County holds preliminary budget hearing

The county commissioners held a preliminary budget hearing last Tuesday.

There were no members of the public attending.

In an opening statement Commission Chairman Cynthia Johnson stated that the commissioners had been discussing several issues in the preliminary budget including adding a wage of $2,400 to the airport fund for management services.

The sheriff’s department request for digital camera in the deputy’s vehicles will be added to the budget.

There was a discussion about Toole County’s request for $2,000 for the Hi-Line Recovery program.

Commissioners will look at a two percent wage increase for the employees (About 39 cents per hour) and the request of Ron Moon for a wage increase due to the additional workload at the Pondera Center.

Janis Hoppes, Clerk and Recorder, mentioned that Cynthia Grubb is considered a part-time employee (50 percent of salary paid from county funds and 50 percent from grants) but has basically been working as full-time.

Her benefits are paid at a part-time prorate, but if her benefits were paid at full-time, it would bring her more in line with other counties.

The commissioners authorized the increase of full benefits for Grubb.

The taxable value of the county went down this year which will result in more mills. The commissioners said they would use the additional mills to bring the dollars up to the dollars in last year’s revenue budget.

Hoppes will enter the changes into the budget program and the commissioners will review the impact.

The hearing continues from day-to-day until the budget is adopted.

In other business, there was a meeting regarding a narrow band radio conversion and those entities involved.

The radio frequency for the county emergency and public safety services is required to convert to narrowband by Jan. 1, 2013.

The county Road Department has incurred the expense to install one repeater and a second repeater needs to be installed.

The non-county stakeholders have the option of setting up their own repeater and getting their own license or they can stay on the county’s license, but must update the bay station locations using the frequency.

There is a traffic issue with all the entities using the same frequency including Canada. Their calls will sometimes intercept or interrupt the county’s calls. It was noted at the meeting that it is critical to set dates to program the hand-held units and bay equipment to the narrowband functions.

Other areas of concern of those participants are; 1. The county will continue to allow use by the non-county entities using the county’s license and frequency tone; 2. LeAnn Hermance will work with the others to make sure all locations are on the license to avoid federal violations; 3. The NMJRDD (landfill) will relay on cell phones instead of radios; 4. Highline Communications will be the contractor to change the tone on the frequency to prevent others (including Canada) from being able to use our frequency and to program the units; 5. The entities using the frequency (other than the road department) will cost-share the purchase and installation of the second repeater; 6. Future cost for replacement or repeaters will be borne by cost-sharing of the county departments and the non-county entities; 7. Non-county entities will be billed annually for their cost; 8. The tone change and reprogramming of the units will be Oct. 16-17 for law enforcement services and rural fire departments and Oct. 18-19 for the schools and county road and weed departments.

During the regular meeting  other business included approving two encroachment agreements, one by the New Miami Colony on the Conrad-Dupuyer Road for placement of a manure transfer line crossing and the other for Dale Keil on the right-of-way at the Old Shelby Road for placement of an approach with a 15-inch culvert on the west side, south end to a single unit residence.

The commissioners allocated the anticipated revenue for the Secure Rural Schools payment and submitted the paperwork to the State of Montana.

By law, the sum of $86,845 is allocated as a two-thirds payment to the county road department and one-third to schools.

Commissioner Joe Christiaens moved to approve the county funds transfer for a Medicaid match agreement with Department of Public Health and Human Services, Addictive and Mental Disorders Division and to name Lora Helman as the liaison for the county.

The county receives Medicaid funds from the state and then remits these Medicaid funds to the department which then remits the funding directly to the mental health services provider.

Presently, the money received is $6,153 per fiscal year. Commissioner Johnson seconded the motion and it passed on a 2-0 vote.

The  commissioners approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Montana Wool Growers Association. Ranchers are assessed 60-cents per head for the protection of sheep from destructive animals.

A petition to create a water district was received for consideration. It was signed by all the property owners to be included within the district, but the map of the district was not included with the petition, so no action was taken at this time.

The commissioners moved to publish a notice of the county’s intent to adopt irrigation watering on county roads as being prohibited.

Public hearings on the ordinance will be held in Valier and Conrad on Sept. 19.

The second reading of the ordinance will be on Oct. 3.

The commissioners have been approached by United Grain for a tax abatement incentive for a new business on their property and facile constructed off the Pendroy Road.

No action was taken at this time, more information is needed and the commissioners will need to talk to the Montana Department of Revenue.

Rita Christiaens submitted a letter of resignation as a member of the County Park board. Ross Drishinski has agreed to complete her current term.

Her letter was accepted. Her term on the board, now filled by Drishinski ends Dec. 13, 2013.

The commissioners meet every Wednesday at 10 a.m. The public is always welcome to see their government at work.