February 7, 2023
February 7, 2023
Commissioners Scott Miller, Scott Blain, and Bill Bullock; and HR Specialist Kate Asbury were present.
8:30 Pledge of Allegiance
8:35 No Public in attendance for Public Comment
9:00 Sanitarian Barbara Krizek met to request a temporary office clerk to assist with the data entry and clerical tasks to allow Sanitarians to focus on higher-level tasks. Bullock asked about budget availability for this position; Krizek confirmed that funding is available for this position due to the new Sanitarian not coming on until January 2023 and Travis West has not been available for contracting services. Krizek requested to advertise the position at 30-40 hours and both externally and internally. Commissioner Bullock moved to approve; Blain seconded; Bullock requested that the position be advertised as 30 hours a week; motion carried.
9:08 Bullock moved to close the meeting for a personnel discussion on temporary Sanitarian position; Miller seconded; motion carried. Meeting closed.
9:16 Meeting reopened.
9:19 Bullock moved to accept end of January Disbursement Detail from District Court, Monthly Deposit Reconciliation for the month of January 2023 from the Clerk & Recorder Office, and end of month cash report from the Treasurer’s Office; Blain seconded; motion carried.
9:20 Bullock moved to approve Commissioner proceedings for January 12, 2023; Blain seconded; motion carried.
9:30 Disaster and Emergency Services (DES) Coordinator Cyrina Allen met for her monthly update. Discussed continued recovery from Spring 2022 Flood including meetings with Carbon County News, FEMA, and Town of Fromberg. Allen is assisting Fromberg with mitigation grant projects. Discussion of Fromberg payments to Tina Foust for flood assistance; this will not be part of their reimbursement due to Town Handbook policy on nepotism. Allen is not sure if payments to Shala Cullum will still be reimbursed. Road damage has been included in the Town’s Public Assistance Application.
Bullock asked about debris removal status. Allen noted sites have been approved, waiting on FEMA approving contractor and a monitoring company to make sure the scope of work is being done.
Scope will provide a debris radius to allow removal of material moved in snow melt. Discussion of duplicative floodplain notice in the paper and sent to individual landowners with no additional information. Bullock request to the City of Red Lodge last week to have a designated Disaster Response person on staff; noting that Allen’s role is to be the liaison to the State not to formulate plans on behalf of the municipalities. Allen noted she has encouraged municipalities an emergency response organization to take control of planning for their own natural disaster response including purchasing stock of sand, bags, shovels, etc.
Mitigation project information has been shared County wide with all officials from last week, and then they can take that information and run with it.
Miller asked if any permitting was being done for the river in Fromberg; Allen believes only one floodplain permit has been received. Discussion of Fromberg Mayor’s ideas for mitigation and future flood prevention that include a dyke; Allen is happy to help him research viable options. Allen expects the State to issue the notice of funding for flood mitigation soon; she believes roughly $10M will be available. Discussion of the possibilities of install in diversion systems to mitigate flood issues in the future and structures that could be installed above headgates to better divert the water on Rock Creek before it gets to Red Lodge. Allen suggested a larger discussion on this topic with the Clarks Fork Watershed Group would be beneficial; Allen will forward all information she has on their requested grant and how the County could tie into it possibly. Projects cannot be applied for until 2024. Allen informed Commissioners they can start the application process anytime for mitigation projects, and then as the process opens it will be decided what route the application goes into from there.
Allen and Commissioners discussed other grants including Community Foundation’s $25,000 grant. Commissioners confirmed they want to continue applying for the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG).
Allen and Miller will attend tonight’s Bridger Town Council meeting. Allen requested Commissioners attendance at LEPC Flood Tabletop exercises in March and April.
Allen provided a briefing on her experience at the Flood Recovery Symposium. All the Counties that flooded participated in this class. Allen discussed the possibility of having a Regional Emergency Operations Center (EOC) during the next natural disaster, if the situation warrants it. Commissioner Miller asked if we needed a mobile EOC. Allen does not think that is necessary; partnering better with neighboring effected Counties would be sufficient.
