Glacier County Commissioner Chairwoman Mary Jo Bremner and Commissioner John Overcast discussed the status of the Big Sky Trust Fund’s jobs creation grant to LinkOne Holdings and other state funds currently being withheld from Glacier County at their meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 28 in Browning.
Bremner explained her discussions with the Department of Commerce prior to signing an amendment on Dec. 27 that would allow the release of the $28,748 job expansion grant to LinkOne Holdings.
An agreement with DOA provided an amendment to the contract between Glacier County and LinkOne Holdings, allowed the release of the funds to Glacier County. Under the amendment, the County agrees to pass on the funds to LinkOne within two weeks of the receipt of the funds.
LinkOne Holdings operates AgroLink, LLC, and produces food-grade pulse ingredients out of a state-of-the-art grain elevator and processing facility west of Cut Bank. The facility was previously owned by Pardue Grain and was already equipped with a pulse processing line and full stack cleaning, grading and bagging capabilities.
“I requested in a conversation with Department of Commerce Secretary Johnson that they release the grant from the DOA (Department of Administration), and then we had further discussions,” Bremner said.
The Chairwoman pointed out Glacier County simply “passes through” funding provided by the state to a grantee. None of that money stays with Glacier County, she said, claiming the arrangement is between “the state and grantee.”
The contract, #MT-BSTF-1-21-17, is actually between Glacier County (who is listed as the contractor) and the Montana Department of Commerce. In the contract, which was signed by Bremner on Feb. 17, 2021, Bremner is listed as the “liaison” for Glacier County.
Bremner said the Department of Administration has frozen the county’s funds and has not replied in writing to any of her requests for information.
“We provided all the information to them and addressed the audit items, so now our lawyers are asking the state to release the money…because we fulfilled all they asked,” she said.
The funds referred to by Bremner are being withheld by DOA under MCA 2-7-515 due to Glacier County’s non-compliance with Montana’s Single Audit Act. Under this MCA, “Failure to resolve significant findings or implement corrective measures must result in the withholding of financial assistance in accordance with rules adopted by the department pending resolution or compliance.”
Currently, DOA is only releasing Public Safety Funds to Glacier County. As of July 26, 2021, the State of Montana was withholding $685,708.37 in funds from Glacier County.
Bremner stated the State claims Glacier County owes its PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) account $4 million, but she pointed out the county has been on a repayment schedule that will “zero out” the debt by June 2022.
“The State hasn’t acknowledged that,” she said. “They still say we owe $4 million.”
A Technical Assistance Plan (TAP) submitted to Glacier County by DOA last fall requests a cash report by fund, by the 15th of October (2021), December (2021) and February (2022) for the prior month’s ending balances “demonstrating that the PILT fund deficit is being addressed and re-paid according to the county’s long-term cashflow plan.”
Commissioner Overcast said State officials he’d talked with disagree and said although the county has submitted its monthly cash reports on time, they haven’t been reconciled and so have not been accepted by the State.
Bremner responded she’d received no response from DOA about the reports–good or bad–and so lacks information to move forward. She told Commissioner Overcast if he has conversations with DOA officials that she should be informed about them.
Commissioner Overcast stressed he, like Bremner, wants the county to move forward, and wants the same things for the county but is going about it differently by having conversations with State officials on the County’s financial progress.
Due to a death in his family, Commissioner Michael DesRosier was not in attendance at the meeting.
(Editor’s Note: Glacier Reporter co-Publisher LeAnne Kavanagh also contributed to this story.)