110th Annual MACo Conference (2019)

Monday, September 23, 2019

Opening General Session

Commissioner Bill Barron, Lake County, MACo President

The 110th Annual Conference of the Montana Association of Counties opened at 8:30 a.m. President Jim Hart introduced the head table:

  • Jim Hart, Madison County, President
  • Shane Gorder, Richland County, 1st Vice President
  • Doug Martens, Rosebud County, 2nd Vice President
  • Bill Barron, Lake County, Immediate Past President
  • Mike McGinley, Beaverhead County, Fiscal Officer
  • Joe Briggs, Cascade County, Parliamentarian

The Malmstrom Air Force Base Honor Guard presented the Colors for the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem. Darryl Stevens, Department Chair of History, Great Falls College MSU, sang the National Anthem. Dr. Shearer conducted the Invocation.  The MACo Members were then welcomed to the 110th Annual Conference in Great Falls by Bob Kelly, Mayor of the city of Great Falls.  Commissioner Gorder responded with thanks.

Roll Call

Commissioner Mike McGinley, Beaverhead County, MACo Fiscal Officer

After Roll call was taken, Commissioner McGinley announced a quorum was present to conduct business (see roll call attachment, page 31, for members present).

Approval of the 2018 Minutes – 109th Annual Conference

Motion/Vote:  Commissioner Tom Rice, Beaverhead County, made a motion to approve the 2018 Annual Conference minutes. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Ralph “Rem” Mannix, Powell County.  The motion passed unanimously.

Resolution in Memoriam

Commissioner Jim Larson, Great Falls County

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 conference of our Association; and

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

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

Now, therefore, be it resolved, by the Montana Association of Counties in conference duly assembled in Missoula, Montana, this 22nd day of September 2019, that the Association does hereby pay tribute to the memory of County Elected Officials:

  • Jack “Jack’ Patrick Lynch– Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive (02/07/2018)
    (The above name was missed on last year’s list.)
  • Janet Sherer – Garfield County Clerk & Recorder (9/18/2018)
  • Peggy Deibel Jones – Powder River County JP (10/17/2018)
  • John Donald McPherson Jr. – Butte-Silver Bow Sheriff (10/20/2018)
  • Jack Nesbit – Custer County Commissioner (11/14/2018)
  • Nellie May Shoquist – Jefferson County Treasurer (12/17/2018)
  • Jane Stene – Sweet Grass County Treasurer (12/18/2018)
  • Theodore Hirsch – Custer County Commissioner (12/24/2018)
  • JoAnn Stanton – Garfield County Clerk & Recorder and
  • Superintendent of Schools (02/02/2019)
  • Brendan Joseph Murphy – Petroleum County Commissioner (01/23/2019)
  • Charles (Chuck) Evans Egan – Stillwater County Commissioner (02/07/2019)
  • Lee LaBreche – Butte-Silver Bow County Coroner (02/22/2019)
  • Joe A. DeLong – Flathead County Commissioner (04/20/2019)
  • Areatha Penn – Carter County Treasurer (05/10/2019)
  • Thomas Larson Medicine Horse, Sr. – Big Horn County Sheriff (05/13/2019)
  • Robert “Bob” Phillips – Fergus County Commissioner (05/19/2019)
  • William “Bill” Ausmus – Big Horn County Surveyor (05/29/2019)
  • Judith Helen Jacobson – Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive – (06/20/2019)
  • Michael Thomas O’Shea – Custer County Commissioner (07/18/2019)
  • C. David Gorton – Yellowstone County Commissioner and Valley County Attorney (07/23/2019)
  • Lalon R. Trang – Daniels County Commissioner (08/08/2019)
  • Peggy Kaatz Stemler – Madison County Clerk & Recorder (08/24/2019)
  • Bill Dringle – Madison County Commissioner (09/09/2019)

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

The assembly was asked if there were additional names to be added to the Memorial Resolution.  No further names were added to the list.

Motion/Vote:  Commissioner Frank DePriest, Blaine County, made a motion to adopt the Memorial Resolution.  The motion was seconded by Commissioner Mike Wendland, Hill County.  The motion passed unanimously.


Commissioner Jim Hart, Madison County, MACo President

President Hart reminded the membership to turn in commissioner their bio sheets for committee appointments and spoke about the importance of speaking with the exhibitors. He also reminded the members about the great value of their input at committee meetings and that committee agendas can be viewed at the registration desk.

