You are hereAnnual Conference / 92nd Annual MACo Conference Minutes

92nd Annual MACo Conference Minutes

General Session - Monday, September 24, 2001

Glendive, Montana

Gary Fjelstad, MACo President, Rosebud County

The 92nd Annual Conference of the Montana Association of Counties convened at 9:00 a.m..  Dawson Post #28 Veterans Honor Guard presented the Colors and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Commissioner Mike Murray, Lewis and Clark County, provided Invocation. 

President Fjelstad introduced the head table: 

  • Fiscal Officer Alan Underdal
  • Urban Representative Mike Murray
  • 1stVP Dean Harmon
  • Parliamentarian John Prinkki
  • 2nd VP Victor Miller
  • Executive Director Gordon Morris


Mike Murray, Lewis and Clark County 

Commissioner Murray read Resolution 2001-01 To Condemn Terrorism and To Support Presidential Efforts,which is attached to these minutes.  A motion to approve the Resolution was seconded and unanimously passed by the delegates. 

President Fjelstad called for one minute of silence in remembrance of all that had occurred September 11, 2001. 


Bill Miller, Mayor, City of Glendive  

“Welcome to Glendive and good morning to you. 

 As luck would have it, you are about to hear another story about the trials and tribulations of the early pioneers in this part of Eastern Montana.  When the influx of Scandinavian pioneers came in and hit upon hard times, Ole and Sven found themselves without work.  But Ole did manage to find himself a job tending a flock of sheep in the wilderness of Prairie County.  He was prone to the excesses of young manhood on the rare occasions that he did come to town and he tended to overdo things a bit.  On one occasion when he made it to town, he felt particularly bad and thought he ought to see a doctor.   So he went to  the doctor who gave him a thorough examination and said, “Ole, I hate to tell you this, but I think you got dysentery.”  Ole said, “Oh, no, Doc.  If I got ‘dis anyplace, I got ‘dis right here in Miles City.”

  In my other job, I am the technology coordinator for Glendive Public Schools.  I have come to know how important it is that everyone receives their electronic mail on their computer.  I’m sure many of you look forward each day to some of the words of wisdom which come across the wires from people you know and some you wish you didn’t know.  I’m sure some of you have missed this, this morning, because you couldn’t open your email and read some of these words of wisdom.  So I brought a couple with me so that you could make it through the day. 

“God, grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked, the good fortune to run into the ones that I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.”

“I started out with nothing and I still have most of it.”

“It is easier to get older than it is to get wiser.”

  Two weeks ago none of us could have guessed what was about to happen the morning of Tuesday, September 11.  I am sure your discussions and decisions will all be effected by the current events.  I pray that God will guide and bless you.  On behalf of the community of Glendive, I extend a heartfelt welcome and wish you all the best.”


Dean Harmon, First Vice President, Roosevelt County

“Thank you for those kind words, Mr. Mayor.  On behalf of all the commissioners and delegates who are here today that we appreciate this.  We are very happy to be in Eastern Montana.  What you might not know is that I am kind of a native.  I lived in Bainville, just up north of Sidney.  We are most appreciative of all of the efforts put forth by the City of Glendive, the beautification and preparation for this meeting, along with the businesses that have made special efforts to accommodate us.   Thank you for having us come to Glendive.”


Allan Underdal, MACo Fiscal Officer, Toole County 

At the call of the roll, 52 counties responded and Underdal announced quorum present to conduct business.

Department of Revenue

Kurt Alme, Director   

“I was a lawyer and accountant before this.   When the Director of Revenue came to the State Bar meetings and to the State CPA meetings, we would hiss at him.  So, I think your applause is a good sign.

  Recently a friend of mine emailed me this, “If the creation of the world had been a government project, it would have taken six years instead of six days.”  I think that underscores the view that some people have about government--that we are not efficient.  Frequently people think the federal government is least effective, then the state, then county local governments are best.  It’s my view that whenever government decisions can, they ought to be handled at the level that’s closest to the people.  It’s important that we work together to make the process work as well as it can.  I am committed to have the Department of Revenue continue to collaborate and work through issues that are important to the taxpayers, whom we all represent.

  Before I go into issues we have collaborated on recently, I want to thank people in this room, Gordon, Gary, Dean, Harold and others, who have been wonderful in the last year as we worked through HB 124 and your certification of values.  The approach that you folks have taken towards working with us positively and constructively sure has helped us meet our obligations.

  Regarding the implementation of HB 124, on September 17 all entitlement share distributions for the first payment went out to counties and all cities and towns.  Over $20 Million was distributed.  The first check was handed to Lewis and Clark County by Lt. Governor Ohs at the Capitol on Monday.  It was good to finally see something tangible come out of all the hard work that people in this room did.  I think that was a good success. 

We all know the growth factor wasn’t put into this first entitlement share package.  In order to calculate the growth factor we need to have district court fees for all the counties.  We are optimistic that we are going to get them here shortly.  So that growth factor, as well as any changes in issues that come up in the next few months, will be taken into account for the next entitlement share payment.  This, again, is an example of some real significant help and cooperation.  With ambiguities in the statutes and when issues arose, we tried to get as much discussion as we could early on; we tried to coordinate through Gordon’s office.   I am sure we are going to find more, but as they come up, we will talk about them and work through them. 

  I know I’m catching you off guard with this next issue, because I haven’t had a chance to talk to people about it.  Last week, DNRC, in reviewing HB 124, determined that the fire assessment, which 31 counties collect on property taxes statements, was not changed.  It was changed in one section dealing with where you remit your check if you’re the taxpayer, but the main statute on how the payment is made was not changed.  We have an ambiguity in the statute about whether we pay the treasurer or pay the Department of Revenue.  When you have an ambiguity, you go to the legislative intent, which was to pay directly to the Department of Revenue.  But that intent was contingent upon certain efficiencies such as the hail premium, the per-capita livestock fee and the fire assessment all going out on the same bill.  That is not possible because we can’t cross-reference DNRC’s data base by an identifier like a social security number.  Before we made this decision, we talked with the sponsor, Bob Story in Park City, and spoke with DNRC.  We tried to contact all 31 county treasurers who are impacted by fire assessments and timberland.  One county was going to have a problem so we talked to that county and worked it out.  I’m sorry we didn’t have time to talk about this as we normally would for HB 124 issues, but we quickly made the decision to continue to have the fire assessments billed and collected as they have been and address it legislatively in two years.  I apologize because our goal in administering HB 124 has been to stay in close contact with Gordon, with the officers at MACo and the county offices which are affected.

If you have any other questions about HB 124, I encourage you to catch Larry Finch, who is one of those people in the Department who is putting in countless hours in our tax policy area trying to get HB 124 properly implemented.  I thank Larry, Judy, Brad and everybody on the staff who have been working late nights to be sure that entitlement share payments went out timely.  John Grimm is here from the Department from the property tax division, so if you have any particular questions about newly taxable or about reappraisals, please catch him. 

  I want to touch on the certification of taxable values.  Our goal, as always, is to certify by the second Monday in July.  This year we allocated overtime to this and everybody was pretty excited because we hadn’t been able to do that several years.  Then to our dismay, we found there were local issues that caused us to re-certify.  Harold Blattie called us to let us know that the way we were handling deletions wasn’t in compliance with statute.  Our property tax division had thought a legislative change had gone through so certified values had been done without deletions.  We got it corrected but it delayed us several days.  Certified taxable values will never be completely accurate as long as we have timeframes for centrally assessed businesses appeals, which extend past the time that we have for certification of values.  By the time we get appeals resolved, even if they are resolved quickly, it triggers re-certification.  We’ve been talking with the leadership of MACo and county treasurers’ offices about those time frames to have some of the centrally assessed business appeals worked out earlier.

  In our old computer system we made adjustments so that it was Y2K complaint and a bug was introduced that we weren’t able to pick up.  As we started entering re-appraisal data, it started moving re-appraisal data into the current year data.  We discovered the errors after certification occurred in July.  That’s why the re-certification occurred in August. 

We are not proud of these because we know how disruptive it is to you all not to get those values timely.  To make that go as smoothly as we can in the future, in November we will go through the whole process to iron it out so that next year we can hit that timeline accurately.

I want to talk quickly about economic development from the tax policy point of view.  Besides working as the Director of the Department of Revenue, I came on as a tax policy advisor to the governor at the beginning of this year.  I graduated from Miles City and I resent the fact that my family and friends had to leave the state to find good paying jobs.  So if there’s any one burning issue to me, it’s that we get that problem corrected.  When the governor made that the centerpiece of her campaign and administration, I volunteered.  That’s how I ended up here.  We are trying to focus on creating and retaining good paying jobs in Montana.  That’s how we define economic development.  We will look at all aspects of doing business in Montana, including major taxes that impact a decision to locate a business here or to keep the business.  We will also see if the total tax burden, industry by industry, is competitive.  If we discover that our tax rates are out of line, that will be a focus of tax reform.  We know income tax is out of line.  The high end income tax can be the third highest rate in the country.  Those rates are the rates that are paid by the people who make the decisions on where to locate businesses.  We are also aware that our capital gains rate, because of the interplay with federal deductibility, has a surtax that is one of the highest in the country.  We actually pay higher taxes on capital gains in Montana than we do in ordinary income.  Third, we have a perception problem.  The 11% highest margin rate is the highest stated rate in the country.  Although because of federal deductibility, nobody pays it, it’s always a tough explanation to make and we can’t do it in a sound bite

I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you all.  I appreciate the cooperation that you have shown in trying to work with the Department to get HB 124 implemented and working with us on certified values.  I thank you for calling us and working with us constructively.  We are going to make mistakes and we are going to have problems, but we are open to correcting them and we are open to working with everybody to make the whole thing go as smoothly as we can. “


Jim Deckert “In  our  discussions  in  various  areas  around  the  state  on  the  application  of

Dawson County  HB 124, there hasn’t been total agreement on who gets what money or what gets handled.  In the case of the Department of Health and Human Services, we’ve all heard numerous times that, “It will be this way and we’ll just take it out of your entitlement share.”  My question to you is, “What process is there in place, or is there one, for any bureaucracy in Helena to simply dip into our entitlement share and hold that money out on us when we don’t agree with them?”

  “I am not speaking for the Department of Health and Human Services.  Obviously that shouldn’t be happening.  The goal of how we try to administer HB124 from the beginning has been to do it through consensus and collaboration.  To the extent that is not occurring, I would like to know and I’m sure Gail Gray in the Department of Health and Human Services would like to know.  If there are going to be issues that we can’t resolve, it’s going to come down to, like everything else in this society, legal interpretation, lawyers, and eventually the courts.  But we want to avoid that.  Our goal is to follow legislative intent as closely as we can and to work together with all the counties and cities involved to find an arrangement of practical implementation that makes sense to everybody.  If an agency is being heavy handed in implementing the bill, I want to know about it.  I’m sure the governor does, too.  If there are some specifics I would appreciate the chance to talk about it.”

Ted Coffman   “This is  probably  the third  time I’ve seen  Kurt since the first  of the year

Madison County and that’s probably more times than I have seen his predecessor in six years.  I do appreciate, from Madison County, the effort that the Department of Revenue is making.”


Dave Gibson, Chief Business Officer

  “I appreciate the opportunity to meet and talk to you folks.   It’s a basic philosophy that it’s  easier to say,  “To the heck with him”  than  “To heck with you”,  so I figure the more people I know out there, the more people I get to see my face, then the farther we’ll get. 

  I confess to you that I’m a whole lot more inspiring after I’ve actually done something.  So after a month on the job what I can’t do is talk about all the things that we’ve done and the great accomplishments that were made.  What I want to do is to give you an update on two things.  The first one is where we are right now with getting the office up and running.  The second part will be to share with you some of my general tenets on the foundation of the work we are doing.

  My office has been here a little over a month.  We are here to provide policy advice and direction and set a plan for economic development in this state.  I will have four professional people working with me.  One will handle energy policy and give direction on how we can partner with generators, utility companies and transmission companies in a cooperative way.   Companies like PP&L and Montana Power are excellent partners for moving economic development forward.  I’ve hired a person from Sims, Montana, who has a great deal of experience working with electric cooperatives.  I have another person for Montana’s transition in workforce development.  She has done the transition in Arizona the last year and half and has had great working relationships with tribal organizations, local government, labor unions, and others in a state that’s not that dissimilar from Montana.  The third position is an information technology person who really understands businesses that have a high technology component.  He is from Anderson Consulting, which is one of premier consulting organizations in this country that specialize in technology applications.  A fourth position will be a recruiting business development person.  We should have that filled by the end of the month.  Including an administrative person there will be six of us by the first week in October.

We will be in phase one for the next six months--to get information and meet as many people as we can--like you, economic development professionals, local, city and state government elected officials, unions, businesses, and reservations.  We are gathering information to pinpoint what economic development means to people, because what is going to work in Glendive is probably not going to work in Missoula or Great Falls.  We will do this by region.  We understand what works in the agricultural areas in the state would not probably work in an area like Missoula or Bozeman centered around universities.  We need to understand those differences and what’s really important to people, because in phase two, which will start in November, we begin developing a strategic plan that will guide this state and the governor in economic development.  We need appropriate input and information from people. 

