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95th Annual MACo Conference Minutes

General Session - Monday, September 27, 2004

Missoula, Montana

Carol Brooker, MACo President, Sanders County

The 95TH annual Conference of the Montana Association of Counties opened at 9:00 am. President Brooker led the delegates in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Kristie Ostlund, Billings, sang the National Anthem. President Brooker introduced the head table:

  • Bill Kennedy, First Vice President, Yellowstone County
  • Doug Kaercher, Second Vice President, Hill County
  • Bill Nyby, Fiscal Officer (Finance Man), Sheridan County
  • Jean Curtiss, Urban County Representative, Missoula County
  • John Prinkki, Parliamentarian, Carbon County
  • Rev. Tom Krantz, Church of the Nazarene, conducted the Invocation.

“May we see in every calamity an opportunity and not give way to the pessimist that sees in every opportunity a calamity. When we are wrong, make us willing to change. When we are right, make us easy to live with. Help us to show others what America is really about—an America that wants fair play, honest feelings, straight talk, real freedom and faith in God. Make us to see that this cannot be done as long as we are content to be coupon clippers on the original investment made by our forefathers. May we have love for our fellowmen and something to deposit on which young people of tomorrow can draw interest. Help us when we want to do the right thing but know not what it is. Help us most when we know perfectly well what we ought to do and do not want to do it. Teach us that liberty is not only to be loved, but also to be lived. Make us see that our liberty is not the right to do as we please but the opportunity to please, to do what is right. Teach us to listen to the prompting of God’s spirit and thus save us from floundering in indecision that wastes time, subtracts from our peace, belies our efficiency and multiplies our troubles.”

Mike Kadas, Mayor of Missoula, welcomed the delegates and encouraged the Montana League of Cities and Towns and MACo to work together to develop and protect the flexibility to address local problems in local ways. Commissioner Bill Kennedy, Yellowstone County, responded with gratitude for the hospitality.

William Marcus, Director of the Broadcast Department, U of M, presented an historic video about long-time Montanans and described the work done by public broadcasting in Montana.

Special Slide Show and Music Presentation

Doug Kaercher, Hill County

95th Annual MACo ConferenceWe had a large delegation going to NACo this year in Maricopa County, Arizona. This slide show is to show what we do at NACo Conferences. And rather than just a slide show, I’m going to do “Name that Tune” with each slide. The tunes are all on Beatles albums. I actually have a prize for each one of the slides.” (Slide show, music, prizes and laughter ensued.)

Roll Call

Bill Nyby, MACo Fiscal Officer, Sheridan County

After the call of the roll, Nyby announced quorum present to conduct business.


Bill Carey, Host, Missoula County

The seconded motion to adopt the Memorial Resolution passed by unanimous consent.


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 convention duly assembled in Missoula, Montana, this 27th day of September 2004, that the Association does hereby pay tribute to the memory of Commissioners

  • Jerry Allen, Ravalli County
  • Kathleen Alley, Dawson County
  • Eugene Iverson, Richland County
  • Earl Knight, Powell County
  • April Milroy, Garfield County
  • Alvin Torske, Big Horn County
  • Bob Kester, Hill 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.


Mike Murray, Chair, Lewis and Clark County

“If your county wishes to have a resolution segregated so it may be discussed, rather than slam-dunk approved, I need you to yell out today or on Wednesday.

The first resolutions are “high” priority. A high priority resolution means that it affects every county in the State of Montana.”

The high priorities are:

  • 2003-4 County Attorney Pay Increase
  • 2004-2 Increased water levels at Fort Peck Lake
  • 2004-06 Workforce Funding Governance
  • 2004-07 Soft Drink Tax
  • 2004-08 Historic Road right of way Policy
  • 2004-09 Legal Notice Advertising
  • 2004-11 Clarifying Fences attached to Bridges
  • 2004-12 Support Clawback Provisions in Tax Law
  • 2004-13 Support MEDA Legislative Proposals
  • 2004-14 Local Option Fuel Tax
  • 2004-16 Rural Improvement District Notice
  • 2004-24 MDOT to maintain all State secondary roads
  • 2004-27 De-listing Gray Wolf
  • 2004-28 Uniform Zoning
  • 2004-29 Repeal credit for incarceration
  • 2004-30 County Official Bonding
  • 2004-31 Water Rights Adjudication Funding
  • 2004-32 Victim Witness Surcharge
  • 2004-33 Election Administrator Compensation
  • 2004-34 Indirect Cost Allocations

The medium priorities are:

  • 2003-2 Exemption to Nepotism Rules
  • 2004-1 Motor Home County Processing Fee
  • 2004-4 Optional voting on Road Levies
  • 2004-5 Montana Land Information Act
  • 2004-10 Airport Land Use Act

The low priorities are:

  • 2004-17 Oppose Changes in Bentonite Mine RoyaltyTaxes
  • 2004-18 Civil Attorney Legislation
  • 2004-19 Household Fee for Conservation Districts
  • 2004-20 Remove Opt-out Provision for Park Districts
  • 2004-21 Amend Zoning Law for Mineral Extraction
  • 2004-23 Household Fee for Parks and Recreation
  • 2004-26 Subdivision Regulations—Parklands

“Do not pass” recommendations:

  • 2003-1Utility Rate Crisis
  • 2003-3 State Lands Rights of Way
  • 2004-3 Mosquito Control District Creation
  • 2004-22 Allow Summary Reading of County Ordinances
  • 2004-25 Amend Government Liability for Damages in Tort Claims
  • 2004-15A Equitable PILT Distribution (2004-15A replaces 2004-15. 2004-15 no longer exists.)

MACo Resolutions for re-affirmation
High priority

  • 2002-19 Communities as Focal Point for Mental Health Services
  • 2002-24 Involuntary Commitment Expenses Paid by the State
  • 2002-25 Mental Health Pre-Commitment Costs
  • 2002-35 State Public Defender System
  • 2000-25 Detention Costs for Department of Corrections Inmates

Low priority

  • 2002-15 Exempt Levies Pledged Against Indebtedness

“Do not pass” recommendation

  • 2002-1 Wireless Communication Standardized Regulations
  • 2002-20 Retain Control of Substance Abuse Funds

Delegates requested the following resolutions be segregated for discussion:

High Priority

  • 2003-4 County Attorney Pay
  • 2004-7 Soft Drink Tax
  • 2004-13Support MEDA Legislative Proposals
  • 2004-16 Rural Improvement District Notice
  • 2004-24 MDOT to Maintain Secondary Roads
  • 2004-31Water Rights Adjudication Funding
  • 2004-33 Election Administrator Compensation

Medium priority

  • 2004-1 Motor Home County Processing Fee
  • 2004-4 Optional Voting on Road Levies
  • 2004-6 Montana Land Information Act

Low priority

  • 2004-21 Amend Zoning Law for Mineral Extraction

Do-not-pass recommendation

  • 2003-3 State Lands Rights of Way
  • 2004-3 Mosquito Control District Creation
  • 2004-15A Equitable PILT Distribution

Re-affirmation, “do not pass” recommendation

  • 2002-21 Retain Control of Substance Abuse Funds

MACo By Law Proposed Amendments

  • By Law change #1, which is to add past presidents to the MACo Board of Directors
  • By Law change #2 is the dues increase
  • By Law change #3 is one county moves out of District 5 to District 4—Chouteau County.

Carol Kienenberger, Phillips County

Do we treat these changes the same as we do resolutions—so if we want to discuss one separately we would ask to segregate it?

Mike Murray, Lewis & Clark County

No, each one will be discussed and voted on separately.


Bill Nyby, MACo Fiscal Officer, Sheridan County


The Fiscal Year 04 Audit was presented at the Board of Directors meeting and the Board approved. All county dues revenue has been received for FY 05 and the FY 05 budget is running along smoothly at the present time.


On the back page of the dues proposal is the PILT Assessment Proposal for FY 06. This proposal has been well presented at all the District meetings.


Bill Kennedy, Yellowstone County

In the last legislative session, Senate Bill 370 (Title 7 Chapter 32 Part 22, Section 3) on prisoner medical costs in your county jails was passed. If you send an inmate from your county jail to the hospital, they will bill you 70% or the Medicaid cost. Some counties have said that they pay 100%. That’s up to you, but you do have an opportunity to have a discount on your bill. We have used this bill and have saved us thousands of dollars in Yellowstone County.

Also in the new law, the hospital has to look for the first provider, if they have other insurance.


Gordon Morris

95th Annual MACo ConferenceThis past year has been a very good year for the Montana Association of Counties, particularly because it has been such a pleasure to work with the Board of Directors and with our MACo President Carol Brooker.

I’ve been acting as Executive Director since February of 1984. Every once in a while, I look back and I gain a lot of confidence that MACo--over the course of that 20 years with Board members and the presidents you’ve chosen--has moved forward in a very sound, positive way.

When I was chosen as the Executive Director, we had 51 member counties, with only one urban county--Missoula. The others had formed their own coalition of urban counties. It was a very divisive era. It took approximately four years before the urban counties came back into the Association. I don’t see that divisiveness today. I think we are much stronger as a consequence of that.

Our accomplishments are many. Most of them can be attributed to the membership, the Board and the leadership. In 1927, MACo had resolutions to support state assumption of welfare. In 1947, MACo was speaking of state assumption of district courts. Here we are—80 years later almost--and we have state assumption of district courts and we have state assumption of welfare. We struggled in the early ‘80’s with property/casualty liability insurance. We now have a very viable self-insurance program. If you compare it with other state association involvement, ours stands heads above. We continue to grow in membership in the property/casualty liability program and we have a very viable, strong workers’ compensation program. I think those are all assets to the Association, assets that were imagined and dreamed of by county commissioners.

About two weeks ago I spoke to the Local Government / Education Interim Committee. They wanted a report on MACo’s legislative effort for the coming session. I told them that I was reporting based upon actions not yet taken by the Association, because we would be going into our 95th annual convention in Missoula. Somebody in the Committee said, “Well, have you been there all 95 years?” I said, “No, but there are times that it feels like it.”

