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Commission votes to advertise for Extension Agent positions

 

Last updated 11/13/2020 at 1pm



The Hill County Commission at it’s weekly business meeting Thursday voted 2-1 to begin advertising for two extension agent positions after considering making one a half-time position.

Hill County Extension Agent Jasmine Carbajal left her position earlier in the year and Extension Agent Tom Allen recently announced his own departure at the end of the year, leaving the department without its central county positions.

Allen said he supported the continuation of both full-time positions and said he thinks Carbajal’s contributions are worth continuing.

“Jasmine made some really good connections in this community which I think we could keep going to help supplement what’s going on, especially... the mental health, which is getting to be a bigger and bigger component of the quality of life in the community,” he said.

Allen said he’s personally seen the need for mental health services among the agriculture community.

“I’ve known three or four farmers and ranchers who’ve committed suicide in the last five years,” he said.

He said Carbajal’s position is important as it works with mental health programs out of places like Bozeman.

Hill County Commissioner Mark Peterson said District 4 Human Resources Development Council also uses Extension to help with their mental health programs and recommended a meeting with HRDC Executive Director Carrilla French to talk about the position.

Hill County Commissioner Mike Wendland said several organizations in the county already deal with mental health, like Bullhook Community Health Center and Northern Montana Health Care.

McLean said a push for mental health awareness already is in the community.

“Mental health seems to be a bit of a buzzword,” she said, ”It’s kind of like cancer awareness and it’s like, who isn’t aware, what does another pink ribbon do; nothing... I appreciate that her program has boots on the ground, where a lot of it is just a sign on the highway, and fliers and stuff … You end up with packets and packets of stuff, whether or not you end up reading it. But some government agency put a lot of money into publishing it.”

McLean praised Carbajal’s work for it’s more direct nature and agreed that it was worth continuing.

“Jasmine efforts are trackable, they are face-to-face, they are something that is on-going,” she said.

McLean said the advent of smartphones has put information at people’s finger tips like never before, and that may affect the usefulness of Extension agents.

MSU Extension Central Region Department Head Tracy Mosley, who attended the meeting by phone, said a wealth of information is available online, but sifting through that information is still difficult, and experts are still required to help guide people and make sure they are not misinformed.

Allen said he is ill-equipped to take on most of the responsibilities of Carbajal’s position and suggested the the commission try to find a way to spread out the position’s 4-H responsibilities, which he said take a lot out of people in the position.

“The number one reason why agents do quit is 4-H and the time it requires,” he said,“So if you can spread that out a little bit it helps. It really does.”

He said having a 4-H aid like the county did in the past really helped out, but since the elimination of that position a lot of that responsibility has fallen on the agent’s shoulders.

McLean floated the idea of posting for Allen’s position and delaying a decision on the other but Allen said it will already take until January at the earliest if they started advertising the position today.

McLean ultimately seconded a motion made by Peterson to keep both positions.

“The savings don’t seem to justify it,” McLean said. “It’s sad, but every where we look to try to save something in this county, people expect it.”

She also said turnaround in extension has been occurring since she took office and that is a concern to her.

Wendland said he couldn’t support the motion and that he thinks the position will become less tenable over time.

“I cannot support this motion,” he said, adding that no one seems to accept the idea of cutting one to a half-time position.

“I know you all have your reasons but I think it’s something we’re going to have to look harder and harder at every time,” he said.

 

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