Kurt and I will be working hand in hand, just like I’ll be working with other key agencies to figure out how we can integrate those critical aspects of government--policy making, regulation, tax--into a plan for Montana to be competitive in economic development.  In November we’ll start writing and hope to have a draft done in the first week in December.  We will be back out to the people after the holiday season in January to share that plan and how we can approach economic development.  All of that will come together at the end of February. 

  A plan sounds well and good; plans are great; we’ve all seen about a billion of them in our lives; some of them work and a lot of them don’t.   I want to share with you the principles for what’s important in this plan.  The first one is to lay the groundwork for continued long-term economic growth.  For infrastructure improvement and long-term growth, a plan goes beyond us.  It survives Dave Gibson; it survives Kurt Alme; it survives Governor Martz.  If you look at economic development in states that really made it happen, the plans survived multiple administrations.  Economic development changes a little bit, of course, as every governor or county commissioner adds their own flavor to it, but the basic plan continues.  That is the over arching link that I want to leave in this office--to get moving in the right direction so that it won’t stop when I leave or the governor leaves or any of you. 

  Number two principal is a three-legged stool.  One leg is that it is always cheaper to keep and retain customers that you already have, than it is to go out and find new ones.  The first and biggest effort has to be retaining and growing businesses that we have already.  It’s most economical, makes the most sense and is probably the fairest.  But we need a second leg of that stool, which is to bring businesses into this state.   We will do some business recruiting just in the natural course; and with attrition, businesses will leave, go out of business, people retire.  We have to be competitive; we have to be able to attract the kinds of businesses that we want.  The third leg of the stool, which is very similar to infrastructure, is that we have to provide an environment that allows businesses in this state to flourish.  That doesn’t mean that we are propping up businesses that shouldn’t survive anyway; but it means that we do a really good job of providing an environment where businesses can thrive and grow.  Those are the businesses that twenty years from now are going to be employing my children. 

  We need to understand our place in the chain as state government.  We are not county or local government; we are not the federal government.  We have a certain set of tools and we need to figure out where we can apply the greatest leverage.  We have tremendous affect on tax, regulatory or permitting issues, etc.  Although I don’t have it all fleshed out yet, we are going stay out of what is not our business.  The last and most important principle that I hope you carry away is that we understand that economic development is local.  It is local infrastructure; it is local politics; it is local workers; it is local land.  These have to be conducive to growing and attracting and retaining businesses and to entrepreneurial start up.  There is not a single person that ever comes to Montana to start a business; no body grows a business in Montana.  They grow it in Glendive or Miles City or Havre or Great Falls.  There is a place on the ground where they put the building and hire the people and send their children to school.  Our soul purpose is to figure out how we can make the local communities and local economic development groups and political structures as strong as they can be so that we can grow businesses at the local level.  The one thing that the governor has asked me to do as I go around the next months is to find out who wants help.  We are not going to help anybody that tells us to stay out.  We want to figure out what you need, where we can help and then we’ll stay out of the things where you don’t want us.  I encourage you, if you have questions or comments or things that are important to you, please share those with us.  That’s the sole purpose for our being here today--to get some input from you about where we can be the most effective in our coming roles.”


Elaine Allestad“When  you  go  around  to  the  different  communities  to find  out about

Sweet Grass Countyeconomic development, are you going to use the existing groups, like RC&Ds and the local economic development groups?”

   “Absolutely.  Because I’ve only been at this 2 ½ weeks, I have quite a bit to do.  We have to use the programs that exist.  The core of what we are doing is to work with existing economic development groups like RC&Ds, the professional groups in the larger cities, BearPaw, etc.  What we are really trying to figure out is who is strong in what.  It really is amazing how much disparity there is in the areas of emphasis and in the skills that exist in local groups.  My goal is to share learning around the state, and also from outside the state, from communities that have done a really good job over the years, to figure out how we make those existing agencies, groups, and people a lot stronger and more capable.”

Don Steppler   You  talked  about  economic  development  going  on  in regions.    Will 

Richland Countythere be a push to regionalize this or are our economic development groups that we already have in place going to be able to stand on their own merits?”

   “I’ll give you a two-part answer.  One is that clearly a number of the organizations in this state are doing wonderful jobs and don’t want any specific help.  Those stand alone and we won’t do anything for them.

   In terms of consolidations and combinations, it is not our intent, our goal, or our philosophy that we will ever force combinations or regionalize beyond the will of the counties and cities and people within those regions.  I will tell you, however, that in many of the rural areas of this state, my personal belief (not that my belief would have anything to do with the outcome) is that places that don’t consolidate or combine forces are probably not going to survive.  They don’t have the scale to be able to get full-time people and the resource allocation to do things like grant writing or making competitive bids for businesses that may want to come into an area.  A critical aspect of what we do is to facilitate communities that want to combine.  I give you the best example that I know of today--the BearPaw.  They have a five county area and two Indian reservations. They do a very good job of spreading throughout the area in the small towns and the tribal organizations.  It is a grant-writing machine.  That’s a good example of the value for the state to spend time and energy to facilitate communities--to help, but never force.”

Elaine MannDo you include agriculture when talking about natural resources?”

Broadwater County

   “Agriculture, mineral extraction and forest products industries in this state are huge and always will be.  We want to do everything we can to facilitate those sectors of our economy.  Those are mature businesses.  We will spend tremendous effort finding out how we can make the communities, that are based on those industries, strong.  We also realize that some of those industries are not growth industries.  We need to diversify economies in communities that are dependent on mature industries, so that in the coming 25 or 30 years, we can provide jobs.  In agriculture a great example is value-added agriculture, putting in converting facilities that use raw materials to provide alternatives for jobs and provide additional value.  We also have to realize that we will not have an increase in population working in farming.  Even if farming grows, it won’t provide more jobs because of increased efficiency and mechanization.   We need to find ways to keep those farms going and to find work for people.  My goal is  diversification in areas that are growing and to continue to do what we can for mature industries that are right now in those communities.”

   “Shouldn’t we be marketing on market value, rather than just diversity?   By market value I mean, when no one stands up for the cost factor and the price just goes lower and lower.”

   “I have some ideas for creative ways we can help that, which I won’t get into now.  In the big scheme of things this is commodity pricing and there’s not that much we can do about it at the state level.  Federal policy clearly influences that more than the state policy.  I’m not sure what the state could do to facilitate a raise in, for example, wheat prices.  I think ultimately we have to look at things like value-added ways to convert that and ways to diversify the rural economy, because I don’t think we will see rebounding in pricing of basic agriculture prices to recover to level we were at years ago.  I will listen to any idea and if there is anything we can do, we will do it.”

Mike McCourt  “Could  you  tell us a  little bit  about how  you plan  to bring  some of  the

Local Government   larger industrial companies back, considering problems like energy?  I’m thinking

Energy Office examples up in the Flathead, the aluminum plant, and the people in Butte?”

   “One of the biggest things we can do is to look at energy pricing.  We can’t really affect the price of aluminum or copper.  We can and will figure out ways to provide reliable and low or moderately priced energy.  It is not realistic to bring back the extractive industry in Butte or to think that extractive industry is going to be a growth industry.  Evan Barrett, in Butte, recognized that and is bringing in companies that are diversifying that economy.  I think that’s the right answer.  What we can do is help with tax policy, with regulatory policy, with the full support to bring in diversified businesses.  That is the most fruitful endeavor and best use of our time, energy and money.  Diversification is important, and that’s the general direction we are headed.”

Jim Reno “In our county  we spend approximately a quarter million dollars a year in

Yellowstone County economic development of taxpayers’ money.  Basically we are asking  questions of our Big Sky Economic Development Authority.  We are wanting to know if that is a good investment or not.  My first question is:  Is that arrangement set up through the Governor for your office?  Will there be a time when a measurement is asked, “Is this a good investment or isn’t it?”    My second question is:  We have heard your office described as the economic czar.  Do you have authority in permitting, for example, to have a truly one-stop shop to expedite permitting of industry that may want to re-locate?”

   “On measurement, I absolutely agree.  Economic development and  infrastructure are long-term goals.  Sometimes it’s nebulous to figure out what you are getting.  One of the things we will do in our plan is set out measurable goals and objectives to prove that economic development at the state level is a self-sustaining endeavor.  They will be out there for public comment and review.  There are no hidden agendas. 

   I hate that term “czar” because it is not how we work.  The governor’s #1 priority is to make economic development work. Permitting and one-stop shopping is a part.  Do I personally have this authority or power to force that to happen?  No.  The governor put people in those departments who support getting this State’s system simpler and easier to use in terms of all activities--permitting, taxing, granting.  We’ve legislated that we will have one-stop shopping or central authority for granting, bonding and public moneys to support economic development, so I will work very hard so that this State is easy to use.  Yes, it will happen.  It’s a top priority.  No, I do not have the power to force it to happen.  It is never going to be perfect but we are going to make as much progress as we can to get the State easier to work with.”  


  Senator Max Baucus appeared by way of video. 

  Representative Dennis Rehberg was unable to attend.  Randy Vogel of his staff spoke on his behalf. 



    Susan Fox, Research Analyst, Legislative Services Division

“I have a background in legislative redistricting, but I’m going to talk to you about requirements for your county commission district boundaries.  I was asked to cover the statutory requirements, but there are some bigger requirements that you also have to keep in mind, so I would like to start there. 

   We have constitutional protections for the concept of ‘one person, one vote’.  That is the most important rule to follow in redistricting.  It is found in various amendments to the Constitution and legal protection clause.  US Supreme Court Justice White stated in 1968, “We, therefore, see little difference in terms of the application of equal protection clause and of the principles of Reynolds-Sims between the exercise of state power through legislatures and its exercise by elected officials in the cities, towns and counties.”  So this does apply to local governments.

   There is some flexibility, though, with local governments.  The rule that comes for congressional districts is to be as close to zero as possible.  In 1990’s, only one state had a deviation of 1% and most had under a 0.1%.  Equal population is a mathematical thing.   With local governments there is flexibility.  There is no percentage standard for county commissioner districts.  When we do legislative redistricting, we have a plus or minus 5% deviation from the ideal population.  If you were to use that + or - 5%, you probably would be very safe. The Montana Supreme Court has stated that there must be an attempt to equalize population and area.  You may not be able to reach mathematical equality, but you have to attempt to get as close to it as possible.  For example, Park County has a population of 50,694 persons.  You would try to get 5,231 persons in each of the three districts.  Then with 5% deviation, you have + or - 261 people. 

   Another very important federal law is Voting Rights Act.  Certain counties have already experienced litigation--Big Horn, Rosebud, Roosevelt, Blaine Counties--all reservation counties because that’s where we have significant minority population.  All of you need to take note of the Voting Rights Act, even if you are not a reservation county, because we do have minority populations throughout the state.  Once they become sufficient in number and geographically compact, you would have to protect the voting rights.  No district plan or proposal for a plan is acceptable “if it affords members of racial or language minority less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.”  This is federal law and it is very important to protect minority voting rights.

   For the statutory requirements for county commissioner redistricting, I’m going to be speaking for the most part for elected county official form of government.  I will speak briefly on alternative forms of government, but the most requirements in law are with the elected county official form of government.  These are all in Title 7.  Section 7-4-2102 gives you the additional requirements that are necessary for redistricting. 

   “In every county, following each federal decennial census, the county commissioners shall divide their counties…”  That is fairly clear.  It applies to everybody.  We had the federal decennial census on April 1, 2000.  It takes about a year for the data to be delivered.  By federal law, the Census Bureau was required to provide redistricting data by April 1, 2001.  Many of you may be able to keep the same districts, but you should review them and see how close they are to that population equality standard and re-adopt those districts to follow the law.  In 1985 Montana Supreme Court, in a Custer County case, held that mathematical exactness is required only when reasonably possible and does not preclude a limited amount of discretion exercised by county commissioners in dividing the county.  Variation from a peer population standard can be justified for recognition of natural or historic boundary lines such as county commissioner districts, rivers, mountain ranges and different variables in our counties.

The requirement that’s unique to county commissioner districts is that the districts must be as equal in area as possible.  Compactness is a standard redistricting principle.  It is used at the congressional level, the legislative level and it is also a statutory requirement for county commission districts.  Geometrically, the most compact form is a circle. It is not going to be possible to have three equal area circles within your county, but it gives you a notion of how to view this.  Some of these computer programs have compactness scores, but in litigation the redistricting experts can’t agree on what they mean, so they are not going to be much help.  The best test is the old eyeball test--How does it look?  Does it look compact?  Is it long, skinny and narrow or does it look as compact as it can be?  It’s a general common sense criterion.  

At a minimum, an attempt to equalize both area and population is required where mathematical exactness is not reasonably possible.  You do have to make that attempt to equalize it, but there are those other things that come into play.  “Such apportionment may take place at any time for the purpose of equalizing the population in the area such as commissioner districts.”  The best time to know if your districts are substantially equal in population is right after the federal decennial census, but it can be done anytime, like mid-decade or later. 