With that in mind, I want to advise the membership that I have given the Board of Directors a letter dated August 16th indicating that it is my intention to stay with the Association through June 2006. That allows the Board of Directors time to make decisions as a consequence of that letter. I am assuming that the Board would advertise the position in July, 2005, with the hope of filling the position by January 2006. I intend to seek to stay on until the end of June, during the six-month transition period.

It’s a bit like golf. In golf, you make the turn and you head for the home holes. I characterize that in terms of where I am. I’ve made the turn and I’m headed for the 18th hole.

I’m looking forward to the 2005 legislative session, this being the 21st session I’ve been involved in (not to ignore all the special sessions) and this being my last.

It’s been a tremendous pleasure and it’s going to be sort of heart wrenching to step away from the position that I’ve held for 21 years. I thank everybody for that.

I do think that the Association today is stronger than it’s ever been. We have more involvement; we have more participation; we have good leadership. Everything about the Association is better today that it was in 1984. You can all be proud of the Association.

I’m going to be very involved over the course of the next 15 to 20 months. We have some very ambitious plans. In brief, I’m working on behalf of both the Insurance Trusts concerning bringing claims administration in-house. My early conclusion is that it makes sense from a financial perspective. Working with the Trustees, I’ll be putting together a recommendation to present in November. They will make the decision.

We can’t accommodate this without some major changes in our building. So the Trustees might consider providing a building for the insurance program administration and for our legal defense team. That would occur in January 2006.

I would like to stay on for the transition of a new executive director and for transitioning claims administration. This all depends on the decisions of the Trustees. This doesn’t involve the MACo Board of Directors. That is solely a trustee action on behalf of their clients--you and your counties.

This has been a tremendous pleasure. It’s going to continue to be a pleasure—I’m not leaving today. However, you all need to be aware of all of the things that have to happen.

There are probably three things in everybody’s life that you can take pleasure in. First and foremost is family. My wife is in the audience. I want you to know that my family is exceptional. Any time you have a family and children that grow up and make you proud, what more can anybody really ask?

Second to that would be a career. And what a career it’s been! I’ve said many, many times over the last several years that this is the best job in Montana--the best and most rewarding job. You can’t ask for anything more than a job you really enjoy.

So I have family and job and--my health is great. I am actually looking forward to that so-called 19th hole and going on to some other endeavors. My wife and I have laid out a plan. We are going to be involved in Elderhostel, try to do a little more writing, even approach a couple of the Montana university systems to teach public administration, political science, American history, Russian history, who knows.

I look forward to the next 15 to 18 months serving at your pleasure.


Carol Brooker, President

The Executive Committee nominations are:

  • Bill Kennedy, Yellowstone County, for President
  • Doug Kaercher, Hill County, for First Vice President
  • John Prinkki, Carbon County, and Frank Nelson, Madison County, for Second Vice President
  • Carol Brooker for Past President.


John Prinkki, Carbon County

“Thank you for the nomination for MACo Second VP. It would be a real honor and a privilege to serve as MACo leadership and guide the Association. You would think it would be easy for me to come up here and talk to you and ask you for that. I’ve been a commissioner for almost 16 years and I know a lot of you very well. In some ways it is all the more difficult. When I look out in the audience and I see all of you, I think any one of you could serve in this position, including the new commissioners like Bill Leach. I hope that you would step forward some day and take a leadership position. That is why it is hard for me to ask you, as peers, to vote for me as your leader.

I sent out a letter about a month ago to explain to you I am. First of all, my first commitment is to my family; my next commitment is to Carbon County. Many of you know I’m also involved with Beartooth Electric and Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Company. Those two commitments will take a fair amount of time and frankly, they are a lot of fun right now. We are going to build a $470 Million coal fire generation plant in Great Falls that will serve about 150,000 Montanans with low-cost power. Right now, we are able to provide the City of Great Falls with power for $.05 a kilowatt less than they are paying Northwestern Energy. There is opportunity for counties to be able to aggregate a load and be able to buy power as well. I will work, whether I’m second VP or not, to accomplish that.

I am going to be busy, but I think I can handle it. It’s going to be a matter of scheduling and delegating authority; I need to make sure that you understand that. Either way, I’m looking forward to the ride and whether you choose me or Frank, MACo will be very well served.

Frank Nelson, Madison County

This gives me a chance to publicly thank the people who are supporting me. I really appreciate this. This is a high point in my life. It also gives me a chance to convince you who are not supporting me that you should.

I believe in MACo. We are a very strong organization. We advocate what is right for the State of Montana. I believe that strongly.

I’ve been a commissioner for about 5½ years. Over the past several years, I have noticed the progress in MACo. We are learning how to deal with people; we are learning how to deal with the legislature; we are learning how to deal with the Federal Government. I feel very strongly that we are a very positive influence in the State of Montana and at the national level. We are also dealing with federal agencies in Montana and influencing them in a positive manner.

My goal as second vice president will be to continue to increase that influence and to continue our learning to do things right for the people and the State of Montana.

I think and I hope that I would be a good second vice president and I believe John would also be a good second vice president. Over the past three or four months I’ve gotten to know John. I believe either one of us will do a good job.

CONFERENCES FOR 2005 and 2006

Carol Brooker, President

The 2005 Conference is in Yellowstone County.

Two counties have bid for the 2006 Conference—Gallatin County and Cascade County.


Mike Murray, Lewis and Clark County

Proposed Amendment #1--Past Presidents on Executive Board

The first proposed amendment in Article IV, Board of Directors, Members:

“c) Every past president of the Association may continue as a member of the Board of Directors as long as such past president remains an incumbent county commissioner.”

The estimated cost to the Association for this change 41,500 to $2,000 per year.

Carol Kienenberger, Phillips County

Phillips County has discussed all the resolutions and we discussed the changes in By Laws. For this change we are standing in opposition. It’s hard to do that when all the past presidents are your friends, but we feel that the board makeup initially was set up with a pretty good balance—geographically especially. This would be adding approximately an unknown number of at-large directors. I’ve heard people speaking about the valuable resource that our past presidents are. They can still contribute to MACo through our committees. I don’t think you need to sit on the Board of Directors to contribute to MACo.

I understand this is patterned after NACo’s Board of Directors which is really quite large. We feel that the makeup of our Board has been designed to be a balanced Board and we feel that this would shift the balance. Past presidents can use their knowledge and support in other ways.

Joan Stahl, Rosebud County

I value the input past presidents have and I think I have used them as a resource myself several times. I don’t think we are kicking them out. I think the balance of Board is correct now.

Bill Nyby, Fiscal Officer, Sheridan County

I want to clarify a couple of things with this amendment. If it does pass, they do have voting rights. The other is, with the word “may”, it’s their decision as the past president whether they want to continue on the Board or not. They would have that option.

Proposed Amendment #2—Dues Increased by Board

This proposed change affects the duties of the Board:

“Duties and Responsibilities: … as authorized by the members in conference in 2004, the Board may increase the dues schedule in an amount up to the annual COLA in any one year. Any increase above the annual COLA must be approved by the membership at the annual conference.”

Todd Devlin, Prairie County

From a county standpoint, when we are looking at COLA, we are looking at salaries. Are you looking at the entire budget? Would you multiply your entire budget or would you just be talking salaries?


We are talking about increasing the dues by that percentage is all we are talking about—not the budget, though that is tied in with it. It’s a mechanism that we wanted to put in there to increase the dues.


Jeff Arnold, NACo Deputy Legislative Director, Washington DC

95th Annual MACo ConferenceThe slides from the power point presentation are available for viewing at

Members Only (on NACo Home Page, upper right side)

Advocacy / Media Relations Tools (on Members Only Page, right side)

Advocacy Tools (lower left list)

“How to Influence Congress Without Leaving Home”




Kathy Bessette, Hill County, Chair

95th Annual MACo Conference

Our Committee encourages all counties to establish a drought committee. We also feel that the weather stations are a valuable tool. If you have questions about the weather stations, Ed Diemert, Tom Gordon and I can help you. I will give you other names of people to contact. We can use these to affect federal policy. Several different people are working with our congressional delegation to find funding to help counties do this. Hill County has five set up and we have a representative who is on the committee, working to find a provider to carry the data.

We went through the resolutions that were assigned to us. We will support 2004-4, road levy election; 2004-11, the Madison County fences-attached-to-bridges resolution; and 2004-31. We dislike the wording in 31A, so we support the existing 2004-31, dealing with water.

We had a report from Dave Shultz. He said the draft weed management plan should be out in December. He plans to get that copy to the Ag. Committee and to the Public Lands Committee, so that we can participate. Jim Sparks gave his input regarding noxious weeds.

We would also like to deal with the high cost of energy regarding ag production, fertilizers, fuel, alternative sources of energy, etc. We would like to have a workshop to address growth policies and ag. concerns. We would like to meet jointly with the Public Lands Committee, the stockgrowers and the graingrowers to see what they have in store for this upcoming legislative session, so we can work together or address problems before they grow.


Anita Varone, Lewis and Clark County, Chair

95th Annual MACo ConferenceWe thought it was important for us to explain what we’ve been doing over the last 20 months, and talk about our vision, our mission and what role county commissioners play in economic development. So, we will be meeting with the Montana Economic Development Association at the University of Montana. This is a continuation of a two-year relationship we’ve established with MEDA, Montana Ambassadors and M-RED (Montanans for Responsible Energy Development). So, we want you to be there. A bus will take us over there and we will be back in time to go to any of the meetings later afternoon. We will be sampling made-in-Montana foods.


Bill Kennedy, Yellowstone County, Chair

95th Annual MACo ConferenceThe Department, Mignon Waterman, Kathy McGowan and the local LAC are putting together training on jail diversion. We will invite all the players to talk about it as we put together our legislative agenda.

2002-19, Communities as Focal Points for Mental Health Services, has a broad range. We will work with mental health centers as we look at community resources for the next legislative session.

2002-24 and 2002-25, Involuntary Commitment Expenses and Mental Health Pre-Commitment Costs, are close together. We want those costs assumed by the State. Judith Basin County, a few years ago, had a $10,000 price tag on pre-commitment costs, so it is a big-ticket item. When someone applies for SSI disability, it usually takes about three tries. When they finally get on SSI, then the feds reimburse us back from the date they first applied. We’d like to look at this for the pre-commitment costs.

Kelly Myers talked with us on childcare consultation and emergency preparedness.