Nominations Committee Report

Commissioner Jim Hart, Madison County, MACo President

The Board of Directors, acting as the Nominations Committee, brought forth the candidates for the 2019 year as follows:

  • Office of Immediate Past President: Jim Hart, Madison County
  • Office of President: Shane Gorder, Richland County
  • Office of 1st Vice President: Doug Martens, Rosebud County
  • Office of 2nd Vice President: Ross Butcher, Fergus County; Jason Strouf, Custer County; and Roman Zylawy, Mineral County
  • Office of Fiscal Officer: Mike McGinley, Beaverhead County

Immediate Past President Barron asked for any other nominations and noted that nominations would remain open until the Wednesday General Session. No further nominations were made.  The 2nd VP candidates were invited forward to speak.

2020 Convention Site

Commissioner Andy Hunthausen, Lewis & Clark County

Commissioner Hunthausen announced that the 2020 Annual Conference will be hosted by Lewis & Clark in Helena at the Delta Hotels Colonial.

Presentation of Proposed Resolutions

Commissioner Doug Martens, Rosebud County, Resolutions & Legislative Committee Chair

As the 2019 Legislative Session just concluded, wrapping up the resolutions process, Commissioner Martens let the membership know that there are no resolutions at this time and reminded them to bring any resolutions forward to district meetings in 2020 when MACo’s legislative policy process begins again.

President’s Report

Commissioner Jim Hart, Madison County, MACo President

President Hart spoke to the MACo Membership about her past year as MACo President and thanked them for allowing him to serve. He represented MACo on many issues over the last year, including SRS, PILT, mental health, and housing, as well as participated in the 2019 Legislative Session. He emphasized the importance of building relationships with the legislators.

Fiscal Officer’s Report

Commissioner Mike McGinley, Beaverhead County, MACo Fiscal Officer

Commissioner McGinley spoke to the MACo Membership about the recent MACo audit from JPS.  The Board of Directors reviewed and passed the audit; it was a clean audit that can be reviewed by anyone.

Executive Director’s Report

Eric Bryson, Executive Director, Montana Association of Counties

Director Bryson invited Mike DeGrosky, DNRC Fire Protection Bureau Chief, forward to follow up on fire readiness and preparedness issues that were discussed at the previous conference, as MACo has pledged to work on them over the interim.

Mr. DeGrosky asked two things of MACo:  1.) Coop agreements—modernization and improvement:  what counties would like that program to look like; and 2.) An ad hoc committee to work on fire readiness and preparedness.

Director Bryson then invited Colleen McCarthy, Census Bureau, State Census Count Committee, forward to address the membership. She encouraged the counties to help get an accurate count in their communities. It is critical as a complete count means we get our share of federal funding, and Montana could also potentially gain another House seat in congress. This is the first time in history that people will have the option to respond via the internet. Census.mt.gov has lots of resources available.

Director Bryson announced that the Board of Directors tasked him with working with DOJ to find additional funding for mandatory motor vehicle training and/or to do the trainings regionally.  There has been a theme, due to budget cuts, of state agencies pulling their staff back to Helena. The contracts between the counties and DOJ are negotiable.  He will work over the interim regarding additional resources/regional trainings but legislation might be needed for additional funding.

Director Bryson ended with discussing the MACo Annual Performance Evaluation. He let the membership know that MACo received great feedback and constructive criticism. He boiled it down to one simple thing: the counties want MACo out in the field doing more trainings. We plan to tack some trainings onto district meetings.

Presentation: MSU Extension – Mental Health, Rural Development, 4-H

Larry Brence, MSU Extension Eastern Region Department Head
Suzanne Stluka, Associate Director
Katie Weaver, Park County Community Development Agent

Mr. Brence, Ms. Stluka, and Ms. Weaver spoke to the membership about MSU Extension, mental health, rural development and 4-H. Extension funding is a four-legged stool: 30.52 % is county; 27.91% is state; 16.5% is federal; 25.07% is other.

The 3rd Intentional Focus of the “Choosing Promise” Strategic Plan for Montana State University is to ‘expand mutually beneficial and responsive engagement for the advancement of Montana”. MSU Extension will work together and partner across the state and around the nation to enhance the well-being of individuals, organizations, and communities, and one of these focuses is on mental health and wellness. New workshops include:

  • Communicating with Farmers Under Stress Workshop: Numerous factors may cause stress for farmers. Many farmers face financial problems, price and marketing uncertainties, farm transfer issues, production challenges and more. You may know farmers who struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, indecision, or suicidal thoughts. This workshop will help people recognize and respond when they suspect a farmer or farm family member might need help.
  • SDSU Extension will be providing a workshop called “Weathering the Storm in Agriculture: How to Cultivate a Productive Mindset.” It’s a 1.5-hour workshop designed to help individuals and their families understand the signs and symptoms of chronic stress, and how to handle stress for a more productive mindset on the farm.
  • Mental Health First Aid: An 8-hour course that gives people the skills to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.

