County commissioners hold joint meeting with neighboring counties

WHITEHALL – The Madison County Board of Commissioners met Thursday in Whitehall with commissioners from Jefferson and Beaverhead Counties to discuss issues of mutual interest to local residents.

Commissioners received a draft for a memorandum of agreement between the Madison County Sheriff’s Office and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office regarding the mutual interests of both law enforcement agencies. The purpose of the agreement is to cross-deputize officers so they can enforce laws when they are violated in the other agencies jurisdiction, assist with investigations and fill requests to respond to situations involving violations or potential violations of the law.

Madison County commissioner Dan Happel supported the draft agreement.

“The quicker we get a cooperative agreement going, I think the better off we’re going to be for the citizens and mutual counties,” Happel said.

The agreement between Madison County and Jefferson County sheriff’s offices is beneficial, economical and advantageous to the public because it increases protection for citizens, he said. The necessity for this agreement comes out of the counties’ geographical remoteness, population sparsity and limited manpower. Madison County Sheriff’s officers are fully deputized in Jefferson County with law enforcement authority to conduct law enforcement actions within the county, and vise versa.

Commissioners also discussed opening an animal shelter for use between both Madison and Jefferson Counties. Jefferson County Commissioner Leonard Wortman estimated that 30 percent of the county’s calls to the sheriff are dog related.

“Jefferson County is in dire need of someplace to go with animals that we have problems with,” he said.

Wortman suggested a potential location for a facility could me in the new industrial park near the Golden Sunlight Mine northeast of Whitehall.

“The advantage of that is that the water and sewer is already there, so that would be a big benefit,” Wortman said. “Otherwise were going to have to be looking at someplace outside of town.”

The idea for a joint facility is relatively new and there has been limited discussion on the issue. Other commissioners in attendance questioned the need for a facility servicing multiple counties, and expressed concerns about sending stray animals away for a different county to deal with.

Before the meeting adjourned the commissioners also discussed the role of the MSTI Review Project Liaison Group. The liaison group consists of MSTI Project stakeholders who are active in MSTI-related activities through their position with local or state government, involvement in non-governmental agencies or as individuals. The proposed make-up of the group includes two commissioners from Madison County, one commissioner from Jefferson County and one from Beaverhead County, two to three commissioners from Idaho counties, representatives from the Department of Environmental Quality, the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, Concerned Citizens Montana and Northwestern Energy.

The liaison group will provide the MSTI Review Project Core Team with feedback and suggestions on project activities and related issues, as well as assist with outreach to key audiences. Group members will participate in monthly meetings to review activities, products and issues pertaining to the project.

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