10:00 Tori Kolkhorst with Senator Daines was present for an update. Senator retained his committee assignments; same as last year. He is working on the Debt ceiling to address the $31 trillion debt. The Farm Bill is still in the beginning stages; if things go well it will be voted on late Spring; potentially will be voted on in late August. Any questions on the Chinese balloon from public? Current legislation in Montana to ban those types of things in airspace over Montana. Commissioner Bullock provided Tori with on update on the current litigation against the County. Tori asked about the plug on the road to Cooke City – is there any update on it? Tori stated their office is still getting a lot of outreach from the very active groups that utilize the road on what will happen with it. Tori discussed with Commissioner Miller regarding the veteran tax break bill that is going through right now and what his thoughts were on it. Commissioner Bullock presented Tori with her belt buckle from the Flood response.
10:30 GIS Manager/Fire Warden Tom Kohley will be getting his new computer soon. Deputy Fire Warden candidate has been selected, Alex Songstad. Asbury will get his orientation scheduled with him once she knows a start date from Kohley.
Kohley & Allen are working on the planning cycle for next spring regarding firefighter flood training. They have presented the idea to the fire departments and they are not understanding their role in the situation. Therefore, Tom is going to spearhead the training for the fire departments and find out what training is needed.
His new truck has been received and decals were put on it for visibility. A few accessories will be installed on it – grill guard, radio, etc.
Meeting with DNRC on Thursday is a customary annual visit on discussion of fire planning for the upcoming season. Kohley does not have any concerns, other than updating the language in the agreement. Tom has requested that the Commissioners bring up the Firefighting Property program with DNRC and readdress it. Commissioner Bullock affirmed that the side-dump was hugely instrumental in response and will be happy to address that with the DNRC, give them a tour if necessary. Tom also suggests that it be mentioned that the efficiency of the program be updated so that the options are kept fresh and availability increased. Tom brought up that the DNRC has slowed down on providing trucks for fighting brush fires – need to turn those vehicles more frequently to keep pushing for the delivery of those trucks that are supposed to be provided.
The fire boot discussion continues regarding pricing, vendors, and the allowance the County will provide to each firefighting team member. Kohley is continuing to work on the new policy.
Kohley is looking at applying for a Montana Land Information Act grant. He has 2 things in mind to use the funding for – Montana Cadastral updating actual property lines and Montana State Reference Network that is a network of GPS stations that keeps GPS info updated. All Commissioners affirm that Kohley should research the grant application more and present the application if it is a benefit to the County and residents.
11:00 Health Insurance Proposal Review – Insurance Committee members expressed that their top choice at this point would be BCBS; however they have a few more questions. Asbury will reach out to the prospective bidders to have questions answered and will inform members of their responses on Thursday at the 1pm meeting.
11:30 CART Update – in attendance Jeff Hamm, Bill & Sue Foisy, Tesla Palmatier, and David Kallenbach. Commissioners did not have feedback regarding the program. February 10th is the 2-year anniversary of the ride share program. 388 individual riders have used the service within. Very few incidents; no accidents or traffic violations. MT DOT provides the chief funding for the program, but it requires a 1:1 grant match. The Community Foundation is responsible for raising the matching funds of approximately $69,000; did not meet the requirement for last fiscal year. However, for the new fiscal year, they have obtained new sponsors. Ask is for the County to contribute to their fundraising needs to meet their match requirement for the grant. Discussion of use of the program in Bridger, Fromberg, and Edgar. Roscoe is the only area the CART program does not cover due to road conditions, especially in inclement weather.
Bill Foisy shared that from his past experience with developing the same type of transportation system back in Alabama, the outcome was that the cities and counties bought into the program because of the success of the program.
Jeff Hamm retired from a 40-year career in public transportation and has been involved off and on in the CART program. He feels the program has been well-planned and well-executed from the start. He also advised that the costs are right on track with what the program delivers. Also, he stated that the program is right on point with their service area, and yet there are still unmet needs of the citizens that could be met with additional funding.
Sue Foisy shared that while she was working in Alabama, they had an incentive program to refer those candidates with disabilities. And they were only able to do that because of a program similar to CART; which brought the company a lot of good employees due to this type of service and feeds back into the economy and enrich business.
Kalllenbach stated the real push has been to keep the shopping type trips within the County to patronize local businesses. Food procurement has been a front and center need to so many people in the County; drivers have also taken food boxes or groceries to those that cannot get out and get those supplies themselves. Kallenbach highlighted different uses the program has covered; which has increased the use of the Senior Center, restaurants, etc. in the County.
