BUTTE — After weeks of debate and controversy, Butte-Silver Bow commissioners on Wednesday approved an ordinance that bans drinking in public from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m.
Commissioners voted 7-5 for the ordinance, which would subject those with open containers of alcohol in public in the wee hours of the morning to a fine up to $500.
The ordinance will cover only Butte and adjacent urban areas, not all of Silver Bow County.
The 12-member council appeared evenly divided on the issue for weeks, with six in favor and six against. But Commissioner Sheryl Ralph, who had previously opposed the proposal, voted for it Wednesday night.
She acknowledged that Chief Executive Matt Vincent and some business people who favored the ordinance urged her to change her mind and vote for it.
But she said in recent days, many of her constituents who live on the Flat encouraged her to do the same.
“Although I still don’t agree with the ordinance myself, it is now clear that … in my district there is a clear majority of people who favor the ordinance and I will respect their wishes,” she said.
Joining her in favor of the ban were Commissioners Bill Andersen, Dennis Henderson, John Morgan, Dave Palmer, John Sorich and Bud Walker.
Voting against were Jim Fisher, Dan Foley, Brendan McDonough, Mark Moodry and Cindi Shaw.
Several commissioners said previously they thought the vote would be 6-6, and Vincent had said if that was the case, he would break the tie by voting against the proposal.
But he also said he would then encourage citizens to gather needed signatures to put the issue on the ballot for a public vote next year.