Sunday, March 18, 2018

A firefighter stands in the amber haze of a recent fire of which the cause has not yet been determined.

County burn permits a possibility

Series of fires catalyst for possible permit system

A resolution of intent to establish a fire season, burn permit system, and permit fees was approved during the April 21 Stillwater County Commissioners meeting.
The burn permit system will be facilitated through a burn permit and notification service offered by Montana Interactive, a subsidiary of NIC. Montana Interactive operates Montana’s e-government services that are offered through the state website. Residents will be able to apply for a burn permit online, by phone, or with a paper application.
Stillwater County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Carol Arkell said it will take six to eight weeks to get the system going. It will take about two weeks to set up the four GIS districts followed by notification to the community and testing.
Commissioner Chairman Dennis Shupak said the county has not had a burn permit system in the past. Residents were asked to call the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office for controlled burns so that fire departments were not sent out, he said.
Columbus Fire Rescue Chief Rich Cowger said he has been working on getting the county to adopt a burn permit system for several years.
The county has had a series of fires over the past few years that all add up to the same thing, he said.
Fire departments end up utilizing resources for controlled burns or burns that get out of control, Cowger said.
Cowger said he views the burn permit system as a proactive move. Fire departments and Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) spend taxpayer money on responses to these fires, he said.
In many cases spring and summer fires are preventable on the front end, Cowger said. The burn permit system is a health and safety issue, he said.
A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12 at 11 a.m. in the courthouse. The hearing will be held in either the commissioners office or the downstairs meeting room depending on how many people attend.
Commissioner Maureen Davey said the details of the proposed burn permit system have not been voted on yet and a decision will not be made on the day of the public hearing.
The public hearing is to hear from proponents and opponents of the proposed burn system, said Commissioner Gerald Dell.
The resolution of intent will be posted on the commissioner’s website.
Mental Health Month
A proclamation recognizing May as Mental Health Month was approved by the commissioners.
Dell said he serves on the regional mental health board. The board is composed of 11 counties and sometimes a representative from the Crow Tribe.

Mental health has been a big thing in the legislative session this year, Dell said.
The funds provided by the state do not cover the cost to run the regional mental health center in Billings, Dell said. The Mental Health Association asked the legislature for a four percent increase in funding, Dell said, but the current appropriations bill has only a two percent increase.
Stillwater County also has a mental health office, Davey said. It is a quiet place that you don’t know is there unless you need it, she said.
Courthouse Update
Dell said he wanted to remind everyone of the public hearing about the courthouse facilities project. The hearing will be held on May 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the Stillwater County Pavilion.
Board Appointments
A number of board appointments were made to fill vacancies on various county boards.
- Beartooth Park and Recreation District: David Culbertson
- Solid Waste Board: Bill Linger, Richard Nauman
- County Compensation Board: No applicants at this time
- Board of Health: Kevin Homewood, D.V.M.
- Park City Fire District: Justin Streck
- Columbus Fire District: Charles Kronz, Jr.
- County Tax Appeal Board: Dick Henry
Road Department Shop
Great West Engineering completed a review of the contract documents for the new Road and Bridge Department shop. Construction of the new shop will be completed by Outback Construction.
The commissioners approved the contract documents and a Notice to Proceed.