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Gallatin County and Bozeman commissioners address tension, hope to move forward in 2019

Posted at 10:23 AM, Dec 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-24 09:33:59-05

BOZEMAN, Mont.- After the first of the year the Gallatin County Commission Meetings will look a little different. That is because Democrat Scott MacFarlane will be the new commissioner in town.

MacFarlane was elected over Republican incumbent Steve White in November and will leave his job Belgrade Public Schools at the end of this year.

With the change in representation the question arises, how will this switch affect the tumultuous relationship between the Bozeman city government and the county? Commissioner Don Seifert said it won’t because there isn’t tension between the two entities in the first place.

“The perceived discord between the city and the county, a lot of that is a myth that is sort of perpetrated by people who like to disrupt things and think that we should be contentious,” said Seifert.

There have been numerous instances in the last year where city and county officials have not agreed including how to pay for the road repairs on Oak St and Ferguson Ave, as well as whether or not law enforcement officials should be housed in separate buildings.

“There is a level of cooperation,” said Deputy Mayor Chris Mehl. “We have some disagreements about infrastructure, timing, and who pays for it and how much. But in terms of public safety and getting things done we are working pretty well together.”

Mehl said the city and county work together well on many projects including the 911 center, fire response, and annexation but these projects are often overshadowed by the times the bodies disagree.

“You know if a clock is working nobody notices it. Right? If it stopped, you would notice that it stopped and I think, for the most part, the overwhelming majority of things not only work but they work well. So we need to remember that but we also can’t take those for granted,” said Mehl.

In the next year, Mehl hopes the city and county can work on building a plan for infrastructure, public safety, and the pressing mental health crisis.