Commissioner selected

By Jessica Benz

        The Prairie County Board of Commissioners appointed Deanna Bockness to serve in the district two commission seat during their June 15 meeting. Commissioners Ann Marie Davis and Todd Devlin made the selection from a list of four candidates. 

Bockness will be filling the remainder of former commissioner Bill Leach’s term, which will end in 2010. Leach vacated the seat April 30.
The appointment was made at the tail end of the commission meeting. Although the vote was on the agenda to occur at 9:30 a.m., discussion on the candidates didn’t take place until after 5 p.m.
Commissioners took part in a lengthy discussion on each candidate and reviewed whether or not constituents would support the commissioners’ preference for an appointee. 
The choices were narrowed from four to three candidates, as it was ultimately determined that Mark Dolatta was ineligible as he had not resided in the appropriate district for the required length of time.  
With both commissioners needing to agree on the appointment, it initially appeared as though more names would be sought, as neither Davis nor Devlin were willing to support the other’s first choice.
Commissioner Devlin initially suggested candidate Rick Harding fill the position, while Commissioner Davis supported candidate Arline Koppenhaver. 
Ultimately both commissioners supported Bockness in large part due to her conservative stance on issues. 
Wind farm options discussed
Earlier in the June 15 meeting, commissioners received a call from Micah Beard, a representative of Shaw Environmental of Midland, Texas inquiring about zoning laws regarding wind farms in Prairie County. 
“There are no zoning laws at this point in time,” Commissioner Devlin said. Devlin pointed out some locations within the county that have an average wind speed as high as 21 mph, making it a very desirable area for wind energy development.
Delinquent tax deeds addressed
Commissioners discussed how best to deal with delinquent property tax deeds.  The issue of fairness between delinquent tax deeds was brought up as commissioners prepare for a July 20 delinquent tax deed sale on the Kempton Hotel owned by Russell Schwartz while allowing property owned by David Jacobson to remain as is, despite the fact taxes have been delinquent on Jacobson’s property since 2000. 
“I remember serving him on the Fourth of July (2000)” Prairie County Sheriff Bill Klunder said. 
Jacobson continues to live on the property. Although a writ has been issued, he has not been removed from the property and no auction of the property has been scheduled.
“Why pick on (Russell) Schwartz when we let Jacobson get away with it?”  Commissioner Davis asked, expressing a concern that has been voiced to her by constituents.
Concerns of officer safety were addressed if Jacobson were to be removed from the property. 
Commissioners decided that the best choice in the matter of the Kempton Hotel is to remove it from the county's responsibility, as well as out of tax-exempt status, as quickly as possible. 
Schwartz has until 24 hours prior to the sale to pay the past taxes and effectively repurchase the property.   
Commissioners opted not to offer Schwartz the option of a installment plan which would allow Schwartz to make payments to the county on owed taxes. The option is allowed by Montana Code, but only at the discretion of the commissioners.  
In the meantime, the hotel has been added to the county's liability insurance policy. 
Published June 17, 2009
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