Presentation:  Tim Fox, Attorney General

Attorney General Fox spoke to the membership about opioid and substance abuse in Montana.  It usually starts with a legitimate prescription, and then it can lead to dependence and addiction.  The sate crime lab has seen a 400% increase in samples testing for heroin and there is a 10-fold increase in babies with neonatal issues related to substance abuse. The legislature appropriated money for interdiction teams in the highway patrol

AG Fox also talked about drugs flowing in across the border. He traveled to Mexico to see the problem firsthand, touring ports of entry and getting an inside look at screening techniques and technology. The situation impacts Montana directly, as most meth is coming into the state from Mexico.

AG Fox ended by discussing DUI deaths in Montana and the importance of prevention, treatment, and coordination efforts—treatment is better than incarceration. The 2019 legislative session didn’t pass much to improve DUI laws.

Presentation: Employee Discipline

McKenzie McCarthy, MACo General Counsel

Ms. McCarthy spoke to the assembly about disciplining employees and included open discussion/questions and answers. Topics included disciplinary action, discrimination, retaliation, and the costs of workplace discrimination. When it comes to discipline, it is important to set expectations, make sure employees know the policies, rules, regulations, expected behavior, job duties and tasks, and standards of performance. Regarding supervisor notes, which are notes prior to any written disciplinary notice to the employee, Ms. McCarthy talked about not documenting anything that hasn’t been discussed with the employee and just sticking to the facts: dates, times, place, people involved etc. and including a summary of discussion with employee. She then reviewed the levels of discipline, as well as just cause and due process, investigations, what happens after due process, discharge, probationary employees, and collective bargaining agreements.

Important Reminders: Read policy and collective bargaining agreements before issuing discipline to employees; consider appropriate length of probationary period; provide grievance policy to every employee that ends employment; respond to unemployment insurance claims; and keep objective, complete documentation.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

(Primarily the MACo Committee Meeting Day)

General Session

Presentation:  LiDAR Plan

Troy Blandford, GIS Analyst/Water Information System Manager, Montana State Library
Katie Shank, Flood Hazard GIS Specialist, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
Melissa Christie, Western Region Account Manager, Quantum Spatial, Inc

Mr. Blandford, Ms. Shank, and Ms. Christie presented LiDAR to the membership:  a technology that uses light to measure distances. This presentation provided an overview of the Montana LiDAR Plan, including LiDAR benefits and uses, a list of stakeholders and roles, the status of LiDAR holdings, and recommended specifications and standards for collecting LiDAR and deriving elevation datasets. The plan creates an avenue for state, county, and other entities to acquire LiDAR data through partnerships and coordination with the Montana Elevation Working Group and the Montana State Library.

DNRC is conducting LiDAR and floodplain mapping. Having detailed highly accurate floodplain maps allow the county floodplain administrators to administer the floodplain program better. It helps identify risk in the community and helps you as elected officials determine appropriate actions to reduce or eliminate that risk to your residents. Floodplain maps are also used by emergency coordinators to determine where area’s might be flooded during a 1% annual chance flood. This helps for establishing evacuation routes and emergency services.

Take Home Messages: Join the Montana Elevation Working Group. Let the Montana State Library know how you will use LiDAR and what organizations may be potential funding partners. Submit priority areas of interest for future LiDAR acquisitions. If you are planning a LiDAR acquisition, the State Library can help.  Refer to the Montana LiDAR Plan for specifications and deliverables – want to collect entire counties. If you need LiDAR data, the State Library is building a repository of LiDAR data and has a significant amount already.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

General Session

MACo & NACo Committee Reports

MACo Agriculture Committee; and NACo Agriculture & Rural Affairs Steering Committee

Commissioner Larry Hendrickson, Liberty County

Commissioner Hendrickson, Chair of MACo’s Agriculture Committee, reported to membership on the happenings of the committee. Director Ben Thomas, Department of Agriculture spoke about the programs of which the Department is involved. Hemp is still at the top of the list of programs that is continuing to change. Montana is the largest grower of industrial hemp.  The oil processing in Montana is continuing to increase; more permits for processing facilities are being issued.

Fergus County Commissioner, Ross Butcher, spoke to the committee about the purpose of the Montana Natural Resource Coalition (MNRC).  The goal is to get the counties involved in the beginning of the decision-making process with other governmental entities.

Amy Adler, Montana Weed Control Association Representative, updated the committee on the weed spraying programs in the state.  Weed plans on development of roads and gravel pits were discussed.  The noxious weed list has been updated; the impacts of cost of control of the weeds on the list was discussed.

Commissioners updated the committee on various ag-related issues in their respective areas.

