Tetonia Area of Impact Revisited
City of Tetonia Planning Administrator Jan Gallup appeared before the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) to express Tetonia’s desire to enter into a formal “Committee of 9” for impact area negotiations with the county. State statute allows for a Committee of 9 to be formed for the purpose of negotiating impact area agreements when cities and counties are unable to settle on an agreement by other means.
As you may recall, the BOCC conditionally adopted Tetonia’s proposed impact area agreement last summer, but stipulated that Tetonia had a month to establish a system of city law enforcement. Both Victor and Driggs contract with the county sheriff’s department to have the department enforce city ordinances. For this invaluable service, Victor pays $29 annually per resident and Driggs pays $45 per resident. The county has offered to let Tetonia pay either $12 or $16 per resident (based on different property tax valuations) but to date, Tetonia has refused to either contract with the sheriff’s department or establish city law enforcement on their own.
Lacking city law enforcement for Tetonia, the BOCC voted unanimously last fall that the previously proposed impact area agreement was expired and officially “off the negotiation table.” Since that time, Tetonia city council also passed a controversial annexation that would double the size of the city and double the size of the area without city law enforcement. Public outcry surrounding the annexation was so great that Tetonia residents have now petitioned to have the annexation put on the ballot this upcoming May.
The Tetonia city council recently presented a letter to the BOCC announcing their request to form the Committee of 9, and included their 6 nominees for the committee: Orville Armstrong, Delpha Armstrong, Tierra Ball, Blaine Ball, Ron Berry, and Mitch Smaellie.
However, at the meeting with the BOCC, County Attorney Kathy Spitzer pointed out that Tetonia had failed to provide proper notice according to statute, and Tetonia did not get to “choose” who got to serve on the Committee of 9 – this was a joint decision made by 3 Tetonia officials and the BOCC. Spitzer also emphasized that Tetonia’s total lack of law enforcement was creating a “chaos atmosphere” for the city. Commissioner Benedict furthered that Tetonia simply must show that the have some system for providing law enforcement services to the residents of Tetonia.
Ms. Gallup rebutted that the sheriff already enforced all state and county laws, but disturbingly, she seemed to not understand that everyone was talking about a lack of enforcement of Tetonia’s own laws such as animal control, liquor sales and other municipal ordinances.
Although Commissioner Young wanted to find a way to continue with the original negotiations, Commissioners Benedict, Rinaldi and Attorney Spitzer emphasized that (1) the first agreement had clearly expired and Tetonia had failed to take any action on it, (2) so much had changed with Tetonia’s recent 267-acre annexation that a new agreement was necessary, and (3) the recent Victor impact area negotiations had made in clear that certain details had been overlooked in the earlier Tetonia negotiations – there may be provisions in the earlier Tetonia agreement that were downright unconstitutional with regards to Tetonia’s ability to do any enforcement outside of the city limits. Commissioner Rinaldi also emphasized that Committee of 9 negotiations may be time-consuming, expensive, and result in an impact area agreement that was bad for both Tetonia and the County.
For all of these reasons, the BOCC emphasized to Ms. Gallup that it would be faster and easier for Tetonia to simply resubmit an updated impact area proposal for joint meetings with the BOCC, and to come up with some form of a law enforcement system for the city. Heeding the BOCC’s advice at the Tetonia city council meeting later that same day, the Tetonia council voted to rescind their Committee of 9 request. Instead, they are going to schedule a joint workshop with the BOCC to work out a new agreement. This is a good decision that will hopefully lead to a revised impact area agreement and also some form of city law enforcement for the residents of Tetonia.