Gallatin County Courthouse

The Gallatin County Courthouse is seen in this 2013 photo by Tim Evanson, used by Creative Commons license, CC BY-SA 2.0f

After much back and forth, Bozeman and Gallatin County have agreed to meet in January or February.

Earlier this month, city commissioners sent a letter to county commissioners requesting the meeting and outlining potential discussion items, including affordable housing, the Gallatin City-County Health Board and the 911 Advisory Committee.

The county commissioners accepted the meeting invite last week and said they would also contribute topics to the meeting agenda.

“We hope this meeting creates a framework for more regular conversations,” said City Commissioner Terry Cunningham. “This signals that we’re pressing the reset button and want to start looking to the future rather than dwelling on the past.”

County Commissioner Don Seifert expressed some hesitation about the meeting, saying the county is willing to speak with anyone who requests a meeting but doesn’t know exactly what the county and city will discuss.

“If it’s just meeting to have a meeting, we don’t need that,” Seifert said. “We (the county commissioners) have plenty of meetings.”

City commissioners reached out to the county because they would like to improve their partnerships with local groups, including Montana State University, the county and the school district, Cunningham said. 

He and the other commissioners would like to have regular meetings with the county to update each other and to identify areas for collaboration.

“We want a continuing dialogue about regional issues,” Cunningham said. “There are plenty of topics to fill up an agenda.”

Seifert cautioned that some of the discussions the city would like to have should include a broader group. In their letter, the city commissioners suggested discussing the Triangle Plan, a document that details policies for the growing area between Bozeman, Belgrade and Four Corners. In their response, the county commissioners said Belgrade needs to be included in talks on the Triangle Plan.

If the city wants to discuss the 911 Dispatch Center, those conversations need to include all law enforcement agencies, fire departments and fire districts that use the service, Seifert said. Conversations about the city’s move from the shared Law and Justice Center to its new Public Safety Center would need to involve the county attorney and sheriff, who oversee those operations.

“A lot of this stuff doesn’t come down to the commissioners but is something staff and other elected officials manage,” Seifert said. “It might not make sense for these conversations to happen between the commissioners because we aren’t necessarily involved in these areas.”

The city and county have sparred over a joint meeting for months. In April, the city invited the county to a meeting on several topics including the November election and a future tax district. The county commissioners rejected the invitation, saying they didn’t see a need to meet.

The city and county commissioners last met in July 2018 to address payment for road repairs along Oak Street and Ferguson Avenue.

Although the city and county commissioners haven’t met in more than a year, Cunningham said Bozeman and Gallatin County staff and board members have continued to collaborate. He hopes that with the joint meeting, collaboration will begin to extend to the two commissions. Seifert said the county is open to improving communication with city officials.