Commissioner Hendrickson then reported on the NACo Agriculture& Rural Affairs Committee’s activities during NACo’s Legislative Conference. The committee heard from Ted McKinney, Undersecretary for Trade, U.S. Department of Agriculture , Ken Isley, Administrator, Foreign Agriculture Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Robert Bonnie, Rubenstein Fellow, Duke University. The farm bill, rural broadband, and the census were all discussed. Counties need to be proactive.

MACo Community, Economic Development & Labor Committee

Commissioner Nicole Borner, Musselshell County

Commissioner Borner, Chair of MACo’s Community, Economic Development & Labor Committee, reported to membership on work of the CEDL Committee. The committee had several speakers. Tracy McIntyre, Executive Director, Montana Cooperative Development Center (MCDC), presented on the cooperative business model and its impact on local government economy. Scott Eychner, Administrator Workforce Services, Montana Department of Labor & Industry (DLI), spoke to the committee about workforce development. Brian Obert, MEDA Vice-Chair & NGCED Committee Chair, Executive Director, Montana Business Assistance Connection, talked about MEDA’s next generation of community and economic development tools. And Kirk Keysor, Economic Development Representative – MT & WY U.S., Department of Commerce (DOC) Economic Development Administration, discussed EDA disaster funding programs.

Economic development has changed from just business development. New cooperatives and rural investment; this new model is taking off across the state. Workforce retention is an issue across the nation.

MACo Energy Committee; and NACo Environment, Energy & Land Use Steering Committee

Commissioner Doug Martens, Rosebud County

Commissioner Martens, Chair of MACo’s Energy Committee, reported to membership on the work of the committee. Chair Martens gave an update on Colstrip. Units 1 & 2 are closing at the end of the year. The units will be mothballed but not dismantled entirely because parts are needed to support units 3 & 4.  Information from Senator Ankeny explains a possible net loss to the state of 25 million, and 1.9 million to Rosebud County with the closure of 1 & 2. Contract negotiations with NorthWestern Energy are progressing after the bankruptcy with the new owners. An unloading facility for possible outside area coal to be brought in may be built. A lawsuit is pending by NorthWestern Energy regarding the permit issued by DEQ.

Chair Martens gave an update on Rosebud County giving approval of a tax abatement for the wind farm to be located in Northern Rosebud County near Angela and the reasons for it. Chair Martens also spoke about possible oil activity in Rosebud County. An oil company has bought a large ranch in Northern Rosebud County and has drilled test wells.

Lori Shaw, Northwestern Energy, spoke about the 2019 Electricity Supply Resource Plan. She spoke about the procurement plan and comments on misconceptions and encouraged everyone to go to NorthWestern’s website to review the plan.

Tayla Snapp from TC Energy gave an update on the pipeline. They have secured a route in Nebraska and will be working in Fallon County.

Gary Forrester from MDU Resources gave an update on the retirement of the Lewis & Clark station in Sidney. An integrated resource plan has been filed with the PSC. MDU will be building an 88-megawatt gas plant in Mandan, North Dakota. The tax assessment in North Dakota is 3% compared to 6% in Montana.

Commissioner Don Hajenga, Judith Basin County, spoke about “Green Energy” and the pollution involved in building wind turbines and solar panels.

Regarding the NACo EELU Committee, Commissioner Martens reported on the work of the committee during NACo’s Annual Conference in Clark County, Nevada. The committee had 13 resolutions. Most centered around sea level rise and algae blooms and getting more funding from the federal government. The resolution regarding export facilities was discussed. Regarding presentations, the committee heard from Susan Buto, National Watershed Boundary Dataset Lead, U.S. Geological Survey, on how to properly identify watersheds. Also, we learned that the court decision regarding Waters of the US rules was upheld. The committee heard from Nicholas “Miki” Schmidt, Division Chief, Science and Geospatial Services, Office of Coastal Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Drew Decker, National Map Liaison for the Pacific Region, U.S. Geographical Survey on better land use and watershed planning data, tools, and trainings to prepare and mitigate against changing weather patterns.

MACo Health & Human Services Committee

Commissioner Carl Seilstad, Fergus County

Commissioner Seilstad, Chair of MACo’s Health & Human Services Committee, reported to membership on the work of the committee. Shaunda Hildebrand, Fiscal & Nursing Facility Services Bureau Chief, Senior Long-term Care Division, MT Department of Public Health & Human Services talked to the group about nursing facilities’ funding, veteran homes, swing beds, and critical access hospitals (CAH).  The number of county-owned nursing facilities is declining (from 33 in 2004 to 13 in 2020).

