10 W Fallon Ave Baker, MT 59313
Fallon County of Montana

EMEDA Commissioner Meeting – November 14th 2023

EMEDA Commissioner Meeting – November 14th 2023

EMEDA Eastern Montana Economic Development Authority

Commissioner Meeting

November 14, 2023

SMART Conference Room

Members Present:
Chairman Steve Zachmann, Treasurer Karol Zachmann, Commissioner “Cookie” Zenko, Commissioner Tasha Losing

Members Absent: Vice Chair Carson Beach

Staff Present: Executive Director Vaughn Zenko, Executive Assistant Shannon Johnson (via Zoom)

Meeting called to order: 6:33pm by Steve Zachmann

Approval of Last Meeting Minutes: Lacking quorum for the October 10, 2023 meeting, there was no need to approve the minutes.

Public Comment Period (3 minutes per person):  

Financial Report:  Vaughn presented the financial report prepared by Shannon Johnson.  There was a $23,220.09 deficit for the month. Vaughn explained that $16,000 of that was the money paid out to the Baker Chamber Rec Department as part of EMEDA’s pass though agreement with Fallon County.  There was no further discussion.

Monthly Claim Forms Review:  The board reviewed the monthly claim forms.  This included the property tax bill from Fallon County, coming in two parts, the first $640.91 due now, the second for $634.90 due in 2024. Cookie motioned to pay both at this time, for a total of $1,275.81. Tasha seconded. All present in favor, motion carried.  A second claim for was presented from SMART for administrative assistance totaling $5,600 for the October/November period. Tasha motioned to approve all claims, Cookie seconded. All present in favor, motion carried. Claims totaling $6,875.81 will be paid in full.

Old Business:
Baker Child Care Project Modular Home Proposals:  Vaughn informed the board that he had contacted several modular home businesses and found a floor plan he liked from Sheridan Homes in Wyoming and and KIT Home Builders West.  The price came in at $284,480, and Sheridan said they would likely have it delivered by May 1, pending the weather. Cookie motioned to purchase the Cedar Canyon 2059 from Sheridan Homes. Upon discussion, Vaughn asked if EMEDA should buy two units, one to accommodate Head Start. He stated that Head Start is continuing to work with Vesta Homes on a custom modular for their portion of the project. Steve suggested that, whatever Head Start chooses to do, EMEDA would prefer that their building looks similar to EMEDA’s.  Cookie rescinded her motion to purchase one unit from Sheridan Homes.  Tasha motioned to purchase two units, instead. Cookie seconded.  Further discussion led to questions about “what is the down payment, what is the interest rate on borrowing from the bank, what type of foundation will the units be placed on and who will prepare and survey the lots.
Steve suggested that the childcare complex be named after those that donated the land to EMEDA. The idea of calling it the Marty and Sue Nelson Kids’ Community was brought up. No official action was taken.
Further discussion asked if EMEDA could get the modulars without appliances and other amenities that could be purchased locally. This will be a priority when discussing the details of the unit with Sheridan Homes.
A vote was held on Tasha’s motion to approve purchase of up to two (if necessary for Head Start) Cedar Canyon 2059 modular homes from Sheridan Homes. All present in favor. Motion carried. Vaughn and Steve will proceed with the purchase.
Karol asked if EMEDA needs to hire SDI for this process. Steve said that would likely not be necessary, but in such an instance, EMEDA would have to put that out for bid. Vaughn suggested that since SDI had already been hired to work for EMEDA on the Childcare Project, we may not have to put it to bid, because SDI is already familiar with the project and EMEDA’s wishes. Steve agreed. No action was taken.
Vaughn brought up that there are occasional auctions and sales from other childcare facilities around the region offering supplies and equipment at a discounted rate. He requested a $2,000 budget to act on these discount opportunities, should they arise. Tasha motioned that EMEDA provide $2,000 for the Director to spend at his discretion on necessities for the new facility. Cookie seconded. All present in favor, motion approved.

               Real Estate Investment Cooperative:  Vaughn prepared a detailed business plan for the REIC as requested at the October meeting. Steve said he simply does not have the time to sit on a steering committee right now. Karol agreed. Steve suggested that EMEDA’s goal was to focus on one project and do it well, and that the board should sufficiently complete the Childcare Project before moving on to affordable housing with the REIC at this time. He made a motion to table discussion on the REIC until a later date. There were no objections.

               Review of Food Forest Agreement with Fallon County:  The Commissioners, under advice from the County Attorney, changed the agreement to say that the land would only be leased to EMEDA for purposes of the Food Forest. Previously it had stated that the land could be used for whatever EMEDA wished in the event that the Food Forest was not sustainable. The agreement was also altered to place full responsibility for maintenance of the property on EMEDA. Steve said EMEDA would be amenable to that agreement, but he felt that EMEDA shouldn’t be required to maintain the drainage ditch on the South side because it would not be used for Food Forest purposes. He suggested Vaughn go back to the Commissioners and request that the agreement be changed to state that EMEDA (and the Food Forest) would be responsible for all maintenance on the property, with the exception of the South side drainage ditch to Texas Avenue.
Steve also requested that Vaughn contact Food Forest Director Lacey Berg about fencing off the area to alleviate animal damage over the winter and also put in a water line for the Food Forest at the Food Forest’s expense.

