After an intense discussion on an idea to charge cabin owners in Beaver Creek Park the fees to pay for garbage removal, the Hill County Park Board set a committee to look at that idea along with other items on the board agenda including regulations on dogs, outbuildings at cabins and using hanging park permits.
“These are all kind of contentious items, ” said board member Robbie Lucke. It was Lucke who suggested at the board’s December meeting that board members talk to cabin owners about charging a garbage fee. He requested Monday that the board appoint the committee that will research those issues and bring their findings to the board next month.
The board appointed board members Lucke, June Grabofsky and Jeff LaVoi, who is also a Hill County commissioner, and cabin owner Bob Williams to the committee, with Beaver Creek Park Superintendent Chad Edgar to appear in an advisory position.
Before the committee was appointed, cabin owner Rose Cloninger read a letter she said represented her discussion with some of the cabin owners on the issue of garbage fees.
“I have talked to several cabin owners that couldn’t make it tonight, and they just don’t understand … why the cabin owners are being singled out on the raises that have to come through each year, ” she read, adding that the owners don’t understand why the fees need to be raised at all.
Board chair Steve Mariani said that the discussion in December was not to act on the idea, but to look at charging the cabin owners the garbage collection as an option.
“It sort of just come up as a suggestion, ” he said, adding that he is fairly happy with the rates being charged, speaking for himself.
Cloninger said that she came to talk about the issue after reading in the board’s December meeting minutes that the idea was to be discussed this month.
Lucke said in December that having the cabin owners pay the fee charged by the Unified Disposal Board, the garbage collection agency that administers the local landfill and garbage collection in Blaine, Hill and northern Chouteau counties, would free up some $5,000 of the park budget that could be used for operation, maintenance and improvements. He suggested talking with the cabin owners to come up with an agreement both sides found agreeable.
The board last year raised fees on some park services, including cabin space leases, cattle grazing and reserved campsite fees.
When audience members said the increase on cabin leases was the highest percentage increase on any item, board member Larry Kinsella, who serves on the board’s grazing committee, said the cattle grazing fees saw about the same percentage increase.
Roy Lembke asked to see what the fees paid by cabin owners are used for in the park.
“What’s our money going for as cabin owners, then? ” he asked “What are we getting to benefit from it?
He added that fees for items such as cattle grazing can be used directly for expenses relating to grazing.
“But we don’t, ” Mariani replied.
He said all income for the park — including grazing fees, the single largest revenue producer for Beaver Creek Park — go into the general budget and are used for general expenses.
The board can’t list what money from what source is used for what expense, because it is not budgeted that way, he said.
Park Superintendent Chad Edgar said the single largest expense from the budget is to pay wages for park employees. The rest of the budget is used for operations, maintenance, repairs and improvements, he said.
Mariani said work is continuing to schedule a strategic planning meeting to help set the long-range goals and adjust policies on the park. He said the board is working with Shauna Albrecht, director of the Montana State University-Northern Foundation, to facilitate a strategic planning meeting. He said he would continue to work to arrange that meeting this month.
The questions raised at Monday’s meeting could end up being some of the ideas talked about at the strategic planning meeting, Mariani and Lucke said.
Another issue raised at the meeting by audience members was the use of snowmobiles and off-road vehicles like three-wheelers and four-wheelers.
Edgar said the park rules are very specific — those vehicles only can be used on designated roads except during specific winter conditions.
When the ground is frozen and enough snow covers the ground to ensure that snowmobiles and ATVs will not damage the terrain, those vehicles can be used off road, he said. During the summer months, and when the condition of the snow and ground are not suitable, those vehicles only can be used on the designated roads.
He said people can call him to find out if the conditions at the park would allow snowmobile use.
Beaver Creek Park rate increases
The Hill County Park Board in February 2012 approved the following rate increases at Beaver Creek Park:
Cabin site leases: From $300 to $350 for 12 month-lease.
Grazing, per head of cattle: From $10 to $11 a month for September and October, $9 to $11 for November, $8 to $11 for December.
Reserved site fees: From $40 to $50 per reservation.
Rates charged for haying, for reserving Camp Kiwanis and to purchase park permits were left unchanged.