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100th Annual MACo Conference Minutes

Opening General Session - Monday, September 21, 2009

Helena, Montana

Mike McGinley, Beaverhead County, MACo President

The 100th Annual Conference of the Montana Association of Counties opened at 8:30 am. President Mike McGinley introduced the head table:

  • Mike McGinley, Beaverhead County, President
  • Carl Seilstad, Fergus County, 1st Vice President
  • John Ostlund, Yellowstone County, 2nd Vice President
  • Cynthia Johnson, Pondera County, Past President
  • Allan Underdal, Toole County, Fiscal Office
  • Paddy Trusler, Lake County, Parliamentarian

The City of Helena Police department and Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Department presented the colors for the Pledge of Allegiance. The National Anthem was sung by the Beaverhead County High School Teen Tones.

100th Annual MACo Conference

Pastor Marianne Niesen, St. Paul’s Methodist Church, Helena, conducted the Invocation.

City of East Helena Mayor, James E. Smith welcomed the delegates. 1st Vice President Carl Seilstad responded with gratitude.

Roll Call

Allan Underdal, Toole County, Fiscal Officer

After roll call was taken, Allen Underdal announced a quorum was present to conduct business.

Approval of the Minutes - 99th Annual Conference

Mike McGinley, Beaverhead County, moved to approve the 2008 Annual Conference Minutes. The motion was seconded and passed unanimously.

Resolution in Memoriam

Tom Lythgoe, Jefferson County Commissioner

100th Annual MACo ConferenceWhereas, the members of the Montana Association of Counties, with great sorrow and a deep sense of loss, wish to remember and honor those members who have been taken by death since the last Annual Conference of our Association; and

Whereas, each of these county commissioners has rendered innumerable public service to his or her respective county, to the state of Montana, and to the people thereof; and

Whereas, the absence of their persons is keenly felt as a great personal loss to their families, friends, and colleagues.

Now, therefore, be it resolved, by the Montana Association of Counties in conference duly assembled in Helena, Montana, this 21st day of September, 2009, the Association does hereby pay tribute to the memory of Commissioners:

  • Dennis Afrank, Fallon County
  • Duane Compton, Phillips County
  • Mary “Betty” Noonan, Mineral County
  • Fred J. Wheeler, Stillwater County
  • Gail Jones, Powell County

And on behalf of its members and the citizens of the State of Montana, the Montana Association of Counties does hereby express gratitude for their achievements and contributions to the public good of their counties and to Montana.

A motion was made to adopt the Memorial Resolution. The motion was seconded and passed by unanimous consent.

Proposed Resolutions

Mike Murray, Lewis and Clark County

Mike Murray presented the following proposed resolutions:

  • Resolution 2009-01: Grazing on the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge (CMR)

Nominations Committee Report

Mike McGinley, Beaverhead County, President

The Board of Directors, acting as the Nominations Committee, brings forth to you the candidates for the 2010 year as follows: Past President, Mike McGinley; President, Carl Seilstad; 1st Vice President, John Ostlund; 2nd Vice President, Connie Eissinger, Andy Hunthausen, and Vic Miller; Fiscal Officer, Cynthia Johnson.

President McGinley asked for any other nominations and noted nominations would remain open until the Wednesday General Session. Each of the nominees came forward and introduced themselves.

2011 Conference Bids

Mike McGinley, President

Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy gave a description of the upcoming 2010 conference that will be held in Billings, Montana.

Gallatin County submitted their nomination for the 2011 Annual Conference. There are no other bids.

President’s Report

Mike McGinley, President

I want to thank the MACo staff for the work that they put in and the work from the executive committee. It has been a great honor to represent this Association this last year and through the legislative session. It has been a great learning experience and I appreciate the opportunity. I have enjoyed the time and want to again thank the MACo staff and my fellow commissioners for the chance to serve them and for their help while I’m doing Association business. It has been rewarding to see how much MACo is respected at the national level. I have appreciated being President and thank everyone for allowing me to serve.

Fiscal Officer’s Report

Allan Underdal, Toole County Commissioner

100th Annual MACo ConferenceI also want to say thank you to the membership for allowing me to serve as Fiscal Officer. I have done it for 6 or 8 years. I appreciate the chance to serve you and to be on the Executive Board.

As we go on, the Association is in good financial shape. We have remaining unrestricted cash projected of about $235,000 for this next budget year. As all of you know in your Counties, a good strong reserve is a very positive thing, and it is certainly no different with MACo. We have lots of different things to have a reserve for: automobiles, or vacation and sick leave, and other issues having to do with employees. We are in a strong position; our budget this year is $534,385. We are now into the first month of that budget and we have only spent a small segment of that at this point. How the income works for the MACo budget is that 80-85% of the budget comes in early from dues. A lot of our income is already in, and that is looking good. There is only one county that has not turned in their dues, and that is coming in soon. I wanted to report that your Association is in good financial shape.

Acknowledgments: Fiscal Officer & MACo Conference Planning Staff

Mike McGinley, President

I would like to thank you, Allan, for your services as Fiscal Officer for the past few years. We need to back up for the Gallatin County presentation. Mary Kay from the Grand Tree is here to talk about the 2011 conference bid.

I would like to thank a couple of people: MACo Conference Planner, Karen Houston and Sara McGowan, Accounting Tech for their work on putting this conference together.

