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

Fallon County Planning Board Minutes – November 2022

Fallon County Planning Board Minutes – November 2022

Fallon County Planning Board Monday, November 7, 2022

7:00 p.m.

MEMBERS PRESENT: Carson Beach, President; Pat Hanley, Vice-President; Beth Epley; Lisa Espeland; Jon Slagter

MEMBERS ABSENT: Kyle Vennes; Shelley Dean; Vaughn Zenko

STAFF PRESENT: Mary Grube, Planner Administrative Assistant; Joel Quanbeck, KLJ; Neil Putnam, KLJ




Introductions: Mary introduced the Planner’s that will be working on the Growth Policy with the Planning Board Joel Quanbeck and Neil Putnam from KLJ.

Joel addressed the Planning Board asking them to look at the Communication Plan Development (Attachment 1). Joel requested that the Planning Board ask questions when they had them as long as they stayed on topic. Talk through the first part of the process that will be happening in order to get information from sources and the public. There is a six-step process. The agreement has a six-step process. Everything needs to be consistent with the six-step process. Tonight, will basically focus on the communications plan. The idea of doing this at the start up phase was what was asked for in the RFP. Who are the stakeholders? What kind of process will we work to engage them? How will we get that done? There are specific things to make all of this happen. There will be a website to track our progress. The idea is the majority of people can go there and look at the website. One of the things we want to do is to compile a big email list. To the extent we can get people to open an email to update them on specific things. If they can’t find it on the web maybe, they can figure out how to get it. In general, to get to this communication we will look at Attachment 1. Most of the items came from Mary and is part of the RFP. Collectively we want to look at each of the items on the list. Why is it useful to engage them in this process? Generally speaking, there is one of three different reasons why we are having them be part of this process:

  1. We are looking for specific information.
  2. We are trying to understand the issues, opportunities and attitudes that are reflected by these individuals in this community.
  3. Comments for consensus (are we on the right track).

You as the Planning Board under state law have the responsibility to compile the document and get it ready for adoption. You I imagine will volunteer. Here is what people basically support or don’t support. We’ve listed here a bunch of different specific ways the interaction with the stakeholders can take place. If you look at attachment 1, you can see the following headings. From this particular stakeholder what is the best way to approach them. Let’s walk through the list.

Montana Highway Department: what are we looking for? Three purposes (specific information, issues and opportunities and attitudes, or are we looking for consensus and affirmation). This is your Growth Policy.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks: What are we looking for?

Mary stated that the state agencies will come to a public meeting and discuss with the Planning Board at that time and that this is what they have done historically. By State Statute they are required to be involved.

Extension Service: The office is downstairs next to Mary’s office and the Agent is Amanda Williams.

SMART: We want them actively involved. Vaughn Zenko is the Director and serves on the Planning Board.

EMEDA: Vaughn is the Director of the Port Authority as well.

EPEDC: Beth Epley is the Director and serves on the Planning Board.

DES: Dale Butori is the DES Coordinator.

The Planning Board decided that they wanted all three different reasons for having them be part of the process on the first page.

Page 2: Ag/Ranching Representatives: Neil said that perhaps the Board wants some of the Ranchers and producers. Agribusiness is as important as well.

Local business Owners, local (Chamber).

Housing — Realtors, Lenders, Developers

Landlords & Renters (challenges they are running into)

Senior Citizens or those who have special needs.

Neil suggested involving the high schools in our strategic planning process. Student councils, 4-H, and the younger generation. Whatever organization gives you a good representation of young people.

Religious Organizations because they hear some of the challenges. Make sure you invite every denomination. It can be very productive. Or a local ministerial administration.

Find people who are life-long residents vs. new residents.


Mary said that one that is not listed is the oil industry.

Manufacturers in town/ Beth said technically there are 13 manufacturers in town. Beth was uncertain who they were, but they identify as manufacturers.

Mary said that it was an excellent list.

Under religious organizations, one individual that was part of the process was Joe Epley as he is the Youth Pastor at the Assembly of God Church, and he runs the Youth Center which is a big part of this community.

Chamber of Commerce was missed on the list.

Cowbells was mentioned.

Grazing District/ they share their pasture.

