Roll, Olsen Butt Heads Over City Equipment Use

By Beacon Staff

An asphalt zipper owned by the City of Libby is at the center of yet another disagreement between Mayor Doug Roll and Councilman Allen Olsen. Noble Excavation, Inc. borrowed the construction vehicle in June in exchange for services.

Roll said he decided to rent the piece of equipment, which chews up streets and repaves them with the same material, because it was “just a day-to-day operations” decision. But Olsen, who is running against Roll in the upcoming mayoral race, called it a “closed-door deal.”

In May, Noble Excavating, Inc. contacted the city about leasing the zipper for a handful of projects around Lincoln County. According to documents provided to the Beacon by Olsen, the company proposed a month-long lease and in return the company would provide $12,900 worth of in-kind services. The agreement, signed by Chris Nobel on May 10, states the construction company would use the machine for 60 hours and pay $300 for every hour over that allotment.

According to Roll, since the agreement did not include the exchange of money, he felt he did not need to talk to the city council about it.

“Had it been a lease agreement, I would have gone to the council, but there was no money exchanged,” he said.

According to Roll, there is no city code banning the leasing of city equipment. The only city law that mentions the use of city vehicles in its title is in Chapter 2.72. It states: “No city employee, officer or agent shall permit unauthorized personnel to ride or be transported in any city vehicle. The term unauthorized personnel shall be deemed to include any person who is not a city employee, whose specific job requires transportation with city vehicles, an officer or agent, and any person not in custody or detention of the city police.”

In return for using the zipper, Noble built a parking and staging area at the Flower Creek Dam site, worth $9,500. The company also crushed a pile of used asphalt so it can be stockpiled for later use.

Roll said the parking lot and asphalt crushing was a good deal for the city. But Olsen thinks differently.

“If Doug Roll thought it was such a great deal, how come no one knew about it,” he said. “Mayor Roll has no business making back door deals with his favorite contractors.”

Olsen also said that Nobel asked to use the zipper last year, but the streets and sidewalk committee decided against leasing it to the company.

“When they talked about it a year ago, the committee decided that the city was not in the rental business,” Olsen said. “And Doug knew we would turn them down again this year.”

But Roll counters that allegation, saying he knew Nobel was interested in borrowing the equipment in 2012 and that he actually made the decision to not lease it.

“Last year, before the street committee had even heard about the (proposed deal), I decided I didn’t want to lease it,” Roll said. “Allen is blowing it up and saying I went behind everyone’s back and that’s just not true.”

Roll and Olsen have battled back and forth since the councilor was first elected in November 2011. In 2012, Roll refused to formally put Olsen on any committees because he alleged the councilor did not live within city limits. This year, Olsen blasted Roll for fixing a city-owned vehicle at his garage. Olsen announced in June that he was running against Roll for mayor.

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