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Lake County Commission deciding next steps after voters deny levy request

Lake County Courthouse
Posted at 3:35 PM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-29 22:39:20-05

POLSON — County commissioners are now deciding how to move forward after residents voted down the Lake County Criminal Justice Center and Operations levy request on Tuesday.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected the proposed levy that would have cost taxpayers $2.5 million annually for the next 20 years and would have been used to expand the jail and the Lake County Courthouse.

Lake County commissioners released a statement saying the outcome was not a surprise. Commissioner Dave Stipe says they do not plan to try to pass another levy but hope to find funds elsewhere.

"We're looking at other options what to do, because obviously it doesn't change the fact that we need a jail and we need more courtrooms,” Stipe said.

“[We are] looking at possibly getting state funding or federal funding one way or another because that seems to be people's biggest concern with the levy...that the property taxpayers were paying the full brunt of it,” he added.

Lake County Commission chairman Bill Barron issued a statement to the community about the levy failing.

Letter to the Editor

The Lake County Commissioners want to thank everyone that took the time to vote on the Public Safety levy request. For or against, it was a difficult decision for all and the outcome of the vote was not a huge surprise.

The Commissioners were constantly being contacted by County residents advising they were voting against the levy. The general consensus was we need it, they appreciated the Commissioners taking the time to put together a thoughtful proposal, and that we were trying to be considerate of the Tax Payers. "But", we are not voting for it!

The main issues we heard were the inability to keep paying ever increasing taxes, the Public Law 280 issues, and the lack of clarity in the "Montana Water Rights Protection Act”, ie; are there really going to be 6,000 new jobs and how will that affect our overburdened public safety system.

The Commissioners are not giving up on these issues and have already been looking at other avenues of addressing them! We need a new Detention Center, we need to address the District Court Courtroom issues and we need to address the safety issues our Detention Staff and Courts face on a daily basis! The residents need and deserve a justice system that works!

William D. Barron, Chairman Lake County Commissioners