We are planning another meeting with SRS coordinators, HRDCs, the state, mental health centers and Health and Human Services Committee about the 211 phone line for health and human service issues. Funding is our concern.

We will meet tomorrow with mental health centers about the Medicaid re-design. At last midwinter, Peter Blouke said, “We are going to expand services, but they are going to be limited services.” If you give someone, who has schizophrenia, limited services, it isn’t going to cut it. Those costs are going to be passed back to you when you pick them up, put them in jail or some other service. We need to know what they are doing with Medicaid re-design.

We have the workforce funding and governance and we have the soft drink tax funding for senior services. This is very important to the Council on Aging, the Area offices, the Meals on Wheels program. We want to have flexibility in the next legislative session to support other revenue sources that may come up.


Mary Sexton, Toole County, Chair

95th Annual MACo ConferenceOf our three main items, first was the Montana Land Information Act and funding for GIS activities, Cadastral, and other. The state, as well as counties, is considering $1 fee on all documents that are recorded in the clerk and recorders office. This $1 fee would be split 25% to counties and 75% to the state. We did discuss how that split could be changed. We do benefit from the state doing the GIS work for us, if we don’t have GIS folks on staff. Jim Larson, Stillwater County GIS coordinator, can tell you about this bill and what benefit GIS is to you. Jeff Brandt and Stu Kirkpatrick, who deal with GIS information for the State are here. Please talk to them. Our IT Committee sponsored the resolution that there be a funding source for this, to help economic development, real estate transactions or any number of activities. It’s very critical that GIS be available.

We also had an update from mylocalgov for electronic financial transactions. At this point, only one county has implemented this—Lewis and Clark County. Dave Hughes, from Lewis and Clark County, is here. I know that some of you are looking at “Official Payments” and other counties are interested in mylocalgov. So far the implementation has been slower than we expected.

We spent a good deal of time discussing the reorganization of the MACo IT Committee and joining with MACITA, the county information technology technical people. We decided that the most efficient structure is to have these two groups merge into the MACo IT Committee. It would be a MACo Committee, which would have commissioners and IT people. We already have one clerk and recorder on the Committee and we suggest that there be up to three people who represent clerk and recorders and treasurers. We also suggest there be a person who uses GIS with roads, law enforcement and DES. So we would expand the committee as far as representation and interests. The focus of the committee would not only be policy, but also looking at education issues in IT, reviewing proposals such as the mylocalgov proposal, and encouraging collaboration with the State, private industry, and local co-ops.


Roddy Rost, Fallon County, Chair

95th Annual MACo ConferenceThe Justice and Public Safety Committee kept discussion to the resolutions. Resolution 2003-4, County Attorney Pay Issue, we support with an amendment, “Whereas the County Attorney Association will work with the Montana Association of Counties and the Justice Committee…” There are some problems with the 90% that will come up in further discussion.

Resolution 2004-29, Repeal of Credit for Incarceration Prior to Conviction, we support with an amendment. We ask to amend in subsection 2 to change from “must “ to “may”. The judges will have the discretion of placing a fine so we do each receive monies from that. This would be more consistent with what the County Attorneys Association supports.

2004-32 we voted to support increasing the victim witness surcharge. The County Attorneys Association is in favor of this, also, and we are going along with them on that.

2004-18 is the civil attorneys legislation. We voted not to support this. We feel there would be more complications and cause more problems than leaving it the way it is.

2004-24 on detention costs for the Department of Corrections inmates, we voted to support. This is costing the counties and we feel the state should be responsible for some of this payment.

2002-35, State Public Defender System, we voted to support but we still have problems on that.


Howard Gipe, Flathead County, Chair

95th Annual MACo ConferenceMyra Shults spoke this morning.

We had legislation to revise part of Montana Subdivision and Platting Act, which was approved by the full interim committee and Senator Laible, I think, will carry it. As soon as we get the draft on that, the Land Use Committee will meet. Also, Senator Laible said he will the legislature to fund another committee to look into the subdivision laws themselves.

We have several resolutions. The Montana Airport Land Use Act—that’s land use around airports; that’s not zoning. The per-household fee for conservation districts—it says districts, but it’s actually easements 2004-21, the new zoning land regulation and mineral extraction—I think this is about gravel pits. In Flathead County we have one gravel pit that has something like 59 acres and goes 100 feet deep and is right next to two big beautiful subdivisions. So, those people sitting there with $3 to $400,000 homes have a problem being next to a 100 foot deep gravel pit. 2004-26, to amend the subdivision regulations for park lands, we are not going to recommend anything on these; we want you to take a look at them.


Connie Eissinger, McCone County, Chair

95th Annual MACo ConferenceWe support what the Resolutions Committee does and the recommendations for do pass and high priority for the Fort Peck Resolution 2004-2 to increase water levels, 2004-8 the State Right of Way Policy, 2004-27 De-listing the Gray Wolf, 2004-31 Water Adjudication Funding, and 2004-35 to support I-147. 2004-15A, which the Resolutions Committee recommended “do not pass”, we agree.

There are two different plans that are out now for comment. One is the grizzly bear plan for which we are concerned about impacting the local communities economically. We are going to send comments on that one. We are also going to be sending comments on the elk plan. The elk plan is on the Fish, Wildlife and Parks website; and the grizzly bear plan is on the Forest Service website.


95th Annual MACo ConferenceBill Nyby, Sheridan County, Chair

EDITORIAL NOTE: Unfortunately the recording of this report is not available for transcription.







Vern Petersen, Fergus County95th Annual MACo Conference

EDITORIAL NOTE: Unfortunately the recording of this report is not available for transcription.


Gordon Morris, Executive Director

There were a couple of special items--tax reform efforts of the Interim Committee and the status of the public defender legislation.

The Tax Reform Committee had their final meeting. Representative Jim Peterson is looking at a 4% sales tax, proposing to eliminate the 101 mills and proposing to eliminate locally based school funding levies, approximately 58 mills. That is a combined total of about $289 Million in property tax reductions. He is also proposing to increase the individual tax deductions by $4,500 to a total of $5,990 and go to a flat tax rate of 5.75%. This would actually pay for the tax reduction that was enacted by the last session of the Legislature and take it one step further. Based on feedback, he chose tax elimination as opposed to the tax credit approach. He took just about the entire set of recommendations from the Low Income Coalition.

What he does in the next session depends on whether or not he gets elected. I think the real question he has is what happens to the House and to the Senate—Republican control or Democrat control. If he is in the minority party, he doesn’t appear to be interested in carrying the tax reform package. He speaks as being on the diving board with people getting ready to push him off the end into an empty swimming pool. He’s been very good to work with.

He originally had an implementation concept in 2005 with a vote in 2008. If you enact the property tax reductions from the 101 mills and the additional 58 mills in January 2005, taxpayers will see that in the November 2005 and the May 2006 tax bills. There would be a vote on the sales tax in 2006 at a special election in June or the general election in November.

The only way you can get a major tax reform bill like this passed is by putting together a good strong viable coalition. I think that is what we have been doing over the past four months.

The Law and Justice Interim Committee formed a subcommittee to look at the public defender legislation for 2005. The state has responsibility for all public defender costs in district court right now. The Committee is recognizing a problem. They have chosen to expand the State Public Defender system to those public defender costs that arise in JP courts and in municipal courts. Based on some assumptions, they came up with an $80 Million estimate of public defender costs in JP courts. About a month ago we sent out a flash request for your analysis of public defender costs in justice courts in FY04. You did a great job. Most of the counties got that information back. That survey determined that in FY04 there were only $1 Million worth of costs. So that is an important factor.

They are using a Wyoming model. The Wyoming model assumes that there is a percentile sharing arrangement between the state-assumed portion and the local portion—the local portion that would be paid by counties for JP courts and the local portion paid by cities for municipal courts. Their bill draft has an undetermined percentage being allocated to counties and an undefined percentage allocated to cities and towns. They don’t have any rational basis for coming up with a percentage. If you assume that the local costs are a million dollars, then they need to get a million dollars from us. So, why do you need a percentage?

We do need an amendment that would take out the potential for spikes for any one county. So, we recommended taking the dollar amount necessary (a million dollars), taking the case load per county on a statewide basis, and using the percent of county case loads in the state total to come up with the dollar amount. If you had a thousand cases statewide and you had 100 of them in Missoula County, then Missoula County would be billed 10% of the million dollars or $100,000. On that basis, you take out those spikes.

So, you open the defender program very carefully and take out a million dollars and send that to the public defender system. A county, then, would have fewer dollars in their entitlement program. It’s not a money transfer, it’s taking the money out of the Entitlement Program. You keep the money that you would have spent on that cost before, and it is now free to spend some place else. The state gets the money and you keep your money. It’s win-win.

We are going to have to work really hard on that concept. I really am pleased with the approach the Committee has taken.

The court commissioner and our friend, Jim Oppedahl, has a $4Million supplemental request for district court expenses for the biennium. We always said that the State is going to be in the same position that every county in Montana was when a Duncan McKenzie case hit your doorstep. What did you do? You did a supplemental. You went to your voters and taxpayers and came up with the money. Well, the State is in the same position now.

Paddy Trusler, Lake County

Under the proposal how would that million dollars be handled in subsequent years? Would it be a one-time $1 Million from the entitlement or would it continue to be $1 million dollars?


It would be handled exactly like we did with the district courts and with welfare. We had our entitlement pot, $50-60 Million. We reduced that pot by $18.6 Million and gave that to the State for the district courts. We did the same thing with welfare. We gave them almost $10 Million out of our entitlement program. The two reduced our overall entitlement by about $28.6 Million. We would do the same thing with this million.

Lance Olson, Cascade County

Has the Committee addressed personnel and equipment, such as the computer system?


Yes, they have. They are taking the approach very similar to the approach with district courts. One slight difference is when they hit the life span of any equipment or any fixtures, then it reverts back to the county. They also have a similar provision for termination of employees from county employment to state employment and the transfer of those accruals. We did have a two-year time frame to pay off those accruals for those public defender employees.

I think Sherry Hefflefinger has been instrumental in crafting this Wyoming model. The Committee is convinced that this is the way to go, as opposed to our approach. They did meet with Judy Paynter and had a full explanation of how that would transition from entitlement to funding the public defender system. I’m optimistic that we can still get there, because I don’t want you to be in the position where year after year after year you have to hold your breath until somebody determines what the budget is and what your fair percentage is.