The second requirement is for three districts.  In alternative forms of government you can have those different numbers of districts.  The districts must be as equal in population and as equal in area as possible

The last couple of criteria are in terms of timing.  “A commissioner’s term may not be affected by the change of the boundaries.”  Even if you change the boundaries and then you don’t live in it, your term cannot be affected by that.  You can complete your term.  “The boundaries may not change within six months preceding the primary election.”  For those of you who are interested in redistricting right now, the next primary election is June 4, 2002.  If you count back six months, the changes should take effect by December 4, 2001. 

 “The district judge or judges, if there is more than one in the county, shall review the action of the commissioners to determine whether or not such action meets the requirements of this section.”  You really do need all of your district court judges that represent your county to look at it.  That came up in that same 1985 Supreme Court case.

Sections 7-4-2102 through 7-4-2104 MCA do not apply to counties that adopted optional or alternative forms of government.  But I want to caution you.  Those specific requirements--the Equal Protection Act and the Voting Rights Act--would still apply.  Two of the four options that are allowed for alternative form of governments do apportion by population.  Even though it’s not statutorily cited for the other ones, you still should make that attempt where it’s possible.  Candidates should reside in the district and members may be elected by any combination of districts which are apportioned by population.  The other standards would be valuable, too.  Compactness is a standard redistricting principle.  The timing issues are good guides.  There have been two AG opinions, one that applies to alderman terms and one that applies to legislative terms, which concluded that you can’t change somebody’s term by changing the boundaries.  These are good rules of thumb to follow for those alternative forms of government. 

Other traditional redistricting principles include contiguity (your district would be in one piece), preservation of political subdivisions, preservation of communities of interest.  With the equal area principle in county commissioner districts, those become a bit tricky.  I just wanted you to know the other kinds of redistricting principles. 

The recent Interim Education and Local Government Committee discussed allowing single-member county commissioner districts.  Should the elected county official form of government have those same options to create single member districts as the do alternative forms of government?  It would assist counties that are involved in voting rights litigation and would also give everybody the same choice.  The only issue that came up is whether or not it should be submitted to the people for a vote.  There is draft legislation if anyone is interested. 

Many of you have Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  It’s a tool to use census data and geographic boundaries.  One vendor here is ESRI, which has soft ware called ARC.  It has a districting extension that is a very simple standard redistricting tool.  I use AutoBound from ArcView.  Arcview is the state standard, so that’s why we chose it.  There is another company, Caliper, with a program called Maptitude.  You can load them on a PC.  You can download the census data from the Census and Economic Information Center.  I have bookmarks with the addresses available here.”


   Terry Fleck

A text of Terry Fleck’s presentation, “Attitude Virus”, is available from the MACo Office. 



   Dallas County, Texas  

“Montana counties have a great history of supporting NACo.  You have 56 counties and 37 counties are members.  Of the 19 Montana counties that are not members of NACo, 18 of those counties would pay $360 a year for dues.  I know $360 is a lot to a lot of counties, but it is relatively cheap for the return on the dollar. 

I became a commissioner in 1995, the first Republican elected in Dallas County.  In 1995 I attended the NACo Legislative Conference in Washington DC.  I heard about so many innovative, cost-efficient, effective programs.  From each one that I have attended, I’ve been able to bring information back home and we’ve been able to implement many of those programs.  This has paid our $35,000 in dues back many times over every year.  So while it’s a burden often for travel, you get more out of NACo if you can go to a conference or to seminars. 

NACo’s strength lies in its membership.  Our voice in Washington DC, to the White House and to Congress, is much more effective and stronger the more counties we have.  We have over 2,000 of the 3,067 counties in the United States belonging to NACo.  Our goal was to have 2,000 in 2000 and we hit that goal.  We need to hit that 3,000 mark in a few years.  You derive many benefits from NACo being in Washington DC and lobbying on behalf of county government.  We would like your involvement because you could add to the 13 NACo steering committees to look at the different issues. 

Two weeks ago, America suffered one of the saddest days in its history.  At the time, NACo President Javier Gonzales and Executive Director Larry Naake expressed our grief and anger over the terrorist acts in a letter to county officials.  We asked counties to pass resolutions condemning the cowardly and deadly actions and supporting the President as he works to defend against additional attacks, to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.  I am happy to say I was here and witnessed your passage of that resolution.   I would also like to ask you to take a leadership role in your communities to insure that Arab-Americans are treated fairly and with respect.  Arab-Americans are not our enemies; terrorists are.  They deserve the same respect as everyone else.  Simply because they may happen to look like or be from a country that perhaps was involved in the attack does not make them the enemy.  The events have affected all Americans.  Many of us are angry, with good justification.  We cannot let that anger overcome us.  We must remain vigilant to prevent more tragedies in the future.  Nor can we let good citizens become vigilantes because of their anger.  It is important that we carry on.  I think we have shown that in Montana this is exactly what you are going to do.  That’s being replicated all over the United States with the leadership of counties and county officials in the forefront. 

Today, I want to talk with you about how county officials can work together to solve the local problems that we face.   You have a tough job.  It is as difficult here as it is in Texas for me.  It’s tough because no matter what decision you make, there is always someone who differs with you.  One day it’s the media; the next day it’s a community group; and then it’s someone on your board or commission.  On some days it may be all three, in a constant barrage, enough to make you want to quit, but still you persevere.  You persevere because of your strong beliefs in public service and your positive approach to life. Let me share a short piece called, “Attitudes” by Charles Swendal.  By the way I had this before we heard Terry Fleck; you will remember that he mentioned Dr. Swendal.  He said this, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more important that facts.  It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.  Attitude is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.  It will make or break a company, a church, a home.  The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude that we will embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past.  We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have.  That is our attitude.  I’m convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.  And so it is with you.  We are in charge of our attitudes.”  You know that your positive attitude can make a difference, but you also know that it is difficult to stand alone against obstacles and opposition.  You need partnerships, sources of information, and opportunities for cooperation.  You need to find new ideas and be innovative to find solutions. 

NACo, as well as your state association, gives you the opportunities, partnerships and forums for ideas.  You don’t need to stand alone.  NACo enables you to join with other county officials to solve problems and to express in one voice the county government message.  NACo is not the building in Washington DC or the staff that works inside every day.  It is county officials like you here today, officials from counties in Oregon, Idaho, California, Kansas, Texas, Florida, etc. and it is state associations of counties.  I am reminded of the story of two stone cutters who were asked one day what they were doing.  The first stone cutter replied, “I am cutting stone into blocks.”  The second stone cutter looked at this job with a different attitude.  “I am working on a team that is building a great cathedral,” he said.  I like to think of NACo in the same way the second stone cutter viewed his job.  NACo is the collective cooperation of county officials working with the staff and the state associations of counties as a team.  We represent all Americans as another voice in Washington for lower taxes and better and improved delivery of services.

America made history with our presidential election last year.  I don’t know about you, but I’m extremely proud of our President.  He may not have invented the Internet, but he’s got his initial all over it.  Every time I go to an Internet site and hit “w, w, w”, that’s music to a Texan’s ear. 

Following the election, NACo worked quickly to establish a good relationship with President Bush and his administration.  We have had meetings with key administration staff and cabinet members.  We still don’t know what the Bush Administration’s approach to county issues will be, but there are some very telling clues.  His appointment of former Orange County, Florida, Executive Mel Martinez as Secretary of Department of Housing and Urban Development and former San Mateo County, California, Supervisor Ruben Barrales as Director of Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (and Deputy Assistant to the President) indicates that he understands that counties are important in the governmental process.  Giving former county officials a prominent role in the administration assures that county interests will be raised on critical issues.

Another benefit for western states is Western Interstate Region (WIR).  The next WIR conference is be in Billings, Montana, next May.  I believe some of you have received your PILT checks and some of you have up to 30% increases.  That was a priority issue for WIR.  That is a tangible benefit, because while your senators and your congressmen and the other western states’ senators and congressmen are obviously supportive, you won’t get this done alone.   You need the support of other states and their senators and their congressmen.  We bring that to you at NACo.  We cover every state, all the senators, all of the congressmen.  You have friends and you have the benefits, so let’s get those 19 non-member counties down to zero. 

It is difficult to know how the events that occurred on September 11 will affect actions by Congress.  I think appropriations WILL be affected and consideration of some legislation may be delayed.  The reauthorization of the Farm Bill is one which could have a great impact on counties.  We would like Congress to do three things, either through the Farm Bill or other legislation:

1.  Streamline the application process for federally funded programs;   2.  Consolidate some of the more than eight hundred federal rural programs into a block grant for rural county governments; and 3.  Increase federal investment in rural infrastructure. 

Another direct result of the election in November is election reform.  NACo opposes the Senate bill because of the mandates and urges revisions before the full Senate considers it.  Two members of the House Administration Committee plan to introduce a bi-partisan election reform bill this month that does not include federal mandates, but provisions that we can support.  Two election reform reports that mirror the NACo report are from the National Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and from the Constitution Project.  With the various reform commissions making similar recommendations, it seems likely that many of NACo’s proposals will be implemented. 

In another effort to improve the election process, NACo is launching a campaign to encourage Americans to volunteer to work at the polls on Election Day.  A television public service announcement has already been produced.  NACo is working to secure partners to support and promote the campaign.  The partners would include other levels of government, corporations, the media, schools and colleges. 

Another NACo priority issue--collection of remote or Internet sales taxes--is beginning to move.  A House subcommittee has approved a five-year extension of the moratorium on Internet access fees.  The Senate also is considering an extension.  NACo favors bills in the Senate and the House that require remote sellers to collect taxes, if states and local governments agree to simplify sales and use taxes. 

The House approved President Bush’s energy bill in early August.  The Bill includes provisions to accelerate domestic oil, gas, clean coal, renewable technology production, and the hydroelectric re-licensing process and increases funding for the low-income energy assistance program.  It does not grant federal agencies the authority to site electric transmission lines in counties, though it directs a study of the nation’s transmission infrastructure in consultation with states and local governments.  Also included in the bill are provisions to implement a modest increase in corporate average fuel economy standards for cars, to allow exploration and development in portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska (ANWAR), and to provide tax incentives for energy efficient buildings and homes, all of which NACo supports.  Two or three weeks ago the Alaska Municipal League invited the NACo officers to ANWAR to view what has gone on there and what the new technology offers for exploration.  I enjoyed the information that I gathered from looking at what is there from the first exploration by the older companies and what will be there after new exploration.  They have made significant, significant progress.  NACo supports the President’s energy plan and supports limited exploration in ANWAR.  The energy debate now moves to the Senate where a vote on the legislation is not expected until later.

NACo President Javier Gonzales has identified a number of initiatives that he is pursuing this year.   Foremost is his effort on rural development and rural issues.  Javier is planning regional forums on growth issues to identify problems facing communities and to develop solutions to help them.  Other initiatives include closing the digital divide and raising literacy among Americans.  The Rural County Government Center, a product of the Rural Action Caucus, was created to insure that there is a special emphasis on initiatives for rural counties.  The Caucus focuses on rural issues and lobbies those issues on Capitol Hill.  Participation in the Rural Caucus is open to all officials from rural counties.  Officials are kept up to date about rural issues through a bi-weekly rural report from NACo. 

The Urban County Caucus addresses issues important to the 100 largest counties in the country.  This year’s top urban caucus priorities are to increase home ownership, improve health care and reduce juvenile crime.  Urban County Caucus officials travel to Washington a couple of times each year to meet with members of Congress to discuss issues critical to them.  NACo also provides a report to urban county members. 

The NACo Cooperative Purchasing Program is another way that counties can save time and money by working together.  The purchasing program offers amazing savings on computers, computer products, office supplies, furniture and more.  The computer purchasing program, which includes major companies like IBM, Dell, Micron and the software spectrum, is saving counties and cities as much as $50 million.  The office supply program through Office Depot saved local governments $35 million in 1999.  This is accomplished by having a large county seek bids on specific products.  Based on the expected volume, the prices on those products are cut drastically, providing great savings to buyers.  Any county, city or local government, where allowed by state law, can then purchase those products at the reduced price.

Another new program enables counties to collect unpaid debt.  Working with Lockheed-Martin, the collection company, counties can receive payment for child support payments, water, sewer bills and other money owed to them. 

This year NACo launched a new exclusive member benefit with great success.  The NACo ESRI-GIS technology grant program provides GIS software, data and training free to counties that apply for a grant.  NACo and ESRI awarded 86 grants in July.  It has generated more than 400 inquiries, 40 of those are from non-member counties.  Counties must be members to participate.  The program is of great value to counties.  There are two levels of GIS grants--introductory and intermediate.  The introductory grants are worth $15,000 and intermediate grants are valued at $45,000.  NACo and ESRI will award 300 grants this year as part of the program. 

In addition, NACo has a number of awards programs like the Achievement Awards and the Acts of Caring.  These programs provide recognition to counties and county officials for their hard work.  They also serve another purpose as a valuable resource of successful, effective programs.  NACo’s research division keeps a database of successful county programs.  You can save staff time and resources by finding out how another county solved a similar problem simply by contacting the research division. 

