Gotta Question

Q:  It has been nearly a year since the Fallon County Economic Development Advisor position has been created and filled. How much did this position cost the County in the past year with department overhead, lobbying, benefits, etc.? Has it proven to be an asset to the County as predicted? If not, will this position remain in place after the probationary period is over?

Answered by The Fallon County Commission

A: “We will first address the portion of the question focused on how much the County Developer cost the County. The Commission considered the creation of the position to support, aid and promote the interests of Fallon County for several years. After careful consideration and research, the County Development Advisor position was developed. We budgeted $150,000 for the County Development Advisor; this amount is inclusive of wages, benefits and travel expenditures. During our fiscal year of July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 the actual total expenditures for this position were $134,511, coming in well under budget.”

“The second portion of the question asks if the County Development Advisor position has proven to be an asset to the County? The answer is a resounding yes! Let us speak specifically of the work and accomplishments of Jason Rittal, who is our County Development Advisor. Much of Jason’s recent work was detailed in a Fallon County Times article published May 26, 2017. This article provided a detailed synopsis of his involvement at the Montana Legislature, supporting and promoting the interests of Fallon County. His work included support of and opposition to key bills affecting local government as well as building relationships with legislators, lobbyists and more than a dozen influential established associations. These relationships provide ongoing, influential and effective dialog that not only benefits Fallon County but all of Eastern Montana.”

“If we look at the bottom line, Jason’s work has saved Fallon County tens of thousands of dollars:

•During the legislative season, Fallon County was paid $10,000 by private clients who utilized Jason’s lobbying services.

•By negotiating with the carrier company, Jason was able to reduce the County’s Workman’s Compensation premium by $12,000.

•We utilized Jason’s expertise and background in the insurance industry as he successfully prepared bid specifications in the recovery process from the July 2016 hailstorm. By completing this work and thus avoiding contracting this out, our County Development Advisor work saved us approximately $50,000.

•Furthermore, Jason continues to provide project oversight and coordinate/oversee our contractors as we continue with our hail recovery. Thus far, his work has saved us an additional $60,000 in contracting fees.

•Jason’s oversight and management of the Stanhope water and sewer project resulted in a savings of $35,000 in engineering fees.

•Jason procured a grant of $3,800 for our local Fire Department.

•Jason has provided invaluable guidance and expertise as we work in conjunction with FEMA in the clean up and restoration of Baker Lake following the tornado last June. As this continues as a work in progress, we do not have final monetary calculations.

•As a result of Jason’s work and influence with other individuals and associations at the Legislature, Fallon County and other Local Governments, not just the State of Montana, we’ll receive fuel tax revenues. Fallon County will receive approximately $160,000 annually.”

“The last portion of the question asks if the County Development Advisor position will remain in place after the probationary period: Yes! The probationary period has been met, with Jason’s job performance exceeding expectations. Is our County Development Advisor contributing to the fiscal growth of the county? Absolutely! Is our County Development Advisor promoting Fallon County and Eastern Montana’s interests? Unquestionably! Jason is an undeniable asset to us and we are proud he is a part of our Fallon County family. Our County Development Advisor will continue to help us serve the citizens of our county as well as Eastern Montana as we seek to better and protect our way of life.”

“As always, the Commission welcomes and encourages you to attend our sessions. We meet every Monday and the first full week of the month.”