One other thing that they are intending to do is to pick up the involuntary commitment costs that are currently not under the district court assumption bill. I don’t know if that will take care of our problems with involuntary commitment costs or not, but it might.

Carol Kienenberger, Blaine County

Looking at the Justice of the Peace public defender program, are they also including combining the municipal judges with the justices of the peace?


They are not doing anything about combining.


Peggy Beltrone, Cascade County

North Central Montana poverty project has recently been designated as a special region in the IRS initiative on Rural America. We are going to be a learning laboratory for the IRS to understand better how to reach frontier and Native Americans for the earned income tax credit. There is $99 Million that comes into the State of Montana for this credit each year. We think there is quite a bit more that isn’t asked for. In addition to being named in the Rural initiative for IRS, the North Central Montana Community Ventures project has very good likelihood of getting an $80,000 grant to do earned income tax credit outreach in our area.

That would not have happened had I not been at a NACo meeting in Washington DC in February and wandered into that workshop. This is an example of how a kernel of knowledge that you get at a national convention can really bear fruit back in Montana.

People who were on that panel in Washington DC have come to Montana for our workshop. So, we are pleased we can have good speakers come to our state meeting.

The afternoon sessions featured the following workshops:

  • Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Sally Williams, Senior Tax Specialist, IRS, Helena
  • Jon Selib, Finance Staff for US Senator Max Baucus
  • John Wancheck, Earned Income Credit Campaign Coordinator, Washington DC
  • State of Aging in Montana
  • Susan Kohler, Director of Aging Services, Missoula
  • Getting in Front of the Growth Curve: Planning by Design and Not by Reaction
  • John Horwich, University of Montana School of Law
  • Montana Transportation Partners
  • Marlene Dinsburg, Regional Planner, Mental Health Services Bureau
  • Deborah Swingley, Executive Director, Montana Council on Developmental Disabilities
  • Mike and June Hermanson, Montana Transportation Partnership, Billings
  • David Kack, Research Associate, Western Transportation Institute, Bozeman
  • Mike Mayer, Executive Director, Summit Independent Living Center, Missoula
  • Wind Working Group
  • Van Jamison, Consultant, POWAIR, Helena
  • Tom Potter, Wind Consultant, New Center for Rural Energy Development, Denver CO
  • John Stulp, Prowers County, Lamar, CO
  • Mike Constanti, Power Procurement Group, Belgrade
  • Jim Durgan, Park County, and Ed Diemert, Liberty County
  • Economic Development Committee
  • MACo Economic Development Committee, Anita Varone, Chair, Lewis and Clark County
  • Tour of Missoula County Development Park



President Carol Brooker, Sanders County, presiding

The Urban Counties re-elected Jean Curtiss of Missoula County as the Executive Board representative. Missoula County is not a member of the JPA Workers’ Compensation Trust, so there will be an election for the JPA Board of Trustees position.


Bill Nyby, MACo Fiscal Officer, Sheridan County

At the call of the roll, quorum was present to conduct business.


John Prinkki, Carbon County, Parliamentarian

One proxy was presented for Phil Hill, Garfield County Commissioner. Acceptance required a suspension of the rules by a 2/3 vote. The seconded motion to suspend the rules passed and Chuck Egan, Stillwater County, held the proxy vote.

“Next year there will be a by-law amendment proposal to allow for proxies. Candidates will have to have registered at the meeting but if for some reason they have to leave, they can offer their proxy. It is important that they at least show up and they know what the information is, then they can lend their proxy like we are doing today.”


WHEREAS, the 2004 Annual Conference of the Montana Association of Counties is the 95th such meeting; and

WHEREAS, attendance of member counties marks its success; and

WHEREAS, the fine facilities in Missoula and Missoula County made us feel welcome;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the 95th Annual Conference of the Montana Association of Counties express its sincere appreciation for the sponsorship of this convention to the Missoula County Commissioners , spouses and staffs:

  • Barbara and Allen Evans
  • Bill Carey
  • Jean and Brad Curtiss

The seconded motion to accept the resolution was passed on voice vote.


Mike Murray, Lewis and Clark County

The Resolutions Committee and Commissioner Albert Brown, Carbon County, proposes that the letter be sent to the Florida Association of Counties indicating and offering our support and prayers for their citizens’ well-being--physical, mental and financial and have the letter signed by our President and our Executive Director.

Albert Brown, Carbon County

“I appreciate your support for this. There are many ways to help people in times or crisis, whether it is by donation of your time, money, or your prayers. It is comforting to know others care. As most of you know, my children and my grandchildren live in the Tampa, Florida area. I am thankful they are all safe and damage to their property can be repaired. There are a lot of people down there who weren’t so lucky. I appreciate your support for this act of kindness.”

The seconded motion to allow this letter to be sent passed.

Resolution 2004-35Cyanide Heapleach Miningwas presented to the Resolutions Committee by the Oil, Gas and Coal Counties and the Montana Association of Hardrock Mining.

Jack Holstrom, MACo Personnel Service Administrator

“I was asked to review the language in the resolution. My understanding of the resolution is that it is in support of an initiative. Ed Argenbright, who was Commissioner of Campaign Practices, wrote a number of opinions to the effect that you can’t add a statement for or against. All you could do, under his opinion, was to indicate what the impact would be on your constituents in your particular area or your county. You can’t say “vote for” or “against”. A law was passed when the Legislature decided that it was inappropriate when the teachers would send flyers home with the kids, that were produced on the school equipment, saying “vote for this mill levy.” The legislation was broad enough to cover all other situations. Just recently the Legislature codified an amendment in 2-2-121, which specifically addresses that situation. It says that we can’t use public time or equipment, supplies, personnel or funds in support for or oppose legislation or initiatives. It specifically talks about ballot issues. It says, “With respect to ballot issues, properly incidental activities are restricted to the activities of a public officer, the public officer's staff, or legislative staff related to determining the impact of passage or failure of a ballot issue on state or local government operations.” So in essence, the Legislature clarified that you can’t have a bottom line supporting or opposing; you can say what the impact would be for your local government.


We would have to suspend the rules to allow this resolution to be introduced anyway (late resolution). I believe that suspension of the rules is unnecessary because the resolution as drafted is illegal. If anyone objects to my interpretation and Jack’s legal opinion, you are welcome to move to suspend the rules.

Elaine Allestad, Sweet Grass County

Could I ask the Oil, Gas and Coal Counties to talk to us about this?

John Prinkki, Parliamentarian

You certainly could do that and you could always move to suspend the rules and introduce it. You might visit with Ronda Carpenter who thinks that their efforts to promote I-147 would be better served if we did not put our name on it, because then it would cloud the issue and just give the opposition ammunition.


So, unless I hear differently during the resolution discussion or you take a motion after the resolution discussion to have your leadership suspend the rules, we will just disregard that resolution for the time being.

Further resolutions segregated for debate:

  • 2004-11 Clarify the Status of Fences Attached to Bridges
  • 2004-12 Support “Clawback Provisions” in Tax Law
  • 2004-14 Local Option Fuel Tax
  • 2004-19 Per Household Fee for Open Space Funding
  • 2004-23 Per Household Fee to Fund Parks & Recreation
  • 2004-26 Amend Subdivision Regulations to Improve Parkland
  • 2004-29 Repeal Credit for Incarceration
  • 2004-34 Indirect Cost Allocation


  • Increase water levels on Fort Peck Lake
  • 2004-6 Workforce Funding Governance
  • Historic Road Right of Way Policy
  • Legal Notice Advertising
  • De-listing Gray Wolf
  • Uniform Zoning Penalties
  • 2004-30 County Officials Bonding
  • Victim Witness Surcharge

The seconded motion to approve these resolutions passed.

Resolution 2003-4, County Attorney Pay Increases

Carol Kienenberger, Blaine County

We are in favor of the resolution. We do not support the concept paper on the back of this. The resolution reads “now therefore be it resolved the Montana Association of Counties shall work with the Montana County Attorneys Association to develop a joint legislative proposal to fund and pay for county attorney salaries”. We do support MACo working with the County Attorneys; we do not support the concept paper on the back. I just wanted to clarify that.

Unknown Commissioner

We visited with our county attorney and the impact in that office would be a $14,000 increase on his budget for his wages. So I guess I am real concerned if we all can afford this resolution.


The resolution as proposed, Commissioner, calls only for us to cooperate with the County Attorney’s Association. The dollar amounts, I believe, have been removed.

Marty Lambert, Gallatin County Attorney

I am looking forward to working with the Justice and Public Safety Committee to develop a plan we can take to the Legislature. We are faced with the situation where we have at least a $20,000 discrepancy in pay from the highest county down to some counties which are, I believe, around $7,000 a year. That inequity is a real concern to us. At our meeting we were very, very firm that we address these inequities and inconsistencies in county attorney pay across the state. I am looking forward to working with the committee, my Association and MACo to come up with a resolution to the problem.


I guess I should have mentioned why we were opposed to the concept paper. For the previous speaker’s information, there are inequities in benefits as well. Phillips County does have a salary that our county attorney is very happy with because we do pay 100% of his medical insurance for him and his family, which is about a $10,000 a year benefit.

Also, some county attorneys do not respond to their other county entities as well as they would like them to. The county attorney is an elected county official and the county attorney’s salary would be set by someone other than the county.

Elaine Mann, Broadwater County

For smaller counties that have part-time county attorneys, the caseload is different. Sometimes that’s part of the reason for the salary difference.

Nancy Espy, Powder River County

We have a big concern about the responsibility to our other employees, elected or not. We do not have the money we would all prefer to have.

Ed Tinsley, Lewis and Clark County

On behalf of the recommendations from the Justice and Public Safety Committee, I move that we add after “Montana County Attorney’s Association” the words “and the Justice and Public Safety Committee”. That motion includes removing the back page.

The seconded motion to amend the resolution carried.

The seconded motion to approve the amended resolution carried, following a show of hands.

