All three members of the Glacier County Commission were on hand for the Nov. 22 meeting held at the Satellite Office in Browning. The sole agenda item was addressing Lantis Enterprises terminating its contract with the Glacier Care Center in Cut Bank.
Chairwoman Mary Jo Bremner noted the center was originally constructed through mill levies approved by the voters in 2002. Through what Bremner called a “handshake deal between Lantis and (former Commissioner) Bill Icenoggle,” Lantis took over management of the facility.
Bremner said Lantis was then “tied” to the mill levy for responsibility, but they renegotiated the contract with Glacier County in 2013. As a result, they are no longer tied to the mill levy.
See Care Center, A5
The levy itself, Bremner said, sunsets in 2025, no longer paying for the facility’s construction. However, Bremner said the note on the building is scheduled to be paid off by then.
Time is short to come up with a solution. Bremner said Lantis has until Dec. 1 to send a plan for relocating the patients and until Jan. 31 to place them. Whatever entity might agree to take the patients would be responsible for moving them, Bremner said.
In the Nov. 21 meeting in Cut Bank, Wendy Soulek of Lantis complained about the state of the roof at the care center. She also indicated Lantis might be willing to extend its contract if that and other support were forthcoming from the county, although she made no promises.
Chairwoman Bremner said CFO Chancy Kittson warned there isn’t room for major changes in the budget, which was recently completed. However, the commissioners agreed that a temporary fix for the roof until next summer would be possible.
Other ideas were considered, including Bremner saying Montana’s Department of Health and Human Services is working with her on placing the patients. Others, she said, are working with their sources to gain more time, and she is communicating with state and federal officials to get ARPA funding put into nursing homes.
In the short term, though, commissioners are fixing the roof and looking to earn a five-star rating for the facility by state and federal entities.
“It is a crisis,” Commissioner John Overcast said, “but I feel confident we can work through this and keep our citizens healthy.”
The next day, Commissioner Michael DesRosier was absent from the meeting at the Glacier County Courthouse in Cut Bank, but Bremner and Overcast formed a quorum for the second reading of a budget amendment for the Department of Emergency Services in fiscal year 2022-23. The commissioners approved the amendment. CFO Chancy Kittson said the increase in the DES budget of $38,054 will be paid for by unanticipated grant revenue plus $2,109 in matching funds from the general fund and rest from funds already in that fund.
The commissioners next expressed confusion over a request for $32,127.77 to support the National Association of Counties Public Lands Research Center. Bremner said she’d attended a meeting of the Montana Association of Counties last summer where the idea was pitched as a way for public lands counties to get ARPA funding, with the research center getting 1% of the county’s portion. Kittson said at the time it would amount to maybe around $7,000, Bremner reported.
Kittson’s understanding was that the money would be refunded to the county if the research center proposal went nowhere. But at present, he said he could see no benefit to the county in signing on at this time. The commissioners voted to table the matter, with Bremner saying she would write a letter asking for more information.
The commissioners moved on to approve the CAT grader lease contracts on the county’s four road graders. Due to the pandemic, CFO Kittson said that CAT was unable to supply new graders on schedule and had allowed the county to keep running its existing graders without charge. The new graders started coming in over the last four or five months, Kittson said.
The county is on a four-year leasing plan with CAT, which keeps all its graders under warranty while in county use. At the end of the cycle, the graders are subject to a balloon payment for the balance. In a worst case scenario, Kittson said the county’s equity in the graders would allow it to at least “break even” on the deal, but under more favorable circumstances the county’s equity might be larger. In today’s economy, Kittson said, CAT reps were unable to predict which way it will go.
Kittson assured the commissioners that the payments are in the budget, and they signed two checks — one for the $100,000 down payment and another for the $120,142 annual payment.
Finally, the commissioners approved the October 2022 cash report delivered by Treasurer Don Wilson.