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County Commissioners Approve FY 2018 Budget, End Burn Ban

At the regular public meeting Tuesday, Sept. 26, and a subsequent special public meeting, the Roose-velt County Commissioners approved the county budget for fiscal year 2018. The commissioners also approved shake-ups at the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office and ended the burn ban that was in effect for the majority of the summer.
The commissioners approved the county budget for fiscal year 2018 directly after their regular public meeting. Most departments remained the same in this year’s budget, but the public safety budget increased due to six new detention officers being added to staff the new Roosevelt County Detention Center.
The overall budget, which totaled $28,042,599, was down approximately $11.5 million due to the completion of the Roosevelt County Detention Center. Despite budgeting for six new county employees, the overall budget is still down significantly from last year.
According to the commissioners and Roosevelt County Clerk and Recorder Cheryl Hansen, these were the only significant changes in the budget for FY 2018. All other departments will have the same budget they did the previous year.
During the regular public meeting, a few shakeups occurred in the sheriff’s office. Amari Black, an RCSO deputy, resigned from her position with thanks from the commissioner for her service to the county. Steve Barr was terminated from his position within the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office. When asked why, the commissioner said that they did not know, but that the reason could not be disclosed due to personnel policy.
Clay McGeshick will be a deputy for RCSO effective Oct. 1, pending approval of his resignation letter from the position of jailer at the Roosevelt County Detention Center, which was delivered by Sheriff Jason Frederick just after the meeting. McGeshick has served the RCSO before as well as the Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice.
The burn ban that was enacted during the long drought this summer was lifted. Presiding officer Duane Nygaard noted that, while the ban is lifted, it is important that anyone wanting to have a fire will still need to get a permit from the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office.
Commissioner Gordon Oelkers noted that the burn ban enacted by the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes is still in effect until they take action to lift it.
After receiving a permit from the RCSO, Roosevelt County residents can currently have a fire in areas off the Fort Peck Indian Reservation within the county’s borders. Once the tribes lift their burn ban, regular burning can resume pending that residents have a permit.
The yearly agreement between Roosevelt County and the Montana State University Extension office for the fiscal year 2018 was approved. This agreement outlines financial compensation for extension office employees who provide services in Roosevelt County.
Ardis Oelkers and Jeffrey Chilson will both be paid $36,400. Lanette Hill will receive $8,828 for administrative support. Judy Heupel will receive $27,395 as the program assistant. Support staff benefits total $8,621, travel costs total $9,000 and other operations total $31,815. All items in total equal $160,469 that Roose-
velt County will pay the MSU Extension office for services.
Oelkers abstained from voting on this motion because Ardis Oelkers is his wife.
Oelkers proposed to the commissioners a sign-on bonus of $5,000 for a registered nurse position with the Roosevelt County Health Department. The idea was to help provide incentive for someone to take the position. The county has had issues filling and having someone hold this position. What Oelkers proposed was a one-time authorization to approve this sign-on bonus. The bonus would be received after one full year of working in the position.
Nygaard said that one problem that he had with the proposal was that the competition in the area, Northeast Montana Health Services, offers no sign-on bonuses for the same position. Along with commissioner Gary Macdonald, Nygaard also feared that approved this would set a precedent for other departments which also have trouble filling certain positions.
Oelkers argued that this position was different due to its importance. He said that the job duties were currently being filled by a “rent-a-nurse” which isn’t satisfactory in the long-term.
Bill Juve, a resident of Wolf Point, said that he thought that this was the reason county employees received an oil stipend as incentive to work here.
Nygaard agreed that this is true and is a big part of the bonus that employees of Roosevelt County receive.
Ultimately, Nygaard and Macdonald were not in favor of Oelkers’ proposal.
After the budget and regular public meeting, the commissioners held a sale of tax abandoned properties in Roosevelt County. Approximately 80 acres of land were up for bid after their previous owners failed to pay county land taxes for five years. Though several of the properties did not sell, many did receive bids. Approximately $4,200 of property received bids and were sold by the county at this point. Around $5,300 of property is still open to sale by the county. Many of these properties are vested interests in land rather than actual divided parcels.
For instance, a person paying around $200 on these properties may be buying a 1/30th interest on an undivided piece of land. This entitles owners to certain privileges regarding that land, such as access or proceeds if the land was sold.
Other items of note at this meeting include:
Resignation of Natasha Kemp from the health department. She resigned from her position of DUI task force and tobacco coordinator.
The county gave the weed department permission to seek bids on a 3/4 ton diesel pickup.
Peggy Purvis, justice of the peace office in Culbertson, received a pay raise.
Claims for Sept. 7 in the amount of $161,048.81 were approved.
Claims for Sept. 21 in the amount of $127,314.69 were approved.
Minutes for the regular public meeting, Sept. 5, and special administrative session, Sept. 11, were approved.