As you know, NACo is a lobbying organization.  But it is much more.  It is an organization that brings together counties and county officials.  Thank you for your support of NACo.  Our voice in Washington and our ability to help counties are both stronger because of your support and your willingness to join with other counties in this effort.  For those of you who are from counties that are not members of NACo, I encourage you to join. 

In closing, I think Texas and Montana have a lot in common.  I think we both are kind of frontier states on many issues.  We both look at government with a jaundiced eye.   Government is there to help with certain things, but there are times we want them out of our lives.  We don’t need them.  We are independent.  I think that was illustrated as I was having breakfast at a café downtown in Glendive here the other morning.  There was one person who was down at the end of the counter eating his breakfast.  I was eating mine and was about finished.  A third individual came in and sat between us at the counter.  We couldn’t help but overhear what he ordered.  He said, “Let me have a dozen fried eggs, half a pound of fried bacon, half a pound of fried sausage, some fried potatoes, gravy, and biscuits.”  The other gentleman’s eyes got big as saucers.  After this guy got his breakfast, the other gentlemen had finished his and paid.  He walked behind the gentleman who had ordered all this fried food, tapped the man on the shoulder and said, “Sir, do you realize what all of that fried fatty food is going to do your body?  Do you realize that you will be lucky to get up and get to the door without having a heart attack.  Your arteries are going to be so clogged with all that fried fatty food.”  The gentlemen just kept eating and looked back and said, “You know, my daddy lived to be 102 years old.”  The gentlemen looked incredulous and said, “I’m from Montana Department of Health and you are telling me that your daddy lived to be 102 years old from eating fried fatty foods?”  “No sir, from minding his own damn business.”


   Jim Hunt, Chair

Jim Hunt and Tom Hayes, Montana Job Training Partnership, Inc. staff, reviewed the past year activities and the coming year’s projects.


   Mike McCourt

“I would like to give a brief picture of the energy situation we have today and offer ideas on how you might help with energy problems within your county or a community in your county. 

  There is an excellent book in your packet.  It has a fine description of the regional situation in energy and a piece done by Bob Anderson on Montana specifically.  At the end of his article, Bob Anderson says, “This is a story with no happy ending--it is a story with no ending.  The silver lining, if there is one, is this--with high prices will come renewed interest in and economic justification for conservation and renewables.”  He could not have stated it any clearer.

  The energy market, the energy crisis, and the general uncertainty about what will happen next is really not much of a problem after the mess on September 11.  No matter how the dust settles on energy crises in Montana, we will likely still have power to homes, to run our businesses and to support our institutions.  Energy, however, is an intricate thread in the fabric of life in Montana and our country.  With this in mind, I think we have an opportunity and an obligation to be leaders in the effort to conserve our electrical and gas resources. 

  Let’s take a quick look at where we are today in Montana.  As you know, energy prices are dropping as more supply becomes available.  You looked at triple digit figures for wholesale energy before April, and then they dropped.  One thing is for sure.  There will be a default price set before July 2002.  Until that default price is set and until Montana Power has a price as a gauge where the rest of wholesale prices can go, we don’t have a real good way to tell whether prices are good or bad.  There is no reason to go out in the market at this point unless you know what price to beat.  Right now the cost on the open market is between $22 and $23 per megawatt hour.  If we continue to see drought conditions, transmission problems, or high demand from another state, we could again see prices skyrocket.  So it’s very uncertain.  The League of Cities and Towns has an energy purchasing pool.  They are waiting to see what the default price is going to be, before they shop for open market energy at the wholesale level. 

Referendum 117 specifically targets HB 474 of the last Legislative session that dealt with electric energy pricing.  The Legislature said that Montana Power would be able to buy 500 megawatts at that time for $40 / megawatt hour.  Well, that’s changed.  The price is lower now.  So there’s a lot of discontent out there, not only from elected officials but from the public in general.  The referendum seeks to put the repeal issue before the people.  Some other state leaders believe we should convene a special session to change the law now so that utilities can take advantage of lower prices and enter contracts that will protect Montana’s energy future.  I think there is some resistance on the part of the Governor’s Office so I don’t know if that would happen.  We have ourselves really in quite a dilemma.  What are we going to do about it?  What happens next?

  Let’s take a look at this handout for a local energy program.  It came from the Department of Energy and outlines a process that could save energy not only in county buildings but throughout the county itself.  The first step is to determine how much you spend on energy.  That’s a basic first step, even though you may find it buried in odd budget items.  Step two would be to designate and create a lead office not only to look at your bills but to also to be the focal point for anything you want to do as far as the energy policy is concerned.  Step three is link energy programs with community goals.  I can’t emphasize more to get the county seat involved, to find their ideas about this and how can we make this work on a much broader scale.  Step four is to build support for it.  Get everybody to look at saving energy as a whole problem, not just one for your buildings.  Five, find out what other counties are doing.  For example, Missoula County has a facilities manager named Art Garner who is an unbelievable resource for you.  Step six is to prioritize actions and develop a plan.  You need to look at what the cost of options would be, what makes the options of benefit, funding, political acceptability, etc.  Plan for what you know that you can do.  Be really specific.  You have short-term goals, that run between two and three years, and you are probably going to have long-range goals that go out to five and beyond.  Step seven is to implement the plan.  Step eight is to evaluate success and update the plan.  It’s ever-changing.  Step number nine, which local governments don’t do enough of, is to publicize the benefits.  Let people know about it.

Finally, I want to just give you a few practical ideas:

1.  Implement low cost / no cost measures such as turning off lights or turning down thermostats.  Those things don’t take added technology, they take reminders to train people.

2.  Gather ideas from county employees by having a contest to reward the best conservation and efficiency ideas. 

3.  Establish your procurement policy that makes energy savings a high priority. Some of you are probably familiar with energy-star products.  It’s very easy to find the ones that are the most energy efficient if you look for that energy-star label. 

4.  Consider forming an energy purchasing pool in conjunction with MACo.  The League of Cities and Towns, as I mentioned earlier, has an energy purchasing pool, as does the Montana School Boards Association.  Both of them are good resources for you as you plan this. 

5.  Internet has so many things about energy and what’s going on, not only at the local government level.  It’s like having a library at your desk, one that runs very quickly. 

6.  Train maintenance staff to recognize and to implement saving measures on a day-to-day basis.  Northwest Building Operators Association is going to have a comprehensive six-day training session in Bozeman beginning October 3. 

7.  Talk to your utility about savings programs for your county buildings. 

8.  Consider ways to incorporate renewable energy resources like wind and solar energy into county operations.  Montana Power is a tremendous resource and will help you when you call them on anything you have in mind.

9.  If you haven’t converted to energy efficient lighting, do so now!  I can suggest financing, without any cost out of the pocket, how to use Intercap.  The savings will cover the cost of whatever you do and you can be guaranteed to save money by an energy service company.

10.  Finally, examine your energy use and develop a county-wide energy plan. 

I would like to leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein.  ‘We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’ “


   President Gary Fjelstad   

The Nominations Committee presented the following candidates:

Second Vice President Carol Brooker, Sanders County

 Allan Underdal, Toole County

Fiscal OfficerDan Watson, Rosebud County(Allan Underdal, previously nominated, withdrew)

First Vice PresidentVictor Miller, Blaine County

President  Dean Harmon, Roosevelt County

Nominations were closed by voice vote.  President Fjelstad announced that presentations by candidates will be conducted at the Wednesday General Session.


President Fjelstad announced one bid for the 2003 Annual Conference.

  Vern Peterson, Fergus County

“We put in this bid.  Carla and Karen came down a couple of weeks ago to make sure that we could handle the crowd when they got there.  The owner of the Yogo Inn joined us for lunch.  He is, of course, very enthused about you all coming to Lewistown to his hotel.  He asked Karen, “Is this pretty much a done deal?”  She said, “Well, you are the only ones who put in a bid.”  I said, “You have to remember that I’m the one gives the promotion speech.  If I don’t muff it up too bad, they will probably come.”  We do look forward to having you in 2003 and we’ll put on a good show for you.  Please come to Lewistown.”


Kathy Alley

Dawson County

The seconded motion to adopt the Memorial Resolution passed by unanimous consent and is hereby inserted in this record.


WHEREAS, 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 convention of our Association; and

WHEREAS, each of these county commissioners has rendered innumerable public services to his or her respective county, to the State of Montana and to the people thereof; and

WHEREAS, the absence of these 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 Glendive, Montana, this 24th day of September, 2000, that the Association does hereby pay tribute to the memory of Commissioners:

Milo Dean, Cascade CountyLarry Nelson, Dawson County

Mary Donohoe, Stillwater County; Frank Waldbillig, Granite County

Leonard Faber, Hill County Jack Whitaker, Cascade County

Howard Hammer, Roosevelt County  

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




  Gary Fjelstad, JPA Chair

  Vern Petersen, JPIA Chair

  Minutes of this session are attached to these proceedings.

The conference session concluded.

Urban Counties, Hard Rock Mining Counties and Oil, Gas and Coal Counties held their business meetings following this day’s sessions.




   Kaye Braaten, NACo Staff

“It is absolutely wonderful to be back here for the Montana Association of Counties meet-

ing.  In order to keep my job at NACo I have to convince some of you to join NACo.  Small county dues are $360 a year.  I come from Richland County, North Dakota.  My county has approximately 100 employees and a fairly large amount of expense to service all of those employees.  We received so many benefits from being a member of the National Association of Counties.  For $360 dues, you will have between 85 and 90 people working for you in Washington DC.  It is important that we have the numbers in our membership roster, so that when we go up to Capitol Hill, we can say that we are representing a great majority of America’s counties.  For those of us in rural America, we can access NACo through the Internet; we can access NACo by working closely with your Association here in Montana, where thoughts and ideas come from your steering committee members and your board member.  If Montana has 100% membership, you will have yet another person on our Board of Directors.  Selfishly, I want you to have that because I want rural America represented by people who can stand up and speak about the issues that are near and dear to our hearts.  Please stop by and see me.  Eight of the eighteen non-member counties have stopped by.  Bring your sheet from your packet that allows you to register for a free registration to a NACo conference, which is worth approximately $400.  That can be used towards the WIR conference that will be in Billings in May.  What an opportunity--you will get to go at virtually no expense.  If you become a member, you automatically get a free registration.”


   Kathy Bessette 

   Hill County   

“I was chosen to be on the NACo Energy Committee.   For my first duty, Harold Blattie gave me a resolution to bring to the Energy Committee dealing with exploration on public lands.   I knew it would be kind of a difficult task.   So, I went to my first NACo meeting.  The first thing I heard was a young man who brought up a resolution to the Chair and said,  “This is a resolution from the Agriculture Committee and we are supposed to look at it.”

The Chair said, “Since when are we Ag. Friendly?” 

I sat there for a few minutes listening to the debate on that resolution, which was Harold’s resolution.  I couldn’t be quiet.  I just had to say, “You know, I hope to heck you are Ag friendly, because every one of you likes to eat.”  I went on to say why we should support this resolution.  At that point that resolution did pass through the Energy Committee; however, it was killed when Land Use and Environment had it.  At that moment, I realized how important my voice was; how important Montana’s voice is at the NACo level.  If I wouldn’t have been in that room, there wouldn’t have been any discussion. That resolution would have gone down.  Afterwards, people from Washington, Alaska and other areas of the western United States came up to me and said, “Thank you.  We need to keep fighting.”  In my mind I had wondered, “Do we do any good?”  We are being represented by people on the East Coast--and they have no idea what Montana is like.  We really need to be there.  After that trip to DC I realized that. 

I know that Vern Petersen is respected there and they know Bill Kennedy, too.  This is a group of county commissioners from all over the United States and they represent their people.  Those people do not have the same interests as we do.  So, I would encourage people to join NACo.  Everyone of the Montana delegation does an excellent job at representing our State.  If you are reluctant, take my word, it’s worth the dues to be a member.  If you have the opportunity to go to Washington DC and be part of this, it is very rewarding.  We need to speak for ourselves.  I don’t want Michigan speaking for me. “


   Gary Fjelstad, MACo President

   Rosebud County

  “I am happy to report that every resolution that we took to the last February NACo Legislative Conference passed.  They were passed on by the Board of Directors.  I think we were very effective.  We have a good team working on these NACo issues.  We encourage you to really consider joining NACo.  Take advantage of that opportunity to join this year and get one registration free to attend the WIR conference in Billings.  You will be able to participate in NACo.”


   Harold Blattie   

   Stillwater County  

“I had the great pleasure of being appointed as the chair of the Rural Affairs Subcommittee for the NACo Ag. Steering Committee.  Between the Legislative Conference in February and the Annual Meeting in July, the two resolutions that came from our Ag. Committee dealing with energy, became part of a national energy policy that was brought forth by NACo and was presented on the day that Vice President Cheney was to speak to us. 

  The Ag and Rural Affairs Steering Committee has a NACo Fellow appointed to our committee.  The position is an extension agent from somewhere in the United States that does a one-year stint in the NACo office to provide a link between NACo and extension offices across the United States.  This year the extension agent has been Paul Sutherland from Oregon.

  We had 15 resolutions in this Committee, including total maximum daily load pools,  economic crisis in ag. counties, food quality protection, and country-of-origin-labeling.

