.

“I can only say that there is not much more we could have done with the amount of snow we’ve gotten,” Shrives said, adding that he’s “pretty happy” with the snow removal efforts of the city.

To bring the commissioners up to speed on the wastewater plant currently under construction on 7th Avenue, Kevin Johnson, project manager with the civil engineering firm DOWL, presented a timeline of the $17.6 million project.

Swank Enterprises out of Kalispell is the contractor for the construction.

Currently, construction officials are discussing whether to take a seven-week hiatus, as snow can hinder the project, Johnson said.

Polson City Commission meetings are held at 7 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month at City Hall, 106 1st Street East.

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