Support voiced for Browning Satellite Office, concerns aired over County finances

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Support voiced for Browning Satellite Office, concerns aired over County finances

Not a single person spoke against the need to have a Glacier County Satellite Office in Browning during the March 4 public hearing held by the Glacier County Commissioners. Several comments, however, addressed the County’s financial position, questioning if now is the right time to purchase the former Blackfeet Construction and Supply property in Browning at a cost of $203,000. 

Glacier County would use $205,107.88 in excess grant funds to purchase the property, which includes three buildings, totaling over 8,000 sq.ft. The primary use would be for an Elections Office. According to the notice published by the County, the property also meets the requirements for “additional space for other county satellite services.”

Can Glacier County use the CTCL Election Grant to purchase office space? That question has been raised several times over the last few months. County officials supplied the emailed response from Keegan Hughes of Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). According to the email from Hughes, dated, Jan. 4, “Grant expenditures are left at the discretion of each election office, as long as it helps your office plan and operationalize elections. This can include real estate purchases for a satellite office.”

Glacier County requested a six-month extension to spend the balance of the $263,830 grant, which was awarded on Oct. 6 to help the county conduct a “safe and secure” General Election last November. Crystal Cole, Deputy Assistant Election Administrator, applied for the grant on behalf of Glacier County.

Chairwoman Mary Jo Bremner opened the public hearing with a statement, which covered not only the need for the Satellite Office and how it would be funded, but also touched on the County’s financial position and the responsibility of the Commissioners to their constituents. (See page 4.)

Commissioner John Overcast was the first to voice his concerns about the costs associated with buying the property. While he was “all for” a Satellite Office, he stated there are still “so many financial unknowns” and he had “grave concerns about buying a great big, huge building.”

Currently, Glacier County pays Patrick Schildt rent of $1,000 per month, plus utilities, for the existing Satellite Office Space. That amount is going up to $2,000 per month, plus utilities. The Commissioners recently learned they have not paid for utilities during the 34 months they have been renting from Schildt so are expecting a hefty utility bill.

Elaine Mitchell reiterated several times she was in favor of having a Satellite Office building but wondered if the County had explored utilizing any delinquent tax properties as an option. Bremner listed off several buildings the Commissioners had toured which were not suitable. Mitchell voiced concerns about taking a viable property off the tax rolls. 

Commissioner DesRosier noted the Commissioners are aware there will be expenses with the new property in the future but the trade-offs to owning the Satellite Office include the benefit to the community and to the local economy.

“Need is not the issue,” stressed Mitchell. “I’m not against it…We’re broke.” Mitchell pointed to Glacier County’s Revised Long Term Spending Plan which shows Glacier County in a negative cash position in June of 2025.

Mitchell concluded, “Fi-nancially, Glacier County is not in a position to be buying any property.”

Bremner responded, the Commissioners were “well aware” of the County’s financial state and “we’re working on it.” Bremner said Glacier County is close to resolving its financial issues and lawsuits. “I really appreciate your due diligence in making sure we’re spending our money right…we’re well aware of our financial situation.” She also reminded those at the hearing, and those listening in, the County cannot use the grant funds to cover its existing debt. 

Lockley Bremner, former Mayor of Browning, said the people of Browning deserve a Satellite Office and if Glacier County doesn’t have the funds to support one, “Put the mills on and we’ll vote for it.”

Former Glacier County Health Director Carol McDivitt phoned stating, “As a taxpayer, I’m totally and 110 percent in favor of a Satellite Office.” She added it is hard for taxpayers to support the purchase when they don’t know a lot of the details involved, such as appraised value, utility costs, etc.

The public hearing was held to give the public a chance to comment on the County’s intent to purchase the building and no action was taken by the Commissioners following the hearing.

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