To the rumor mill captains, I’ve been told I am dying and won’t make it through another term and that am currently too physically ill to perform the duties of County Commissioner. I am sorry to disappoint anyone, but I am not physically incapacitated, and I am not dying. Like the other 37 million Americans with kidney impairment, I don’t have the stamina to perform the physical labor I used to do. That’s why my partner, Tate Pool, has stepped up to run Delger Construction. I have only missed two weeks of work since I was diagnosed with igA nephropathy, and that was due to Covid, which can happen when a bunch of old people get together for a reunion. Just because I can’t frame a house for 12 hours a day does not prevent me from working 5 – 7 days a week as a commissioner. I am not running for commissioner to get health insurance. It's a nice perk, but as far as my kidneys go, that is being handled by the Veterans Administration. I am on their list for a new one, which these days is a common procedure.
We were able to reach some concrete goals in the past six years. The biggest accomplishment was removing the Townsend Health Center from the county taxes by arranging a loan for $750,000 that allowed the health center to transition to a critical care facility, which in turn promoted the sale to Billings Clinic. This sale allowed the county to retire outstanding debt across the board and purchase the former Opportunity Bank building which now houses the MSU extension office, video-enable commissioner meeting room and provides ambulance storage. The county continues to set aside funds to buy ambulances in the future with PILT federal funds. In the end, we were able to halt the levying of mills (more taxes) for hospital district funding. We continue to fund ambulance replacement, and we generate revenue by renting ambulance storage to Billings Clinic. We now have three health care facilities: Billings Clinic, St. Peter's Health Care and Family Medical Clinic, run by Doc Campbell.
In 2019, the Commission established a targeted economic development district (“TEDD”) at the southern end of the county. What the TEDD does is allow the district to reinvest taxes from improvement in the district into infrastructure of the district. We continue to collect taxes based on 2019 values that go to all areas of the county. When the TEDD reaches its life run, we will have established $10 million in taxable value. The sticking point about the TEDD is the prohibition of residential and work force housing within the zone, a step we took because the nearby school system would not receive residential tax revenue from that housing, which would place an undue burden on the Three Forks school system. I will continue to oppose residential and work force housing within the TEDD. The TEDD developers have offered a land lot to construct a building for public safety, fire, ambulance and search and rescue. We have a request for proposal going out this week, and the building process will subsequently start.
When I stepped into my first budget meeting, things went exactly how they told us it would go at the newly elected officials conference. After the campaign to pass the mill levy for Public Safety, we hired a consultant to improve our budget process. Rather than hashing out every detail of every budget, we transitioned to a budget process that uses the previous years’ mill value for the budget base. Now, the budget stakeholders know what they have to spend, and any unused funds are transitioned to capital improvement projects (“CIP”), such as building up savings for equipment replacement, heavy and office. Now that all the departments have CIP savings, we have nearly eliminated emergency funding requests. This year, for the first time, we have a 22-23 fiscal year budget that was completed in mid-June rather than a last-minute budget that fails to allow departments cushion to plan for fuel and utility cost increases.