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After pressure, county pays
up $5,000 to refuse district

Seeley Swan Pathfinder
December 10, 1998


Letter to the Editor:
From the Refuse Board

To all the users of the Seeley Lake Transfer (Refuse) Site located on Woodworth Road. In March of 1998, the Pathfinder covered the issue of the $20,000 Administrative fee charged to the Refuse District. Since that time, the Board requested a $5,000 refund in addition to the attorney's fees. The following is a recap of the issue and the settlement reached.

In September of 1996, the District Board requested that the County Commissioners explain the $20,000 Administrative Fee charged to the District. On September 23, 1996, County Commissioner attended the Refuse District meeting and advised the Board the following recorded in the September minutes "The County has 100 plus SIDs and until this budget year they were subsidized by the taxpayers. He said it is unclear what administrative costs are, and that these will be monitored, and each SID will be responsible for the administrative costs. This year, the administrative services will probably drop dramatically because of the change for the responsibility being placed on each SID district instead of "one pot" method, and that quarterly reports will be forthcoming. While there are no predictions, there will be an accurate picture in about a year."

The board requested a letter be written to the County Commissioners requesting an accounting of how the $20,000 was spent that year, and confirmation that if the $20,000 charged to the Refuse District was not used, that it would be returned to the District. The letter was written. There was no response from the Commissioners.

After waiting for several months, the District wrote another letter requesting an answer. Again, there was no response.

On July 25, 1997, the October 16, 1996 letter and the April 30, 1997, were mailed to County Commissioner Barbara Evans and it contained a request for a response. There was no response.

In January of 1998, Chief Administrative Officer Paul Webber requested copies of the minutes from July 1995 through June of 1996. A summary of every meeting from August of 1992 was sent to Mr. Webber. The summary was not adequate, and he requested full copies of the minutes for fiscal year 1995-96. The minutes were mailed to him on January 27, 1998 with a request that the information pertaining to the $20,000 Administrative Fee be forwarded to us by February 23, 1998.

Again, there was no response. In March, the Board hired Attorney John Sytsma to take over and get some answers. The Commissioners and Chief Administrative Officer Paul Webber told Sytsma that there was no way to give the District an accounting of the $20,000, and that there was no policy for charging administrative fees. They said that both the former Chief Administrator John DeVore and the Deputy County Attorney Michael Sehestedt had spent "countless" hours for the Refuse District when the District purchased the land for the transfer site, and that that is what the $20,000 covered.

After two meetings with the Commissioners and reviewing the meetings since 1994, the Board could not justify the full $20,000 fee. At that time the Board instructed Sytsma to advise the County Commissioners that the Board did not feel that the $20,000 fee was fair, nor was it fair that the District had been forced to hire an attorney just to get answers from the Commissioners. The District requested that the Commissioners reimburse the District $5,000 plus attorney's fees.

The Commissioners denied the request. The Board instructed Sytsma to go forward with the next step in filing against the Commissioners and their actions on the administrative fee, and to seek a $5,000 refund along with the attorney's fees. Sytsma relayed the message to Paul Webber.

Last month, the Commissioners settled with the Refuse District, and refunded the $5,000 and the attorney fees incurred by the District.

The District wanted the transfer site users of the outcome of this issue.

 

From: The Seeley Lake Refuse Board Members

P.O. Box 121

Seeley Lake, MT 59868

(406) 677-2400

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