Glacier County courthouse

The Glacier County Courthouse in Cut Bank

All three Glacier County commissioners were on hand for the Oct. 25 meeting at the Satellite Office in Browning, as well as Clerk and Recorder Mandi Bird Kennerly. Chairwoman Mary Jo Bremner began by debunking a rumor she’d heard that the county might lay off some employees.

“We need people,” she exclaimed, noting staffing shortages in Roads and Maintenance. “If anything, we’re looking to hire … I’m just reassuring the employees.”

Having approved the Sept. 2022 cash report, the commissioners asked Human Resources Director Mike Kittson about the Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) lease agreement for its space in the Annex.

“We started looking at it two years ago,” he said, noting the lease agreement with DOC had been routinely renewed year to year. The commissioners and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Chancy Kittson decided to look into leasing rates.

“Our rate was $7 a square foot,” Mike said. The county, he explained, must pay for maintenance, cleaning, utilities and insurance on the space. In comparing, he looked at rates statewide as well as within the region.

“Glacier County ranked dead last in all the comparisons,” he said, adding the rates haven’t changed in 16 years. In determining new rates, Kittson said he looked at the average rates other counties are charging, aiming not to increase the cost so much as to drive leasing entities and services away from Glacier County.

Kittson proposed increasing the DOC lease to $15.50 per square foot on a five year lease, with a two percent increase every year. He said the increase should be applied to all leasing entities going forward. The rates, he said, are competitive while still providing services to the county’s constituents.

In all, the DOC will pay Glacier County $959.71 per month, equaling $11,516 in the first year.

Commissioner Michael DesRosier said the DOC had approached him earlier, saying their rates were too low. “It’s a benefit to the county at no cost to the taxpayers,” he said.

Kittson also said leasing entities would be financially responsible for their own renovations unless their plans coincided with the county’s plans.

The commissioners approved a $15.50 per square foot five-year lease to the Montana Department of Corrections, with a two percent increase each year.

With funding returning to the coffers of Glacier County since its “clean” audit, Mike Kittson said the Treasurer, Clerk and Recorder and CFO are now working to account for all the money that is going to county departments.

Commissioner DesRosier was unable to attend the Oct. 27 meeting at the courthouse in Cut Bank, but John Overcast and Mary Jo Bremner formed a quorum.

At that meeting, the chairwoman noted the commissioners had approved a bid for new boilers at the courthouse in April, but had tabled it before making it official. “It’s the commissioners’ fault it was not done before,” she said.

As a result of the delay, the commissioners approved paying B&L Pumping the formerly-agreed-upon sum of $56,535 plus $4,500 to cover price increases since April. The county also agreed to a 50% down payment to B&L.

And, returning to the topic of bids, the commissioners reviewed two bids for renovation work on the new Satellite Office in Browning. Chairwoman Bremner said the renovations include cement work, renovating the bathrooms for the public, installing some walls and repairing the floor, as well as heating and cooling issues. The two bids came from Zebah Burdeau Pikuni Sheet Metal and from Edward Kennedy and Associates.

Neither of the bids was revealed at the meeting, but the commissioners said they would like more information as to specifically where the costs are incurred in each renovation area. They also said they would consult their own experts before deciding which bid to choose.

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