  Each of you here as commissioners might have an idea that no one has thought yet.   Please get this expressed in form of a resolution through our Committee and the NACo Committees so we can take these issues to DC.  We can have an affect on the outcome of national policy.  It doesn’t matter what the issue is, it all starts literally right in our back yard every day of the week.  So, I encourage you to get involved in the committees of your choice.   

  Our MACo Committee met this morning and had a number of guests with us.  We will be meeting sometime in early November.  Our committee will be working on a resolution dealing with deprivation of crop land and range land by wildlife and considering support of a soil moisture monitoring program that is going on in eight counties in the northern part of the State.  This project will demonstrate to the farm service agency that there is a better way of doing things than what they are currently using.  We will be bringing in a number of other stakeholders in these issues like Fish, Wildlife and Parks and State Drought Committee.

We have a number of counties which do not have drought committees.  I was recently appointed to the State Drought Committee.  I have come to realize the importance of each county having a drought committee, not only during times of drought, but also when we are blessed with a little more moisture than we have had.  It is a very, very important link from having a local county drought committee and a state drought committee.  We will be bringing more information to you about that.

  Make sure that you fill out that green bio sheet that is in your bags and leave them on the front desk.  Dean will be making committee appointments here shortly and he needs to know if you are interested in serving on a committee and which committee.


  Bill Kennedy        

  Yellowstone County      

“On the NACo Health Services Committee, we’ve been very active with the changes in administration and with the balanced budget act of 1997 when we had the freeze, because it affected the Medicaid / Medicare payments to rural hospitals, nursing homes and health care.  I also sit on the Rural Action Caucus Committee.  The hot topic was the reauthorization of the Farm Bill.  Also, the reauthorization of the welfare reform bill is up in 2003.  Prescription drugs, how are we paying for seniors and rates at nursing homes, hospitals and health care are other hot topics that are going through at the national level.

  At the State level, the Committee members are Doug Kaercher-Hill County, Don Rieger-Fallon County, Milt Markuson-Carter County, Cliff Bare-Stillwater County, Tom Bennett-Wheatland County, Peggy Beltrone-Cascade County, Carol Brooker-Sanders County and myself. 

With the restructuring of the welfare program (SB 339), every county--the three county commissioners--will sign an agreement each year with the Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS).  I’m going to ask all of you to hold off on signing or negotiating any agreement with the DPHHS until we get a boilerplate agreement.  On Thursday, we had a meeting with FAIM--welfare reform state advisory committee.  We decided to meld in the community operating plan with this agreement.  Every county’s community operating plan should tell you what is happening in the Department of Public Assistance in your county, who’s on the community advisory committee, what the office hours are--everything is in there.  You should be able to get a copy of your community operating plan from your county director.  We are hoping to have a boilerplate for you of some of the things you should have so you can enter into an agreement with the State of Montana.  We will meet in Helena in October to iron that out and get something out to each of the counties to make it easier for you to understand this agreement process with the Department.  With SB339 we have an appeals process, if we do not agree with what’s going on with the welfare program.  Don Rieger and I will sit on that committee.

In the State of Montana we had over 80 waivers as we initiated welfare reform before anyone else in the country.  One of the waivers, a standard utility allowance, is a formula that you plug in to receive food stamps.  We were able to add $225 for a utility allowance in this formula, so it brought up a majority of the people to about $50 a month in food stamps.  It’s been very cost effective.  But the USDA decided that they were no longer going to honor this.  Hank and the Department, the congressional offices and also MACo fought it for about three years.  USDA finally said “no” because we were the only state that receives this waiver.  A large portion of people who live in group homes receive that waiver; this is what the food budget was in group homes like the DD group homes.  Because it’s affected them and their budgets drastically, you will probably be hearing from those groups.  Tomorrow we will have a resolution to have the congressional delegation and the governor ask to keep the standard utility allowance. Montana made a pact with the federal government when we put together our welfare waivers and we want them to respect that and let us keep this waiver until 2003.  I have talked with Kathy Bessette, because one of the ways to keep this waiver is to work with the food stamp program, USDA and the Farm Bill that’s coming up next year for re-appropriation.

In mental health, we received new chemical dependency dollars because alcohol revenue was up.  You will not loose your portion of alcohol dollars that comes to your counties, but a portion that was above that will be matched with federal dollars for chemical dependency treatment.  A Supreme Court decision on involuntary insanity commitments ruled that anyone who is committed on an insanity commitment needs legal advice or an attorney present during the interview process when the decision is made.  That means we assign an attorney, who must be experienced or who has some type of background in insanity commitments or mental health.  This could cost the counties extra to adhere to the Supreme Court decision. 

On entitlement costs, Hank Hudson is going to get us a check-list of all the expenses that should be yours for the welfare program for 2001. 

Last session we had a resolution on the inspection fees for restaurants.  There is a consensus group that will hammer out those details for the next legislative session and Tom Bennett will sit on that committee.”


    Mary Sexton

    Teton County  

“How many of you, when you are going to get hardware or software, know where to go if you have questions?  How many of you have spent too much money because you didn’t know where to go?  If we need advice or assistance, we can go to MACITA personnel throughout the state to help us with those questions.  We are still considering the option of having a MACo IT person available to us.  We’ve not taken a proposal to the Board, but it’s been under discussion.  At the midwinter meeting we will discuss again if it will be helpful to have a state-wide coordinator for IT.  Most of us have someone in the county we go to for IT questions, but often we are a little dysfunctional in long range planning and in coordinating software, hardware, Internet, networking. 

We are dealing with two issues with the Department of Justice.  1)  Jim Reno has been visiting with Mike McGrath in implementing e-government for license plates, licensing and vehicle titling.  2)  At the Midwinter meeting we may have a workshop on coordinating the input of information with criminal justice.  There are many points along the criminal justice system which inputs information--the sheriff’s office, the clerk of court, the state, the prisons.  Sometimes there’s a lapse in time and also in accuracy.  The Department of Justice will be asking for commissioner assistance to streamline this input of information.

Finally, Anita Varone came to us with concerns covering cell towers.  At this point there are no statutory requirements, no guidance, no ordinances.  The suggestion has come for creating a resolution for legislation to cover this.  If this is of interest to you, please contact Anita.

We will be meeting again on November 15 at MACo at 1:30 and all of you are invited.  There were several people here today who are not committee members so please sign up.  We would like to have you or any of the rest of you who are interested in information technology issues.  Really, information technology highway is just as important to us as our county roads, maybe in the long-term, even more so.  We need to improve those services as we move on.”


    Dan Gutebier

    Park County

“We tried HB 196 in the last Legislature.  Currently when a county law enforcement department arrests a felony, until they have gone to trial, are found guilty and the paperwork has been completed, the county is taking all those costs.  This bill would make costs retroactive back to the day of the arrest, if they are convicted.  We made it through the first and second reading and it died because of the money issue.  In Park County, we’ve had two murder suspects in the last four years.  One of them cost the county $26,000 and the other $42,000--that’s just pre-conviction costs.  It affects every county a little differently.  For those counties who are budgeting $2,000-$4,000 a year for jail costs, this could really wipe you out.  We had very little opposition with one exception--the cost to the state, which was estimated at $6 Million.  We could get through the legislature the next time but it’s going to mean a lot more pressure from counties. 

  Last year in Gallatin County, their juvenile facility closed because of lack of use.  The Board of Crime Control right now is helping reimburse out-of-state placements.  That is because they are able to do it for about $110-$115 a night.  In the areas around here, they are closer to $200.  I understand the reason to go out of county for that, but it is going to come back to bite us big time, because we have our facilities in-state that are closing up for lack of use. 

  I want to re-emphasize what Mary just talked about with the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS).  They are really working on the information bank, the efficiency of input and authorizing the ability for law enforcement and prison systems. 

  In the drivers licensing system we had heavy-handed politics this past year.  They were trying to work the legislators against each other in the budgeting procedure.  In Park County we had a drivers examiner four days a week and they were going to pull this out.  We ended up having to make concessions, of course, giving them room free.  That would have been a big deal if they had been in only once a month.  Now, they are pitting the state against the counties and creating a big problem for all of us.  We need to put something together and talk to them.”


    Howard Gipe

    Flathead County  

“Land Use Planning is a major problem for us.  Our next meeting is with the Association of Planners (MAP) in Billings on the 11th and 12th at the Northern.  On October 17th, I’ll meet with the Consensus Council. 

  Do any of you have a growth policy in effect?  Our attorney says there is a major problem if you don’t have it done by the first of October.  We decided in our Committee that the Donut Bill is not workable; we probably won’t do much with it. 

  It’s unbelievable the road problems we have with subdivisions.  So, we talk about impact fees.  We have to come up with something for the roads, for law enforcement and the other costs to the counties.  When you get a subdivision out there without much, 3 or 4 lots, they pay for it a couple of years and decide to do more.  Soon you have several hundred more trips on a road that won’t hold up and you have no money to pave it or maintain it.  We have to get some laws passed that will help us with the impact of those subdivisions and the schools should be involved.

We have discussed cell towers.   If you wait until the next Legislature meets or even six months from now, your whole county could be full of cell towers.  They just start sprouting up like bad weeds.  We do have some local control with ordinances.”


   Connie Eissinger

   McCone County

“From the NACo Steering Committee, we are really excited about the PILT increase this year and we hope you all are as well.  The issues we have been dealing with are the endangered species reform and CARA, both of which will probably not go anywhere this year.  We are pretty excited that forest counties had their Forest Counties and Schools Coalition Bill pass.   We will be having a meeting in Tucson next week to work on our legislation priorities for the next year.

I would like to thank my MACo Committee members.  They are Elaine Allestad, Dale Williams, Earl Martin, Todd Devlin, Don McDowell and Sam Samson.  Judy Stang was not here with us.  I really appreciate you all.

We worked on a resolution that Elaine brought to the Agriculture Committee as well.  Our discussion centered around membership on the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission who would have interests in guarding private land ownership and weed prevention.  Our resolution will be to add two members to the FWP Commission--one county commissioner chosen at large and one person who would represent range management, like the Soil Conservation Service. 

We want to meet with Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director and the Governor’s Office the next time we meet in Helena to work on issues such as noxious weeds, roads, search and rescue.  We feel the counties should receive impact funds to help offset the impacts from hunting and fishing uses. 

We also discussed suggestions for workshops at the Western Interstate Region Conference in Billings in May.  Some of the suggestions are sessions on the cooperating agency status so that we can interact with federal agencies, a panel on the affects of federal land management and fire policies, how to read and comment on an EIS, and the federal guidelines on the Freedom of Information Act.  The Oil, Gas and Coal Counties suggested a panel on coal bed methane production.  Please bring any other suggestions to me, because Montana gets to choose three of the workshops. 

It’s exciting to have the Western Interstate Region Conference in Montana.  There will be people from all over the United States including the East Coast as well, because they are sitting on the Public Lands Steering Committee, the other steering committees and the Board of Directors that will be meeting.  It will be really special to have all of you there.  We are going to try to have tables available so that each county can put up a display of what’s in their county as far as the attractions that the attendees might want to come visit. 

For those who are not NACo members, please think about joining because it is important for our state to be heard on the national level.“


   Mike Murray

   Lewis and Clark County

  “The Resolutions Committee is waiting for the rest of you to do your work. 

We proposed 31 resolutions to the Legislature; of those, seven were either not introduced or killed; the rest passed the last session and were implemented into statute.  So MACo was fairly successful.  Now is the time, if there is an issue you have in your county, to start working on a resolution and bring it to your district meeting.  Once it passes your district meeting it will get to the Resolutions Committee where we can prioritize and work with it.  If you are having a problem preparing a resolution or need a copy of a draft, contact MACo or me at Lewis and Clark County. 

Our goal is to get one person from each district to serve on the Resolutions Committee, so we need a few good women and men.  If you are considering a committee assignment, please take a look Resolutions.  We are where the action is and the most fun.”


   Allan Underdal

   Toole County

“Tax, Finance and Budget Committee members attending were Frank Nelson-Madison County, Dan Watson-Rosebud County, Sandy Boardman-Blaine County, Willie Duffield-Fallon County.  We are also looking for other members.  If you are interested, this committee would be happy to have you serve with us.

  We discussed our budget review policy, policies on fire and health insurance, benefits structure, and things that we would like to look at a bit more this year. 

  We discussed HB 124 implementation.  Our committee is set up to monitor the implementation.  So if you have any concerns with how that is working, the best thing to do is to call the Department of Revenue (DOR) directly and, if you have no luck them, contact one of our committee.  We will be meeting with DOR again.  It was great to see Kurt Alme here on Monday and we feel that he is definitely trying to work with us.  Having our entitlement payments come out a couple days before we met here didn’t hurt either.  The timing was very good.  Some of the problems we have had are the valuations.  They are still working on that. 

  We also discussed royalty issues, both federal and state, coal bed methane, working with the Oil, Coal and Gas counties, and working on bills that will allow us to receive the money that is due the counties in those areas. 

