The Gallatin County Commission officially eliminated the Capital Improvements Program Committee on Tuesday following the resignation of four of its members earlier this year.
This summer, the chair, vice chair and two other members of the advisory committee stepped down over what they saw as the commissioners’ poor planning and communication about major projects like construction of a proposed Law and Justice Center.
After the resignations, the committee stopped meeting and the commissioners looked into improving the process for capital projects. They ultimately decided it was best to manage the projects internally and dissolve the committee.
“It became really obvious that we were duplicating a lot of work and the utility of the Capital Improvements Program Committee was largely wasted,” said Commissioner Scott MacFarlane. “... It just became obvious to me personally that the people who were volunteering for this committee were very important community assets … and what we were doing was kind of a charade that was wasting their time.”
Committee members did not respond to a request for comment.
The committee — which included six local residents, an elected official, a department head and a county commissioner — reviewed applications for county projects totaling at least $50,000 and scored them based on guidelines it had developed. They provided the scores to the commissioners to help them prioritize projects during the annual budget process.
Department heads will now submit requests for items over $5,000 and with a lifespan of at least five years — a broader range of projects than the Capital Improvements Program Committee reviewed — to a group of elected officials and county staff members who will review them. The group will not score them but will instead bring every request to a public all-staff meeting.
The meeting will provide an opportunity for the public to comment and for staff to discuss the requests and find areas where they can collaborate, said Deputy County Administrator Cola Rowley.
After the meeting, the projects selected for the next year will be included in the proposed budget, which then will go through a series of revisions and public hearings before the commissioners adopt it.
Departments will also be asked to outline their needs for the next five years and to identify major projects — such as a new building or gravel pit — that commissioners need to be anticipating 10 years ahead of construction. This will allow the commission to do more comprehensive long-term planning than it has in the past, Rowley said.
“I hate to say that the Capital Improvements Program Committee’s time was wasted, but in a sense, it was,” said Commissioner Joe Skinner. “... They did a lot of work, but it’s work that wasn’t needed a lot of the time. I want to thank them because they did a lot of work over the years. … And I think we’re moving on to a better process.”