By LYNNETTE HINTZE
The Daily Inter Lake
Interim Flathead County Commissioner Cal Scott said he takes a pragmatic approach to county government that includes ensuring the issues of public health and safety and essential services are maintained.
Scott, a Republican, faces off against Democrat Gil Jordan in the Nov. 6 general election for the District 1 commissioner seat. Scott was appointed a commissioner following the untimely death of Commissioner Jim Dupont. The winner will serve the remaining two years of Dupont’s term. Early voting begins Oct. 9.
District 1 includes the northern tier of Flathead County, but registered voters throughout the county will vote for the District 1 position.
Scott said his approach to the job of commissioner is “show me the money;” all decision must be backed by sound investment of taxpayer dollars.
“I will give a person a fish for sustenance to have the energy to learn how to fish,” he said.
One of the top issues facing the county is budgeting and fiscal responsibility, he said, especially in light of diminishing Payment In Lieu of Taxes allocations by the federal government to help local governments offset losses from nontaxable federal lands.
Because the 911 central dispatch center is one of those essential services Scott champions, he’s watching its operation closely.
“Change is always difficult; it’s growing pains,” he said, “but [the center] is starting to provide more cohesiveness. It’s a blessing to the valley in that we have the ability to provide this level of communication.”
Paying attention to the potential degradation of water quality will be paramount as the county proceeds with future landfill expansion, Scott said.
“It’s very difficult and hard on property owners and understandably so,” he said. “We are bound to have a 100-year plan; that means we’re looking at people’s land. These are properties that would be used for 20 to 40 years, and there’s a stigma of being next to the dump. All of those pressures come to bear.”
Scott is the commission’s representative on the Solid Waste Board and said the board is attempting to listen to surrounding landowners’ concerns and have “meaningful dialog,” as shown by a productive community meeting in mid-August.
The Whitefish “doughnut” issue — the battle over planning jurisdiction in the two-mile area around Whitefish — remains among the hot-button issues facing the commissioners.
“The only way I believe any government entity can have a say, impose or inflict themselves on people is through the right of the vote,” said Scott, who lives in the Whitefish doughnut area. “To convince me you can have a few people on a committee that can dictate what should be done [in the doughnut] is baloney, pure baloney.”
The county can’t do much about doughnut control until the lawsuit between the county and Whitefish is settled, he added.
Scott said Flathead County has done a reasonably good job of developing neighborhood plans for areas that have sought the planning tool to set parameters for how they want their neighborhood to develop or be preserved.
The diversity of the Flathead makes it difficult to manage neighborhood plans, he said. In some traditionally agricultural areas there has been significant subdivision development and co-existing can be difficult.
“How do we balance that for the good of all people?” is the constant challenge, he said.
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.