May 9, 2023
May 9, 2023
Commissioners Scott Miller, Scott Blain, and Bill Bullock; and Administrative Officer Angela Newell were present.
8:30 Pledge of Allegiance.
Public Comment: Deputy Clerk and Recorder Piney Helmuth and Reporter Denise Rivette were in attendance.
Helmuth discussed the Liability insurance schedule regarding a tool shed for the Belfry Cemetery District that was not observed during appraisals; Commissioners clarified that the shed is located at the fire hall but should be insured under the Cemetery District. Helmuth also noted improvements to the Fair Grounds that have resulted in a significantly higher appraised value.
Miller discussed repair costs for the bucket truck. Commissioners agreed the cost was probably not worth putting into the truck.
9:00 Bullock moved to Open the Public Hearing on the petition to annex Eagle Point Estates into the Carbon County Heard District No 1; Blain seconded; motion carried. Deputy Clerk and Recorder Crystal Roascio, Tony Citicklo, Marcus Brainard, Donald Hartung, and Guy Osburn were present. Roascio noted that 60% of landowners have signed petitions requesting the annexation; Roascio has verified sufficient signatures through the MT Elect system or recorded property documents. Landowners in attendance noted issues with cattle within the subdivision which they believe are causing traffic hazards as well as being a nuisance for landowners. Bullock discussed the history of herd district laws in Montana. Commissioners noted action will likely be a civil issue either way, but discussed penalties in Montana Code for Herd District violations. Blain moved to close the Public Hearing; Bullock seconded; motion carried. Blain moved to annex petition properties into Herd District No. 1; Bullock seconded; Blain commented that he is not necessarily in favor of more rules and regulations especially those that put restrictions on agriculture, but is agreeable since the annexation is being requested by the land owners; Bullock noted that the annexation is all occurring within an existing HOA and echoed Blains comments about not having the intent to curtail any Open Range; Miller echoed general support of Open Range laws; motion carried.
9:30 Treasurer / Superintendent of Schools Lori Lynde met for her preliminary budget meeting. Superintendent of Schools Assistant Lori Kane was in attendance.
Discussed Kane’s time allocation between Superintended of School and Environmental Health; Budget probably needs to place a higher percentage on Environmental Health. Lynde asked about increasing pay for Kane; it was noted she is currently at the top of the Clerk Scale at the Administrative level; that Commissioners are considering a separate Administrative wage scale to be adopted next month. Also discussed was the need for a computer replacement and an appropriate cost split between the two departments.
10:00 Commissioners discussed the land use agreement with Wolfe for the Meeteetse Bridge replacement.
10:40 Bullock moved to approved employee time; Blain seconded; motion carried.
11:00 Clerk and Recorder Macque Bohleen Met to discuss her preliminary budget. Discussed the part-time Records Preservation Clerk Position; Bohleen would like to postpone hiring the position until she has a better idea of how the current economy may change the volume of documents being recorded. Blain moved to approve the requested wage increase for Deputy Piney Helmuth to 85% of the Elected Official Base Wage effective 7/1/23; Bullock seconded; motion carried.
11:30 Bohleen and Elections Administrator Crystal Roascio met to discuss the elections’ preliminary budget. Roascio requested to bring school elections in-house. Roascio noted the significant County staff time invested in school elections, the complaints she has received from the public regarding schools processing their own elections, and the request from a number of schools for the Clerk and Recorder’s Office to manage elections on their behalf. Roascio confirmed that all expenses related to school elections (with the exception of her time) can be billed to schools. Bullock raised concerns about assuming liability for running those elections. Roascio noted issues with school elections that have occurred due to a lack of training. Schools have to provide a notice to request the Clerk and Recorder run their elections by June 1st; all but Roberts are prepared to send a letter by the deadline if approved by the Commissioners. Discussion of increased voters in the County.
11:50 Bullock moved to approve Help America Vote Act Grant application for the purchase of cages to add an additional layer of security to ballot tabulation machines; Blain seconded; motion carried.
Bullock moved to approve bringing schools back into the purview of the Elections office with the request of an individual school; Blain seconded; the motion carried.