Resolution 2004-7 Soft Drink Tax for Aging Services

Jean Curtiss, Missoula County

The staff, the Health and Human Services Committee and the Finance Committee reviewed this. From the Health and Human Services perspective, while we support increasing funding for aging services, we didn’t want to tie our hands with only the tax on soft drinks to be the method.

So we proposed to change, first, the title to read, “Increased Funding for Aging Services in Montana Supported”. The intent would have to strike “imposing a tax on soft drinks sold in Montana with the proceeds being dedicated” and add “It is the intent of the Montana Association of Counties to support legislation designating revenue sources to support aging services in Montana.”

On the second page, the second “Whereas” from the top, strike “Numerous proposals for tax reform have all failed.” The next one, we amended to say, “Whereas, there is--strike “Little hope that a political consensus exists” and insert “a need”, so it would read, “There is a need for increasing state revenues in a broad-based tax reform proposal sufficient to meet the current and anticipated needs in aging services”

The next “Whereas” we left alone. The last “Whereas” we struck.

We amended the resolved section to “Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the Montana Association of Counties support legislation” strike everything after that and insert, “to designate revenue sources to finance expected senior program cost increases attributable to the increasing number of aging Montanans and encourage the revenue to be found through tax reform.”

We know the aging services council has proposed the soft drink tax. It’s not the first time it’s been presented. It hasn’t been successful. The soft drink industry, of course, is not in favor of it. We also didn’t want to tie our hands so that would be the only thing we could do to help finance the program. We recognize, as we look around the room, we are all getting closer to needing those services. We do want to support funding those programs but we believe that tax reform is really the best way to do it. I was very clear when I reported back to the aging services board here that it would come to the floor, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t be amended here. So, hopefully this is an amendment you can support.

Gary Hall, Flathead County

I am very much in support of this. After the discussion this week, the new resolution makes a lot more sense. I appreciate MACo’s support of this and hopefully this legislative session we can do something proactive to deal with the aging issues that are coming up. I’m going to work hard on this and hopefully with the changes in this we have more of a chance.

Ken Evans, Chouteau County

I am involved with the Area III on Aging and our area was short on the budget for this year. When we have to have bake sales to raise extra funds to keep the program alive, we have to do something else to increase the funding. I’m in favor of a tax on the soft drinks. I do not see any resolution other than that.

Elaine Mann, Broadwater County

The amendments are fine but I would like to add that if tax reform doesn’t happen, we go for a soft drink fee. We don’t have a lot of money in our county and we have to help our seniors. How many tourists do we have that pass through and buy pop? We would be able to pick that up.

Judy Stang, Mineral County

I guess we can support the concept of supporting senior services with tax legislation, but the part about specifically putting a tax just on pop has a lot of ramifications. The business cost is going to be also added to the price of pop, plus the tax, plus the ad prices to the consumer.

John Vincent, Gallatin County

I rise in strong opposition to this amendment, having spent 16 years in the Montana Legislature. If we vote in favor of this amendment, you might as well vote against the resolution, because it’s absolutely and totally meaningless. It doesn’t even represent what we mean through tax reform. Many Montana legislators would argue that they have been doing tax reform since 1997 and that’s resulted in $550 Million of tax relief going primarily for economic development. I know the implication of what we mean by tax reform is a sales tax, but you will get lots of different definitions of what tax reform means in the legislature. Right now the legislature is appropriating about $1 Million every two years out of the state general fund for seniors. That amounts to 2¢ a day for every senior in the state of Montana—woefully, woefully under-funded. Any tax reform package of any significance at all, that is going to raise enough additional money to strengthen the general fund, is going to take years to implement. It’s not going to be something that will change this under-funding around in a year or two or three. Any tax reform, unless the money is earmarked, will disappear into the bottomless pit of the general fund. Within approximately twenty years we will double our senior population in this state to about 350,000 seniors. We are going to have to accommodate that. If we don’t encourage a fixed stable revenue source for seniors through a tax such as this, then I can guarantee you that the legislature will do what it’s always done—it will transfer that obligation back down on the backs of local government. You’ve been there before. Let’s stand up and fight for something for a change. If you loose, you loose, but at least you go down fighting.

Carol Kienenberger, Phillips County

We support funding for senior programs but we do not believe a piecemeal tax is the right way to do it. I support the amendments.

Mark Rehbein, Richland County

I support this as amended. Richland County has been adamantly against any specialized taxes, but we do support raising more money for our senior citizens.

The seconded motion to amend the resolution carried.

The vote to accept the amended resolution, based on a show of hands, passed.

Resolution 2004-11 Fences attached to Bridges

The motion to amend by adding “or abuts” to the title was seconded was carried.

The seconded motion to approve the amended resolution was carried.

Resolution 2004-12 Clawback Provisions

The motion to amend by to dropping the second ‘whereas’ was seconded and the motion carried.

The seconded motion to approve the resolution as amended passed.

Resolution 2004-13 Support MEDA legislative proposals

Cynthia Johnson, Pondera County

I’m on the MACo Economic Development Committee and I think parts of this need to be discussed more thoroughly, particularly Item #5. I firmly believe that the voters should participate in economic development and the funding of those efforts. So, I propose to incorporate the MEDA white paper.

Janet Kelly, Custer County

Is the priority medium or high? I want to make sure it’s in the right category.


The resolution is labeled medium but it is on blue high priority paper. Thank you for catching that, Commissioner. It always was a high priority and it’s high because it affects every county.

Jim Reno, Yellowstone County

I think this white attachment is too vague for us to have a meaningful vote on it. Right now I ask you to vote “no” on the attachment.

Anita Varone, Lewis and Clark County

Our committee met on this several times and I apologize if the Commissioner from Yellowstone County thinks it’s vague. I was concerned that it was too long, rather than too vague. We think it’s relatively concise and gives a sense of what our committee is thinking.

The reason this was initially segregated was specifically page 7 and 8, and on Item #5, Exempting Economic Development Levies From the Spending Cap”: “Currently, if a local government wishes to impose millage to support local

economic development efforts, it can be done two ways:” (It identifies the two ways.) “In either case, the economic development mills must fit within the local government spending cap or the local government is forced to place the levy on the ballot in order to institute it. MEDA believes that economic development is so important to local areas that millage for that purpose should be exempted by the Legislature from the spending cap. We should be making it easer for localities to accomplish economic development, rather than harder. MEDA wants the statute to be amended to allow the local governing body to pass up to a maximum of 2 mills for economic development (using either statute) without a vote of the people, regardless of the local government spending cap that may be in place.”

Our response as a Committee is, “The Committee vote was divided on this proposal but the majority (six committee members) supports this proposal, with qualifications, now that language has been included to cap the mills at a maximum of 2 Mills.”

That was a request to MEDA from our Committee. The six supporting committee members believe there should be language added that indicates an increase can only be authorized once very third year.

Three Committee members oppose this proposal. They believe caps were put on by the voters and that statutes should not allow additional permissive levies.

We wanted that discussed today because our Committee was divided.


Whether it was included or not, several places in the paper mentions the legislative package. Does that mean it’s included with our resolution?


We have it in the packet, so it is included.

Mack Cole

I think this is a very important issue here as far as economic development is concerned and I ask to pass this resolution. It gives power to the county commissioners to do this.

John Ostlund, Yellowstone County

I want to clarify the last line, “Now therefore be it resolved that the Montana Association of Counties will accept the MACo committee recommendations and support the MEDA legislative effort”. Are we saying we are going to support anything they come with? I don’t believe that’s a good resolution. I think each individual county needs to take a good look at this.

Unknown Commissioner

I do not see that this is supporting the world of MEDA. It’s supporting those items which we have in the resolution, very specifically. Therefore, it’s a limited resolution from that standpoint.

Motion to accept the amendment “as attached” in the resolution clause, was seconded and passed on a raise of hands.

Seconded motion to accept the amended resolution carried.

Resolution 2004-14 Local Option Fuel Tax

Jim Deckert, Dawson County

I understand that the purpose of this resolution is to clean up the language in Section 301 by striking the word “gasoline” and added “motor fuel taxes”. I do agree with cleaning up the language but I don’t agree with expanding the tax.

Harold Blattie, MACo Assistant Director

Everyone needs to understand that the bill draft that is attached is actually Montana Department of Transportation’s bill. It went through their legal process and it will be their bill and be carried by them. We cannot change the language in the bill draft at this time. We could seek amendments after the bill has been introduced, but the language in the bill draft stands.


I ask that we do not approve of the expansion from gasoline only to motor fuel taxes. I move to amend to add a clause to the resolution that says we oppose the change in the draft. The portion of the draft that I would like to change is under 7-14-301, second line from the bottom, where they have struck “gasoline” and added “motor fuels excluding dyed diesel”.

The motion died for lack of second.

Richard Dunbar, Phillips County

We discussed this resolution in the Transportation Committee quite at length. There are a couple things I want to point out. The law allows ag. producers with non-highway fuels to get a reimbursement back from the Department of Transportation. That has been excluded in the draft. So there will be an added tax for some gasoline fuels at the pumps. There will be some tax for non-highway use in this bill.

Seconded motion to accept the resolution as originally proposed was passed on a show of hands.

Resolution 2004-16 Rural Improvement District Notice Changes

Jim Reno, Yellowstone County

This is relatively a simple action. If you have 100% of agreement to create a rural Special improvement district, you should not then have to go through a public notice and wait another 30 days. It delays development. It came to us from our clerk and recorders office.

The seconded motion to accept the resolution carried.

Resolution 2004-24 MDOT To Maintain All Secondary Roads

Vern Petersen, Fergus County

The Transportation Committee recognizes the needs that counties have, but we have no support in the Committee for this. It would fly in the face of all the testimony we gave when we had the secondary paving bill. We certainly don’t want to have our credibility go downhill real fast.

John Vincent, Gallatin County

I realize that we are dealing with history here. But Gallatin County wants to point out the problems we have. We believe that only about 80% of our roads are involved with the MDOT jurisdiction. In our county we have a number of paved roads with extremely high a.d.t.s—in a very dangerous situation. People are dying on some of those roads and it’s currently the county’s responsibility. We believe that MDOT, on those critical arterial roadways that are carrying exceptionally high a.d.t.s, ought to be responsible for those. Gallatin County has, we believe, a very solid rationale in bringing this forward.

Seconded motion for a “do not pass” recommendation carried.

