Commissioner draws warning for burning without a valid permit
Stillwater County Commissioner Dennis Shupak will receive an official warning letter from the Stillwater County Attorney’s Office for burning without a permit last week.
According to Stillwater County Sheriff’s dispatch records, Shupak called dispatch at 10:46 a.m. on Jan. 2 and said he was going to “burn a pile at his residence” on Rapelje Road.
When the dispatcher asked if he had activated his permit, Shupak responded that “it would not work,” according to dispatch records. The dispatcher told Shupak that she believed he needed to renew his permit as it was a new year.
“He stated he was going to burn anyway,” according to dispatch records.
Under the county’s burn system enacted in 2015, a would-be burner is required to purchase one $5 permit per calendar year. When a permit holder wants to burn, he or she is required to either call an automated line or log onto a dedicated website. If there are no restrictions on that given day, the permit is activated. The activation then goes to dispatch for tracking purposes. That element is important because historically, officials had no way of knowing if smoke reports were due to fires or controlled burns.
The activation system was working on Jan. 2. Shupak was unable to activate because he had not yet purchased a 2017 permit, said Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde.
Shupak did have a permit in 2016.
He declined to comment at this point.
Rohde said Shupak will receive a warning letter from her regarding the issue that will indicate “such infraction cannot continue.”
Rohde also said this procedure will be used with anyone else that burns without a permit or activating a permit and entails the person being warned the first time and cited if further violations occur.
The procedure was developed several months ago following a fire that occurred in which the landowner had not purchased a permit.
Shupak is the chairman of the commissioners. He is also currently under investigation by the Montana Department of Justice Criminal Investigation Division regarding weeds being sprayed on his property by the now-terminated county weed coordinator.