BOZEMAN - As the deadline for the City-County Health Dept. renegotiation was looming, Gallatin County and the City of Belgrade waited as the City of Bozeman worked with the two to negotiate aspects of the contract they did not like. Bozeman City Commissioners approved the contract at their May 24th meeting but did so under protest.
“The reason that we signed it rather than say 'no' is because there is a ticking clock,” says Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham.
The City of Bozeman signed the contract but did so under protest, their reason was in regards to House Bill 121 and 257 that passed last year which they say shifted power away from health officials to elected officials.
“Our feeling is that the way this legislation was crafted was really sloppy and ambiguous,” says Cunningham.
Attorneys for Gallatin County and the City of Bozeman had different interpretations regarding duties and responsibilities which Cunningham says, they wanted to move carefully to not violate state law.
“We had two different legal departments, looking at the same piece of legislation arriving at different conclusions about the board of health’s duties and responsibilities and that was the sticking point,” says Cunningham.
The new governing body will be made up of the Three Gallatin County commissioners and the Mayor of Belgrade and the Mayor of Bozeman.
“That a separate governing body of elected officials has to approve certain board of health decisions,” says Cunningham.
“There are very fundamental questions about how health should be separated from politics that eroded with these new laws,” says Gallatin County Commissioner, Scott MacFarlane
Their ultimate hope is that the transition for the public is seamless.
Our hope is that the community understands that none of the way they access any of these services or any of the oversight of any of their health regulations will really change, none of that changes. It's just the decision matrix during emergencies,” says MacFarlane.
The new contract is set to take effect as soon as all three parties sign on. Bozeman approved an amended version at the May 24th commission meeting. Gallatin County and Belgrade previously had signed on to a previous version. Belgrade is the last to approve the new amended version, they are scheduled to have a hearing at their June 6th meeting.