2011 Conference Bid Presentation: Gallatin County

Mary Kay Myer, Bozeman Grand Tree Inn

On behalf of Gallatin County, I have been asked to invite you to return to Gallatin County and Bozeman for 2011. The Gallatin County Commissioners are going to arrive later today.

We, in Bozeman, really enjoyed this event the last time in 2006. Before that it had been about 10 years since Gallatin County hosted the Annual Conference. The Grand Tree will be the host again. We have made a few changes. We have changed out the rooms with new beds and updated linens. We completely renovated the restaurant and lounge, and it is a great place to get away. We also have a sitting room and coffee bar. Gallatin County and Bozeman are anxious to host and roll out the red carpet. On behalf of Gallatin County I invite you to come to Bozeman in 2011, and we look forward to seeing you.

Announcement: Nominations for MACo Officers

Mike McGinley, MACo President

President McGinley reminded everyone the MACo officer nominations are still open and will be voted on during the Wednesday General Session.

Executive Director’s Report

Harold Blattie, MACo Executive Director

100th Annual MACo ConferenceAs we look back over the year, obviously the Legislative Session consumed my life for about six months. I say six months even though the session is only four months, because by the time we get all the pieces put together, it is a six month project. We are doing our best to keep up with the work of the interim committees. On behalf of both Sheryl and myself, and on behalf of all of you, I would really like to thank the members of the Executive Committee. They were up there faithfully every week. We always had one or two officers around, and that makes a huge difference at the Capital. Sheryl and I, as staff, go up there and get the information, do the research and do some testifying and talking to legislators out in the halls. But hearing from our officers and hearing from you goes a long way. I have often said, if the counties actually understood how well respected and how much influence you have on the legislature, it might be a scary thing. You are very well respected. I encourage you to meet with your legislators during the interim. I’m sure some of you will want to talk to them about reappraisal.

I would like to touch upon the annual member survey that we sent out. I was a little disappointed this year as the total response dropped from a little over 100 to about 70. Of the 70 there were 16 individual commissioners and 5 commissions. We don’t know exactly how many counties that was, but the response rate was a bit lower than it has been in the past couple years. For the most part, when we look through it and compare the responses to the previous years, we find things are pretty much the same. We don’t see any shifts in how you think. I have to tell you, some of them made us scratch our heads a little bit, such as “I don’t get the newsletter.” It’s posted on the website every month. “Midwinter was the worst one we ever had,” and “It was the best one we ever had.” There were some good suggestions such as “Please put the administrative assistant on the contact lists.” This is your opportunity to let us know what you need.

There were comments about the directories, “[It] would be nice to have [them] on the website.” Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten to the point where we can forgo almost $13,000 in revenue in directory sales each year. We sell an incredible amount to State agencies, such as DPPHS who get 140 all at once. That is an important source of revenue, but we will certainly continue to look into that.

I would like to ask that when the notice comes out for the Association survey next year that you will take a few minutes to fill it out. We really do appreciate the comments. Some of them, like I said, leave us scratching our heads. None-the-less, we like to hear that, because it’s good for us to know that not everybody is pleased with the programming that we do. I know that we had also asked for suggestions for workshops and presentations here at the Annual Conference. We ended up with probably three times as many suggestions as what we were able to incorporate. We had to make some judgment decisions. All we can do is hope that we have put a program together that is going to touch upon things that will be of interest to the greatest number of you. One of the comments was along the line of “Sometimes it looks like you guys are flying by the seat of your pants.” Well, yeah, and right now being one of them.

I just got a phone call from the Department of Revenue apologizing for not being able to attend. It had been announced at the board meeting last night that we were going to interrupt our program at 10:30. I was going to have a representative from the Department of Revenue here to talk about reappraisal. Mike, Allan, and I thought we were not going to have time to give our reports. I received a phone call a few minutes ago that they just couldn’t make it today. I will talk to the director about rescheduling later in the week. So, we are flying by the seat of our pants. No questions about it.

I’m going to ask Associate Director, Sheryl Wood, to come up and talk to you a little bit about the inmate medical program. She has devoted an incredible amout of time to it. I think she has finally got all the pieces put together and into place. If there are questions you would like to ask or things you would like to talk about, we can have an open mic session too.

Sheryl Wood, MACo Associate Director

You have all heard me, at district meetings and conferences, talk about Correctional Risk Services and the two inmate medical programs they are offering. One is the medical claims review, where they review the bills to verify that the individual was an inmate at the time of treatment, check coding to make sure the treatment that was provided was proper treatment, and ensure that you are billed correctly and you receive the appropriate statutory discount.

Next is the inmate medical excess insurance. For a rate of per-inmate per-day, they will cover inmate medical costs that exceed $10,000 for any inmate, in any jail, in any year. So, if you have an inmate that is in Gallatin County and has $5,000 worth of medical, and the same individual ends up in the Lewis and Clark jail with $10,000 in medical, and provided both counties have enrolled in the insurance program, the $10,000 deductible will be prorated between the counties.

