Voters decide future of Hardin government, law enforcement, jail - KULR8.com | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Voters decide future of Hardin government, law enforcement, jail

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Hardin Mayor Jack Lane Hardin Mayor Jack Lane

When Big Horn County general election ballots go out, the future of Hardin's government, law enforcement, and jail is in the hands of voters. 

KULR-8's Melinda Lee spoke with Hardin's Mayor, Jack Lane, about these ballot issues that could mean big changes for the small town. 

One ballot issue is an amended plan of the city of Hardin government. If passed, Hardin would adopt a commission-manager form of government proposed by the Hardin City Study Commission in place of the current mayor form of government. 

Lane said this type of government may work for Billings, but he feels Hardin lacks the resources. 

"My only objection is that I think it's more expensive than the city can afford," Lane said. "We're basically volunteers, and for what one city manager would cost, you could probably pay for a mayor like me and city councilmen."

Money is certainly a factor in the other two ballot issues impacting Hardin this election. 

In the City of Hardin, Montana Law Enforcement Mill Levy, voters are asked to approve raising the law enforcement levy. 

At this time, Hardin does not have a police force, relying on the Big Horn Sheriff's Department and its deputies instead. Lane said this money would come from taxes, but would also help keep the city safer by providing funds for the Sheriff's staff, which recently underwent budget cuts. 

According to the ballot, the estimated impact of this levy raise in taxes to a home valued at $100,000 would be $43.15, while the impact in taxes to a $200,000 home would be $86.29 (based on 2015 taxable value).

"We try to keep taxes as low as we can because we are not a rich city, we have lots of people on low income," Lane said, "if we get adequate resources into our law enforcement, we can improve and create a safer more stable community."

The third ballot issue addresses one of those law enforcement resources: the Big Horn County Jail.

In a bond issue, voters are asked to approve an $11.6M project (with $5M from county) to replace the current jail with a new one. 

"There are some people who just have to be put in jail, and we are out of space to do that," Lane said, "the new facility would have 60 to 70 beds, and we determined it would be more cost effective for the county to build their own jail than to renovate (the old one)."

Lane said the new, larger jail would also bring more jobs (such as jail staff) to the community.

While Lane feels that Hardin's current form of government is "working smoothly," he leaves the fate of his job in voters' hands, and remains optimistic about the future of Hardin, Montana. 

"I like the town, I like the community, I like the people, I have a lot of confidence that they will make the right decision," Lane said. "I'm not positive what that decision will be, but I think it will work out for the best."

Hear from Lane about the upcoming election on KULR-8 News.

For more information on Hardin, we recommend visiting the city's page at http://www.hardinmt.com/

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