Terry Ray, Public Health System Improvement Coordinator, and Todd Harwell, Administrator, Public Health & Safety Division, MT Department of Public Health & Human Services gave a public health system improvement report. They spoke about the DPHHS’ operations and goals including educational and continuing education opportunities.

Deb Matteucci, CIT Executive Director, reported on crisis intervention training (CIT) opportunities, explained best practices, and talked about risk reduction 101 as well as county matching grants.

Erin McGowan, representing Mental Health Centers, talked to the group about the Board of Health authority challenge, anti-vaccine bills, and clean air act. HB 660, funding for mobile crisis response teams–$500K RFP coming.

There was an update on sanitarian fees.  There is potential legislation coming to increase reimbursement rates.

MACo Justice & Public Safety Committee; and NACo Justice & Public Safety Steering Committee

Commissioner Laura Obert, Broadwater County

Commissioner Obert, Chair of MACo’s Justice & Public Safety Committee, reported to membership on the work of the committee. Natalia Bowser, Department of Corrections, Crime Control Bureau Chief addressed juvenile detention funding and gave a Victims of Crime Act funding update. She explained VOCA and VAWA funding and the decrease in victims funding at the federal level. Montana is the only state that does not fund victim services, reliance is 100% on federal money. JAG and OJJDP funding and programs were also highlighted. Ms. Bowser also spoke about drug treatments courts and the Crime Prevention Conference.

Deb Matteucci, CIT Executive Director, reported on inmate medical and Medicaid. She shared booking and intake procedures that can sustain Medicaid coverage for those arrested.  This is not developed in the Medicaid office, but is available in the federal act. Coverage can be unsuspended for a 24-hour emergency and/or release.

Director Matteucci then gave a report on Critical Incident Teams. She spoke about mental health victims falling through the cracks and offered details on matching grants. Crime versus crisis is hard to fund. The Billings Clinic is focused on the issue.

The County Attorneys Association reported about the Crime Lab being understaffed and underfunded. There is a 7 to 8-month delay that is resulting in longer jail time, but prosecutors cannot convict without drug and DNA testing results. For some, they are releasing and refiling later. If an attorney goes out of state for testing, it is at the county’s expense.  After 280 days, cases are being dismissed, result of Crime Lab delays.

Regarding NACo’s Justice & Public Safety Committee, Commissioner Obert reported on the work of the committee during NACo’s Annual Conference. Along with the resolutions and policy adoption, the committee received an update on the new NACo and National Sheriffs’ Association joint task force, aimed at highlighting the impact of federal policy on county jail inmate health care and recidivism rates. The committee discussed the evolution of decision-making in prosecution and diversion within the criminal justice system.

There was a panel discussion with Clark County’s public safety officials about mass casualty incident preparedness, response, and recovery. The committee was also joined by the National Weather Service and FEMA about severe weather decision-making support services and the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).

MACo Land Use, Planning & Development Committee

Commissioner Joe Skinner, Gallatin County

Commissioner Skinner, Chair of MACo’s Land Use, Planning & Development Committee, reported to membership on the work of the committee. There was robust discussion about gates on public roads, county roads, and subdivision roads.

Madison County reported a gate put on subdivision land (with no development or houses yet), put up to keep horses in a pasture creates a hardship for a landowner accessing her property beyond the subdivision. In Ravalli County there was a road created by petition from 1898 and built by the county with historical 70-year public usage and was gated when ownership changed. Gallatin County talked about their requirement that necessitates subdivision roads to be dedicated to the public as the county does not want gated communities. Lake County shared that access to private subdivision land was blocked by the Tribe with a locked gate and “No Trespassing” sign. Broadwater County has a road crossing property with a landowner who denies access to homes beyond the property. Lincoln County brought up roads with county maintenance records since the 1970’s and prescriptive use was discussed. Lewis and Clark County is exploring doing a road matrix to determine how roads are maintained.

Richland County policy explicitly states public roads are not the county’s responsibility. Ms. DePuy advised that all county subdivision laws may vary slightly, and each county needs to define legal access and physical access.

The committee also received an update from Pam Converse, Montana Weed Control Association. Ms. Converse spoke regarding MCA 7-22-2152 and revegetation for disturbed areas and facilitating information sharing and follow through with agencies, contractors, and citizens. Verbiage in the statute is often not followed and disturbances may create more weed problems.

MACo Public Lands Committee; And NACo Public Lands Steering Committee

Commissioner Greg Chilcott, Ravalli County

Commissioner Chilcott, Chair of MACo’s Public Lands Committee, reported to membership on the work of the committee. Speakers included John Mehlhoff, State BLM Director; Steve Kimball, Local Government Forest Adviser, DNRC; and Leanne Marten, Region One Forester, USFS.

