Wolf Point Mayor Requests MOU With County
Wolf Point Mayor Chris Dschaak visited with Roosevelt County commissioners last week regarding the issue of dilapidated buildings and lots in Wolf Point.
Dschaak has been having positive meetings with county deputy attorney Thomas Bleicher about developing a memoriam of understanding for cities and the county to work together on building challenges.
“I care about the community of Wolf Point. That’s why I make this my personal mission,” Bleicher said during an interview after the meeting. “The people in Roosevelt County don’t deserve things to look like this. We have a rich history.”
Bleicher noted that people from throughout the county come to Wolf Point for business reasons because it’s the county seat. He said the MOU wouldn’t only benefit Wolf Point, but other communities such as Bainville, Culbertson and Froid as well.
During the meeting, Dschaak said the county has expressed concerns in the past about having county employees working in the city limits. He stressed that Wolf Point residents also pay their share of taxes to the county.
Dschaak said he’s hoping that the city and county can work as a team. The city is willing to waive landfill costs for the county while conducting building demolition projects.
“I will add again that I’m a county taxpayer also,” Dschaak said to commissioners. “I think it’s a mute argument to county residents that you can’t have county employees in town.”
Commissioner Gary Macdonald explained that rural taxpayers pay for a separate mill levy for county road repairs. He said there have been plenty of complaints in the past when county employees performed work within city limits.
“We usually get phone calls from rural people,” Macdonald said.
Commissioner Robert Toavs said that the city is talking only about clean-up efforts and not much equipment would be required. He said benefits would include beautifying the city.
Macdonald said he would like to have a public meeting to hear how residents feel about such a proposal. “I’ve been through this twice, I don’t like the phone calls that came,” Macdonald said.
Commissioner Gordon Oelkers, who was a long-time mayor in Culbertson, sees the problem as one for cities and not for the county.
Dschaak argued that at least 13 properties in Wolf Point should be torn down. He said the county wants the city to cover 100 percent of the costs. Each project costs about $40,000, “We make a valid attempt to clean these areas,” Dschaak said. “You’re literally telling me it’s not your problem.”
The mayor noted that it has taken five years to potentially clean up six properties. He said the process could go much quicker if the county and city works together.
Oelkers said that the expense is a city issue.
Resident Bill Juve described the town as a mess. He said if the county owns pieces of property, it has the responsibility to maintain it regardless of where it is.
Juve said it would take only a couple of days to clean up a property, and that isn’t much of a percentage in the county’s budget.
“Just saying we aren’t going to do it because someone will get mad, I’m sorry but it’s a terrible argument,” Dschaak said.
Toavs added that such work could result in improving the taxable value of property in Wolf Point. He said that the idea is to start with one property and see how it works.
Dschaak said a better looking town could help in the recruitment of teachers, doctors, businesses and other professionals.
The mayor said he will discuss the matter with the city council prior to working with Bleicher in developing a MOU proposal.
Commissioners will then consider the MOU request. Commissioners said they will conduct more research regarding how other counties handle such situations.