Farmer’s Union, Stockgrowers, etc. Mary stated that Shelley Dean would know all those.

Farmer’s Union is a co-op.

Tara races/organization.

The Landfill was mentioned. Mary stated it was important and she had forgotten it.

Joel asked which stakeholders are essential to the function of your community. As an example, the City of Baker Council is essential to the function of your community. I would say the hospital is essential, and your schools are essential. Which businesses are not essential, because they may not be essential. There is only one grocery store. The Fair Board is a part of your community so they could be. The health board is separate from the FMC. FMC has their own Board. The Zoning Commissions are essential. The Fire Department and water and sewer. Public safety and law enforcement is essential. All elected officials are essential. The Road Department. Landfill.

Oil and gas sector is important. DES is essential for the area.

What is the best way to communicate with these stakeholders? Two fire districts. Is there anything else? Water and Sewer Districts. Is it easiest to talk to the chief? Yes. DES, talk to him. Fair Board, actually go to the organization meeting and give a presentation and get their input.

FMC, hospital. Talk to the CEO and the CFO.

Health Board, meets monthly, go to them.

Zoning Commissions, meet as an as needed basis. Have a focus group and have a special meeting and have them all come. We can do that with all the zoning. The Board of Adjustment would not have to come.

Sheriff and Chief of Police; do you know their schedules; would it be better to have them come and meet with you. Mary said she can meet with them.

Superintendent of schools, Mr. Schillinger; he’s aware of all the schools and the needs. One on one interview with him.

Focus group with the department heads; and the offices. A collection of people in a focus group. When interviewing perhaps something comes out that we need to have a focus group opportunity. There’s a topic that keeps coming up.

The mayor and the clerks can come. Do you want the whole council here? Usually, we have just interviewed the mayor in the past. Carson felt that they may talk more in a focus group instead of one on one.

We decided that oil industry is high priority, how do we get to them.

Are their safety meetings anymore? They did not believe so.

Maybe we could speak to the administrative assistants. Maybe speak to the local managers.

Denbury: Roxanne Renner Continental: Brittney Birch

MDU/WBI: Pat Madler

Extension, locally, interview.

Economic Development organizations/interview.

Airport Board/Manager.

The Airport Board is the policy side.

Citizen groups/Seniors. Interview Carla Brown.

Lake Board/need to see if there are still any members.

Library Board/Director.

Conservation District/Shelley Dean is on the board.


Weed Supervisor.

Superintendent of Schools.


We need things that lead to housing. Population based sector.

Do you want to talk to business owners. Is it worth interviewing people. Have a public meeting? This would be called a listening session. Get people to show up and get different ways to get feedback. Information on the walls for them to see. Questionnaire to fill out. If something comes up continuously, this would be a focus group. Tackling stuff with interviews and meetings that are already scheduled, they can also show up to listening sessions, correct? Yes, community public meetings.

Approach youth and get them to sit down with the Planning Board and get their ideas as they are the future of the community. It gets them involved and they can see government in action. Have larger groups of people too. It’s hard to get people to show up to these things. Mary stated they invited the council and commission and they did not show up this evening.

Neil said if you get youth involved and they are doing it as part of a class project to get a credit. The government teacher said they would help. There are ways to get them here. Or 4-H, they will come if there is an incentive. Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts. You want to hear from them because they are active and engaged. You just need a representation of them. Don’t need a whole group. Perhaps a student council.

Mary mentioned the science teacher had started a project with the lake, and they discovered there is a lot of e coli in the lake. The class gave a really good presentation to the County Commissioners. They would like to engage the Planning Board as well during the Growth Policy process. She said let me know when we can show up and we will be there.

Life-long residents in two processes. A community survey can be a useful tool, biggest issue is participation levels. 1500 households vs. 10 to respond. Then this would not be a good representation. Push for high levels of response through publicity.

Beth stated that when they did a community survey KIJ bought drinks for their community survey. One at a bar and one at the coffee shop as well.

Incentive/drawing for a free coffee to get numbers, email addresses, etc.

What are the issues and what are the opportunities. Everyone who has a problem that you have a responsibility to get involved in. Here is a policy that might help solve that problem. It would be great to get something other than 10 or 5 people that show up to a public meeting. Article in the paper, posters out, talk around town on the radio, etc. Facebook page for the growth policy. Get cards to Reynolds. Issues of things that need to be addressed. Post office.

