Health board selects officers; county receives one application for health officer so far

Discussions on the operation of the joint city-county health department are ongoing between the city and the county and it trickled to the health board during their Jan. 5 meeting.

The board discussed the appointment of officers during their meeting, as is customary at the start of a new year, but two members suggested waiting to determine their own leadership until the county made an appointment to make a full board.

County waiting to make health board appointment until discussions with city settled

County Commissioner Joe Briggs said that the county won’t fill its seat until the county and city reach an agreement.

The city and county are operating under a temporary agreement that is set to expire in June while they determine the structure of the joint health department going forward.

The City-County Health Department has been operating under a 1975 agreement that has not been updated or modified since and has also not been followed in a number of ways, according to officials.

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Briggs said that the structure of the health department and/or the board could change as a result of those discussions and the county would not make an appointment until that was determined.

Briggs said that in the meantime, the health board needs a chair and he said that it wouldn’t be appropriate for the board to delay electing officers.

City considering temporary agreement for joint health department

Carey Ann Haight, deputy county attorney, said that she’d prefer the health board have its leadership established as opposed to more interim items.

“We’re operating in limbo in a certain regard as it is,” Haight told the board.

Tom Moore, superintendent of Great Falls Public Schools and a health board member, said that he didn’t understand the county’s argument of not having interim board leadership while the county was postponing an appointment under the interim agreement.

City, county continue debate over management of health department

Matt Martin, a dentist and health board member, said that he has served as vice chair and because he has a lot going on personally and professionally, would prefer not to chair the board, but was willing to take the responsibility due to the lack of options.

“In this political climate, I’m going to get chewed up and spit up,” Martin said, but that he would serve the needs of the board.

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The board has a heavy upcoming docket with the restructuring discussions and selecting a new health officer.

Briggs told the board that the county had received one local application and been told that two were in the mail from out of town applicants.

Bowen Trystianson, the interim health officer, said he did not apply for the job.

He said that the position is open until filled and that they’ll develop a review process with the health board to select the new health officer, though the governing body is the decision maker. That body is the county commission with one non-voting city commissioner, under the interim agreement.