All three Commissioners were on hand for the Sept. 10 meeting at the Satellite Office in Browning. The Commissioners addressed proposed improvements to the Satellite Office.
The building owner, Pat Schildt, was not in attendance, but Glacier County Treasurer Don Wilson laid out his plans for expanding the office space up front where folks enter the lobby and do their business with the Clerk and Recorder and Treasurer’s Office.
Commission Chairman Michael DesRosier noted Schildt had installed a wall and counters when the county moved in, but Wilson said he’d like to move the wall about three feet into the lobby, providing the employees more space for their desks and licensing hardware.
Wilson said Schildt approved the change and offered to do the work himself or let the county do it. Wilson said Maintenance Supervisor Shannon Pepion would be able to do the work change at minimal cost to the county since only the sheetrock would have to be replaced. Otherwise, the existing wall can simply be moved into its new location.
DesRosier said Schildt wants to improve the entryway so it’s American Disability Act (ADA) compliant by installing a concrete ramp with handrails, as well as rain gutters. There was no estimate available of that cost.
DesRosier said Schildt wants to increase the rent to offset some of his expenses, but county officials need to know how much is being discussed.
DesRosier pointed out the Satellite Office “brings services to the largest population in Glacier County” and that it is the Commissioners’ “responsibility and duty” to keep it operational.
“I can’t believe how many people go in for licenses,” Commissioner John Overcast added. “It’s packed.”
DesRosier responded, “It lessens the burden on the courthouse.”
Wilson then went on to discuss his concerns about the Department of Revenue using “abatement” of Centrally Assessed Protested Taxes to get around a recently passed piece of legislation that would require the Montana Department of Revenue (DOR) to pay the difference if a centrally assessed entity protested more than 25% or settled for more than 25% of their property taxes.
Wilson claimed by “abating” the companies’ value, DOR simply redefines the property to fall below 25%. According to Wilson there are four companies in Glacier County that could potentially cost the county a quarter of a million dollars and that “the schools will get hit much harder.”
Wilson said he’d sent spreadsheets to Chief Financial Officer Chancy Kittson and Clerk and Recorder Mandy Bird Kennerly and suggested the issue should be brought up at the Montana Association of Counties conference next week.
Commissioner Tom McKay asked about setting up a “tax appeals board” that would handle centrally assessed protests first, giving Glacier County a voice in the process. Wilson agreed it would be a good move.
Finally, Wilson said he “found we have an account at First Interstate.” The account, he explained, has been used as a depository for the library, which now holds around $30,000 that is unaccounted for. He asked the Commissioners for a letter authorizing him to close out that account.
Human Resources Director Mike Kittson then entered the meeting and he and Acting EMS Director Tauna Evans discussed their efforts at restructuring the Glacier County EMS department.
“We’re operating EMS like it was a 40 or 50 person station with lots of ambulances and supervisors,” Kittson said. “We need to set up a department that’s workable with the number of employees we have.”
Kittson explained so much time has gone by since jobs were defined that some who work only eight hours a week are being paid full-time, and some, whose positions as currently defined, have changed to the extent that the definition no longer applies. Kittson recommended getting a plan and reorganizing “from the top down.”
Kittson refrained from naming specific employees but said the changes will affect some people’s jobs at EMS. “It comes down to what’s our mission, and I think it’s to serve the people of Glacier County.”
In other news, Mike Wikstrom and Dan Carney were on hand to ask about progress on turning a mile and a half of the Heart Butte Cut Across Road over to the county for plowing and maintenance, thereby including the residents of Glacier Acres in the county inventory.
DesRosier assured them he’d “talked to the planners about transfers and fees…everything is in order,” he said, adding the next step would be to issue a public notice soliciting public comment. He also said the County Commissioners have instructed County Roads Supervisor John Evans to begin repair work ahead of winter.
“Everybody wants to see it taken care of,” DesRosier said, adding, “We’ll alert you when the meeting’s coming up.”