Havre Daily News
The call for increased cooperation among local governments has gone out several times in recent months and the response is beginning.
Plans include instituting a quarterly city-county forum to discuss local issues, reviving the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Native American Affairs Committee and planning more meetings among city, county and tribal leaders.
At a meeting Monday, city and county officials began to set dates and strategies for fulfilling those plans.
"We need to bring all of our information together, so we are coordinating things together," said Havre City Council member Terry Schend, who attended the Monday meeting.
The call for better coordination among government entities has been raised recently during a recently resolved dispute over whether the city or county would house an enhanced 911 call center, again with discussion of possible city annexation of county property, and most recently when a University of Montana journalism project stirred controversy over whether Havre has a racism problem.
A May 31 meeting between Havre and Rocky Boy officials finally got the dialogue started, city council member Tom Farnham said today. Monday's meeting was largely a response to that forum, he said.
The May forum took place because tribal council vice chair Bruce Sunchild wanted to encourage better relations between the city and tribal governments.
Sunchild set the meeting with the city before UM's 2005 Native News Project was distributed on May 21 in the Great Falls Tribune. The article about Havre, "Bordering on Racism," gave accounts of Native Americans encountering instances of prejudice when patronizing Havre businesses.
After the article appeared, city and reservation leaders agreed that dialogue was the best solution and the May 31 forum focused in part on building bridges between the city and the local reservation.
Farnham said the city has not established a committee for improving relationships with Rocky Boy or the county but is having informal discussions that will be brought before the council once plans solidify.
City council members Jack Brandon, Pam Hillery, Terry Schend and Tom Farnham met with the commissioners, as did Havre Mayor Bob Rice. City council candidate Bob Kaul also attended.
City and county officials decided Monday to propose a meeting with Rocky Boy leaders on July 25 to continue discussions about local issues, Farnham said. Farnham will ask both sides to suggest agenda items ahead of time. He said he has not yet contacted the tribal council to schedule a meeting.
Members of the Rocky Boy tribal council could not be reached this morning for comment.
Farnham said there will be an effort to include members from the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation as well, though he said he had not reached anybody there yet.
The city and county have also set a date to talk about local issues. That meeting is scheduled for Sept. 12. County Commissioner Kathy Bessette said the meeting would be the first of proposed quarterly city-county meetings.
Farnham is hopeful about what can come of better coordination. The agenda for the city-county meeting has not been set, but he said one idea might be for the city and county to hire a joint court compliance officer to replace a District IV Human Resources Development Council program that will end next month due to lack of funding. That program helps people do community service to fulfill court ordered fines and has been praised by community members.
"We both don't know where we'd get the money at this point," Farnham said, but coordination could help.