Let me give you a real life scenario of what happened in one of our counties. A small rural jail has an inmate medical budget of $10,000 per year. There is a local individual, who these people have known for years and who law enforcement have dealt with time and time again (for example, petty theft, DUI’s, partner assault). The guy has been in and out of jail quite a bit. He comes to jail one night, and the jailers are busy with something else, and they have no reason to think this guy has any issues. He is cold and asks for a blanket. They have no reason not to give them to him. Ten minutes late they find him hanging in his jail cell. They call the local ambulance and have him transported to the local hospital. They life flight him to an urban hospital. He was on life support for eight days before he died. They now have an $80,000 inmate medical bill. They have negotiated with the hospital to pay $25,000 a year until it is paid off. With this insurance they would have paid the $10,000 deductible, and their insurance premium would have been approximately $2,000. They would have saved $67,000 with one inmate. We have been working with Gerber Life Insurance Company for about four months on the contract. When you are dealing with someone across the country that is a big company that doesn’t understand Montana law about statutory discounts and exceptions for pre-existing conditions, it takes—and has taken—a lot of time to work through the details. As of Thursday, we got the contract finalized. DJ Kreal, from CRS will be here this afternoon, with a booth out in the lobby with everything you need to enroll and to answer any questions.

We negotiated with Gerber that you will get a discount on the inmate medical cost per-inmate per-day for the first six months. At the end of the six months, they are going to reevaluate the rate. If 28 of our counties, or 50% of counties, participate in the program, the rate will stay the same. If we don’t have that many, the rate is going to go up depending on participation. If 28 members or more enroll in the inmate medical excess program, that rate will stay at the lower rate. This is the first time in the country an Association has ever sponsored a program and the first time they have offered this discount deal. I would encourage all of you to at least look over claims at the review portion. The medical coding pieces are cumbersome, and this program is free. Through our Work Comp program, we met with our staff over some of the medical billing errors and overcharges that they find. Our staff sends the bills to a medical review company and saves sometimes up to 50%, or, in some cases, $100,000. This service doesn’t cost you anything. If you send them a bill, they will make sure the bill is accurate and check the medical coding. If they save you money, they take a percentage of what they save you. If they don’t save you any money, they don’t get paid. It is anywhere from 10-30%, depending on the discount they get you. The inmate medical excess insurance is $0.53 per-inmate, per-day. If you have five inmates, then it is $2.50 a day. That is pretty cheap when you get hit with an $80,000 bill, and you only have a $10,000 budget. I’ll be around to answer any questions you have. There are some forms here and some packets.

Question: Todd Devlin, Prairie County Commissioner

When we contract out with other counties, who is responsible?

Answer: Sheryl Wood

The county that made the arrest is responsible.

Acknowledgement: Former Commissioners

Carl Seilstad, Fergus County, 1st Vice President

I know we did the welcome this morning. I have been looking around the room; how many past commissioners do we have this morning? I would really like to thank you guys for coming. Thank you guys for showing up this morning, we really appreciate it.

Introduction of MACo Legal Staff

Mike McGinley, President

We have asked the Legal Staff to come forward. Chief Counsel of MACo is Mike Sehestedt, next is Greg Bonilla and Maureen Lennon. These are the new faces you will see around the MACo building and the conference.

Mike Sehestedt, Chief Legal Counsel

100th Annual MACo ConferenceThank you President McGinley and commissioners. My employment with MACo was announced almost a year ago exactly at the conference. My name is Mike Sehestedt,and I served as Chief of the Civil Division in Missoula County for 32 years. I’m delighted to have retired and come to MACo. While establishing a legal division, we hired Greg Bonilla. He has a strong background with counties and served Cascade County as a deputy County Attorney and chief of their civil division. Then he went into private practice before we were able to lure him to join us. Maureen Lennon has a long distinguished defense career in private practice. I think a lot of you know her, because the Trust was retaining her as counsel to represent them in individual cases. Some of you have already met them in connection with claims that have risen in your counties. Hopefully the rest of you will only see them at convention. I think you will be very pleased. I am very pleased to have gotten talent at this caliber and talent, with high dedication to county government, as part of the legal staff. I will be around at various meetings to talk with you. One thing I would like to emphasize is that we are not a substitute for your County Attorney. Technically we are employed by the Trusts, but I also serve as general counsel for MACo. Try to work with your County Attorney and don’t become dependant on us. With that, we are always available to help when we can. Thank you very much.

Mike McGinley, President

Don’t forget, we did not lose Jack Holstrom. He is still with us, don’t forget about Jack.

“We All Serve”: Montana Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve

Mike Flaherty, Chair, MT ESGR Committee

Thank you for having us. First thing, do any of you have a family member serving in the military right now? Will you stand up so we can recognize you for your support?

What is the Employer Support Guard Reserve? We are a Department of Defense organization. We provide free education and mediation, when necessary, for guard reserve members. Our goal is to support American employers that share their employees with our nation’s national security. I hope there are a lot of counties out there that actually have a guard reserve working for you. Do you know if you do? Good, thank you for supporting and employing that guard reserve. That is where it all starts, with you the employer. Our vision is to gain and maintain the support for the guard reserve by recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness of the law, and resolving conflicts with mediation. We have volunteers in our state that will make a phone call and will work with the employer and the reserve member to mediate. If you as an employer have any questions, please let us know. You can go to www., or there is an 800 number you can call. It is important that we all understand the laws here.

I would like to introduce Brigadier General John Walsh, the Adjutant General for the State of Montana. He assumed command September 1st, 2008. General Walsh is the Adjutant General and commander for the Montana National Guard and is the Director of Department of Military Affairs. General Walsh was also the Battalion Commander over in Iraq. General Walsh spent a year overseas doing our Nation’s duty.