2004-29 Repeal Credit for Incarceration

Sam Harris, Pondera County

The Justice Committee wanted some changes on this—on the word “Repeal” change that to “amend” and in Subsection 2, change the words “must be allowed” change to “may be allowed”. This would be more consistent with the county attorney association.

Seconded motion to amend passed.

Seconded motion to approve the amended resolution passed.

2004-31 Water Rights Adjudication

Robert Goffena, Musselshell County

I’m the chairman of the Board of Deadman’s Basin Water Use Association and I’m on Judge Loble’s Advisory Committee. I’ve been to the EQC meetings and I’ve worked on the bill they are preparing.

In 1988 our river went dry. That was the first time it went dry in my lifetime. Since that time, we have all our users use measuring devices. We’ve put water commissioners on the river. We have seven gauging stations on the river so that we know how much water to replace.

We’ve found great inaccuracies on the adjudication sheets. These adjudication inaccuracies are really hurting those people who have senior rights and don’t get to use them. There is one instance where a man has a spring that originally irrigated a garden under an 1889 water right that is now going to get 1,089 acres with that water right. Until adjudication is completed, there is no way to let that water be delivered on a more junior right.

It’s critical that this adjudication is completed, no matter what changes we are going to do to this resolution. The crucial thing is to finish the adjudication and to fund it.

This will protect our water from downstream states. If we don’t do a good job, it will be done for us at great expense in federal court. If we haven’t done it accurately, they have the means to make it that way.

If you know exactly what your water right is, you can add systems, you can sell your ranch, and you know that the water rights will be the same no matter what. The last thing you want to do is to make expensive developments and ten years down the road have somebody say you can’t irrigate because you don’t have a correctly adjudicated water right. If adjudication is correct, you will protect your water right. It will be in black and white and be enforceable. If district court ever puts a water commissioner on, you will have a correct water right and you will not have to worry about having problems. Each right will, then, be entitled to conditions on the source, tied to the day it was established. That’s very important because you don’t want your conditions to change. A timely and accurate adjudication can save lawyer fees because it costs a lot more than $100 fee, which is proposed in the bill--$10 per year for ten years for a water right.

Your water right will be defined by adjudication, not by litigation. Whatever the bill is, I’m going to the Legislature and support adjudication. I don’t care how we fund it. It just has to be done.

Gale Patton, Sanders County

I’ve been on the Clarks Fork Basin Water Task Force for the last 2½ years. Back in the early ‘80s we re-filed all our water rights and they were supposed to be adjudicated by this time. We are not even close. As this is going on, tens of thousands of wells are being drilled. It’s kind of a case of the mule and a 2 x 4--we need discussion in the public and we need it in the legislature. A couple of months ago we went to the Columbia River and the Grand Coulee where they irrigate 500,000 acres. They would like to irrigate another amount close to that. With all the demands downstream, we need to adjudicate and get our water protected, particularly these new wells going in.

Kathy Bessette, Hill County

The AG. Committee thoroughly discussed this and we support the amendments to the resolution.

The seconded motion to amend the resolution to address adequate funding, direction and adequate procedures to complete the process passed

The seconded motion to approve the resolution as amended carried.

Resolution 2004-33 Election Administrator Compensation


This resolution was proposed by the Clerk and Recorders Association.

Gary Macdonald, Roosevelt County

Roosevelt County Commissioners feel that only the Commission itself or the local government really understands whether or not the election administrator is doing work that deserves this kind of increase. Some delegate or pass this work on down to the employees. Therefore, I feel that Roosevelt County cannot support this resolution as written. So, I move that in law 13-1-301 the new section that was put in, where it says the word “shall”, insert the word “may”; and in 7-4-2503, remove the word “must” and insert the word “may”. This will give the local government the authority to give this additional salary or not.

Art Kleinjan, Blaine County

As most of you know, I’m an old tightwad, so it’s going to be really, really tough for me to support this resolution as amended, but I do support it. I think that in many cases, the counties all wish we could hire an election administrator, but that’s not possible. It’s a tremendous load on our clerk and recorder and I do believe that we should compensate for it.

The seconded motion to amend was passed.

A housekeeping motion to change the title from “administration” to “administrator” was seconded and passed.

The seconded motion to pass the amended resolution passed.

Resolution 2004-34 Indirect Cost Allocation

Vern Petersen, Fergus County

I move to amendthis resolution. The fourth ‘whereas’ does not involve local government monies, so we need to say that it reduces the funds for the project. In “now therefore be it resolved” we need to cross out “local governments” and put “MDOT”.

The seconded motion to amend passed.

The seconded motion to pass the amended motion passed.


  • 2003-2 Exemption to Nepotism
  • 2004-10 Montana Airport Land Use Act

The motion to approve the resolutions as presented was seconded and carried.

Resolution 2004-1 Motor Homes County Processing Fee

Jean Curtiss, Missoula County

We have three attorney firms in Missoula County that set up LLCs for people all over the United States to license their motor homes in the State of Montana. This puts a huge workload on us. In Missoula County between September of last year and June of this year, our motor vehicle department processed 664 titles and 852 renewals for LLCs that are established to license folks that don’t live here. Some of these motor homes may be purchased here. Many have never set a track in this state. We have had attorney generals from at least three states call our motor vehicle department and ask why we are licensing motor vehicles in our state. The titles take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes to process, depending on how organized and completed the paperwork is. There is no part of the fee that comes to Missoula County. If you don’t have a motor home, you might not know that old wrecks like mine are charged $90 a year and some of those big fancy ones pay only $275. Those of us who have an old klunker would only pay about a $9 fee and the others would pay less than $30. It’s not a huge amount but it would help the county. Right now motor homes are exempt from the local option tax, which we do have in Missoula County. We think that this is an acceptable way.

Jim Reno, Yellowstone County

Our county will vote against this. This is no different than what we talked about earlier with the pop industry. Why are we singling out one industry? It certainly is no problem registering those vehicles in our county. We sell a great number of the motor homes. We did not single out the title insurance companies; we did not single out the real estate companies or the banks when we had a workload due to re-financing. We thought that’s what the courthouse was there to do, to provide service to our customers. This is a cluster industry, not only doing registrations, but doing sales, financing, insurance. I hope that we would not single out this industry. I hope you will not support this resolution.

Bill Carey, Missoula County

I differ with my friend, Jim Reno. This is different from the pop question. We weren’t asking Missoula County citizens to subsidize the pop industry. Here we are asking Missoula County citizens to subsidize an industry. The cost of doing business is what we feel the industry ought to pay--their fair share.

The seconded motion to approve the resolution passed based on a count of hands.

Resolution 2004-4 Optional Voting in Road Levy Elections

Lee Iverson, Petroleum County

In Petroleum County we had a mill levy to buy road graders. Some people were not eligible to vote on that because they did not live in the voting district. This resolution does not say you “must”, but that the Board of Commissioners “may”. It also puts the burden of proof on who is eligible to vote on the individual. If they live in another county in the state, they are eligible to vote, but they have to come to the election administrator to prove that they are eligible. The clerks do not have to find all the people who are eligible. This puts the burden on the individual. It gives a county like Petroleum the option.

Sandra Boardman, Clerk and Recorder, Blaine County (for information only)

What Petroleum County wants is more like a rural improvement district for allowing landowners who are taxpayers to be able to vote in a road issue. In a rural improvement district, all taxpayers would be allowed to vote in the election, not only just the ones who would be living there. They had to include the ones that might not be residing in the county, but are still entitled to vote if it impacted their taxes.


I believe the resolution says you have to be registered to vote in the State.


That is how it is written—to vote in the state. I don’t believe you can state just “the State”.

Vern Petersen, Fergus County

As Chair of the Transportation Committee I rise in support, recognizing the problems that some of the rural counties have. It was not unanimous in the discussion we had, although the vote did come out unanimously in support.

Kathy Bessette, Hill County

In the Ag. Committee, we did discuss this resolution and we are in support of it.

Unknown commissioner

I move to strike after “qualified if they are registered to vote” the words “in the state”. That way all registered voters who own property, all taxpayers, would be eligible.

Unknown commissioner

I rise in opposition to this amendment. The problem is how do we notify these people? The way that the resolution reads now, it is up to that individual to come to the county with proof that there is the right to vote in the election. If you can leave that, I would be happy.

Unknown commissioner

I would oppose the amendment if it affects out-of-state voters. My understanding was that the resolution would being registered in the State of Montana to vote. But if we are including out-of-staters, then I am against.

Mary Sexton, Teton County

It just occurred to me that in sewer districts, it talks about “qualified to vote” and I don’t know that for consistency’s sake, you could not limit it just to the State’s qualified voters and property owners.

Gordon Morris, MACo Executive Director

I think the intent would be to parallel what is currently in the statute for county water and sewer district creation. I quote from 7-13-2212, “An individual who is the owner of such real property may not posses the qualifications required of an elector in 13-1-111 (1)(c) provided that such elector is qualified if he is registered to vote in any state of the United States and files proof of such registration with the election administrator.”

The seconded motion to amend failed.

The seconded motion to approve the resolution passed.

Resolution 2004-5 Montana Land Information Act

Mary Sexton, Teton County

I think you have a good conceptual description of the Montana Land Information Act here in the Resolution. This has gone through scrutiny through the State. It has support from private industry, particularly the realtors and other folks who are in the GIS business. This is to establish a permanent funding source to coordinate the collection of geographic information statewide. Part of the money would go back to the counties and there would also be grants available to the counties. I think this is absolutely essential for IT to continue to give benefit to users. So I would encourage you to support this.

Jean Curtiss, Missoula County

We believe that it’s important for us to have a funding source. GIS information is important. The majority of the urban counties felt that because a lot of the data has been gathered by some of the urban counties and others, we were in favor of the counties receiving ¾ of the dollar and the state getting 25%. Our Missoula County GIS department asked that we speak in favor of this resolution.

Jim Larson, Stillwater County GIS(for information only)

Our county uses a tremendous amount of material that we cannot produce. About 70% of what we use comes for GIS comes from the state operations. So, in our county we find it really essential to cooperate with everyone to make this whole thing work. Most small counties use the Cadastral system, so it’s an important part of the whole system.