Joel was happy with the active participation.

We will summarize this and get it out to Mary to send on to you for comments.

Attachment 2: Your current Growth Policy has a ton of information. What information is stuff that has a

purpose in the plan. It would be good to recognize what we need to focus on. Let’s look through this and see what we want to keep. Page 30, we will keep this, no choice. The census bureau is exceedingly slow this time. The next useful thing is the American community survey. Maybe upgrade it. We don’t have the money in the budget to do a detailed upgrade. We will play with this and look for answers. We can look at unemployment records instead of the census. Water usage can be looked at as far as occupancy. Work commute/we don’t have a public transit system. Carson would like to look at remote work vs. workforce out in the public.

Page 37 is harder to get. Do we want to keep this? Do we promote the types of professionals that work in our area to get educated here? Mary stated this came up in 2012 during our public input meetings. This is useful as it tells where people are working. We will keep this because it shows where people are working in an educated field.

IRS can get us income data. To some extent it would be good to do this for the forecast for the future.

Page 40, this is showing the poverty level and number of households in certain brackets that are useful.

Next Vision Statement review, attachment three. There are issues that want to be addressed, this is more to the growth. I would like you to tackle this from sort of a basic perspective. Does the vision statement still fit? Is it still valid? Carson said it is broad. He said he didn’t know if we must worry about the impacts of growth at this point and time. It seems as though we are always chasing the problems in our communities, but we are never ahead of them. When we come up with a plan, when our community has a focus of where we are heading, that’s kind of what this needs to do to maintain that focus. We don’t need to just tackle this problem as we see it we need to encourage referencing the Growth Policy much more than we have. So, I don’t know how we can phrase that in a lot of what we are doing here. The elected officials task the board with the duty to update the Growth Policy, because of State Statute. However, once it’s adopted it goes on a shelf. Should it be what the three

Commissioners think is necessary for our community or what the people who elected them think is best for our community? That’s not what we are doing here. That’s where laying this stuff out, how do we lay their feet to the flame. How do we say this is what you must use as a guiding document. How do we make this usable. Maybe it needs to be so silly, simple, easy, that it will encourage them to stick to a plan. If it’s not user-friendly, then it will not be utilized. Can you give us an example of what you would like to see?

How do we attract people here?

I don’t see any way a community can have a diversity of economy without the people to utilize it.

Joel showed an example of a County who had a vision statement. They started out with the role of County government was and boiled it down to three words.

Identified the essential functions of the County government. Direct role to help them achieve local government objectives.

For every decision we make and compare it to a ruler are we consistent.

Direct role to help them achieve local government objectives.

Beyond County government, instead of focusing on what the County government wants for a whole, it focuses on three principals, guiding principles, little building, regionalism, and resilience. Related to quality of life. Specifies specific areas related to quality of life. Resilience was looking at economic downturns. How do we do things to make us less stuck if we have a major downturn. How can we do that for our communities and our citizens. We need to be more holistic in what we can do and what our role is. They tied it all together.

I wanted to hear how you think this works, if it needs to be changed, if there are things that it doesn’t talk about of the vision citizens might have. What do you need to do to be prepared for the future.

When you are talking about being more proactive, that is where you might want to start building. We will give you a broad draft that is no longer than a half page, you read it over and come back to them with written comments. You create consensus by doing multiple additions to them. We help to synthesize them to reach a consensus. The final/final will not be done until after public engagement has taken place. At least you will have a starting point that you will work with. It will be about half a page long so it is easier to digest and understand.

Attachment 4. Sort of on target. Major tasks are listed out by the six different categories. There is a calendar that takes us from today to June. We will have a final adoption in June. What I’ve learned from Mary, the actual dates have not been set because of quarterly meetings. The first one to start up we are basically going to finish.

Presentation needs to be well prepared and questions that need to be answered for that group or that type. The big thing that we are aiming at is to get to the point we looked at the community profile and analysis. This will all show up on the community website.

Suggesting having a listening session for Baker, Plevna and Rural. That is the initial meeting you will want to have publicized. It is most valuable to have something to bring to the people to react to. This will give them more context. That is when we will see the community survey. It will take the longest to get these activity meetings. We assume you will be conducting monthly planning meetings. Other meetings will be scheduled as you figure out how.