BG John Walsh, Adjutant General Montana National Guard

100th Annual MACo ConferencePresident McGinley, commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, special guests, first of all, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. It’s truly an honor to speak to the men and women who serve our citizens in the great state of Montana.

The first thing I would like to do is ask that if we have any veterans in the audience, please stand up. All who have served deserve thanks and our deepest thanks for everything they have given, so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today. We read about it in the paper and hear about it from the media. What a freedom it is tobe American and live in the United States of America. We truly owe it to each and every one of you for everything you have done. I also want to thank the families for their sacrifices. As soldiers we often forget to thank our families for everything they do. I can tell you from experience going over seas that my family had a more difficult time than I did. They were back here alone; they were worried. My wife had to deal with two children. She was dealing with all those things, while I was deployed. The families of veterans and service members deserve our gratitude. I also want to thank the employers of our solders. We couldn’t be successful without their commitment and support. We drill one weekend a month; we have our two week annual training period. That is the way it used to be, but it is so much more now. Without the commitment of the employers and the families we would have a difficult time. It truly takes a team effort. The soldiers’ employers and family are very important members of the team.

I look at the back of the room and see the people who are members of the guard and reserve, and I owe them a great deal of thanks as well. Today many of you will go out to our aviation support facility, and you will fly around in our helicopters. Hopefully you will get to fly over Fort Harrison and the limestone hills—our training area. The equipment we have and the facilities we have are truly remarkable. When I talk about it to my staff and soldiers I try to emphasize to them that the things we have today— the things we have done, or the work we have done—are not so much because of us, but because of the men and women that stand at the back of this room, who have put so many hours and hard work and effort and had the strategic vision to think about what the National Guard would be in ten or fifteen years from now when they retire. I ask my staff and the soldiers of Montana National Guard to not just be satisfied with what we have today but to look forward, to have the vision to think about what the young men and women who are going to follow us are going to have. Think about the type of facilities we want out there throughout the state and in your communities. Think about the ranges. That is what I ask of each and every one of them. I thank the men and women in the back of this room for what you have given us to carry on with our mission; thank you very much. The Montana National Guard stands more ready, more reliable, essential, and assessable today than it has at any time in our history.

Today, here in Montana, we have the Army National Guard; we have a National Guard presence in 24 communities throughout the state of Montana. The Army National Guard is located in 21 cities. The Air National Guard is located in two. Under the Department of Military Affairs, there is also Veteran Affairs. They are located in 10 cities, and Disaster and Emergency Services are located in seven. We al0so have a challenge program located in Dillon.

We have a full-time force of 1,100 full-time employees. We have 603 Federal Technicians. There are 312 active duty AGR soldiers. We have 182 state employees and we have 54 contract employees. It takes about one-third of our force to sustain the traditional soldiers. Today over 80% of our force is made up of combat veterans. That gives us an experienced force and a quality force to work with.

To the veterans here today, your service and sacrifices make the difference between living in a free world or living under tyranny. We thank you very much for that. We commend your dedication, your commitment, and your selflessness. We can never forget those veterans and their families that have died defending this nation. We solute their courage and honor their memories. The next time you meet a veteran, I ask that you take the time to thank them.

I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

Michael Flaherty, Chair MT ESGR Committee

The Statement of Support program is about the rights and responsibilities toward the employees who serve the National Guard and reserve. It also recognizes and rewards employers who go above and beyond the requirement of the law. This program helps to disseminate information to improve knowledge of voluntary compliance with uniform services employment and reemployment rights compliance act among reserve component leaders and their employers to sustain a willingness of employers to support employees called to military service.

The statement says: “The employer will fully recognize and honor the forces of uniform, services of employment and reemployment rights act. Their managers and supervisors will have the tools they need to effectively manage those employees who serve in the guard and reserve. The employer will continually recognize and support the county’s service members and their families in peace, crisis, and war.”

Pauline Brunelli, Executive Director, National Committee ESGR

100th Annual MACo ConferenceI want to talk to you today about the importance of the ESGR volunteers. The volunteers make ESGR what it is today by bringing together employers and employees. I am honored to be here for the Statement of Support signing ceremony. This signifies that you support and value the military service of your employees. The reserve component makes up about half of the military strength and is crucial to maintaining the strength and readiness in employer support and hiring of citizen warriors and their family members.

I would like to thank every one of behalf of the Secretary of Defense for their support of citizen warriors and their family members. It is very important that the family members be included in the support offered. Your support is crucial to the nation’s military recruitment, readiness, and retention.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Montana Department of Commerce

Tony Preite, Director

100th Annual MACo ConferenceThis morning we are going to talk about ARRA stimulus program. Several of our programs are not complete yet and there are much more to be added. We have been very busy distributing these funds. The Montana Department of Commerce was tasked by the governor and the legislature to distribute about $135 million in stimulus funds across Montana in several different programs.

We have been extremely busy; my staff has done an outstanding job in getting everything out. We don’t have an official recognition of the following fact, but from talking to other people across the country, we are doing a better job than at least 90% of the other states at getting this money out there. We work very closely with you and those who work for you to get these funds out. Just for the sake of comparison, from July to September of last year the Montana Department of Commerce processed 108 contracts for loans to businesses as grants to local governments. As a result of House Bill 645, from July to September of this year we have processed 870 contracts. Keep in mind that every contract, in some cases, has projects within the contracts. Without-a-doubt, over 13,000 projects will end up being done across the state of Montana. That is the purpose of the stimulus program: try to get the money on the ground and try to give assistance to you, to schools, cities, and other entities to get the economy moving.