Currently have 2 part-time drivers, and a part-time driver/dispatcher. David is a fill-in driver when the schedule gets too busy. Efficiency has increased over time as they developed the program. Spontaneous requests are being better met now that they have a working system in place. Very few trips have been turned away; however, they have reached their plateau on hiring more drivers and/or adding a vehicle due to budget constraints. They are playing around with the idea of volunteer drivers; the State is on board with this.
12:00 Commissioner Bullock made motion to accept claims for January 2023. Commissioner Blain seconded. Motion carried.
1:00 Airport Board meeting. In attendance: Jacque Papez, Bob Spoja, Mayor Cogswell, Dennison Butler, Courtney Long, Jim Bushnell, Brian Hannah, Jeff Wise, Bo Ewald, Steve Smith, Merrill Pfiefer, Marie Olsen, John Prinkki, and Heather Quinn.
Ewald began the meeting with a presentation regarding the airport’s history, current status, intermittent funding from the State, and the governance of the airport.
Per Ewald, the annual airport budget for operations is approximately $30k; funding is split about 80% County / 20% City. Equipment and staff are provided by the Joint Airport board for snow plowing and grass cutting; volunteers supplement these activities.
Ewald recounted the various boundary descriptions noting in approximately 1957 the airport boundary was incorrectly described but was subsequently corrected to include the North boundary as Highway 78, West boundary as the irrigation ditch w/ some cutouts; South boundary as Remington Ranch Road, East boundary as Airport Road with some checkerboard. The Master Plan proposal boundary map is currently a work in process; however, it is pretty close to the original boundary. Same general shape.
Discussion of Public Safety factors in regards to the airport the center for air operations is on the north end of the property for any aircraft that are in the area for natural disasters. The airport can support up to 12 helicopters now for natural disaster type incidents. The airport has also updated their fuel capacity, as needed, to support those helicopter numbers per their requirements. The airport can also be used for Search and Rescue missions by allowing helicopters to land and house those teams and equipment.
Discussion of Aviation Safety. Best practice is for aircraft to take off and land in the wind. Prevailing wind at KRED is from the NW or SE, sometime from the E or W. The runway was rehabilitated for NW/SE runway for the prevailing winds.
Discussion of other uses of the airport including school events, Beartooth Ball, Car Shows (biggest money maker).
Discussion of Future plans including securing FAA funding. Friends of the Red Lodge Airport non-profit organization has been created and setup to help fund needs at the airport. The fuel project has been completed too. Biggest need is to resurface/pave the runway through donations and the County. The Airport Board is also working on a website, fall fly-in, new taxi-ways and hangars. A private citizen is talking about building “T-Hangars” that will allow more room for planes/tenants (i.e. renters in 2024 potential). Relocate Club aircraft (2025) and fix tie downs (2026).
The land use request made by the City is not supported by the Airport Board.
Commissioner Bullock reinforced the position of the Airport Board that the boundary remains as has been historically understood; the FAA coming back in to assist with funding is the only way he sees this airport continuing to operate. His ask would be of the City, at the bare minimum, would be to wait and see what the FAA comes back with. And then the City can readdress at that point.
Long asked about the history of the FAA requirements that changed between the 1990’s and now that would or would not allow the airport to be FAA airport improvement program. Steve Smith provided a response that due to the golf course
development the airport was removed from the program due to the close proximity of the residential development; FAA runway length requirements have changed.
Buttler stated the one caveat is that what has been presented so far is that the map on the screen is the undisputed boundary or the airport and the Airport Board has decided not to give land back to the City. There are tracts that could be given back – Tract 5 & 6; and Lance could tell us what has to be part of the boundary and the remainder is what could be negotiated to give back to the City.
Commissioner Bullock suggested that the City change their zoning requirements. Bushnell responded that the zoning will remain the same as it is, but that doesn’t mean it will affect the airport. Long responded that zoning does not delineate what belongs to the airport, it just delineates if it is in the airport area. Ewald would refer back to the 1960 boundary line which clearly outlines the property border.