1:00 Agri Organics CUP. Forrest Mandeville, Undersheriff Jeff Schmalz, Clerk and Recorder Macque Bohleen, Denise Rivette, Jay Brewer, Allison Brewer, Sierra Canfield, Sandra Matthews, Terry Matthews, JB Farley, Chad Raisland, Wayne Teyler, Ronna Klamert, Tim Moseman, Wade Bennett, Susan Moseman, Janet Stokes, and Gary Barnhart were in attendance. Miller outlined the procedural structure for the meeting. Mandeville provided an overview of the Planning Board’s Recommendation to the Commissioners. Bullock having reviewed and considered the application materials, project memorandum, public comment, Zoning Commission Recommendation, and all the information presented, moved to approve the Agri Organics conditional use permit with the findings and conditions included in the project memorandum; Blain seconded; Mandeville read public comments hand-delivered to him at the start of the meeting.
Comments echoed what was presented in the Planning Board’s recommendation. Blain asked if there was discussion in the Planning Board meeting for the votes against the recommendation; Mandeville believes there were concerns about making a recommendation of approval even with conditions included he believes some Board members did not oppose the conditions themselves but may have had issues with the language of the conditions. Blain asked Farley if he had concerns with the conditions recommended by the Planning Board, especially with regard to fish and animal carcasses. Farley did not know they were creating such adverse impacts and do not plan to compost animal mortality at the facility in the future; hours of operation limitations may be hard to meet as some of their operations are weather dependent; Farley would prefer not to have to fence his operation, but offered to place visual shielding and help with dust abatement. Farley and Commissioners discussed the difference between Group 2 and Conditional Use permits; in this case, the difference comes down to the volume of product being generated. Discussion about the product still on-site; Farley would cover piles with soil, use them for the creation of a visual barrier, or let the piles decompose and screen the product to be sold. Discussion of water testing conditions; Farley noted operational preference is to retain and absorb water but noted that he is happy to test wells with consent from property owners. Discussion of the number of wells within a ¼ mile from the facility; there may not be that many. Discussion of DEQ permitting; Mandeville noted a minor composting permit cannot exceed 5,000 yards per year. Blain asked about Farley’s other operations in Yellowstone and Stillwater counties.
Farley noted neither Yellowstone nor Stillwater required a public review process; those locations were administratively approved in a matter of weeks. Blain expressed concerns that the active working area for the facility has already exceeded the threshold established by DEQ. Bullock noted the Planning Boards’ application of voluminous conditions (16) makes him question if it is a good idea. Discussed concerns about the State’s ability to effectively monitor the operation.
Miller opened up to comments from the public.
Terry and Sandra Matthews noted the facility has been operational for 2 years without a permit. They expressed concerns about the enforcement of local and state regulations and potential impacts on groundwater.
Tim Moseman expressed concerns regarding DEQ’s ability to enforce regulations if the facility is allowed to continue, the significant impact the smell has had on the enjoyment of his yard, and potential negative impacts to his property value.
Gary Barnard questioned the location, noted concerns about a visual shield of corn bales breaking down, and discussed the impacts of the operation on neighbors. He does not believe the cost of fencing should eliminate that condition.
Sierra Campfield noted concerns about bones being a wildlife and domestic dog attractant and possible effects on her well noting she would gladly provide approval for her well to be tested. Campfield noted by using her range finder, the closest pile is 160’ from her property line. She also expressed frustrations that Farley has not had discussions with neighbors as he offered at the last Commissioner’s meeting.
Janet Stokes noted that permits were not approved before the land use was changed, commented on the adverse impacts on surrounding properties, and expressed concerns that the size of the facility will lead to adverse effects. Discussed history of cease and desist order by the County in October 2022 and subsequently by DEQ; noted that operations have continued since that time and to her knowledge no ticket or fine has been issued. Stokes made a number of accusations and general statements about a conspiracy of government officials. Stokes expressed concerns about environmental impacts that she believes are affecting her and her family’s health.
Wade Bennett echoed previous comments. Bennett is concerned that the facility was not properly permitted in the first place and there will be no mechanism to enforce conditions.
There were questions and discussions about the County’s enforcement capability for any conditions or even to terminate operations in the event of a denial. All three Commissioners voted against the motion to approve the Conditional Use Permit with the Conditions outlined by the Planning Board; motion failed.
Respectfully submitted: Angela Newell, Administrative Officer