While there were only two items on the June 11 agenda of the Glacier County Commissioners at their meeting in Browning, some interesting discussions nevertheless took place.
All three Commissioners were on hand, as well as Melanie Heavy Runner who took notes, Maintenance Director Shannon Pepion, Human Resources Director Mike Kittson, CFO Chancy Kittson and Treasurer Don Wilson.
Commissioner Michael DesRosier began the meeting with the second item, “Browning Community issues,” explaining he had hoped to attract some Tribal representatives to line out what Glacier County will do to support the 4-H Fair and North American Indian Days.
“They usually come in at the last minute so I’ve been telling them to come in early,” DesRosier said. He noted the county crews usually work on the Sleeping Wolf Road leading to the 4-H Barn, the rodeo arena and mowing, “but nobody’s asked,” he said.
Moving on, Commissioner Tom McKay and Shannon Pepion spoke for Lester Johnson’s program, Parenting Montana, and his desire to rent office space from the county. “We have the space where Mental Health used to be,” Pepion said. “We could make money on it; they’re down to just one person and we could tell her to move out.” Pepion added he hasn’t seen the program occupying the office space for “a couple years.”
Commissioner DesRosier said they should determine the “going rate” per square foot in Cut Bank to determine how much rent should be charged. Pepion suggested they look over all programs using office space to determine which ones should be paying rent to the county.
In the end, the Commissioners approved McKay’s motion to allow Pepion to “work out the particulars” in establishing rental fees for Parenting Montana, in the process updating the county’s rental rates.
CFO Chancy Kittson then asked the Commissioners for direction in moving toward auctioning surplus county equipment online. “Should we use an auction service site or do it on the county site?” he asked.
The consensus was that an auction service site would likely attract more viewers while still allowing locals to bid. He also noted leftover medical supplies from the Home Health Program that could be auctioned off.
The Commissioners recommended he “get what you can” for the supplies and donate the rest to the county nursing home.
The Commissioners approved extending CFO Chancy Kittson’s contract to cover the period between May 5 and May 13 when the original contract had expired but before his full-time employment began.
Chancy Kittson was working the entire time, HR Director Mike Kittson explained, but was not compensated. “It’s more of a formality than anything,” he said.
Finally, Treasurer Don Wilson informed the Commissioners about two issues that concern him. The first, he said, is the issue of exempting tribally-owned businesses from property taxes when registering vehicles. He said he needs direction from County Attorney Terryl Matt since the state is now saying that unless the business has an enrollment number - which they don’t - they can’t claim an exemption and the state will not recognize their applications as valid.
Wilson said the Supreme Court has ruled that if the company’s owner has an enrollment number, that is enough.
Wilson complained that Matt had only supplied arguments on both sides of the issue without indicating which one would prevail. If the State is deemed to be correct, Wilson said tribally-owned businesses like Siyeh Development Corp. and Glacier Family Foods could turn the vehicles over to employees with enrollment numbers who would then register and tag them, and then lease them back to the business.
“It’s just transferring titles,” he said.
Wilson said he isn’t currently registering vehicles to tribally-owned businesses until he knows for sure which way to go.
The other issue, Wilson said, is that of exemptions for enrolled members of other Tribes who are living on the Blackfeet Reservation. He said the state is claiming they’re not exempt, based on a finding by former Attorney General Marc Racicot.
Wilson said Matt told him that finding goes against Supreme Court decisions, and McKay said another Supreme Court decision says that any enrolled member of any federally recognized tribe is exempt from state taxation wherever they live.
Wilson said he needs Matt to give an answer, adding he would be meeting with her on June 12.