Mayor reiterated that the City passed a resolution that they support the airport, but the question is how the use of the land supports the City. Bushnell brought up the 2004 plan for an industrial park that states the County would give land back to the City; which was never followed through on by the County. Wise questioned Long how they would put a light-industrial park in the area in question without rezoning. Courtney responded that is what is in question.
Mayor stated again that the City’s interest in what is the best use of that property – noting historic conversation about the hospital and fire hall relocating up there.
Wise wanted to touch on the concept of having a “safe airport” by taking out the crosswind runway and hindering the equipment, would take a huge chunk out of the “clear area”. He asked the engineer where they could relocate these items; response was south of the current buildings and bluffs. This would still have to be cleared by the FAA. Jeff Wise has another statement on the plan by the City where Airport Road is on the drawings vs the actual location of Airport Road.
John Prinkki added that the airport throughout his time on the Commission was that the airport’s main purpose was for natural disaster response and the safety of the County/City. The consensus was that the purpose was not for larger private and/or commercial jets. They wanted to keep it small, but functional. The idea to move the airport was also discussed; 3 groups were developed to stop the move of the airport. These were all concepts on what could happen to the airport.
They were all turned down because at that time they were all determined to not be in the best interest of the County and/or City. The integrity of the airport has to be kept for the operation of the airport. The road, in particular, would suffer if you changed the boundary. Bushnell stated that the ground for parking will always be delegated for parking.
Bullock added when the conversation started up again with the FAA, their point was that they were back at the table to consider the ask, but be careful with any development around the area due to space requirements. They could not provide a definite number for the space requirement. Their comment was “things are pretty good right now as long as nothing else happens.” Long-term operation is going to be based on funding. Bullock asked the City what the direct need for the property was and if it could wait 6-9 months. The City did not respond.
Long stated she would like a clear idea of what area would need to be delineated back to clearly designate area as P-1A zoning. That area can be maintained as open space for a set number of years and then be revisited at a later date before the City would make a move to develop on that land. We do not want to put the FAA funding at risk, but still want the area. Bullock responded that the FAA will not weigh-in on an exact number. He made the ask again if there was a pressing need for this property and if so what is it? Bushnell responded that the need is having that area to keep things as they are so that access is not cut-off. Commissioner Bullock responded that the perception is that the realignment of a runway. Bushnell responded that their concern was that road would be cut off due to the control of the Airport Board being allowed to realign their runway. Steve Smith stated that the issue with the south entrance of Remington Ranch would not be affected by any realignment of the runway if it happens. There is no threat there. Bushnell responded that his concern was by the plan presented by the engineer firm that states the road would be shut down. Bo showed on the screen the proposed change. Smith responded to Bushnell that he is correct there are 5 concepts, and the Airport Board has chosen concept #5 that does not include shutting down the road.
Butler added the problem is that there has not been a map done that says this is the boundary of the airport. Yet, the application has been submitted to the FAA; which will say the boundary will live forever. Merrill responded that the plat maps from 1959 are roughly the same as they are now. He feels that to say the boundary is not what it is, is not correct. Commissioner Miller interjected that Angela Newell found the map that shows the correct boundary. Dennison requested a copy of the map from Newell.
Commissioner Blain responded that he would never support taking parking away from the rodeo grounds and fair. Jacque interjected that the simpler fix to the issue is to keep that northwest boundary designated as park, as per Bushnell stated, and the Airport Board agree to not develop that area.
Commissioner Blain stated to the Mayor why would we want to give the FAA the minimum, when we want to give them the most to help keep safety at the forefront. Especially since the movement of the road would have a negative impact on putting our best foot forward, and not giving them the minimum.
John Prinkki stated that the fence boundary was built to keep the wildlife from coming onto the runway by the City; which could stand as a natural boundary
Brian Hannah interjected that the City just wants to come to a good conclusion on what the airport actually needs until they don’t want it anymore. Our stance is do you really need all this area where the old road used to be where the City stores their stuff. And do you need the area where our water tank is? We need to know where the boundary actually has to be that the Airport Board needs to successfully operate. Ewald responded that it’s a great point that the Airport Board could discuss. One point to put out there for safety is the Airport Board has been told that in the next case of a fire,
if we did not have the area that we have, firefighter aircraft would have to be based out of Laurel, Big Timber and/or Cody; and Columbus is not a viable option. This would slow down the response to firefighting; which is a safety concern for the County and their citizens. Hannah responded, their question is still what is the bare minimum ground needed, and then come to an agreement on what can be given back to the City.