Mr. Mehlhoff gave an update on Montana and talked about the Keystone XL pipeline, forest and fuels management, and good neighbor authority. He also spoke about the American Prairie Reserve: withdrawing the request for yearlong grazing and taking out cross fencing—original permits have continual grazing and no cross fencing. Mr. Mehlhoff then discussed public access and their continued efforts to keep and expand access, as well as community assistance; Montana is #1 in assisting local efforts.

Mr. Kimball spoke to the committee about forest health and wildland fire as high priorities. Good neighbor authority allows the state to sell timber working with counties to improve forest health—some reimbursement back to counties.

Ms. Marten talked about shared stewardship and looking across boundaries to improve natural resource health (state, tribes, federal, and local input). She then reported on forest plan updates. They have been coordinating with the state and are pushing to get plans into action to improve conditions of natural resources.  103% of harvest contracts targets for this year, and 62,000-acre target looks to be made. She said that the 2018 Farm Bill pilot for appointing RACs has been successful, and nine of twelve RACs have been approved. Lastly, she talked about access, and said it was a high priority to keep and expand.

There was discussion regarding the MOA between MACo and the Forest Service.  The committee recommended changes to MOU, which were mostly technical in nature and approved.

Commissioner Ross Butcher, Fergus County spoke to the committee about the Montana Natural Resource Coalition (MTNRC). He gave brief explanation of the intent of the coalition attempting to organize counties to have a unified voice in having input to sway management of federal resources to benefit counties.

Regarding NACo’s Public Lands Committee, Commissioner Chilcott (Vice Chair of the Committee) reported on the work they completed during NACo’s Annual Conference. Along with the resolutions and policy adoption, the committee discussed legislation in the 116th Congress related to public access to federal lands, payments to federal lands counties, and federal land and resource management. The committee heard from and conversed with state officials (Kacey KC, State Forester, Nevada Division of Forestry; and Vicki Christiansen, Chief, United States Forest Service) about areas where all levels of government can partner together to improve landscape health, reduce the threat of wildfire, and increase energy and other resource output in an environmentally sound manner.

MACo Transportation Committee; and NACo Transportation Steering Committee

Commissioner John Ostlund, Yellowstone County

Commissioner Ostlund, Chair of MACo’s Transportation Committee, reported to membership on the work of the committee. Geoff Streeter and Joey Andrews-Fuller, MDT – Transportation Planners, gave a an update on HB 473 the Bridge and Road Safety and Accountability Act (new fuel tax) including the types of projects being requested and the process for requesting funds through the required county resolution and web grants. All 56 counties received funding in the first year. Counties are encouraged to submit for their allocation as soon as possible.

Andy White, MDT – Acting Secondary Roads Engineer, gave a presentation on the history of the secondary road system dating back to 1942. In 1942 the Federal Aid Secondary System was created followed by the 1944 Federal Highway Act which provided funding matched in Montana with a post war bond of $17.7M on secondary roads.  At that time, the secondary program assigned funds to individual counties based on land area, population, rural road mileage, and land value (25% each).  In 1998 TEA-221 bumped funding 60% and subsequently in 1999, in cooperation with MACo, MCA 60-3-206, was enacted creating District based funding. It also changed the formula to 30% land area, 35% population, 30% rural road miles, and 5% bridge square footage removing land value form the equation.

Expenditures of the funds include 65% annual to capital construction prioritized based on ranking system with critical criteria and assigned point values.  The priority list extends out and the priority lists for all districts are at least 10 years from completion.  Changes to the list are case by case and a vote will be taken in the event of an addition to the list.

Chris Cronin, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Open-Cut Program, gave an overview of the 2019 session legislation including SB 343 and its intent.  The conversation morphed into how counties can better work with DEQ in getting permits approved in a more efficient manner.  Mr. Cronin expressed value in the pre-application meeting indicating that it amounted to a free consultation and counties should take advantage.  Other options include the Limited Opencut Operation and Limited Borrow Operation; although, the Borrow Operation requires funding from MDT or the Federal Highway Administration, which may make it not as useful to counties. During the next 18 months the DEQ intends to continue dialog with stakeholders for continued improvement, develop rules related to SB 343 and begin its executive planning process for 2021 session.

Regarding NACo’s Transportation Committee, Commissioner Ostlund reported on the work they completed during NACo’s Annual Conference. Along with the resolutions and policy adoption, the committee discussed federal policy issues related to transportation and infrastructure development, including highway and road safety, railways, ports, and aviation. The committee heard from and conversed with Tom Harman, Director, Center for Accelerating Innovation, Office of Innovative Program Delivery, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation; and Anne Reinke, Deputy Assistant Secretary – Intergovernmental Affairs, U.S. Department of Transportation.