Rewriting the document. The community workshops are the second round of meetings. Your planning process in the past may be different from this. We will help you prepare the materials as we head in each direction.

Get to the point where we have Chapter 15. We are basically saying here are the tools we have, here are the policies we are implementing. Most will not change unless there is a change in the circumstances.

In the contract we scheduled two different meetings where we will come out and meet with you for work sessions. We are helping to facilitate making the decision to get the draft done.

Implementation is at the end to make sure it is not sitting on the shelf.

The process where we formally go through public hearing.

Is there anything we can specifically put a date to right now. We did it by weeks. If you start looking at this after Thanksgiving, there are a lot of different activities going on with the holidays.

How do we make this plan user friendly? What is it you want to make it user friendly?

A reference for a checklist, is there a way to say does this fit in on how we want to see growth and does it inhibit in a way.

We took out a lot of stuff in 2017 because the interviews didn’t really matter. At the end of the original document, we had all the interviews. It was just so much information. It would be nice to go to the index, and click on something that takes you to the section. Make it more searchable.

Lets say we reach a point where the County says we need to work on a maintenance plan. The way that the vision statement was centralized and working out. Here is a process, this is how you would focus vs. this is what I think is the best way to go about this. Everything is funneled through as the most important task to be worked on at the time.

The Planning Board said that yes dredging the lake was important. It snowballed into spending an extra 8 million dollars. Could it have been focused somewhere else. The ranchers are saying that they are more focused on the lake and not on the roads.

The planning board would like it easier to navigate.

Joel said that we should be able to hand someone a section of what they need to know. We also envision a table of contents that is rational and easy to see.

What about maintaining focus? We want to build said thing. Make it as simple as possible for the public entities to read. Check list can’t do everything that a flow chart can, the check list can be made as simple as possible.

Mary and Beth both agreed that all the objectives are at the end of the book, the best part of the book. How do we get them to utilize it?

Do we adjust the objective or not address the problem right now. Why hide the best part?

Maybe the flow chart is not the simplest thing to understand things. Maybe we need to make it more accessible.

Carson said all best plans laid out; we aren’t the ones who make the final call on those things that happen.

The one thing that loses the entity’s focus, is it is the public coming and making these suggestions.

Joel stated the whole point of policies, is the decision consistent with the policies that are out there?

It is easier to make the decision without being faced with a circumstance.

The Planning Board says all the strategies are in the growth policy how to get from point a to point b. Instead of banging their head against the wall when they are trying to make a decision, they could be utilizing the Growth Policy. The objectives need to be utilized.

Joel asked for suggestions of a different approach. Now we are 10 years down the road, so even more of this stuff is out of date. Should we basically start over? Are you guys okay with that? It will end up being shorter. We don’t need to make a final decision on how to make it user friendly, but we need to start the discussion.

The Planning Board feels In order for it to be user friendly, we need to reference things up front and you don’t have to hunt hard for it, and use the appendixes in the back with the supporting stuff.

Joel said to have a five-page guide for referencing what is needed. Priorities need to be at the top.

It was mentioned that implementation of a capital improvements plan has been mentioned since 2012. This is adopted by the public, it’s the public’s plan. They are the ones who develop it and say what the priorities are. A spread sheet is not an adopted plan, it’s just there.

How do we make the Growth Policy useable to get to the solution?

You have a topic, here are the existing conditions, and here are the solutions. When you do it in that format, you pull out the strategies and solution part to get a quick reference to it.

The other way is more complicated; here is the topic and we are talking about existing solutions. Here are the topics and solutions. As long as you use the first approach and provide the summary set. If you do that on front it gets easier to do that. Joel said he was not willing to commit to that tonight, but wants to look at the statute and see how it is.

Neil mentioned the Montana statutes are more specific than North and South Dakota statutes. Mary said she would give them a copy of the land use statutes.

Jon Slagter made a motion to adjourn, and Pat Hanley seconded the motion. Meeting was adjourned at 8:45 p.m.

Respectfully submitted:

s/Carson Beach, President

s/Mary Grube, Executive Secretary