As you know, Montana is one of two states that have a surplus in their budget. Now that goes to leadership at the top in coordination with the legislature. That is an outstanding fact. By the end of the month, we will have about 1,000 contracts done.

To give you a quick idea of what we do in commerce, I will read a list of things we do: broadband, mapping, information system, accounting, budgeting, human resources, state tribal economy development, main street program, community development block grants, Big Sky economic development trust fund, wood products industry, work force training, census and economic information, Made in Montana program, trade international relation bureau, board of research and commercialization, partnership with Montana State University-Bozeman, coal board, hard rock mining board, infrastructure program, neighborhood stabilization program, facility finance authority, housing, Section 8 Housing, multi-family housing, housing assistance, board of investments, and Montana tourism promotion. You can see that commerce is not the largest department but the most diverse. We serve just about everybody in every walk of life.

I want to thank those counties that have responded relative to the stimulus program and the contracts that have been negotiated. We still have a number of counties that have not responded to the project.

Dave Cole, Community Development Division

Community development block grants have seen cuts year after year and in the last two years, Congress has provided the highest level of funding we have seen for the community development block grant program since 1995. This legislature, like with the 2007 legislature, with the use of stimulus funds, did something extraordinary: the Treasure State endowment program. They funded every signal application that was submitted for the program. That was a total of 66 applications that were awarded funding in the 2009 session for drinking and waste water systems, solid waste water systems, and a number of bridge projects. The total amount awarded during the 2009 session was $32,623,000. These grants, in addition to local funds, state funding programs, and federal funding programs are going to be supporting a total on investment of $175,000,000 in Montana community infrastructure.

Regarding the Coal Board; it is our longest program in the community development division going back to 1975 with the creation of the Montana severance tax. We have been limping along for a number of years, with limited appropriations to deal with coal impacts. This session, our funding was increased from $2 million to $5.7 million. I spoke with the Montana Association of Hard Rock Mining Counties on Monday, and we were celebrating the success of House Bill 194, which provided statutory appropriation for pass through the metal mines revenue to the county of origin. This has been a headache for the Hard Rock Counties and for the Department of Commerce, because the legislature has not been providing accurate spending authority for us. As Harold said at the meeting, this will take care of the problem for 10 years.

100th Annual MACo ConferenceWe have a new program, the neighborhood stabilization program that was the first of the stimulus programs that came through under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act. Senator Baucus amended that legislation, as it worked its way through congress, and made it a requirement that every state receive a minimum of 1% of the total fund allocated for it. As a result Montana received $19.6 million for that program. Our staff, from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, is going to be at the Commerce display area to talk about how communities can use this program to deal with housing foreclosure and property abandonment. Jennifer Olsen, the program manager, and some of the other staff will be available to talk with you.

Last week we posted the guidelines for the House Bill 645 Historic Preservation Grant Program on the Department of Commerce website. The legislature set aside $3.6 million for historic preservation programs at the local level. Montana was the only state that used stimulus funds for this purpose. We have set the grant ceiling at $250,000. Applications will be due November 16th. If you have an interest in the program you can go to the website or talk with me about it.

The program that most counties are probably interested in is House Bill 645, the local government grant program. We think the program is off to a great start. The phone was ringing before the Governor signed the bill on May 14th. Tony made the decision right at the get go that he didn’t want to see a situation where local governments would have to do interim financing to do their project. He said that as soon as we have a contract signed between the local government and the Department of Commerce, we will advance 90% of the grant amount to you so that you can get that project up and running as quickly as you can. So far, 40 of 56 counties have submitted the basic items we need to do that contract. There are documents needed: 1) a budget and 2) an implementation schedule. As of yesterday 56% of the $10 million that we allocated for Montana counties has been disbursed to them already. As Tony said earlier, 16 counties have not sent in the documents for us to be able to get your contract under way. We really encourage you to do that, even if your project is not ready to go. This is an opportunity for you to put these funds in a county bank account and earn interest on it. Several counties have changed the project that they originally set out in House Bill 645. That is a very easy thing to change, as we can amend the contract, and we can amend the budget. We encourage you to get those funds back to your county, get them into an account, and get those projects under way. Those funds must be extended by September 30, 2010. Any funds that are not spent will revert to the general fund.

100th Annual MACo ConferenceThe governor is strongly encouraging the counties to help us get the word out and let Montana people know that their tax dollars are accomplishing good things for Montana communities. We are placing a lot of emphasis on trying to get the signs up for the local projects. Down in front you will see the larger of the 2 signs that the department of transportation is helping us with. We also have a smaller sign, if it is more appropriate for your project. We also have some counties that are making their own signs. We have adhesive stickers that show both the state and the federal logo. We appreciate everything you are doing to get those projects under way and to create jobs for Montana workers. The Governor is also looking for photos of your projects, before your project, during, and after. Their projects will go on to the Governor’s website for all the recovery act programs and some of them will be forwarded to Washington for the website for the national programs.

Kelly Casillas, Community Technical Assistance Grant Program

I am the Deputy Chief Legal Counsel for the Department and also the attorney for the Community Technical Assistance Program. I have worked with a lot of you on those issues. I am also the administrator for the quality schools grant program.

