County spinning planning out of public works department; creating new special projects manager position

Cascade County is reorganizing the Public Works department.

The changes are coming as the department director is retiring from the position and moving to a full-time job with Alluvion Health. He will be filling a newly created part-time position to continue overseeing special projects within the county, effective Aug. 1.

The county is splitting key functions within the department into newly formed departments with directors reporting directly to the County Commission.

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“The Commissioners recognize the complexity of the work and feel citizens will be better served if some of the critical tasks are divided into separate departments that can better manage the immense and diverse workload,” Commissioner Joe Briggs said in a release.

Three changes to the Public Works Department are underway and will be fully implemented when staffing is in place.

The first step is separating the Planning Division from public works to form a Planning Department.

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The county is currently hiring for a planning director. Sandor Hopkins, a county planner, is serving as interim director since Ian Peyton, the former deputy public works director overseeing planning left the county in June.

The new planning director will report directly to the County Commission and administer all activities related to the planning function, including management and implementation of zoning regulations; review and management of the growth policy; oversight of subdivision regulations; floodplain enforcement; the MS4 storm water management program; junk vehicle retrieval; community decay enforcement; permitting processes; and staff support to the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustments.

The planning board is currently reviewing staff proposed revisions to the county zoning regulations and recently reviewed the growth policy and determined no update was necessary. The ZBOA is currently reviewing a special use permit from Big Sky Cheese, the first phase of the proposed Madison Food Park, a multispecies food processing plant east of the city limits on U.S. Highway 89.

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“The Planning Department oversight is critically important at this time in Cascade County with recent discussions regarding the growth policy and the controversy surrounding a Special Use Permit application. We are looking for an experienced planner who communicates well with the public and has the supervisory experience to lead this department and the future land use development and planning functions throughout the county,” Briggs said in a release.

The county is hoping to fill the position by September.

The second piece of the re-organization plan is the creation of a part-time special projects manager to research and manage major special projects including but not limited to facility design/remodeling/construction, major road reconstruction or other projects that require construction oversight and contract management.

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“The county is fortunate to have retained Brian’s expertise. He has chosen to accept a position with the Community Health Care Center, dba Alluvion Health; but agreed to continue to serve the county in a newly defined, albeit reduced role which is needed due to the plethora of projects on the docket for the future,” Briggs said in a release.

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Those projects include the completion of the remodel on the Paddock Club at Expo Park, the addition of two classrooms and a new roof on the Juvenile Detention Center; and future remodeling of the former Tribune Building which currently houses the County Planning, Treasurer, Attorney and Clerk and Recorder offices.

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Depending on the outcome of ongoing design efforts for the Montana Expo Park, the special projects manager will also be involved with any funded facility infrastructure improvements there.

As the planning department spins off and the creation of the special projects manager, the Public Works department will now consist of the following functions: road and bridge, building maintenance, Expo Park maintenance, fleet maintenance, weed and mosquito control and telecommunications divisions.

Les Payne, current deputy public works director, will assume interim management of the re-organized department beginning Aug. 1.

The county is also currently hiring for a permanent public works director. The county is hoping to fill the position by September.

“Separating the planning and special projects functions into two distinct departments creates a more homogenous functionality and manageable workload for the Public Works department. We believe the public will be better served with these changes,” Commissioner Jane Weber said in a release.

The Public Works department was last re-organized more than a decade ago when the planning, road, mosquito, weed, GIS, Expo Park maintenance, fleet maintenance and telecommunications divisions were combined under the current Public Works department.

“The issues facing the county warrant additional staff oversight to ensure our constituents receive the attention they deserve, and the county functions are appropriately supervised,” Briggs said in a release.