               Advertising for BEK TV Documentary on Baker:  Vaughn stated that BEK TV had agreed to do the documentary on Baker. The Rock Jocks, LLC had agreed to pay $3,300 for a Baker “economic development” advertisement that would run twice a day for 6-months and asked if EMEDA would be interested in providing and additional $3,300 for the advertisement to run for a full year. He explained that the ad time on BEK TV could be used at EMEDA’s discretion and could be utilized to advertise Baker businesses and events throughout the year at no cost to local businesses or organizations. Cookie motioned that EMEDA spend the $3,300 for the Baker ad on BEK TV. Tasha seconded. All present in favor, motion carried. Steve suggested that EMEDA launch an information campaign to inform local businesses and organizations that this advertising option would now be available to them.

               EMEDA Budget Amendment RE: Event Marketing Grant:  The EMEDA Event Marketing Grant is approaching its budget allotment for FY23. Tash motioned to approve an extra $2000 for the Event Marketing Grant budget for the remainder of the fiscal year. Cookie seconded. All present in favor, motion carried. An additional $2000 will be made available for the grant for the remainder of FY23.

               EMEDA Liability Insurance Review: It was brought to the board’s attention in October that EMEDA is excluded from Fallon County Liability policy, meaning that EMEDA would have to carry their own insurance to cover the Port Authority-Commissioners in their duties as Board Members. Vaughn had not received a quote from the Insurance Store at meeting time. This policy would only cover the Commissioners in matters pertaining to their duties. No other liability insurance would be necessary, as all other activities or events would be covered under SMART’s liability policy as their Director would be acting on behalf of EMEDA. Vaughn will report back to the Commissioners with a quote at the December meeting.

New Business:

               EMEDA Sponsorship Requests:  Vaughn stated that the Baker Arts & Culture Council had requested a basket to be used for the fundraiser silent auction at their annual “A Country Christmas” event on November 25th.  Karol motioned that EMEDA should provide a basket for the event. Cookie seconded. Discussion led to the board suggesting that the basket be something childcare related, with useful toys and games for children. After discussion, Karol amended her motion to state that a $25 limit be placed on the gift basket contents. Cookie seconded. All in favor, motion carried. Vaughn will use the approved $25 budget to put together a childcare related gift basket for the Country Christmas event.

               Opportunity for Placer.AI Demographic Information for Southeast Montana:  Vaughn told the board that he had begun research into potentially collecting detailed demographic information for the region via cell phone usage. He stated that the organization Placer.AI had provided him a sample report of the type of useful information that could be gleaned from that data, including demographics, tourism information, road usage / traffic and valuable information for local businesses about their customers’ demographics and travel patterns. He said the cost would be $10,000 per year for unlimited reports and that, as frightening as it may be that this kind of detailed personal information is available, it is information that big businesses and the Federal Government have access to already, so making that information accessible locally would level the playing field for both local small businesses and government.
Karol made a motion to spend the $10,00 to hire Placer.AI to provide detailed demographic information and that EMEDA make that information available to those in Fallon County who wished to utilize it. Tasha seconded. Discussion ensued. Steve noted that $10,000 was a huge amount of money without a tangible return on investment for EMEDA. Karol noted that the idea of getting all of that information from people’s cell phones usage was scary and wouldn’t be well received by the public. Vaughn reiterated that all of this information is already available to anyone willing to pay for it, and EMEDA gaining access to this kind of data would simply put Fallon County’s small businesses on the same level as the WalMart’s, Amazon’s and Facebook’s of the world who already do business using this type of information. Steve suggested that this type of project would not be in Port Authority’s scope of power and should be taken up by SMART or some other organization. Steve called for a vote on Karol’s motion that EMEDA spend $10,000 to engage Placer.AI. All present vote nay. Motion failed.

               Other New Business: 

•  Chairman Zachmann brought up that Vice-Chair Carson Beach had missed a lot of meetings recently. Steve said EMEDA needs Commissioners to be more engaged, suggesting that, as a valuable member of the board, EMEDA could potentially relieve Carson of his Commissioner’s duties and instead bring him in as “consultant” on EMEDA projects instead of as a voting member of the board. After discussion, it was agreed that Carson would get a warning about his lack of attendance at meetings and action on possibly removing him from the board would be readdressed at a later meeting if he continues to be absent.
It was also brought up that, as an elected board of Commissioners, Fallon County should be more actively engaged in advertising for open positions on the EMEDA (Port Authority) board. Vaughn said he would remind the County Commissioners of this at his next monthly meeting with them in December.

•  Steve also asked if EMEDA should call for an official audit. Stating that the expenditures on the Childcare Project in 2024 would likely trigger an automatic audit anyway. No further action was taken, though the board generally agreed that this was a logical idea.

•  Vaughn brought up working out details of the annual EMEDA Christmas party. The board discussed options and it was decided that EMEDA’s 2023 Christmas Party would be held December 12th at the Big Game Casino and Tavern in Baker, and that Commissioners would conduct a Yankee Swap, with a $10 gift limit. 

Having no other new business to attend to, Karol motioned to adjourn. Cookie seconded. All present in favor.
Meeting adjourned at 9:22pm

The next monthly meeting and EMEDA Christmas Party are scheduled for December 12, 2023 at 6:30pm at the Big Game Casino and Tavern.

                 s\ Steve Zachmann, Chairman                                                                                 s\ Vaughn Zenko, Executive Director