There are three grant programs that the quality schools staff is working on. Two of them are stimulus funded. The first one, and the one that is probably the most important, is the Quick Start Program. Quick Start, meaning HB 645, was signed on May 14th, and on May 15th our website was live, and we were ready to take applications and did take a couple applications that day. We then awarded $14.95 million in the first 8 weeks after that date, so all the money has been awarded at this point. We are working with the public school districts in Montana to get their invoices in for energy audits and energy efficiency improvements that they are doing as a result of the awards this summer. As you can imagine, most of them wanted to be finished before school started in September. We awarded $2.7 million in energy audits so that schools could do a thorough review of the types of energy improvements that their school, either one or more facilities, could get done. As of today we have processed invoices or paid $1.1 million of that $2.7 million.

100th Annual MACo ConferenceNinety-nine school districts in the state receive energy efficiency improvement grants. They range from boiler, lighting, windows, geothermal heat pump system, and a redo of a HVAC system. We awarded $12.2 million to go to those kinds of projects. As of today we have processed or paid about $4.4 million of that. The audits and the improvements need to be done by September 30th, 2009, as in next week. We are on the phone right now with the schools to make sure they get their invoices in so we can start to pay them and get that project wrapped up. In every sense of the word, that was truly a stimulus bill, and it really worked out that way. The schools are really happy about the improvements they have been able to get done. This is one of the first times they have really engaged in a competitive grant program. Schools have typically gotten money based just on the quality educator formula. This is one of the first times they had to go through the process of doing a budget and submitting an application and showing why they needed to do the work that they needed done. 193 jobs were saved or created with the Quick Start Program as of the end of July.

The second program that we have is the deferred maintenance and energy efficiency payments. These were distributed based on the quality educator payment formula. We have now executed and sent out 441 contracts; each school district gets a contract. We have paid about $3.6 million of the $20 million distribution. We are waiting for those contracts to come back to us. All of that work needs to be completed by September 30th, 2010.

The third portion of the Quality Schools Program is not stimulus funded. It does have a chance to get some stimulus funds through the Quick Start Program. If people didn’t use the funds by next week it will flow over to the Legacy Program. That program is written very similarly to the Treasure State Endowment Program, in that it’s a competitive grant program for schools to do anything from public health and safety to energy efficiency improvements to technology improvements that would help them provide a quality education in accordance with Title 20. We are working on the Administrative Rules and are going to start doing hearings in November, get the rules wrapped up in December, and take the first set of applications for $10 million in projects in January.

Karyl Tobel, Business Resources Division

I’m here to talk to you about our wood products program. This is a labor of love, putting all these programs together. We had to apply to the Federal department of housing for budgeting for the CDBG program and to the economic development administration for some funding to put into this. We ended up with three pots of funds. We have three sets of separate guidelines for each of these pots. We ended up with $1.5 million for CDBG, $4.8 million in the out of state pot, and $5 million in our workers pot.

100th Annual MACo ConferenceEach one that receives funding had to meet minimum program requirements, such as the need to submit detailed financial information, show a commitment of any leveraged funds that they proposed, and provide payroll reports that demonstrated that they could really have the employees on board that they said they had. The expectation for these loan recipients is that they have to be ready to move on their projected scope of activities within six month of receiving their funding. They have to submit monthly reports for at least two years, and that is going to entail hiring and retention reports and payroll reports. They also have to submit quarterly financial reports to tell us how they are doing. They also have to submit annual reports for the lifetime of the loans. They also have to put a sign in front of their business to show they have received American Reinvestment Recovery Act funds.

Today we have made 13 loans to individual businesses. We have assisted 31 individual businesses with these funds. We have over $17 million in leverage and right now we are hoping to create and retain 908 jobs. 908 jobs sounds like a really good number but remember each of those jobs could be a family of four. When you think of it that way—when you lose a job in a small community that impacts the school system, the local grocery store—it really has a huge impact on a small community. We are very pleased to say that we are able to and that we are going to help with this effort.

Some questions were asked by the members and answered by the Department of Commerce staff.

Bruce Brensdal, Housing Division

There is a lot going on as far as the ARRA money is concerned. We have a program called the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. Each year, the federal government allocates to the state of Montana a certain number of tax credits that can be given to projects that are developing rental housing that is affordable and is available to people that have limited incomes. These federal tax credits are allocated to the project and then the project sells the tax credits to investors who use the tax credit on their federal tax return. In essence, the program produces equity to build the rental housing. With all the problems with the financial market over the last year, the price of those credits has gone down, so the amount of resources that can be generated by the credits has gone down. A lot of times in our communities in Montana, where we have smaller projects, we have rural communities that can’t find tax credit investors at all. So we were finding that with our rental projects, we were having large gaps in the construction budgets as well as not being able to find those investors. In House Bill 645, we have received money through two programs called the Tax Credit Assistance Program and the Tax Credit Exchange Program. In August, the Board of Housing allocated those monies, which totaled about $37 million, to eleven communities across Montana. The communities that are receiving the monies are: Dawson County- Glendive, Lewis and Clark County- Helena, Meagher County- White Sulphur Springs, Yellowstone County- Billings, Butte Silver Bow County- Butte, Cascade County- Great Falls, Fergus County- Lewistown, Flathead County- Kalispell, Mineral County- Superior, Jefferson County- Boulder, and Missoula.

Without this funding these projects would not be going right now. First of all, they would not be providing the jobs in the communities, and secondly, they would not be providing the housing that the communities need.