Wise brought up the development of water and sewer into the airport subdivision would best be situated on the south end of the airport. Bushnell responded that part of the reason that they want the other part is that the City could afford to put water/sewer in. He stated that if we are not going to give up the area, the septic tanks have to be removed because they are part of the City’s watershed. If the City had the area for the future development, they have worked the numbers that they can afford to put in water/sewer. Commissioner Blain responded that it would be cheaper to take the septic out and put in porta-potties.
Long asked about the spacing on the circles that are helicopter pads in the picture on the screen – why they are so far spaced out. Bo responded that they are spaced by the requirements of the helicopters and their fuel distance requirements.
Mayor asked if concept #5 infringed on that area. Steve Smith stated that it does not infringe on the helicopter pads. Further explanation is rotating the runway 5 degrees which gives enough clearance on the bench to remove the conflict with Airport Road. Mayor asked again if they do skew the runway it does not affect the roadways in any way, correct? Smith and Ewald confirmed it would not affect roadways.
Pfeifer stated that he doesn’t see there is a conflict by what Hannah showed was the area in question, and there really isn’t’ anything to talk about. Brian went back to the map to outline the area in question again to see if there is any “extra” land to give back to the City.
Commissioner Bullock stated that we didn’t go to the FAA for fun; we went back for funding to keep the operation going. The only viable option is the FAA funding stream. This would benefit not only the Airport Board, but the City and the County, and the citizens. Once we know if we get the funding, then we can come back and discuss if there is anything to negotiate.
Ewald interjected that he personally is trying to raise $400,000 to resurface the runway; which is still a short-term fix. Prinkki and Smith both stated that the runway needs to be removed and completely redone. Steve Smith continued on to say that if we get into the program, although it will not be right away, the FAA will redo the runway for us.
Steve Smith stated that until we know from the FAA, we need to leave the northeast quadrant alone and not risk the FAA saying no to our application. And, then address the water/sewer question.
Mayor believes that leaving things as they are in the northeast quadrant benefits the whole community. The hangar development does not benefit the whole community and the leases prevent the City from having any way to change things. Steve Smith responded that those leases do not prevent things from changing. Mayor responded that the City needs to get back to the Airport Board what is an acceptable lease, but what she has seen so far is that those leases do not benefit the community. She has seen the plans for the new hangars, and they do not benefit the community and she has to be mindful of her people. Cogswell stated the people that the use the runway that come in for the weekend do not add value to the City. Steve Smith responded that those people do benefit the City by coming in for the weekend and supporting restaurants.
Prinkki asked where the new hangars were supposed to go. The Mayor responded that they were supposed to go in Tracts 1 & 5. Jeff Wise stated that they were just options, that there are not plans for new hangars in those areas.
Bullock stated again that more is better for the FAA to approve the facility, as the Commissioners are held responsible for making sure they are responsible with the money of their residents. And an FAA approved operation benefits the citizens of Red Lodge far more than it does the County residents.
Long responded that she feels like she is hearing 2 different discussion points – #1 what is the land requirements to get the FAA funding and #2 what is the best use of the land. Bushnell asked if the Airport Board is confident they will get FAA approval. Commissioner Bullock responded that they have put these questions forth to the FAA and they are not getting definite answers. But, their last response from the FAA was this is where we are, but no more giving away area.
Merrill stated in regards to future hangars there might be a call for larger hangars; to say we don’t need that space for hangars is not true. And, if we do not get the FAA funding, we are still in good standing with the State to get routine maintenance funding assistance due to current operations. There are other options to help fund the airport, but not if we split it up to build an industrial park.
Brian asked the question if set boundaries were a requirement for FAA funding. Ewald, Smith, and Pfeifer responded yes, there have to be set boundaries. Steve went on to say that the FAA is not interested in options, they want to know what the airport controls – “obligated.” Brian continued on asking what map can we settle on that will make the FAA happy. Ewald, Smith, and Pfeifer stated that the boundary map being displayed on the screen is the boundary map.
Prinkki asked if there is anything they want to do with the land next to the water tank. Brian responded yes there is enough land there to build something.
