GREAT FALLS — The annual Montana Association of Counties conference in Great Falls this week is connecting county commissioners from across the Treasure State.
“It travels around, so to speak, in each of our major towns: Missoula, Great Falls, Helena, Billings, Kalispell,” said Jim Hart, MACo president and Madison County Commissioner.
The 110th annual event brought more than 100 commissioners and vendors to the Heritage Inn.
Hart says during the conference, commissioners talk about issues facing leaders at the county level. Three of the main topics Hart listed were taxes, roads, and economy and housing.
State representative Llew Jones spoke during a luncheon on taxes.
“He talked about how one of the big things legislatures or commissioners get elected on is lowering taxes. That’s a dilemma. How are you going to lower taxes and still provide services?” Hart said.
Another hot topic in Montana is rural roads. “It’s probably 15% of our entire job but 90% of what people worry about because they drive on them every day,” Hart said.
And last, but not least, Hart says housing and the growing economy is a big issue.
“How do we address the shortage in housing and the cost of housing, depending on where you live? Whether it’s Bozeman that’s growing as opposed to another county. Petroleum County is not growing. They have a total of 400 people in that county and they still provide services,” Hart said.
He hopes county commissioners take the information and lessons from the week and bring it home with them.
“Try to remember all the stuff that gets sponged in there. You try to relay that to maybe the other commissioners who didn’t make it. Then say the same things to our constituents. What did I learn today? What did I learn this week?” Hart said.
No matter where you are from, the conference benefits all.
“One might be surprised how similar, it doesn’t matter, again I’ll just use those two counties, Petroleum County or Yellowstone County. Even Gallatin County. How similar our challenges are? To be here and talk about those things together, it’s not just camaraderie, it’s how do you handle that in your county?” Hart said.