  We are also considering tax reform.  We want to be an initiator or a partner in building a coalition to explore and offer a tax reform policy for this next legislative session.  If you have any ideas, let us know.  We agree that everything is on the table, including a sales tax initiative again.  We would like to initiate a meeting between MACo, Department of Revenue, OPI and School Boards Association, League of Cities and Towns and any other organization to build a coalition to attack that issue and come up with some good ideas.”


   Vern Petersen

   Fergus County

“We had a good meeting this morning.  Back in the ’99 session we got blindsided when we changed the bidding requirement limit and the contractors also inserted wording that requires us to bid anything over $50,000 (MCA 7-5-2301).  We will come back the next session to get that changed.  It was not covered in the title of the bill so we didn’t discover it until the two years had lapsed.  I bring this up not only to remind you, but also to ask you to prepare your legislators for this the next session.  We had anticipated trying to get that changed last session but didn’t get the bill out of legislative council in time. 

I was recently appointed to a four-lane highway legislative Interim Committee, due to Kitzenburg’s Highway 2 bill.  We haven’t met yet and I’m not sure what to expect, but I will be your representative so please drop me a line or give me a call to tell me what you want me to do.

Stillwater County tells us that Fish, Wildlife and Parks is holding up the County’s Section 124 permit for stream crossing over an access issue.  They want to make sure they get what they want for access prior to issuing the permit.  It could be a precedent-setting process.  That’s an issue we all may be faced with depending on far it goes.

There really shouldn’t be a reason that we have a problem with the secondary speed limits at this point, because it was adopted that in 55 counties you can do a windshield survey to find out what feels safe and you can post those speeds until they do a speed study.  If you are having a problem with that, I would like to hear about it.

We have conflicting reports in our meeting this morning on what it means when you figure your value on your roads in your counties for road inventories.  We’ll soon have some direct information from Steve Jenkins on what we have to do there, so we will be able to get some information out to you soon.

A Weed Association representative came to our meeting.  Weeds certainly travel down those corridors, so I think we should be talking to each other more than we do.  I’m going to talk to the incoming president to see if we can arrange to have better communication. 

I was also appointed to a renewal task force on the NACo level.  I am trying to promote direct funding from the national trust fund to counties for county roads.  We are having a special meeting in October in Dallas.  There are about 4 million miles of roads in the US and counties are responsible for 3 million of those.  It is my feeling that we are not getting our fair share of the federal tax for those local roads.  If any of you would like to see the white papers or what I’m proposing, or have comments or suggestions, please see me.  I did work directly with the Montana Department of Transportation in writing this paper so that it would not injure any of the states and makes it neutral so that NACo can support it.  Hopefully we will get something done.”


   Clint Blackwood, Executive Director

“I want to give you a brief overview of the upcoming Bicentennial.  When did the Lewis and Clark Expedition start and where?  The usual answer is that it left St. Louis in 1804.  They traveled west out to the Pacific and came back to St. Louis in ’06.  However, the Bicentennial is going to step one year farther back to 2003 and start January 18, the day that Congress appropriated $2,500 for the Expedition.  It will start in Monticello, travel in 2003 on the East Coast, down the Ohio River range to the St. Louis area; in 2004 to the Mandan villages; in 2005 westbound through Montana to the coast; and 2006 come back to St. Louis in mid-September.  It’s almost a four-year observance.

The National Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Council, a non-profit corporation identified by Congress, has 24 Directors from around the country and is charged with coordinating at the national level.  Montana is represented on that Council. The Bicentennial Commission in Montana is actually a state agency, created by the 1997 Legislature, and has 12 commissioners.  Three commissioners are Native American. We are administratively attached to the Montana Historical Society.  We are to provide leadership, coordination, and communication for the State, with our neighboring states and with the national effort.  We do have annual Lewis and Clark conferences.  This year it will be in Billings on October 11-12.  We have the county commissioners on our database and you should have received registration packet. 

At the national level the trail is getting longer.  The National Park Service officially categorizes eleven states from Missouri and Illinois out to the Oregon/Washington area as the Lewis and Clark Historic Trail.  However, there are six additional states in the Ohio River area and out to the east coast that would like to be part of the commemoration as well.  With these affiliate states you have a total of seventeen states from coast to coast.  That is good news because there is a larger population base to help us in Congress when we need additional funding from them.  The other states have committees, councils and commissions, too.  There is a group called “The Circle of State Advisors” which is all my counterparts along the Trail.  We meet with the National Lewis and Clark Council periodically.

Almost 2,000 miles of the trail system are in Montana.  This is almost a quarter of the Trail, when you figure the trip from St. Louis to Oregon and back.  At one time there were in four different groups in different places in Montana, so it’s more than just one trail.  We have 286 of the 600 campsites in Montana.  They spent more time in Montana than anywhere else.  The trail is in or immediately adjacent to 36 of the 56 counties in Montana.  No fewer than 100 communities are within a 50 to 60 mile radius of the trail. 

University of Montana professor, Harry Fritz, talks about Lewis and Clark lost in Montana, which is really true.  When they left the Great Falls area trying to find the headwaters of the Missouri (which was part of their orders from Jefferson), Fritz argues that this 800 miles literally was Lewis and Clark lost in Montana.  If they would have just gone across at Great Falls over the Lewis and Clark Pass and used Highway 200 into Missoula, it would have been a lot faster.  They came back that way as they realized it was a well-traveled road, referred to as the “Road of the Buffalo” that the Nez Perce and the other Indians followed. 

The National Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Council and the Montana Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission provide coordination and communication.  They encouraged the creation of regional commissions either at the county or multi-county level because of the need for a local focal points. There are fourteen regional commissions.  For example, Beaverhead, Madison and Jefferson have come together and have resolutions of support from the county commissioners.  The Northeastern Bicentennial Commission and the Lower Yellowstone Bicentennial Commission each have six counties.  Lewis and Clark, Broadwater, Gallatin, and Park Counties are one-county organized.  There is a group called ‘Montana Tribal Tourism Alliance’ (MTTA) that has support of six out of the seven Indian reservations.  

The State Commission looked for projects to put into our Bicentennial master plan.  We asked the regional bicentennial commissions, ”What are your dreams and goals?”  We rolled those into a state plan.  One copy was sent to each of the counties.  The plan is also on our website at  I have some copies of the welcome page from our site.  It has the web address, my address, as well as an email address.  With all the energy and interest around the State, we will have one good commemoration compared to other states.

What will be going on?  At the national level, a series of national signature events will be marketing anchors along the trail over the course of the four years.  The goal of the National Council is to have between twelve and fifteen national signature events.  The first one is to be in Monticello to coincide with the kick-off of the Bicentennial.  Then there is one at the Falls of the Ohio, one at Council Bluffs, one at St. Louis, one at Kansas City, as you go west.  In Montana, we were fortunate enough to have two of those national signature events.  There were three from Montana submitted and two were chosen.  In the summer of 2005, “Discovering the Big Sky” will be a 33-day series of events in Great Falls area, focusing on July 3 & 4.  Significantly, that is when 200 years earlier, they had the portage around the Great Falls.  They spent almost a month here and they drank the last of the grog.  As they say, they were far enough on their journey that it was closer just to finish as it was to go back and get more grog.  The critical point is that it was here in Montana.  There will be events all along, but focusing on the Great Falls signature event.  Then in 2006, “Clark on the Yellowstone” is the second national signature event.  It will focus on the July 25 signature of Clark at Pompey’s Pillar.  The headwaters area proposed a Lewis and Clark festival and they still want to have activities and events.  By the way, how many rivers form the Missouri and what are they?  If I tell you it is really not right that there are three--that there are really two rivers that form the Missouri, would you believe me?  The Madison and Jefferson come together--which is the official headwaters of the Missouri.  The Gallatin joins in about ½ mile downstream.

The Commission wants to encourage people to come to Montana all during the four-year observance, as opposed to coming out in just ‘05 and ‘06.  The Institute for Tourism and Recreational Research at the University of Montana projected that we could have between 8 and 9 million additional visitors over the course of four years.  At a national level, 75% of the people were aware of the Expedition and less than 25% were aware of the Bicentennial.  With smart marketing, we can inform people so that they all don’t have be at the same place at the same time.  We would really like to have the Lewis and Clark experience in Montana as well known as going to Glacier and Yellowstone Parks.  What we put in place will be here for the Bicentennial but can also be a legacy for a long time. 

National Park Service has a program called “Corps II”--Corps of Discovery II.  It is a  classroom traveling the trail with a small convoy.  They would move probably in increments of 100 to 150 miles at a time and set up in a community for probably a week.  There would be satellite links so that people around the world would be able to know what happened in this area 200 years ago, what is going on now and what they project in the future.  It will really be a way for the entire world to experience what is happening along the Expedition during the Bicentennial.  One state-of-the-art education concept is to have virtual tours.  The National Lewis and Clark Education Center at the University of Montana is collecting information so that you can sit in a flight simulator and float over a site of your choice, like a fort in Oregon or Pompey’s Pillar, and see the mountain ranges, the communities, and take yourself right down to the site.  CORPS II is a big ticket item looking for funding.  Gerard Baker, who used to be the manager at the Little Big Horn National Monument, is the director of that effort.  CORPS II will be going westbound through Montana in 2005, eastbound in 2006.  When it’s not on location along the trail, CORPS II will travel to other parts of the country to promote the trail. 

Some of the questions that you might ask are, “Where are they going to stay and how are we going to accommodate them?”  We have asked each of those regional commissions to complete a survey of their communities and areas that might be big enough to host a fairly large influx of vehicles and business.  When the Park Service comes to us and asks for 25 acres minimum with restroom facilities, lighting and security, we will have the inventory from the regional commissions.  The trail travels through some fairly small communities so we will work with the National Park Service and the communities.  We are also working with the Montana National Guard, hoping they will be able to lend us some temporary infrastructure facilities to help with crowd control, particularly in small communities.

Another program is to be the US Army Relay Run.  It’s now planned for the summer of 2004.  They literally are going to run from coast to coast with a relay of runners.  Montana National Guard will figure out the route run through Montana. 

We are working with the Montana Historical Society Foundation to hire a fundraising coordinator and a fundraising consulting firm to build a campaign to raise money.  We will be contacting foundations, corporations, and businesses for grants as well as sponsorships.  A new Bicentennial license plate for Montana will go on sale in January 2002.  The first year is $30 for the license plate, then $20 each year to renew it.  Part of that extra $10 in the first year goes back to the counties and part back to the State general fund.  The money raised from this will underwrite the fundraising program that I just told you about.  If this goes over the way we hope it does, it will also increase our grants program.  This will be the third year for grants for non-profit groups who are interested in putting together Lewis and Clark projects.  This year we will have about $150,000 to $175,000 for grants.  As we raise more money through the Bicentennial license plates and through this fund raising effort, we hope to get more money into that program and back to counties, which also qualify as non-profit entities.  The regional bicentennial commissions have actually filed their own 501-c-3 and have received money directly for projects

We are also working with Congress for additional funding.  One of the bright spots is the National Park Service’s “Challenge Cost Share”.  This year they will have $5 Million for matching grants. You could take some of the money from our grants program and use that as a match for the national program, because the national program requires non-federal money for match.  

Beaverhead, Ravalli and Missoula Counties have worked with Idaho the last couple of years to come up with a public safety plan.  They have put together the beginnings of a response manual / plan, as well as identifying funding needs.  We are now trying to create a very similar plan for the entire state.  We are working with Montana Sheriff and Peace Officers Association and the Montana Department of Disaster and Emergency Services.  We have contacted each of the sheriffs in all the counties, fire departments, search and rescue, ambulance--the whole variety of public safety.    All the protocol and mutual aid agreements need to be put together so that if something happens in one place and they need help from somewhere else, a plan will ready.  If we have this plan together at the state level, we can take it to Congress for funding.  Some areas like Headwaters are very sensitive and if we end up with 200 or 300 extra people in there each day, there will be a big impact.  Whereas if you take Billings or Missoula and you could bring in thousands of people and it’s not such a big deal.  We are working with all of the state and federal agencies, land and water management agencies to address these contingency factors.”

The general sessions concluded for delegates to attend a variety of seminars.



President Gary Fjelstad, Rosebud County, called the session to order.


   Conference delegates voted to hold the 2003 Annual Conference in Lewistown,

  hosted by Fergus County.


  Bill Tande, Daniels County

“I believe there should be two candidates for fiscal officer, which we will vote on today.  I move to suspend the rules and open the floor for nominations.”

  John Prinkki, Parliamentarian

“The concern is that the By Laws require that there are two candidates for each position.     Two candidates did come up through the Nominations Committee.  Then one of the candidates withdrew, so we are left with one candidate for the fiscal officer position.  The By Laws specifically state that we will have two candidates, but the nominations were closed on the first day of general session.  Commissioner Tande is proposing to suspend the rules.  It is an appropriate motion and does require a second.  The motion to suspend the rules needs to be adopted by a 2/3 vote, so that we can have further nominations from the floor today.  Is there a second to the motion?”

The motion was seconded to suspend the rules to allow nominations from the floor for the election of officers.  The motion carried on a voice vote.

Nominations for fiscal officer were opened.  Kelly Gebhardt, Musselshell County, was nominated.  After calling three times for further nominations, a motion to close nominations was seconded and passed. 