NACo Telecommunications & Technology Steering Committee; and NACo Information Technology Standing Committee

Commissioner Joe Briggs, Cascade County

Regarding NACo’s Telecommunications & Technology Committee and Information Technology Standing Committee, Commissioner Briggs (Vice Chair of the Committee) reported on the work they completed during NACo’s Annual Conference. The first speaker was the newly appointed Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs at the Federal Communications Commission, Mr. Gregory Cooke.  Mr. Cooke highlighted many of the resources and programs underway at the FCC aimed at helping local officials address connectivity disparities.

The second speaker was John Dougherty, Vice President and General Manager of Mission Broadband. Their mission is to couple federal funding with local government funding and private investment to cover the capital costs to build the network infrastructure required to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved areas.

Lastly, the committee met to discuss proposed changes to the American County Platform and policy resolutions. The committee considered several verbiage changes to the American County Platform and ten policy resolutions, all of which were adopted.

Commissioner Briggs reported that he was elected NACo Western Region Representative at the NACo Annual Conference in July, which puts Montana on the NACo Executive Committee as well as opens up another seat for Montana on the NACo Board of Directors. The Western Region has a conference call on the third Thursday of each month.

Presentation:  Mental Health & Jail Operations

Jason Jarrett, Administrator, Gallatin County Detention Center
Tiffani Pimley, Social Worker & Re-entry Coordinator, CIT Coordinator, Gallatin County Detention Center
Karen Patty, Crisis Therapist, Gallatin County Detention Center

Mr. Jarrett, Ms. Pimley, and Ms. Patty spoke to the membership about mental health and jail operations. The Gallatin County Detention Center has reduced recidivism—they are down to 18% overall, which translates into lack of harm in the community and wealth-producing.

Mr. Jarrett explained that his job as a cop is to solve community problems, not just arrest people and put them in jail. He spoke about the mental health problems and substance abuse/addiction issues in jails. He explained that it is about infrastructure, and Gallatin County has put 25 years of work into their program. They realized detention is a social service industry and is—in a way—the de-facto mental health facility, saying you “can’t punish your way to paradise.” Mr. Jarret explained that jail is a therapeutic environment for some individuals, and it is a captive audience, so there is a chance to help.

Ms. Pimley spoke to the membership about the county’s reentry program. Approximately five years ago, she became the first reentry coordinator in the state, talking to people in community about the issues. Her work began with a grant, but soon received continual funding when they were able to present the data.

She talked about housing and mental health services being important things on which to focus.  These issues need to be addressed within the first 72 hours.  They made a conscious decision to work hard on the first, second, third-time offenders. The biggest thing for their program was getting the community invested in it as well.

Ms. Patty spoke to the membership about her very new program (90 days).  Whenever there is a crisis call, she can go out with law enforcement and provide on-the-spot crisis management and keep the acuity of the incident down. Because she is in the community, she can pull the community in and collaborate. One of her partners is a community support specialist, who can find the person in the community and help them get to their treatment and/or place of employment. The point is to get them where they need to physically go, so they can thrive in the long run.

Presentation:  Land Use Planning – Coordination with Federal Land Management Agencies

Bill Avey, Forest Supervisor, Forest Service, Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest

Supervisor Avey spoke to the membership about the Forest Service and their rich history of working with counties on a wide range of issues. Those relationships are essential on making land management decisions and implementing those decisions. They are working on restoration and shared stewardship, so those relationship are even more important now. He spoke about managing the land for the people of the USA, and the voices closest to the land are of the upmost importance—the Forest Service may designate state or county as cooperating agency.

MACo Business Session

Roll Call

Commissioner Mike McGinley, Beaverhead County, Fiscal Officer

After roll call was taken, Commissioner McGinley announced a quorum was present to conduct business (see roll call attachment, page 31).

Unfinished Business

Commissioner Jim Hart, Madison County, MACo President

There was no unfinished business.

Resolution of Appreciation

Commissioner Jim Hart, Madison County, MACo President

Whereas, the 2019 Annual Conference of the Montana Association of Counties 110th such meeting; and

Whereas, attendance of member counties marks its success; and

Now, therefore, be it resolved that the 110th Annual Conference of the Montana Association of Counties expresses its sincere appreciation for the sponsorship of this conference to the Cascade County Commissioners and staff:

Commissioner Joe Briggs

Commissioner James Larson

Commissioner Jane Weber

Motion/Vote:  A motion to pass the Resolution of Appreciation was made by and seconded.  The motion passed unanimously.

