By Michael Heins
Montana Association of Counties (MACo) met March 27 and signed a petition for withdrawal of the Upper Missouri River from consideration for a new national designation.
The Missouri River runs through three of the counties that attended the MACo meeting. In a joint effort, the commissioners petitioned the U.S. Secretary of Interior for the withdrawal of the Upper Missouri River and adjacent public lands in central Montana for further consideration for a new national designation.
"We don't necessarily support changes in designation of the river, but possible regulations in recreational use and not the historic use," Hill County Commissioner Doug Kearcher said.
According to the petition, "The land stewards of the Upper Missouri have depended on this river for their livelihood and recreation for nearly 200 years. That dependency has fostered the responsible land management practices that have been verifiably successful for many decades. The Montana Stockgrowers Association initiative Undaunted Stewardship' embodies and recognizes the protection ranchers have routinely given to the Lewis and Clark trail. The pristine quality of this entire area is no small measure attributable to that stewardship."
The cost of health insurance premiums was also part of the MACo agenda. The committee discussed how health insurance was affecting the counties. Seventeen counties belong to the MACo insurance pool. Hill County does not belong.
The 17 counties are looking at a 59 percent increase in their premiums. Some of the other counties not involved in the MACo insurance plan are self-insured. The MACo plan, unlike the self-insured county, did not have any small increases in its premium costs, so a recent increase in premiums was substantial to keep up with costs.
Some of the other topics covered at the MACo meeting were:
Whether local government should have the right to tax oil wells drilled on Bureau Land Management and Forest Service lands in their counties. "We should be able to get our share of the revenue," Hill County Commissioner Kathy Bessette said.
The nomination of Vic Miller as the second vice president of MACo.
The drop in district taxable valuation for Glacier and Chouteau counties. "With all the state legislation has given the county's valuation has gone down," Bessette said.
The outcome of a recent state legislative committee on simplifying government. "We want to see that the money collected from the states is better handled," Commissioner Bessette said. "It was an information meeting to see how to simplify the transfer of information and funds."
Basically, the MACo meeting was to keep the counties informed of any changes on the state or federal level, such as changes in with workmen's compensation. "The whole meeting was basically an informative session," Bessette said.