President Fjelstad opened the floor to candidates for presentations.


  Dan Watson, Rosebud County

“Two years ago I stood at this microphone for this position as fiscal officer.  Being newly elected as County Commissioner and not having worked with this organization, I did not feel I should continue my candidacy, so I withdrew.  Now I have served on committees; I testified at the Legislature; I worked on behalf of this organization.  Therefore, I’m pleased to have my name up for candidacy.  I feel very good about my nomination having come from my District.  I appreciate the confidence my fellow commissioners have shown in me in placing my name in nomination. 

I would like to make a couple of points.  1.  I welcome Commissioner Gebhardt to this election.  I am glad to see that he is showing an interest.  I do appreciate that.  2.  Now is the practical time for me to seek this election.  I am in the middle of my term.  I have three years remaining on my term of office.  If I am not able to serve now, chances of my being able to continue to serve this organization, when seeking re-election, would be a different situation.  So I am asking for your vote of support at this time.”

  Kelly Gebhardt, Musselshell County

“I have been a Commissioner in Musselshell County for eleven years.  I would be happy to serve you.  My term is coming to a close at the end of next year, so I may or may not be here the following year.  I’ve been involved in MACo for a number of years; I have been on the Executive Board and on committees.  I would appreciate your support.”

President Fjelstad reminded the delegates that Commissioner Gebhardt’s name will need to be written in, since his name is not on the ballot.  The President appointed Kathy Alley-Dawson County, Jamie Doggett-Meagher County and Connie Eissinger-McCone County to the committee for counting the ballots. 

President Fjelstad announced that on a close vote of 27 to 24, Dan Watson was elected as MACo Fiscal Officer


  Carol Brooker, Sanders County

“I didn’t sleep much last night.  It seems I am more nervous about this election than I was about my election in Sanders County for my commissioner term.  I was unopposed then, so it was a little easier.  I have been around for seven years.  I think most of you know me.  I have tried to talk to everybody here.  People have come up with questions and I really appreciate that. 

I want to tell you a little bit about Sanders County and why I think I can represent everybody equally.  Sanders County is rural and is one of the fastest growing counties in Montana.  We have all the rural problems plus all the growth problems; we have mining; we have timber; and we have farming.  We also have the wettest spot in Montana and we have the driest spot in Montana.  That may change this year. 

One of the reasons that I wanted to run is that I feel very strongly about MACo.  I think it is a great organization.  There are a couple of things that this body needs to do.  We need to put HB 124 behind us.  We have it, whether we like it or not.  If we need to change something next time, then we all get together and work to change it.  The second thing that has been pretty devastating for counties is health insurance.  Dean has an idea about going to the State with a proposal for the counties to join the State’s policy.  If that isn’t possible, then I think MACo needs to work strongly on getting us a true group policy so that we can bring our rates down and continue offering that benefit to our employees.  It’s hard enough to get county employees and if we didn’t offer that benefit, then we would really struggle in keeping our employees.

I ask you to vote for me today.  I will represent you the best I can.  I don’t have any east-west issues; I don’t have any male-female issues.  I would appreciate your vote.”

  Allan Underdal, Toole County

“Carol shared her tea that was grown in Sanders County.  I would have done the same, but we didn’t grow much of anything in Toole County this year.  We do have plenty of hot air (or wind, as we call it), so that’s why I brought the balloons.  I was looking at those smiley faces and thought of Terry Fleck, the Attitude Doctor.  I try to promote good will and good attitude.

I’ve been a commissioner for 8½ years, with five on the Board of Directors and two as the Fiscal Officer.  I believe MACo is a very good organization.  We have good people who work with us and for us.  MACo helps us as individuals to know how to be commissioners and helps keep us out of trouble in our home counties and in what we do.  It also helps counties as well, like with the insurance pools.  Hopefully we will be able to get pool health insurance as well.

I am married to my wife of 26 years.  We have four children aged 23 to 15, three boys and a girl.  Three of them have attended college in Montana, but unfortunately two of them have left the State.  I don’t want that to be the continuing case where all of our bright people have to go off to other places.  I am very interested in economic development that would help that.  I think that MACo could be very involved in promoting economic development.

I would certainly try to provide consensus building in this very diverse state.  I think we had a good example of that in the last Legislative session.  We certainly can’t forget all of the diversity we have.  Clear communication is part of that and I would like to be a part of doing this.  We do need to have clear communication otherwise we can’t do our best.

One of my attributes is that I try to maintain a clear and cool head.  I’m also a Norwegian.  Several people have mentioned Ole and Sven.  If I could understand what is so funny about those jokes, I would probably be offended. 

I would like to represent you as your second vice president.  I would be available to listen to you and work with you and for you if elected.”

President Fjelstad announced that Carol Brooker was elected to the Second Vice President position.


   Mike Murray

   Lewis & Clark County

  Resolution of Appreciation

“We have 53 counties present at this meeting.  It is the record, so this resolution is even more appropriate since we are so well-represented at this Convention.”

Commissioner Murray read a Resolution of Appreciation to Dawson County Commissioners, spouses and staff for sponsorship of the Conference.  The seconded motion to accept the Resolution passed unanimously.

  Resolution 2001-2:  To Maintain Standard Utility Allowance Through FY 2003

  Bill Kennedy, Yellowstone County

  “I bring forth a resolution from the Health and Human Services Committee.  This is the first one we had asked for and we will follow up with another resolution next year as we look at the food stamp program.  We will work with Kathy Bessette and the Agriculture Committee as we are looking at the Farm Bill for next year.”

  The motion to adopt Resolution 2001-2 was seconded and passed.  The Resolution is attached to these minutes.


   Mike Murray

   Lewis and Clark County

“President-elect Harmon is proposing to get counties and units of government into the State health insurance pool.  At the Urban Counties meeting, Lewis and Clark County was authorized to attempt to establish an insurance pool.  We are using urban counties, cities and school districts.  The reason that we are staying with urban areas is that we are trying to get a statistical sample of 4,000 people that would be covered in this insurance pool.  We are going after urban school districts because generally school teachers are younger than some of us county workers, and we need the youth to drive the cost down.  We are trying to limit it to ten entities in our statistical sample.  The idea is to get prices and also figure out what type of insurance could be offered.  The way we are visioning it, we would also need some bonding through the State Board of Investments.  Next week, our County will speak to the League of Cities and Towns Urban City group. 

 Lewis and Clark County is pursuing this because we won the prize for having to mill the most to bail out our insurance coverage.  We have levied nine mills for our health insurance, because we had four open-heart surgeries, a transplant, four or five cancers and triplets.  The triplets cost $186,000 for openers, if you are curious what multiple babies cost. 

Once we get a statistical sample, it is our intent to come to MACo, since we are doing this under the auspices of MACo, to present it to everyone.  I didn’t want anyone to hear that Urban Counties are looking at a separate health insurance proposal from President-elect.  As this progresses, we will report to you at least at the Midwinter Conference or ask for a workshop or  present it in the newsletter so that you have information.  The idea of this is inclusive, not exclusive.  We are trying to get large numbers and then bring it back to the membership of MACo and ask if you are interested to join in with us.”


   Tom Gordon

   Toole County

“After what happened in New York City and Washington DC, the Commissioners in Toole County put together a challenge.  We are challenging the rest of the counties to collect $5 per citizen to go to the disaster relief fund.  We have set up a bank account at First State Bank in Shelby.  All donations we receive will be listed in the newspaper to show support for the citizens who came under attack on September 11.  We fully realize that the collection of this money is not our sole objective.  It is basically our way of saying, “We will not succumb to these attacks of terrorism, murdering innocent people in our country.”  Our goal is to provide disaster relief for the families that were affected and also for the rescue workers who have paid such a price.  On September 11, Americans perished.  We can do nothing about those deaths, but we can ease the financial burden on those families.  The long-term effects of this attack are not yet felt.  We ask each of you as community leaders to accept this challenge.”


   Mike Hutchin

   Lake County

“The District Court Council has been appointed and has to look at interim legislation.  We are all ex-officio, other than the judges.  We don’t get to vote.  People who serve on the Council are:  Chief Justice Karla Gray, District Court Judges Diane Barz, Thomas McKittrick, Ed McLean and John Warner.  The ex officio members are:  Lori Maloney from the Clerks of Court, Tim Smith from the Court Reporters, Glen Welch from Juvenile Probation Officers and I represent MACo. 

Those folks, the judges, don’t know anything about county budgets.  Traditionally, they have had the power of the pen to force you to do things.  One of the things they are dreading is that now they are under the Legislature, they can’t just order the Legislature to do what they want.  It does my heart good to serve on this committee.  They already feel they have a shortage of money and the legislature just scares the dickens out of them. 

One of the things I thought to be very important was to get the pay matrix developed for the assumption of the county employees into the State pay matrix system.  The Supreme Court has ordered staff to pursue job descriptions and a pay matrix through the National Judicial College.  I think this will prove to be extremely difficult for them because it’s going to take four to five months and here we are, two months of the fiscal year already slipped by.  You probably will get questions from some of the people in the courthouse, like the juvenile probation officer.  All the county employees who will transition will be placed and frozen on the matrix.  For example, if one of the secretaries for the judicial branch came in at $12 an hour, and it should be $11, they will be frozen at $11 until the matrix catches up.  So, there are significant changes for current county employees that they won’t know until transition next July 1. 

We began doing guaranteed shares, which are the costs of District Courts such as salaries or the things you can predict in District Court budgets.  All 22 districts will get a guaranteed share of the $25 Million set aside for the biennium.  The variable costs include the jury and witness rates which can go up and down, depending on the types of crimes committed.  We also have psychological evaluations that are a problem because they go up and down.  Whichever district needs more, they will get it out of that pool to help fund their needs.  That’s been working quite well in terms of the public defender program--a criminal / indigent reimbursement program that you all got refunded throughout the year at 80%.  At the end of the year if there is enough money to pay everybody’s expenses for public defenders, you received those monies. 

We also began the policies for the court reporters. In this, all the court reporters have three options.  They can become a state employee with transcript fees; they can become a state employee without transcript fees; or they can become an independent contractor.  We don’t know how this is going to shake out, but you can see that there is a little conflict in one area--if you are a state employee and you get transcript fees, the ethics bill is somewhat in question in terms of using county or state equipment.  They can’t use county or state equipment to do transcript fees.

I do have one major fear.  We all agreed in the past that the counties should house the courtrooms and the district courts, because that’s why we call our building the courthouse.  The new section says, “Each county or a consolidated city-county government shall provide office space, court room and other space for district court operations.”  At the second meeting, I could feel quite quickly that those judges really landed on that.   The “shall” is there--we shall provide.  In FY 2003, many of you counties will be facing the likelihood that there will be staff increases by those judicial districts and you are going to have to house them.  I am proposing that we look very seriously for the 2003 Legislature to do what we did back in the ‘80s, when they doubled the Department of Revenue, and say “if space available.”  I think we need to keep this in mind, because if you don’t have space, they could force you to provide it under this section of law.

Counties are liable for expenditures above and beyond the FY 2001 dollars spent for youth court proceedings and involuntary commitments.  We can’t fight with the judge over it because it’s already been talked about.  There’s a 3% built-in factor on that, so 2003 will go up by 3%, but you could have a liability exposure there. 

Public defenders do not carry over in terms of funding.  The county commission will have to provide public defenders and pay for them, but that will be paid for under the state under the same terms of the District Court reimbursement program.  It’s not like it’s going to cost you more, but you are still in the loop to have to provide public defenders. 

Last, the levy authority that you had still exists.  You have the same mill levels if you need it.  If you do not consume the entire mill levy for the district court costs that you are obligated for, you can put it towards staff or record keeping and subsequent costs.  You can use that entire mill levy and fund the county attorney’s office.  It may help you in your general funds to do so, so keep that in mind.  You can fund all the expected costs, levy the full mills allowed, help out the general fund and pay for some costs in the county attorney’s office.”


   John Prinkki

   Carbon County

“You are probably curious as to what this trophy is, balanced on the table.  It does represent good balance.  You have, in one hand, the club that commissioners carry, and in the other the ability to relax and have a good time.  Last year we started the annual trophy for the best humor provided at the Red Dog Party.  Last year, it went to Jack Holmstrom.  Many of you

saw his spectacular double back flip.  If you haven’t seen it, you need to encourage Jack to do that for you before he injures himself more seriously than he did last night.  (I still don’t see him here.  I think it’s probably Vern Petersen’s fault, and Karen Houston’s and Carla Smith’s.  You don’t see them around here right now, either.)

We had some very good entertainment, light-hearted joke and trick presenters last night, including Pat Conway, Jerry Martinson, Tom Pugrud, Vern Petersen, Harold Blattie and Ted Coffman.  He surprised me.  I thought he was a little more sedate than that.  But, I am sorry to say, folks, you just can’t beat Jack Holmstrom.  Jack is again the winner of the Red Dog trophy.”

After adjourning the meeting, President Fjelstad recognized Commissioner Howard Gipe, Flathead County.  Commissioner Gipe moved to reopen the session to discuss the By Law Amendment which had been mailed out earlier.  The motion was seconded and passed.

