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County budget passes, plans for court annex, jail begin

POLSON – The Lake County Commissioners passed a budget for Fiscal Year 2017-2018 last week. 

Planning for a new court annex and jail are included in the $29.8 million budget, County Finance Director Scott Beggs said. 

The previous budget was $27.2 million. He said the difference lies in three areas: $500,000 to begin planning for a new district courtroom; $800,000 in increased capital expenditures for roads, law enforcement, solid waste and an evaluation of any future jail expansion; and $770,000 for expansion of the county’s three airports in Polson, Ronan and St. Ignatius. The county received some $770,000 from multiple grants from the Federal Aviation Administration that require a 10-percent match. 

If one’s property does not increase in value, county property owners should see a slight decrease in their taxes. Beggs said the mills for the county’s portion of property taxes are set to drop from 207.92 to 204.16. 

County Commissioner Bill Barron said the county has set a goal to break ground on the court annex in the spring. He said it will be located on a vacant lot on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street where the old creamery was. 

He noted that construction of the court annex will require selling bonds and that county taxpayers would pay those off over 20 years. 

County Commissioner Dave Stipe said the commissioners can proceed with a vote on bonds to pay for the construction of the annex without of a vote of the people because they were ordered to do so by former District Court Judge C.B. McNeil. McNeil’s order was based on state law. Stipe said the county will likely proceed with a request for proposals for management of the court annex construction project in the near future. 

Barron said the county courthouse will be remodeled after the court annex is finished. 

He said that if the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes withdraw from Public Law 280, which requires the county to prosecute felonies of tribal members, the county won’t need to build a new jail and could instead add onto the current 45-person jail. 

 

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