Commissioners, Wolf Point Mayor Discuss MOU Options
Ideas and possible compromises were tossed around during a work session regarding a memorandum of understanding between Roosevelt County and the City of Wolf Point to clean up abandoned tax deeded properties on Wednesday, July 26.
The MOU states that the city and county would work together to clean up one lot a month. The city would waive all landfill costs associated with the clean-up of said lots as part of the agreement and provide a minimum of two city employees, two small dump trucks, one skidsteer and one backhoe. The county would provide all gravel for reclamation of lots containing basements or needing backfill. The county would also provide a minimum of three county employees, two large dump trucks and a trackhoe.
The Wolf Point City Council has already approved the MOU.
Roosevelt County Commissioner Gary Macdonald said he has lost sleep over the matter because he feels rural taxpayers would complain if county equipment is used inside of Wolf Point’s city limits. He said another concern is that it could take away business from local contractors.
His suggestion was that the county gives $20,000 to Wolf Point to assist with costs.
Wolf Point Mayor Chris Dschaak appreciated the offering of money, but expressed that it won’t solve the problem of cleaning up the properties because the city doesn’t have additional funds to cover the project.
Dschaak doesn’t feel county taxpayers would have a problem with the equipment being used in Wolf Point, and he even offered to approach every county resident to ask them.
“I don’t think it’s an issue,” Dschaak said.
Macdonald replied, “It has been an issue, Chris. I’ve taken the phone calls.”
Dschaak said that having the two entities working together would save all the taxpayers money in the long run. “There’s a better way to do this than writing a check and washing our hands of it.”
Commissioner Gordon Oelkers said that he felt Macdonald’s idea was a good one that could be expanded upon. Oelkers said the concept of the work session is to bounce ideas back and forth in order to create a good MOU for all of the county.
Oelkers said he felt the agreement should include the county cleaning up any new lot the county purchases. He said it might be one lot a year throughout the county.
Macdonald explained that there could be complaints if county equipment is being used in cities instead of on county roads. “This to me was a simple solution,” he said of his proposal. “We will give money to each of the communities.” Oelkers said the MOU should aim to move forward with future properties instead of dealing with past and current situations. “We have to keep the city and county separate,” he added.
Dschaak expressed concern that the county wouldn’t take over many properties under that format. He wished the county would address one or two lots a year.
Dschaak noted that Wolf Point currently has about 18 lots that need to be addressed. He said the biggest complaint that he hears from residents is the city and county don’t work together.
“I’m sitting on a multitude of properties that I want to clean up,” Dschaak said. “It’s a prime opportunity where we can work together in-house and get something done.”
Commissioner Robert Toavs said the goal at the end of the day is to spend taxpayers’ money the best way possible. He said similar to when farmers assist their neighbors, the entities of Roosevelt County and the City of Wolf Point can work together. He feels the quicker that the properties are addressed, the sooner the county can recoup taxable value.
“I think it’s a good thing. We need to figure out how to get it to work,” Toavs said.
Dschaak said he hopes that every municipality can work on a separate MOU with the county regarding the issue. He asked commissioners to look over the proposed MOU, make changes and then provide the changes to him.
He said he doesn’t take comments made during the meetings personally, because each party has a job to do. “I know we can come to an agreement.”
Macdonald replied, “And we will.”
Commissioners will review the MOU sometime in August and then meet with Dschaak at a later date.