Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Commissioners approve 3% salary increase for elected officials

by Colin Gaiser
Daily Inter Lake | May 24, 2020 1:00 AM

The Flathead County commissioners voted to increase salaries of elected officials at the commissioners meeting Tuesday morning.

The County Compensation Board had recommended elected officials should have their salaries increased by 3%, a cost-of-living adjustment to their base salaries, starting in fiscal year 2021.

The Flathead County attorney’s salary would rise to $116,149; the county sheriff’s salary would be $95,618; the two justices of the peace would each make $86,118; and the county commissioners, clerk of district court, county treasurer, county clerk and superintendent of schools would make $74,970.

“Since I’ve been a commissioner we’ve pretty well stuck with the COLA [cost-of-living-adjustment],” said Commissioner Phil Mitchell. “I don’t see this as yearly … this is a one-time thing for me.”

“It’s not because we have to do it, it’s because I want to say I’m appreciative of the staff.”

Commissioner Randy Brodehl said compared to other large counties in Montana, Flathead County has “by and large less staff doing the same or more work” as other counties. He pointed to Flathead City-County Health Officer Hillary Hanson as an example of an official doing the work of multiple staff members while the county adopted public-health measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the county had lost “good staff” to surrounding municipalities, “and I don’t want us to continue that pattern where people walk away because they can make $4,000 more a year for a municipality that’s just down the road. That makes no sense to me.”

Commissioners Randy Brodehl and Phil Mitchell voted to increase the salaries and commissioner Pam Holmquist voted against it.

Also on Tuesday, the commissioners voted unanimously approved a preliminary plat for a subdivision on Highway 35 approximately 4 miles east of Kalispell.

Owner and applicant Mary Kathryn Yoder’s Copper Lion subdivision would be a two-lot residential and commercial subdivision, with lots of three and seven-and-a-half acres. The applicant intends to build six mini-storage units on the commercial lot – in addition to six storage units already present – and a single-family residence on the residential lot.

The commissioners also passed a variance that would make a gravel road acceptable for this subdivision, as opposed to a paved road.

Reporter Colin Gaiser may be reached at cgaiser@dailyinterlake.com