Signatures Being Gathered In Fairfield To Dissolve County Hospital District

Left to right: Jackie Weist, Eva Anseth and Bill Lattin review the signatures on the petition to dissolve the Teton County Hospital District. The petition is located at the Fairfield Town Hall. Copies are also available at Fairfield Drug and at the Berry Patch.

NOTE: In the print edition, we incorrectly identified Jackie Weist as Sue Lattin. We apologize for the error.

NOTE: In the print edition, we incorrectly identified Jackie Weist as Sue Lattin in the photo cutline. We apologize for the error.

Petitions.

They are hard to escape nowadays.

It seems like someone is always asking you to sign their petition.

The folks asking for signatures to dissolve the Teton County Public Hospital District have an important reason to seek our signatures on the petitions they have placed around Teton County.

To give a quick review, on November 2, 1971, Teton County voters approved the hospital district with 1,959 voting yes and 706 voting no. On November 5, 1971 the Teton County Commissioners approved the resolution creating the hospital district.

Residents of Dutton and Power challenged the district with the claim that they would not use the hospital as much as other Teton County residents, arguing that it was quicker and easier for them to seem treatment in Great Falls. The challenge landed in the courts, and in January of 1977 the District Court ruled in favor of the challengers.

Those in the areas that challenged the district were exempt from the mill levy for the hospital district.

Fast-forward to 2015. The Teton County Hospital was sold to Benefis. With that sale, there was no longer any need for a hospital district.

After a waiting period to ensure that the obligations of the hospital district had been met, the old district can be dissolved.

After paying off debts and collecting what was due, the hospital district was left with a healthy balance of $497, 946.54 – almost half a million dollars (as of January 1, 2019).

And that money is just sitting in an account.

The money can’t be used by Benefis-Teton County Medical Center. Benefis is a private, non-profit operation. Teton County does not provide county funds in support of the current hospital.

The Sun Times has received quite a few inquiries on the matter, and dissolving the old hospital district does not impact Benefis-Teton County Medical Center.

But, by dissolving the hospital district, that money can be used by the county.

Asked by the Sun Times how the county would put those funds to use, Teton County Commissioner Joe Dellwo told the Sun Times, “The Teton County Commission has gone on record at multiple public meetings that the money turned over to the County when the Hospital District is dissolved will  be spent on medical services in the part of the County covered by the District. We will take input at a public meeting for ideas. The ambulance barn in Choteau has been mentioned. Paying off the loan on the Fairfield ambulance barn is another. The money will go into a special line item for medical services to make sure it is spent for only medical services.”

To get to that point, fifty-one percent of landowners in those areas of the county covered by the hospital district need to sign the petitions.

Who may sign? In the case of property under joint tenancy, all of the owners may sign. If the property is owned by a husband and wife, both can sign. If the property is held jointly by a group of people, each individual listed on the deed can sign.

In the case of corporations, partnerships, LLC’s, LL’s and LC’s, only one signature is needed. The signor should, in these cases, sign as the corporate entity with that person signing as “treasurer,” “secretary,” “partner,” etc.

Property owners who live outside of the county or the district can also sign, so long as they own property in those areas of Teton County that are within the boundaries of the district.

To meet the threshold of fifty-one percent of property owners, there will need to be about 2,000 signatures.

The process of circulating the petition began on Swim Day 2018.

Bill and Sue Lattin, Eva Anseth and Jackie Weist visited with the Sun Times recently and said that they have added several locations in Fairfield where property owners can sign the petition.

Fairfield Town Hall has had a petition for quite a while, but the petitions are now also available at the Berry Patch and at Fairfield Drug.

In Pendroy, the petitions can be signed at the Swanson Agency.

In Choteau, the petitions are available at the Teton County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, Choteau Library, the Senior Center, the Hallmark Store and at Rocky Mountain Insurance.

If you have questions or need additional information and live in the Fairfield area, you can call Bill Lattin, 467-2901 or Lynn Wright, 467-3398.

In Bynum, call Vickie Baker.

Choteau area property owners can contact Patti Blauer, 590-3811; Eva Anseth, 466-2334; Jackie Weist, 799-0954; Carol Cole, 231-0372; Mona VanDeReit, 403-3666; Rosalie Stern, 590-2566; Nancy Stott, 466-2504 or Debbie Saylor, 590-4125.