VA complex, capital improvement plan top list for county commissioners

According to Custer County Commissioners Kevin Krausz, Keith Holmlund and Jason Strouf, the issues facing the county in 2017 look a lot like what they have been dealing with in 2016.

Holmlund said the issues with the VA Medical Center are “going to be one of the higher things this year.”

The Veterans Administration is divesting itself of the complex, and has offered it free to the county. If the county declines, the property could be put up for public auction.

The county has until July 1 to make a decision but is asking for the deadline to be extended to the end of 2017 to allow time to seek grants for renovations that could make the complex economically viable.

Holmlund said he also expects to “spend more time on the Tusler bridge,” which spans the Yellowstone River near Kinsey. 

Replacing the deck of the former railroad bridge, which has been converted to vehicular traffic, is still four or five years out, depending on funding. In the meantime the bridge, which is also known as the Kinsey Bridge,  will continue to receive several thousands dollars of regular maintenance by the county annually.

Commission Chairman Krausz noted the county has already replaced four deficient bridges in the past two years. The Strevell Creek bridge will be replaced this year. 

Strouf said the commissioners will create a Capital Improvement Plan this year, essentially a timeline for major projects. Holmlund said “the CIP will not be cut in stone,” but allow for more consistent planning.

Having a CIP in place can also improve the change of acquiring grants for the work.

All Custer County departments will have input in the plan while the commissioners will decide on its final form.

The collaboration with the City of Miles City on planning to replace the flood protection levee system will also be a priority in the coming year and beyond. 

A more controversial item that will be approached in 2017 is the consideration of a local option sales tax.

Due to falling energy and agriculture prices, many communities in Montana are considering the local option tax as a way to replace lost revenue.