A motion to table the By Law Amendment for District Chair election to two-year terms was seconded.  Discussion included the need for longer time to be oriented to the duties for the Board of Directors and the interpretation that districts already have the ability to set longer terms by the way they elect the chair.  The motion carried.

The Conference was adjourned.






  Gordon Morris conducted the roll call and announced a quorum present for each insurance pool.


   Vern Petersen, JPIA Chair, Fergus County

  Chair Petersen opened nominations for one position on the JPIA Board of Trustees.

  Sam Samson, Jefferson County

“I would like to nominate a person who is proving to be a powerful purveyor of passion, with a penchant for being a pastor for providing us with positive prayers and one of the original urban members, Mike Murray.”

Chair Peterson, after calling thrice for further nominations, closed the nominations after voice vote by the delegates.


“In the JPIA report, the investment portfolio was $3,877,000 and on the workers’ comp. program our investment portfolio is $12, 786,000.  That money is really working for your benefit.  I would assure you that the same amount will be true for the property / casualty in a short time.”

Jim Turcotte is involved in workers’ comp and the property/casualty investment programs as investment advisor from Raymond James Financial.  He used to be associated with Valley/Glacier Bank in Helena and has been on the program for several years.  Paul Roland is the principal in Qualified Counseling, Inc.  In the brochures you will see the investments listed with QCI in front.  Paul is responsible for managing those under the direction of your staff, Carla Smith, MACo Financial Officer.  Paul is here today from Rochester, NY, where QCI is located.”


   Paul Roland

  “This is my seventh trip to Montana.  I come every other year and I always look forward to it.  I appreciate everyone’s hospitality and I hope to be coming out for many more years to come.  This is probably the most interesting time in the entire period that we’ve been involved with MACo.  It’s one of those times when we all see first-hand why insurance pools monies are invested as conservatively as they typically are.  With what’s going on in the stock market, it’s important that these types of monies be protected in safe and secure investments; and we find out just what ‘safe and secure’ really means, whether or not the things that you thought were going to be OK in fact prove to be OK.  I’m happy to say that that is the case with everything that we have inside the portfolios for both of the insurance pools.  Those investments have held up extremely well.  In fact, I suspect over the last couple of years there is no place better to be than US government securities.  I am pleased to report that the investments have done their job.  I have nothing of concern in the portfolios.  That’s the good news.  Not particularly bad news, but the challenge is, “What do we do now?”  This is a time that we have to be very, very careful.  The one thing I can say to you is that my firm has been around long enough to have faced these investment environments and we feel good about what strategies do well.  I want again to thank you all for your trust and confidence in us and to let you know that we are going to be here continuing to do the job that you advise us to do.”


    Ray Barnicoat, Risk Manager

“Today we have a chance to talk about the work comp rates.  The past five or six years we have had rate reductions ranging anywhere from 4% to 6%.  Each year gives us more experience to determine the true rate level needed to operate the program.  In this last year, we did see a slight raise in the program of 1.7%.  That tells me things are leveling off.  Last year I felt we had hit a plateau and that we wouldn’t see further rate reductions, except for tweaking of rates by class, depending on loss history.  So, that 1.7% overall rate increase is significant news. 

In the 7720 Class Code for police, our current rate is $2.53.  Effective October 1 that rate is going down to $2.12!  I don’t know of anybody in the country that has a rate of $2.12, or even $3.  When we started this program fourteen years ago, that rate was $6.30.  Over the years we have been able to peel down basically all of the rates in all of the codes.  I think they have leveled off.  In fact, I expect the law enforcement rate will take a jump next year because of the employer liability portion of the work comp program.  Recently, we had to settle a case under employer’s liability that led to a law enforcement claim.  It was a significant sum of money.  We’ll see how that spins out actuarily, but that probably will affect our rates somewhat. 

In October there will also be an adjustment in the investment credit.  We are currently enjoying a 15% discount on gross premiums, which is an investment credit returned to you from money earned in interest.  The Trustees have elected to go from 15% to 10% effective October 1. 

  We also have to consider the hardening of the excess market.  Earlier this morning I renewed our workers’ comp policy for excess coverage.  Last year we paid just under $39,000.  This year it’s going to be just under $80,000.  Now folks, we’ve had no claims, so this is purely industry revenue.  How things will flush out with the national crisis and how hard the insurers get hit will be a factor in determining excess insurance cost in the future.  A reasonable and prudent person would expect that they are going to go up significantly.  That’s why I think the pool is really a good benefit.  Gordon characterizes it as “the best dance in town”.  We are disassociated from exposures like a national crisis.  It has a rippling effect out to all of the commercial insurance companies.  Being in the pool we are very specific in our own little group.  We are the only folks that are going to feel our own ripple, and not something that happens elsewhere in the country. 

  Our loss history is still favorable but I see slight increases over the past two or three years.  I encourage you to take time to read your green brochure.  You will see slight increases in claims paid--not a large amounts, but there is a tendency to go up.  Your excess insurance costs go up; operating costs go up and eventually we will see claims reflected.

  There were some legislative changes in the last two sessions that affected comp rates, especially on pre-1987 cases.  A number of those older cases have re-opened and significant expenditures have resulted.  Some of that is due to people who have had back surgeries ten years ago and the surgeries have worn out.

  We need to re-commit to the safety effort because that is still our best defense for loss control.  Accidents prevented are injuries prevented and the costs around them.  When I go into a county to inspect or just to visit and listen to people talk about what they are doing in their safety programs, there is pride in what they do.  If I had been in Chouteau County eight to ten years ago, the shop inspections I did a couple of weeks ago would not be the top notch operation they have now.  Their people have a true safety culture, which shows in their pride, their equipment and their practices.  In many other counties I can cite significant changes over the years.  I appreciate the great job you have been doing and I ask you to continue. 

We are here to assist you.  We now have a database for tracking accidents and accident investigations.    We are not using mail anymore.  This is all done electronically.  We receive a claim from WILLIS, we post it back to you and we ask about the investigation and your remedies for prevention.  In the Risk Management link on the MACo website, there is a video library, a monthly safety topic, a list of training programs we provide and a list of other resources.  Many times joint safety committees or outside sources are valuable, too, and you should use them.

  I would like to introduce Larry Zanto and Keith Stapely from WILLIS, who are very key in working with us on claims.  It’s really nice to have Montana people in a Montana city adjusting claims for Montana employees, as opposed to having somebody in Minneapolis or Seattle adjusting our claims and not having that friendship relationship that we enjoy with these people.”


“We instituted an investment credit on the work comp program last year.  Now, every quarter, when you submit that quarterly report, at the very bottom you calculate the investment credit at 15%, soon to go down to 10%. You reduce your calculated premium by that amount.  If you calculate that your quarterly premium is $100, you would take the investment credit of 15% or $15 and send us a check for $85.  Beginning in October, that’s going to go to 10%.  Not a quarter goes by when counties don’t correctly submit their premium, because they don’t calculate the investment credit.  We end up having to refund the credit portion.  It’s your money.  Why should you be sending it to us and then have us send it back to you?  Let’s do it right.  Make sure that your staff understands how to do it, and keep that money in your county coffers.”


   Greg Jackson, Insurance Marketing 

“I have some comments on the JPIA Trust Property and Liability Annual Report which is in your packet.  I am pleased to announce that this last year, was a very successful year.  We added six counties to the program: Custer, Judith Basin, Sheridan, Richland, Roosevelt and Wibaux Counties.  We are pleased to add those six members to the county pool.  We also stand at 78 special districts, primarily water and sewer districts which are a majority of our district members. 

  Second, I would like to report that, based on last year’s actuarial study, for the first time in the last few years, we will have a positive situation as far as equity is concerned.  When we re-structured this program back in 1996, we started out with about a $1.4 Million unfunded liability, based on funding claims for the previous program.  Last year’s actuarial study indicated about a $45,000 unfunded liability.  So we are in the process of coming back out of that unfunded liability situation, for a very positive year this year and next year as far as equity is concerned. 

   The third observation is that we are continuing to decrease our loss rate--the number of claims and the actual severity and frequency of our claims.  We all should be aware that this is definitely a direct relationship to our risk management programs that Ray manages along with Jack in the personnel area, and also your efforts.  For example, in law enforcement, ever since Ray put in a law enforcement training program, our total severe claims has dropped from 25% to under 10% in four or five years.  These programs are working.  Your awareness and the amount of effort you, your sheriffs, your clerks and recorders put into following the advice of Ray and Jack is showing results.  It’s very positive. 

  Just one comment on what could we expect this next year.  Ray alluded to the fact that this national situation we are in had a real direct affect.  It will on our property and liability re-insurance, too.  The last two years, we’ve been dealing with a hard market anyway.  We had a slight increase in our property re-insurance premium and also in our liability re-insurance premium.  However, this year on the property side, we can expect another increase on our re-insurance premium.  Fortunately, being that we are a pool, that is only about 12% of our total premium cost.  Whatever increase we are going to absorb, it is going to be minimal.  On the liability re-insurance premium, we have a guarantee of the same premium for this year.  We can expect some hardening in the markets ever further.  That helps us to a certain extent because the traditional carriers are affected more than we are;  we are less reliant on insurance coverage. 

  One other item--WILLIS has implemented an Internet claims status reporting system.  If you have access to the Internet, users, either your agent or yourselves, have access to your claims history.  That way you can follow your claims on a monthly basis.  We will be identifying users in your counties, probably yourselves and the districts and your agents, to access that information.  So rather than getting that thick quarterly report on the Work Comp and the P & C side, you can get that information electronically. 

  In conclusion I would like to say that we are looking forward to staying the course according to the 1996 plan that re-structured this program.  It is looking better every year.  We are going to keep growing and maintain.”

The Joint Meeting was adjourned.




Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Glendive, Montana

ROLL CALL JPA Secretary Gordon Morris called the roll, announcing that the roll

would also indicate attendance for JPIA.  A quorum was present.

President Gary Fjelstad called the Annual Meeting of Joint Powers Authority for the Workers’ Compensation Trust Pool to order.


   President Gary Fjelstad

Election of the officers for the Joint Powers Trust, which consists of MACo Executive Officers, whose counties are members, proceeded on seconded motion from the floor.  The motion carried.

  President Dean Harmon

  First Vice President Victor Miller

  Second Vice President Carol Brooker

  Fiscal Officer Dan Watson

  Past President Gary Fjelstad

  Urban County Representative Mike Murray

  MACo Executive Director Gordon Morris.

Calls for further business went unanswered. 

The meeting was adjourned.




Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Glendive, Montana

Chair Vern Petersen, Fergus County, called the meeting to order.


Mike Murray’s term is expiring.  Mike Murray is the only person who was nominated.  The Chair entertained a motion to elect Mike Murray by unanimous ballot.  The motion was seconded and carried.

Gordon Morris announced the Board of Trustees:

  Vern Petersen, Fergus County, through 2002

  John Prinkki, Carbon County, through 2003

  Mike Murray, Lewis and Clark County, through 2004

  Carol Brooker, at large through 2003

  Dean Harmon, MACo President

  Victor Miller, MACo First Vice President

  Gordon Morris, MACo Executive Director

The meeting was adjourned.



In reaction to the terrorist attack on New York City and Washington DC on September 11, 2001, MACo states its support for the President of the United States in the response by this country.

  WHEREAS, on September 11, 2001, the United States of America was suddenly and brutally attacked by foreign terrorists, and;

  WHEREAS, these terrorists hijacked and destroyed four civilian aircraft, crashing two of them into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, and a third into the Pentagon outside Washington, DC, and;

  WHEREAS, thousands of innocent Americans were killed and injured as a result of these attacks, including the passengers and crew of the four aircraft, workers in the World Trade Center and in the Pentagon, rescue workers, and bystanders, and;

  WHEREAS, these cowardly acts were by far the deadliest terrorist attacks ever launched against the United States, and, by targeting symbols of American strength and success, clearly were intended to intimidate our nation and weaken its resolve, and;

  WHEREAS, these horrible events have affected all Americans.  It is important that we carry on with the regular activities of our lives.  Terrorism cannot be allowed to break the spirit of the American people, and the best way to show these cowards that they have truly failed is for the people of the United States and their counties to stand tall and proud.

  THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Montana Association of Counties condemns the cowardly and deadly actions of these terrorists; and

  BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Association supports the President of the United States, as he works with his national security team to defend against additional attacks, and find the perpetrators to bring them to justice.



To solicit support for continuing Montana’s waiver for a standard utility allowance for food stamp recipients.

WHEREASthe State of Montana has previously negotiated a series of waivers with the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Health and Human Services for welfare system reforms; and

WHEREASthe nation’s only waiver to provide standard utility allowances was approved for the Montana system through FY 2003; and

WHEREAS Montana’s waiver was then removed; and

WHEREASthe statewide effect of the loss of the standard utility allowance means a decrease of food stamp benefits to 36% of our Montanans receiving food stamps;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVEDthat the Montana Association of Counties solicit our Congressional delegation and the Governor of Montana to join the effort to convince the United States Department of Agriculture to keep our standard utility allowance in place through FY 2003 as agreed in the original Montana waiver.