Drummond nuisance enforcement could result in fines, jail time
DRUMMOND – Those wishing to test the waters of the efforts of the Town of Drummond to clean up the community may be met with some very undesirable consequences.
In a July 5 letter, the Town Council of Drummond notified residents that they would need to clean up areas of their property that were considered to be a public nuisance. The letter specified two main areas: vehicles and property upkeep.
What people facing the charge of a public nuisance may not be aware of are the penalties if found guilty. The MCA 45-8-111(6) states that if convicted a fine not to exceed $500 or a jail term not to exceed six (6) months, or both can be applied to the perpetrator. It also states that each day of the conduct constitutes a separate offense, meaning potential multiple fines or jail time.
In posts on social media, some county residents have remarked that the Granite County Sheriff’s Office cannot enforce city ordinances and can only enforce the Montana Code Annotated (MCA). That statement is only partially accurate, but does not take into account that the Town of Drummond is citing and using the MCA for its implementation and not some new city ordinance.
The MCA has a number of statutes regarding public nuisances, starting with its definition.
MCA 27-30-101: Anything that is injurious to health, indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property, or that unlawfully obstructs the free passage or use, in the customary manner, of any navigable lake, river, bay, stream, canal, or basin or any public park, square, street, or highway is a nuisance.
The Town of Drummond cited two MCA statutes in their July 5 letter to residents: MCA 75-10-501(4a-b) on junk vehicles and MCA 45-8-111(a) on property. Residents were given two weeks from the date of receipt of the letter, or approximately this Friday, July 19. After that, violators will be given a warning by the Sheriff’s Office and have 10 days to rectify the situation. If they fail to do so, the cases will be referred to the Granite County Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
"This is something I've been working on for about a year and a half," said Drummond Mayor Gail Leeper. "We certainly don't want to do that (impose fines or jail time), but what other alternative do we have?
"When people are complaining about somebody else's property they just have to follow the law. That's just what it is."
Leeper made it clear that it is not the intent of the town to fine its residents or put people in jail. Rather, the attempt to clean up the town makes it a better environment for everyone and gives the city potentially more opportunities for things like improvement grants.
She also noted that complaints have been voiced about several properties and businesses around Drummond, stating that in one case the owner remarked that the town "... wouldn't do anything anyway."
In a response on social media to an earlier story on this topic, County Attorney Blaine Bradshaw posted that the county would prefer people needing vehicle removal call Speed Kingrey first at 406-560-4809 as he is the junk vehicle coordinator and has been responsive.