Nominations Committee Report

Commissioner Jim Hart, Madison County, MACo President

The Board of Directors, acting as the Nominations Committee, brings forth the candidates for the 2019 year as follows:

  • Office of Immediate Past President: Jim Hart, Madison County
  • Office of President: Shane Gorder, Richland County
  • Office of 1st Vice President: Doug Martens, Rosebud County
  • Office of 2nd Vice President: Ross Butcher, Fergus County; Jason Strouf, Custer County; Roman Zylawy, Mineral County
  • Office of Fiscal Officer: This office is a two-year term; Commissioner Mike McGinley is in the second year of the two-year term. Elections for this office will be held next year.

Election of Officers

Commissioner Jim Hart, Madison County, MACo President
Commissioner Bill Barron, Lake County, MACo Immediate Past President

The MACo 2nd Vice President candidates were invited to speak to the membership one last time prior to the election. Commissioner Jason Strouf, Custer County, said he would bring the same dedication, reliability, sincerity to the position as he has as a commissioner. Commissioner Ross Butcher, Fergus County, said he has a great passion for government, especially local government and would love to be a conduit for the members’ questions and concerns. Commissioner Roman Zylawy, Mineral County, said that elected county officials all need to work hard for their constituents, whether they be in the East or the West. He stated that with MACo, the counties have more than one vote—represents the entire state.

President Hart asked for further nominations for the office of MACo 2nd Vice President, to which there were none. The ballots were provided to the counties; one vote per county—proxies allowed if turned in on time. The counties cast their ballots and the vote was tallied.

Vote:  Commissioner Strouf was elected as MACo 2nd Vice President.

Motion/Vote:  There was a motion and second to close nominations and cast a unanimous ballot to move forward Commissioner Shane Gorder, Richland County as MACo President; Commissioner Doug Martens, Rosebud County, as MACo 1st Vice President; and Commissioner Jim Hart, Madison County, as MACo Immediate Past President.  Motion passed unanimously.

Resolutions & Policy Statements

Commissioner Doug Martens, Rosebud County, Resolutions & Legislative Committee Chair

Commissioner Martens announced that there were no resolutions to present, and the legislative process for the 2021 Legislative Session would begin in 2020.

Proposed By-law Amendment

Commissioner Jim Hart, Madison County, MACo President

MACo staff presented a by-law amendment to Article V, Executive Director, Section 1, Duties & Responsibilities.  The amendment would give more discretion, as well as allow opportunities for restructuring and renaming some positions:

The Executive Director shall perform such duties as are assigned by the Board of Directors for implementing Association policy and shall be responsible to the Board.

The Executive Director shall supervise the Association office and staff.  The Board of Directors shall be responsible for an annual evaluation of the Executive Director.

The Executive Director shall compile, publish, and maintain a “Staff Policy and Procedures Manual,” which shall be reviewed annually by the Board of Directors.

The Executive Director shall maintain detailed job descriptions for all positions.

The Executive Director shall maintain a policy manual containing all Board and operational policies.

The Executive Director shall be responsible for the hiring and termination of staff personnel consistent with the “Staff Policies and Procedures Manual.”

The Executive Director shall receive approval from the Board of Directors prior to creating any new permanent employment positions.

The Executive Director shall develop transition plans for the replacement of Key Executive Management Positions.

Motion:  A motion to pass the by-law amendment was made by Commissioner John Ostlund, Yellowstone County, and seconded by Commissioner Larry Hendrickson, Liberty County.

A discussion ensued regarding keeping the Board of Directors informed, the redundancy of the current language, and the possible inefficiencies the current provision makes. It was clarified that the Board would still be involved, because they have authority over the budget. In conclusion, the members have faith in the established leadership, and question was called.

Vote:  The motion passed 39-3. The amendment is effective upon passage and approval by the membership.

Congressional Reports/Video

Videos from Senator John Tester and Congressman Gianforte were played for the membership.

Other Business

MACo Executive Director, Eric Bryson, spoke to the membership about the Montana Public Employees’ Retirement System, and the process that Lewis & Clark County went through of separating Purview from the county. They employees asked if they could stay in MPERA, and they were told no. The county continued with their plan. MPERA came back and said that when those 60 employees are riffed, it created an unfunded liability, and the county owes MPERA $5 million.  MACo nor the county’s attorneys can find a reason or method that allows MPERA to do this. Cascade County also did this recently, and they were not required to pay; however, MPERA came back saying they would be collecting from them as well.

Director Bryson thanked everyone for coming to the conference and he recognized the staff.

Commissioner Mike McGinley, Beaverhead County spoke briefly about resolutions and the Midwinter Conference.  He will be doing some research and bringing forward a resolution regarding wildlife refuge revenue payments.


The General Session of the MACo 110th Annual Conference adjourned with the installation of officers occurring at the evening annual banquet.