Sandra Boardman, Blaine County Clerk and Recorder(for information only)

I’m representing the Clerk and Recorder Association at this convention and we are not in support of the funding source for this resolution. Our concern is that recording fees are not a stable source of income.

Unknown commissioner

Sandy and I talked about this earlier and she said that the Clerk and Recorders, this used to say something about a dollar on everything filed in their office.

(At this point in the Conference, the recording equipment failed. So, from here on the text reflects hand-written notes rather than transcription from recordings.)

Richard Dunbar, Phillips County

Dunbar spoke I opposition to the resolution.

Joan Stahl, Rosebud County

There is no fee specifically mentioned in the resolution.


This is a conceptual resolution. There may be legislative proposals that change it. It is essential to establish a stable funding source.

Jim Reno, Yellowstone County

This may become law. It specifies 75¢ to the state and 25¢ to counties.

John Prinkki, Carbon County

He was uncomfortable not knowing the funding source.

Stu Kirkpatrick, State ITSD GIS (for information only)

This is draft wording. It puts a $1 fee on documents now being recorded. 25% would go to counties and 75% to the Department of Administration to follow the GIS Council’s plan. This will benefit local government. GIS must be a partnership. The split may sound inequitable but it is a partnership.

Harold Blattie, MACo Assistant Director

This would be a $1 fee on all documents that are subject to fees, not in records preservation fees.

Art Kleinjan, Blaine County

I oppose a funding source based on fees, but I do support finding a funding source for this.

Judy Stang, Mineral County

Refinancing and other activities are heavy now, but may not continue. We need to find another source of funding.

The seconded motion to approve the resolution failed on a vote of 20 for and 25 against.


  • Oppose Changes in Bentonite Mine Royalty Taxes
  • 2004-20 Remove the Opt Out Provision for Parks Districts

The seconded motion to approve the resolutions passed.

Resolution 2004-18 Civil Attorney Legislation

Sam Harris, Pondera County

The Justice and Public Safety Committee does not support this. We think it is already covered under county attorney duties.

John Vincent, Gallatin County

I move a substitute motion to table this resolution.

The seconded substitute motion to table the resolution passed.

Resolution 2004-19 Per Household Fee for Conservation Easements

A motion was seconded to deny the resolution.

John Vincent, Gallatin County

I move a substitute motion to approve this resolution.

Gallatin County has voter approval of open space. As long as the voters approve, they should have the right to vote on an individual fee per household.

The substitute motion was refused by Chair Murray, based on opinion of the parliamentarian.

The seconded motion to deny the resolution failed on a vote of 20 for the motion to deny and 23 against.

Bill Carey, Missoula County

This is about local control, allowing people to vote to purchase easements.

Janet Kelly, Custer County

This will allow local control.

Gary Hall, Flathead County

The idea of local control makes it a feel good resolution. People with money could vote to tax a little old lady by putting more burden on property owners.

The seconded motion to approve the resolution passed.

Resolution 2004-21 To Amend Zoning Law to Regulate Mineral Extraction

Mack Cole, Treasure County

This seems to take private property rights and sends a bad message.

The motion to “do not pass” was seconded and passed.

Resolution 2004-23 Per Household Fee to Fund Parks and Recreation

John Vincent, Gallatin County

This is the same as the resolution we discussed before. Polling in our county shows support for this. I would like to clarify that the vote of the people would decide to have household fees, not the commissioners. This gives a way to facilitate maintenance of parks. It would take a majority vote of the commissioner to place the issue on the ballot.

The seconded motion to approve the resolution carried.

Resolution 2004-26 Amend Subdivision Regulations to Improve Parkland

John Vincent, Gallatin County

This adds a section to allow 1% of the land being subdivided into parcels between 5 and 20 acres to go to parks. There is no authority now in minor subdivision law. We can still exempt or accept payment in lieu of the land. It would 1) not allow different flexibility for 5 acres and 2) can require maintenance of parkland in the “terms and conditions”.

The seconded motion to approve the resolution carried.


  • Utility Rate Energy Crisis
  • Allow Summary Reading of County Ordinances
  • Amend Government Liability for Damages in Tort Claims

The seconded motion to approve “do not pass” recommendations was passed.

Resolution 2003-3 State Lands Right of Way

Troy Blunt, Phillips County

We are concerned that counties would be detrimentally impacted in funding for rights-of-ways.

The seconded motion to approve the “do not pass” recommendation passed

Resolution 2004-3 Mosquito Control District Creation

Earl Martin, Granite County

To require 25% of the people to sign a petition will not be fast enough to respond to West Nile virus. We think this should be moved to a high priority to allow commissioners to form districts.

Gary Hall, Flathead County

We could not get enough signers on a petition. We support the resolution and we want to vote no on the motion to approve the “do not pass”.

The seconded motion to approve the “do not pass” recommendation failed.

The seconded motion to approved the resolution with high priority passed.

Resolution 2004-15A Equitable PILT Distribution

Todd Devlin, Prairie County

We should have addressed this in 1995. NACo is considering this.

WIR has no alternatives. We should discuss this and educate our

Congressional representatives.

Elaine Mann, Broadwater County

We have been working on an elk plan in response to HB 42. All we want is to discuss this and get the same information out to all counties. Now is the time to take this to Congress. Forest Counties, Economic Development Committee, Public Lands Committee, the Tax / Finance Committee and the Congressional staff need to work together to find ways to change it.

Alan Thompson, Ravalli County

We are opposed to the flat rate in the current formula. We need to be compensated for large amounts of federal land in our counties. We would be giving up funds which would go to other counties.


This alternative resolution (15A) asks for discussions.

Art Kleinjan, Blaine County

As long as we are careful not to come up with a formula or flat rate, but merely discuss this, I could support it.

The seconded motion for a “do pass” recommendation with high priority passed.


  • Detention Costs for Department of Corrections Inmates
  • 2002-15 Exempt Levies Pledges Against Indebtedness
  • Communities as Focal Point for Mental Health Services
  • Involuntary Commitment Expenses Paid by the State
  • Mental Health Pre-Commitment Costs
  • State Public Defender System

The seconded motions to approve these resolutions all passed.


  • Wireless Communication Standardized Regulations

The seconded motion to approve “do not pass” recommendation passed.

Resolution 2002-21 Retain Control of Substance Abuse Funds

Bill Kennedy, Yellowstone County

We have the funds capped and coming back to counties, but we still need to address this in case there is a run in the next session to take the funding back.

The seconded motion to approve the resolution with a low priority passed.


By Law Change #1 Past Presidents on Board of Directors

Article IV, Board of Directors; Section 1. MEMBERS

  1. Every past president of the Association may continue as a member of the Board of

Directors as long as such past president remains an incumbent county commissioner.

Jean Curtiss, Missoula County

People have stated that they did not want to affect the balance on the Board. We should vote against the motion to deny the change. Then we can amend to state that the positions are ex-officio—they would have no votes, but we could use their expertise.

Dan Watson, Rosebud County

Regarding the budget effects, it is not the usual case that the full board is at meetings, so this proposal may not have as big a money effect as thought.

The seconded motion to deny the proposal passed.

By Law change #2 Limited Dues Increase set by Board of Directors

Article IV, Board of Directors; Section 3, DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

i) as authorized by the members in conference in 2004, the Board may increase the dues schedule in an amount up to the annual COLA in any one year. Any increase above the annual COLA must be approved by the membership at the annual conference.

The seconded motion to approve the By Law Amendment passed.

By Law change #3 Moves Chouteau County from District 5 to District 4

The seconded motion to approve the By Law Amendment passed.

DUES INCREASE (See attachments on last page)

Peggy Beltrone, Cascade County

I think higher value counties should have been broken down more. Some have half the value, but pay the same dues as big-value counties.

The seconded motion to approve the dues structure and the PILT assessment carried.


Nominations for the Second Vice Presidency closed. Dave Reinhardt, Valley County, and Donna Sevalstad, Beaverhead County, were appointed to count ballots. By written ballot, John Prinkki was elected as Second Vice President. Candidate Frank Nelson moved to declare Prinkki’s election to be unanimous. The motion was seconded and passed. The MACo Officers for the 2004-2005 year are President Bill Kennedy, Yellowstone County; First Vice President Douglas Kaercher, Hill County; Second Vice President John Prinkki, Carbon County; Fiscal Officer Bill Nyby, Sheridan County; Urban Representative Jean Curtiss, Missoula County; Past President Carol Brooker, Sanders County


Following short presentations by Peggy Beltrone, Cascade County, and John Vincent, Gallatin County, the delegates selected Gallatin County for the 2006 location.

The meeting was adjourned.







Monday, September 27, 2004 - Missoula, Montana

Gordon Morris conducted roll call. Quorum was present for both JPA and JPIA.


Gordon Morris

On the Joint Powers Insurance Authority, the current trustees are:

  • Commissioner Vern Petersen, Fergus County, term ending in 2005
  • John Prinkki, Carbon County, term ending in 2006
  • Commissioner Mike Murray, term ending in 2004 (leaving an at-large position to be filled by nominations and elections at this convention)
  • Commissioner Ted Coffman, Madison County, term ending in 2006
  • Doug Kaercher, Hill County, Second Vice President
  • Carol Brooker, Sanders County, President
  • Gordon Morris, MACo Executive Director
  • The Workers’ Comp. Trustees are:
  • President Carol Brooker
  • First Vice President Bill Kennedy,
  • Second Vice President Doug Kaercher,
  • Fiscal Officer Bill Nyby,
  • Past President Gary Fjelstad,
  • Urban County Representative Mike Murray,
  • MACo Executive Director Gordon Morris

The trustees on the Joint Powers Authority Workers’ Comp. program are, in fact, the MACo Executive Committee. The Urban Representative who serves on the Executive Committee, Jean Curtiss of Missoula County, triggered the provision in our bylaws that says if one of the Executive Committee members is not a member of the program, then that position will be filled by somebody who is a member. Last year, with the election of Jean Curtiss as Urban Rep. not qualified to serve, we elected Mike Murray to fill the position as the Urban Representative on the JPA Trustees.

Chair Vern Petersen

Today we need one nomination for Trustee Mike Murray’s at large position. Then depending on the election on Wednesday, we may need more.

