All members of the Glacier County Commission attended both meetings held last week: Feb. 28 at the Satellite Office in Browning and March 2 at the courthouse in Cut Bank.
The main focus of each was the status of the Glacier Care Center and the county’s efforts to secure a new service provider, with Human Resources Director Mike Kittson providing the updates.
The good news, he said, is that Foundation Healthcare Services is in the process of assuming management of the Care Center. However, he noted a statute that requires the county to advertise its plans publicly for five weeks to give the public time to comment.
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) has provided $50,000 to the former provider, Lantis LLC, for a one-month extension, which ended Feb. 28, leaving the county in limbo between providers.
“We’re reaching out to the state of Montana for another extension,” he said at the Feb. 28 meeting. Lantis, he later said, spent just $29,000 of the $50,000 in February, leaving around $21,000 toward funding the facility in March.
In the March 2 meeting, Kittson announced the parties involved — Lantis and Foundation — had agreed the process would not be done by March 1 and further agreed on another extension.
“This gives both parties time to get everything together, for both parties to negotiate,” he said.
Kittson described phone conversations he’d had with Foundation attorneys “clarifying the legal logistics” as well as the language in the proposed lease. Meanwhile, he said discussions with the Lantis family and attorneys “were gracious — they want the patients taken care of.”
He said the Lantis attorneys were drafting a new lease to accomplish the extension, one that would automatically be renewed every month unless one of the parties terminates the agreement. That feature, Kittson said, will help the parties avoid coming back to the table in case more time is needed.
Commissioners later approved the extension with an automatic renewal. Responding to Commissioner Vernon “Napi” Billedeaux asking how long the process will take, Kittson said, “Our intention is one month.”
With $21,000 left over from February, Kittson said he hopes his request to DPHHS for additional support will be fruitful. He also mentioned Rocky Mountain Foundation as another organization that may step in to support Glacier County.
With the Montana Legislature in session, Kittson and the commissioners urged their constituents to contact their state legislators in support of HB649, introduced by Rep. Mary Caffero. The bill stands in contrast to a similar bill in the Senate, that funds Medicare/Medicaid at 75%, and Carrero’s bill calls for full funding.
They pointed to nursing homes closing in 17 counties in the state and noted the Glacier Care Center also provides services for those needing rehabilitation after surgery.
“Don’t panic,” Kittson said. “All the parties are working together … We still have the Care Center today and tomorrow, thanks to Lantis for the extension, thanks to Foundation, thanks to the staff at the Care Center, thanks to DPHHS and thanks to Terryl Matt.”
The remaining topic at the Feb. 28 and March 2 meetings involved the Glacier County Roads Department and its head, John “Snoop” Evans. At the former meeting, the commissioners approved $10,649 to repair a service vehicle at a shop in Conrad.
“You can’t be without it until you get a new one,” Chairwoman Mary Jo Bremner said. Evans agreed and said that Northern Ford has one coming in that is a different color, which will cost an additional $500. Evans said CFO Chancy Kittson encouraged him to purchase it while it’s available.
“I’m surprised they’re still running with so many miles,” Bremner said.
“The reason they’re still running is that Roads takes care of their vehicles and they do they own repairs,” Mike Kittson said.
Then, at the March 2 meeting, commissioners approved $8,000 for the Roads Department to rent a big snow blower for a month. Evans explained the situation at the northwest corner of the county, near Babb at Duck Lake and the Galbreath Road, among other places.
“There’s six- to 10-foot drifts on the Galbreath Road, and there’s no place to put the snow,” he said. “We’ve been hauling it out with trucks.”
Evans showed commissioners pictures taken a day apart, showing how all the progress they’d made was blown back in the following day.
It turns out heavy snowblowers are in short supply this time of year. Evans said he and Mike Kittson searched all around and finally found that Cat - which supplies much of the county’s heavy equipment now - has two new units they’ll rent for $8,000. They also have a 10-year-old unit that could be purchased for $148,000.
Commissioners approved renting a unit with the option to renew if needed in April. Evans noted having the blower will allow many of his workers to concentrate on other areas of the county while just a few can do the job in Babb.
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