County requests draught disaster declaration

At a recent meeting of the county commissioners, the members met with concerned citizens to discuss drought disaster and request a letter of support.

On hand were State Senator Llew Jones SD-14, Troy Shirley, Jeanne LaSort from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), Duane VanDyke from Farm Service Agency (FSA), County Extension Agent Dan Picard and Cheryl Curry from the Pondera County Regional Port Authority.

The individuals were interested to know and wanted to inquire about the possibility of the county declaring a drought disaster so that CRP land can be open to grazing or be hayed, if not both.

A declaration would open the CRP as well as disaster emergency programs including loans and tax breaks through the FSA. It was noted that the western part of the county is extremely dry and combined with other adverse growing conditions such as late frosts, this spring, forage production has been severely impacted,

The county shows a loss of precipitation, currently at 86 percent of the average annual amount . A crop year up date report from the Department of Research Centers, MSU-Bozeman echoes the above. The report says northcentral Montana, which includes Pondera County, is .90 inches below average precipitation and five degrees about average in temperature.

David Wichman, a research/AG Superintendent at MSU says, “The persisting low precipitation and above average mid-early July temperatures are exasperating the drought stress on the plants and land.”

Shirley commented that part of the hay crop has been lost and “we’re looking all over for hay.”  He went on to add, that opening up a declaration “is a shot you got to take.”

Commissioner Cynthia Johnson said, “We need emergency opening of CRP.” Joe Christiaens made a motion to draft a letter requesting an emergency disaster declaration due to drought, to be addressed to the governor and the Montana congressional delegation. Commissioner Sandra Broesder gave it a second and it passed on a 3-0 vote.

Also on hand was Kara Thompson, Clerk of District Court.

She presented a letter of information regarding the lawsuit filed against her by an attorney from Great Falls in regards to a $2 search fee. The matter was a combination of a misunderstanding, no communication, and a dispute over a quoted fee. A Writ of Mandamus  filed against Thompson has been dismissed.

The matter took place in an election year and Thompson pointed out that the matter turned out to be a successful tool to wage a smear campaign against me by my opposition. She went on to add that the subject was broadcasted throughout the county like wild fire. As a result of this year’s election, it seems negative information is better than facts and the truth, qualifications, certifications and experience.  Commissioner Johnson echoed that sentiment.  No commission action is needed or was taken on the filing of the letter.

In other business, a tax abatement was approved for $317.84 on business equipment on a wrong parcel and right-of-way forage removal was approved for Mike Koenig on both sides of Falcon Road from Don Koenig’s to Jerry Phillips’ residence on both sides of the road.

A resolution was passed forgiving a $14,962.50 loan for the Port Authority on money received from Blue Sky Villa.  The commissioners and Clerk and Recorder will  move the loan from the county general fund to a Port Authority fund, to be forgiven.  The transaction will be treated as a transfer under a 2011 loan agreement for small businesses within the county or as operating funds.

The commissioners approved a request for a road closure in Dupuyer for events related to Grizzly Day on Aug. 4, as well as the 6th and 14th. Another forage agreement was approved with Wylie Gustafson on Price Road.

A resolution (R-2) was passed to lend funds having a negative cash balance at the end of the fiscal year was adopted. The general fund, the State Allocated Federal Mineral Royalties fund and the Oil and Gas Severance Accelerated Tax fund have sufficient cash to lend the funds having a negative cash balance on June 30 in order that the funds will not have a deficient cash balance.

A couple of those include the Tobacco Use Prevention grant, Women, Infants and Children grant, Buckle Up Montana grant, a CDBG grant and Homeland Security grant.

Commissioner Broesder made the motion and got a second from Christiaens. It passed on a 3-0 vote.

A report from Jeanne Moon, county treasurer, was received and approved. It shows the investments made as of June 30.

The county commissioners meet every Wednesday at 10 a.m. in their office at the courthouse. The public is always welcome and encouraged to attend and see their government in action.

Editor’s note: Reporter Adam Jerome contributed to this story. Part of the article was late, as the I-O Editor Buck Traxler went into the hospital before it could be completed. Traxler is now home recuperating and anticipates being back at work before next week’s issue will be published. Jerome has been filling some big shoes in the meantime.