Mark Rehbein, Richland County, nominated Mike Murray, Lewis and Clark County.

A previous nomination for Greg Chilcott, Ravalli County, was withdrawn in support of Mike Murray.

The call for further nominations remained open until the Wednesday meeting.


Ray Barnicoat

As shown on the back page of the pamphlet, the JPA Trust has operated in a deficit for the four past years in a row. This current year we have turned that around. This is a result of rate increases we have taken consistently over the past three or four years. The first nine months are back in the positive. However, we are still in the hole at just over $1.7 million. The Department of Labor is our regulating authority. They get very skittish about an insuring entity that has negatives in its balance sheet. So, they are going to develop some administrative rules, not only for our pools. They will be looking for a net equity position of 125%. We are on a five-year plan that we feel confident will get us there.

You all received your notices of rate increases, which are at 5%. You will probably see 5% rate increases for the next five years in order for us to get to the net equity position of 125%. Back in 2000 we had a substantial amount of reserve. We didn’t need to charge a premium if we didn’t want to. We were making enough interest earnings to fund the claims at the level of that time.

Since then, 9-11 increased medical costs and health insurance had 14-16% rate increases. That and the increased cost of excess insurance have affected not only on our program, but programs across the nation. For excess insurance, in 2000 when we were paying $38,000 a year for coverage. This year it was $166,000 and next year is just under $200,000.

We also need to consider claim frequency. The number of claims a pool receives over a year is going to drive the severity over time. For example in 2002 we incurred 763 claims; in 2003, 790; this year, so far, 855. This year we will have over 1,000 claims, for the first time in the history of our self-insurance program.

The good news is the cost-per-claim is coming down. People are better at reporting; injuries are treated more aggressively and people are brought back to work sooner. The key is to do what we can to reduce the frequency of claims from our entity.

This is a teamwork effort because this pool belongs to you. It’s your program. Commissioners, you have your role and responsibilities--knowing what kind of claims and accidents are happening, why they are happening, what kind of corrective action has been taken to prevent reoccurrence, and insuring there is a pro-active safety committee to educate, motivate and investigate. The supervisor’s role is to insure that people are doing their tasks in a safe manner and using the proper safety gear, such as mandatory seat belts. How many of you have a policy that requires seat belt use when driving county vehicles? We had a death this year and an accident when two drivers in county vehicles were not buckled up. The employee’s responsibility is following through with the practices of the employer. Risk management has its roles and responsibilities to educate and motivate you, to help you get the right tools and the right information to people at the right time. Claims management has a role to act quickly when claims are received, set up appropriate treatment plans, and take actions to get people back to work as soon as possible.

I would like to introduce some of the other team players that are involved in your JPA pool. Norm Grosfield does our legal counsel work for JPA and the JPIA pool. Larry Zanto and Keith Stapeley are the claims managers for asc, and have a staff giving good service to every employee. My assistant is Emelia McEwen, who had been a real asset to the program.



We now have 47 counties and 176 special districts as members, so we continue to grow. Our loss ratio as of June 30 was 68%, which is very good. However, that will grow, because the income is all in, but the claims are not. Our goal is 80% and we hope to hold it at that. Revenues are increasing and the net assets are growing.

In 1996 we made a major direction change that was due to Gordon Morris and his leadership with the Board. We made a decision not to reinsure close to $690,000 in insurance premiums. We never had a claim against that and those funds now stay with the pool.

In 1996 we were over $1 million and half in the red; we didn’t have the assets to cover the liabilities. We are over $2.3 million surplus now. That’s a tremendous turn-around and that was due in a large part to Gordon’s leadership.

We are looking at the claims situation now. I would really encourage you to pay close attention to that proposal. Gordon would not be bringing it to you if it weren’t a move that we ought to investigate. We need to take an honest look at it to keep your program viable.

Gordon continues to be progressive. He put together a nationwide meeting recently in Kalispell. We were there to hear and learn from each other and I would have to say that the others learned more from us than we did from them. I ask Gordon to comment on that meeting.


The meeting was held in Kalispell on September 7-8. As a state executive director, I belong to the National Council of County Association Executives. All of my counterparts in all the states meet annually and we get together at the NACo meetings. Years ago we would routinely discuss insurance issues. Most of the states have self-insured programs, just like we do. The last meeting about insurance we had was seven years ago. I really felt that there was a need to know what was going on in the other association pools, what their successes were, what their failures were, what directions they are taking with new program issues, what may arise so that they have to expand, etc.

We had seventeen states participate, with over 80 people. For example there were representatives from Texas, Arkansas, Washington, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia… Most of them have pool administrators in addition to the state exec. Some of them operate the pool totally apart from the state association. Some of them are just like us, where the pool is a service of the association. We are probably the only state where the executive director and pool administrator are combined. That’s a significant difference.

They were looking at bringing claims in-house. The meeting there just led me to conclude that if others found logic in it, then it would be logical for us.

For us, the major focus was on the work comp program—changes in medical costs, changes in excess insurance requirements. Kentucky had a delegation of four representatives there, including their pool executive director.

Kentucky, this past year, just went through a major financial crisis. The insurance commissioner’s staff—those people who are responsible for reviewing and approving the self-insurance programs—were not fulfilling their obligations and the Kentucky pool was in a deficit position in excess of $25 million. The entire office was fired by the governor and that pool now is under state administration.

I tell you this because Kentucky has been the model for the self-insurance program. We worked with them and we modeled a programs for work comp and property/casualty on some of the things they were doing. They are restructuring their program and they will survive. Back in the early ‘80’s, they were selling public bonds and were arbitraging them over and over again, compounding the interest earnings on them. As a result of that, the entire arbitrage provisions associated with public issuances was changed. Now, you cannot earn more than what you are paying out on the bonds.

On the property casualty side we are seeing an array of new coverage issues emerging. We are identifying risks that weren’t there five or ten years ago, for example, risks in zoning, risks in land use issues, risks in public safety. These have to be incorporated into insurance manuscript, whether you are self insured or whether you are insured through an insurance company.

We are seriously evaluating the feasibility for bringing claims in-house. Our claims administrators will tell you that this is a natural evolution. Other states have advanced to that level. Even our own counterpart here in the state, Montana Municipal Insurance Authority (MMIA) brought their claims in-house. Bob Worthington from there claims he paid back the up-front costs for the conversion within two years. We’ll look at the total up-front costs, the on-going costs, and the merit of doing it—to take a contract out for services or to bring it in-house.

My preference would be to have the claims administration staff on-site, but our on-site capabilities are not there. So we will evaluate the possibility of the pools co-tenanting a building. Hopefully we’ll be able to make a recommendation to the Trustees by November, with a decision being made in February 2005. Claims administration would co-tenant a building with the legal side—Norm Grosfield and his staff. They work very closely together, so it wouldn’t make sense to have the legal services downtown in Helena and the claims out at the airport. The building could be equivalent to what we have in our current building--occupy the one half of the building and rent out the other half for revenue. Our claims administration contract and agreement for work comp is October to September and our claims administration agreement for property/casualty is July to June. Those respective contracts could be renewed so that they would begin in January of 2006, if in fact that’s a decision made by the Trustees.


Marketing Director, Joint Powers Insurance Authority

We just went through a process of appraisals. I thank all of you for your patience in regard to this. We had to wait until the recent appraisals were done because the coverage has changed to a broader coverage. You’ll be getting the final figures soon, along with an invoice for additional premiums for any increase in values. The additional amount of premium is about $150,000 for approximately 60 entities.

A couple of years ago the Trust bonded for the re-insurance layer of the program. You are currently paying off the bonds. As a result we are not going to see any increase in our liability reinsurance premium, because we are not relying on any re-insurers. That’s another positive step that the Trustees made to make this program more financially stable. As Vern pointed out, our projected surplus, without being audited, is close to $2.8--$2.9 million.

The Trustees may be considering a target surplus amount as compared to premium. We will be asking what you think would be a reasonable surplus for the JPIA program.

Vern Petersen

You really don’t have liability and property insurance. Rather, you belong to a pool that handles your claims, replacing the need for insurance. You are the stockholders of your pool—your insurance company, if you want to call it that. Therefore any dividends go right back into the pool, lessening the need for premiums. There is a tremendous difference between a pool and insurance. If you are denied a claim and you feel it’s unfairly denied, there’s a process to appeal and tell your side of the story without depending on a claims adjuster. On top of that, we can design our coverage to fit our needs. If you see a gap somewhere or some risk, we can tailor it to fit. So if you have ideas, we need to hear them and try to adjust to your needs.

The meeting was adjourned.





Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Secretary Gordon Morris announced a quorum to be present.

The current Board of Trustees are:

  • Carol Brooker, Sanders County, Past President
  • Bill Kennedy, Yellowstone County, President
  • Douglas Kaercher, Hill County, First Vice President
  • John Prinkki, Carbon County, Second Vice President
  • Bill Nyby, Sheridan County, Fiscal Officer

Urban County Representative, Jean Curtiss, Missoula County, cannot serve because Missoula County is not a member of the Workers’ Compensation pool.

Nominations were opened for an Urban County Representative. Mike Murray, Lewis and Clark County, was nominated. There were no further nominations.

A unanimous ballot was cast for Mike Murray to serve on the JPA Board of Trustees.

The meeting was adjourned.





Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Last year’s JPIA Trustees are Vern Petersen, Fergus County, term ending 2005

  • John Prinkki, Carbon County, term ending 2006
  • Ted Coffman, Madison County, term ending 2006
  • Mike Murray, Lewis and Clark County, term ending 2004
  • Douglas Kaercher, Hill County, First Vice President
  • Carol Brooker, Sanders County, President

Two positions will be open:

  1. Mike Murray’s at large position is open.
  2. Carol Brooker moves out of the presidency and the position for an Executive Board member will be filled by John Prinkki, new Second Vice President. So, John Prinkki’s at- large position ending 2006 is open.

A unanimous ballot was cast to re-elect Mike Murray, Lewis and Clark County, into an at-large position to end 2008.

Nominations were open for the remaining two years of the at-large position, opened with John Prinkki’s election to the Executive Committee.

Carol Brooker, Sanders County, was nominated. With no further nominations, a unanimous ballot was cast for Carol Brooker to serve until 2006.

The meeting was adjourned.