Records and Information Management

Patti Borsberry, Office of the Secretary of State

Ms. Borsberry discussed the importance of records and past and future record management. She talked about the fastest moving target risks today: e-government and e-commerce. Records and information management needs to be updated regularly. Support of these updates is important, because protection of privacy, legislative changes, or times of economic stress require information in advance, for example, stimulus fund tracking.

Ms. Borsberry discussed record destruction when the retention time of records have been met being good business. Outdated records do not need to take up staff’s energy, storage, or legal counsel’s time during discovery.

Next she talked about storage of electronic files. Patti encouraged counties to put together policies and train staff on how these documents should be saved. When you can centralize document storage, you will increase efficacy.

Lastly, Ms. Borsberry talked about Web 2.0, bringing together audio, video, and text in a streaming collaborative platform. She talked about the impacts of Web 2.0: the risks and benefits.

100th Annual MACo Conference

Interoperability Montana

Kevin Bruski, Executive Director, Interoperability Montana

Mr. Bruski discussed the Interoperability Montana Project, which is the next generation of emergency services communication. It is locally driven and is all about public safety and saving lives. It is about better local radio coverage for emergency services and will provide the ability to talk not just across county lines but any artificial line on a map.

After 9/11 a national emergency communication plan and a Montana homeland security plan was written, and in 2004 a statewide Interoperability Counsel was created.

The mission of the statewide plan is to create a system that is high technology for public safety. We want to have both voice and data going out through the system. Our vision is that this would be done by 2014, creating a seamless communications network that links all of your mobile public safety systems, law enforcement, fire, emergency medical, and disaster. It would also link communities and counties, where maybe two different radio systems can’t talk to each other. We want to bring in the sovereign Indian nations, the state agencies, and the federal agencies. We want to be able to talk to other states and Canada.

Mr. Bruski took comments from the members and answered questions.

Montana Weed Control Association/MACo Cooperative Strategy

Dave Schulz, Madison County Commissioner

Dave Birch, State Weed Coordinator

Montana Department of Agriculture

The MWCA is the professional organization that weed coordinators have to network and receive education. They strive to promote professionalism among weed coordinators, and this includes fostering stronger and better relations between commissioners, weed boards, and coordinators. The session provided a brief overview of the MWCA successful relationship between coordinators and commissioners, a review of the recent MACo survey on county weed programs, and recent legislative activities that may impact county weed districts.

Following the presentation and a question and answer period, Commissioner Schulz informed the membership that he believes that noxious weeds are the number one environment concern for Montana. In 1995 Dave became the Madison County weed coordinator, and he became a commissioner in 2001. He has been part of a committee to write Montana’s noxious weed management plan.

County Burn Permit System

Art Pembroke, Director

Information Technology & Services, Lewis & Clark County

Mr. Pembroke provided an interactive demonstration of the national award winning Lewis & Clark County Burn Permit System. The innovative new online service makes burn permits easy for citizens to purchase and activate, while providing fire department personnel with the tools to easily track and manage controlled burns within counties.

Public Safety Officer Standards & Training Council

Wayne Ternes, Executive Director

Mr. Ternes discussed how conflicts can arise and be solved between the Sheriff’s office, county human resource departments, and/or commissioners when it comes to what it means to be a POST-certified officer.

100th Annual MACo Conference

Closing General Session

Roll Call

Allan Underdal, MACo Fiscal Officer

Allan Underdal, MACo Fiscal officer conducted the roll call and announced a quorum was present to conduct business.

Montana Department of Revenue

Dallas Reese, Department of Revenue

Mr. Reese talked about Agricultural land evaluation and appraisal. Agricultural land value is based on productivity and its ability to produce a crop or support livestock. First, it is determined how much income will be generated from that piece of land based on that productivity. Montana statute gives some guidance on the sources of information that are used to determine the commodity prices that are used in the evaluation formula. After determining productivity, and applying that commodity price to it, a gross income per acre is arrived at. For most crop land, a crop share approach is used to get to a net income per-acre. The net income per-acre is then divided by a cap rate to determine the per-acre value. The crop share that is used for most crop land is 25%. The cap rate is established in Montana law at 6.4%. The commodity prices that are being used for this appraisal cycle are spring wheat, and alfalfa hay; and for grazing land, the private grazing fee per-animal per-month is used. If grazing land had not been touched, there would have been a 23% increase regardless. The state also went to a statewide reappraisal system. The Department is using soil survey information to determine the productivity of all land. There are five land uses. It has to be determined what the productivity per-acre basis is for all that land. In order for consistent and equitable application across the state, the NCRS soil survey is being used. The Department is making adjustments to the spring wheat production based on the recommendations by the Ag advisory committee. They recommended that the NCRS soil survey be adjusted based on the countywide average.

Mr. Reese then answered questions from the members.

Election of Officers

100th Annual MACo Conference

Past President

Cynthia Johnson, Pondera County: The nomination committee puts forth the nomination of Mike McGinley for MACo Past President. Are there any other nominations? Nominations have been closed. A motion was made, seconded, and passed by unanimous consent to elect Mike McGinley as MACo Past President.


Mike McGinley, MACo President: The next office is MACo President, and the nomination committee nominates Carl Seilstad. Are there are other nominations? Nominations have been closed. A motion was made, seconded, and passed by unanimous consent to elect Carl Seilstad as MACo President.

