Commissioners impose burning restrictions, discuss tax issue with Madison Valley RFD

At their regular meeting in Virginia City on Tuesday the Madison County Board of Commissioners carried a motion to impose an open burning ban on private property throughout the county.

The ban is effective immediately until further notice due to extreme fire danger, and any exceptions to the ban will be considered on a case-by-case basis and must be approved in writing by the local fire department and the Board of Commissioners.

This time of year, all it takes is one ember to set off a major incident, said Chris Mumme, Madison County director of Emergency Management.

“Use your head. It’s hot, it’s dry. Winds can come up at any time,” Mumme said. “Don’t burn.”

Individuals should contact their local fire districts or the counties’ emergency information website, www.madison.homestead.com, to check current restrictions.

Should conditions worsen Mumme said the county will move to a Stage One restriction, which prohibits fires outside a developed recreation site and smoking outside of a vehicle, developed recreation site or other areas cleared of all flammable materials.

Commissioners also met with representatives from the Madison Valley Rural Fire District to discuss the collection of fire district taxes for the 2010/2011 fiscal year. The MVRFD discovered earlier this summer that the City of Ennis was not included on the tax rolls, meaning that residents have not paid for the services provided by the MVRFD.

Currently the MVRFD has $400,000 in a capitol improvement fund and approximately $75,000 in operational costs. Although June 2011 Madison County Cash Reports indicate the MVRFD has a total of $520, 529.85, chairperson Ted Liss says the account balances are beside the point and members of the district share an equal responsibility to pay for fire protection.

One proposal to resolve the issue is a double assessment of taxes for the City of Ennis, changing the mils collected for the fire district from 17 to 34. This would allow the district to recover tax money not collected the previous year. However, the legal precedent for this process was unclear at Tuesday’s meeting, and it may be too late to recover the money for this fiscal year. Commissioner Dave Schulz suggested a meeting between Liss, commissioner Jim Hart and treasurer Shelly Burke to determine how and when the taxes will be collected.

Commissioner Dan Happel suggested that the MVRFD dip into their capitol improvement fund to cover their operational costs until the taxes are collected.

“If you can cover it, we will look for a way to get it back for you,” Happel said. “It may not happen this year, it may have to go into next year.

Commissioners will hold their regular Tuesday meeting next week at Huntley Lodge in Big Sky at 10a.m. to take public comment on the need for additional public offices and handicap accessible facilities at the courthouse in Virginia City. The Board will also discuss a resolution to create a special parks and recreation district in Big Sky.

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