Papez asked about the timeline for the submission to the FAA. Smith it would be a couple months’ completion time. However, they have stopped the process until there is an agreement between the County and City on boundaries. Bo stated that they haven’t stopped their work completely as they are working on alternatives of the location of other things, but the boundary is what is keeping the submission from the FAA.
Papez asked if we would need a survey to approve any changes. Smith confirmed yes that would be needed.
Mayor asked if the FAA declined the application, can it be resubmitted. Smith responded that he did not know that answer. Mayor requested for Bowser from RPA to be at the meetings to help answer the questions. Bo suggested that we present questions to Lance, and then allow him to research the answer to the questions. Brian stated that maybe we present maps to Lance that the City wants for the boundaries and what the Airport Board wants for boundaries, so Lance can tell us if it’s possible or not. Mayor stated that we want to know the minimum area that the FAA needs, not what the Airport Board wants to make this work.
Commissioner Bullock stated that the management of the airport was given to the Joint Board in the interlocal agreement along with financial support, and that the property belongs to the City. If the City is unhappy with the management of the airport, maybe the City should look back at the interlocal agreement for what they need to take back the management.
Prinkki asked what the cost would be to get the sewer line in there. Bushnell responded that the quote is $700,000. And that would probably be the same amount for water. Prinkki asked how many entities would be responsible for covering cost. Bushnell stated that with future development that it would help pay for it. John Prinkki stated so you’re talking about approximately 50 entities paying for 1.5 million. Bushnell responded that is correct, as that is what the 2004 plan showed would be sustained with business growth. John responded with you are basing your figures off a plan that is 20 years old? Bo asked what is the hookup fee for new construction. Bushnell responded that it was $14,000. And if the sewer does go in, the septic tanks must come out.
Mayor stated if we are going to do the airport, we need to do it right from the start. And if we can’t pay for it, then we need a smaller airport. Commissioner Bullock stated that we can’t pay for it right now, and the FAA funding is the only way to go because the runway is basically gravel right now.
Bushnell asked what will happen to the airport if FAA funding doesn’t come through. Commissioner Bullock stated that it will continue to limp along with private funding until it runs out. Merrill added that there is still funding from the State that could be applied for to help fund some things. Bushnell asked why those funds with the State are also not being pursued at the same time. Pfeifer stated that they are. Smith interjected that the FAA fund is much, much larger than the State funding.
Pfeifer provided an example that the Bridger airport does not qualify for FAA funding, but they do qualify for State. The State has given money on a 50% match with what local funds also contribute. This year, we got 100% of the project amount without asking for it. Smith noted the State is much more inclined to offer funds if we exhaust all of our options first, which would be the FAA program.
Miller stated that we have about 6-7 minutes left for this meeting, as only an hour and a half meeting was planned. The ask was to the Mayor, Pfeifer, and Commissioner Bullock of what the next move needs to be. Mayor responded that she wants to know what the factual information from the FAA is and RPA’s opinion on the boundaries. Merrill responded that the City needs to get their questions together and the Airport Board will discuss posing them to their consultant.
Pfeifer added that the main thing is to find out if the City wants to follow the agreement from 2018 which states that the Airport Board manages the airport. Mayor responded that they reference their legal documents when making decisions, so they want to see the document that states the boundary of the airport. Merrill stated that he felt they can get the City that document from Newell. Mayor’s response was that they are happy to review all those documents, including the Airport Board’s lease to manage the airport. The Mayor also included that the utilities that would go through that land would benefit the airport and those that use it, and the City is not going to front that money for the water line.
Bushnell agrees that there needs to be a smaller group to sit down to take the boundary map and draw new lines on it that everyone agrees on.
Prinkki stated there is confusion about who makes up the Airport Board. Mayor stated the problem is that everyone that makes up the Airport Board is the Commissioners and all those that own airplanes; which is a conflict of interest. And the City doesn’t benefit from that.
Commissioner Bullock again stated he doesn’t understand what the problem is with waiting to hear from the FAA and asking for the recommendation the consultant.
Bullock requested that the City provide their list of questions by the next Airport Board meeting.
Meeting concluded at 3:02pm.
Respectfully submitted: Kate Asbury, HR Specialist