1st Vice President

Mike McGinley, MACo President: For the office of 1st Vice President, the nomination committee nominates John Ostlund. Are there any other nominations? Nominations have been closed. A motion was made, seconded, and passed by unanimous consent to elect John Ostlund as MACo 1st Vice President.

2nd Vice President

Mike McGinley, MACo President: For the office of 2nd Vice President, the nomination committee nominates Connie Eissinger, Andy Huntausen, and Vic Miller. Are there any other nominations? Nominations are closed.

Each nominee gave a short speech. Ballots were passed out to all the members. The ballots we counted, and Connie Eissinger was elected 2nd Vice President.

Fiscal Officer

Mike McGinley, MACo President: For the office of Fiscal Officer, the nomination committee nominates Cynthia Johnson. Are there any other nominations? Nominations have been closed. A motion was made, seconded, and passed by unanimous consent to elect Cynthia Johnson as Fiscal Officer for a two year term.

2011 Annual Conference Location

Mike McGinley, MACo President

A motion was made, seconded, and passed by unanimous consent to hold the 2011 MACo Annual Conference in Gallatin County.

Appreciation Resolution

Mike McGinley, MACo President

Whereas, the 2009 Annual Conference of the Montana Association of Counties is the 100th such meeting; and

Whereas, attendance of member counties marks its success; and

Whereas, the fine facilities in Helena make us all feel welcome.

Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the 100th Annual Conference of the Montana Association of Counties express its sincere appreciation for the sponsorship of this conference to the Broadwater County Commissioners, Jefferson County Commissioners, Meagher County Commissioners, Lewis and Clark County commissioners, spouses, and staff, including:

  • Gail and Lorrie Vennes
  • Laura and Brian Obert
  • Elaine and Bob Graveley
  • Ken and Kelly Webber
  • Tom and Marcia Lythgoe
  • David Kirsch
  • Mike and Helen Murray
  • Andy and Pam Hunthausen
  • Derek Brown and Tia Nelson
  • Ben and Mavis Hurwitz
  • Herb and Connie Townsend
  • Bernie and Shirley Lucas

A motion to pass the Resolution of Appreciation was made and seconded. It passed unanimously.

Swearing In of Past President Mike McGinley

Cynthia Johnson, Pondera County, MACo Past President

100th Annual MACo ConferenceBecause MACo President, Mike McGinley, will not be present for the officer installation ceremony tonight, MACo Past President, Cynthia Johnson, will give him the oath of office as MACo Past President for the next year.

“The executive committee plays an important role. They become intimately acquainted with the day-to-day business of our association and the budget and policies. The members are called upon to meet with legislative and administration leaders at the state level and with our board of directors to help guide our association of the behalf of its members. Please raise your right hand and repeat after me:

I, Mike McGinley, solemnly swear that I will well and truly discharge of the office that I am about to enter to the best of my ability.”

Mike McGinley accepted the oath of office.


Carl Seilstad, Fergus County

I make a motion to suspend the rules so all three resolutions can be brought forth. The motion was seconded and passed with one opposition.

Grazing on the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge (CMR):

Lesley Robinson, Phillips County: We are looking for support from MACo that supports livestock grazing on CMR at levels that sustains economically sound livestock operations and maintains ecological health of the resource. At the top it should say ‘continued consistent annual grazing’ instead of ‘sustainable’ to make it consistent with the resolution. That is the one change that I would like to make. Also Garfield County is listed twice.

We would like to also add ‘with adequate data to warrant decrease.’

A motion was made to change the wording of the resolution and passed unanimously. Question having been called for and a motion was made to move this resolution forward. It was seconded and passed unanimously.

Opposition to Legislation Imposing New Taxes or Costs Through Federal Climate Change Revenues Collections

Lesley Robinson, Phillips County: Everyone got this resolution by email as a longer version. This one has been shrunk down to the basics. This urges Congress to conduct an in-depth study and evaluation of the financial and environmental impacts of such legislation and that we oppose any federal legislation including cap and trade if it imposes any new tax, energy cost, or other financial burden on state and local governments, employers, and households. This resolution is timely, and it needs to be acted on now because the legislation is being looked at right now.

Following discussion, a motion was made to move this resolution forward. The motion passed unanimously.

A motion was made to accept the two resolutions. It was seconded and passed by unanimous consent.

Montana Enhanced Registration and Licensing Information Network (MERLIN)

Joe Briggs, Cascade County: The three key elements of the resolution are that we are supportive of the Treasurers efforts to work with the Department of Justice to resolve the implementation problems. The actionable item is that the Montana Association of Counties requests that all counties monitor their additional costs caused by the system errors and submit invoices quarterly to the Montana Department of Justice and that the Montana Association of Counties request that the Montana Department of Justice reimburse counties for additional costs being incurred by counties.

We don’t really expect them to pay us. The goal here is to make a statement and, secondarily, so all counties start to accrue the information necessary for the next legislature to ask the legislature to appropriate funds to reimburse the counties for the overtime and all the additional issues that we have experienced due to the MERLIN failure.

Following discussion, a motion was made to move this resolution forward. The motion was seconded and passed with one opposed.

Congressional Report: U.S. Senator Max Baucus

This letter was read aloud is attached.


There being no further business to come before the membership, the 100th Annual Meeting of the Montana Association of Counties was adjourned.

100th Annual MACo Conference