Commission votes to raise sheriff pay, expand Windrider

Jason Bacaj — Enterprise Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The Park County Commission voted Tuesday morning to raise pay for the sheriff by about 11% and to sign a grant allowing the expansion of Windrider service to include a half day Saturday and once weekly medical rides to Bozeman.

A bill passed by the state Legislature in the most recent session authorized Montana counties to approve a discretionary increase in sheriff’s salary above what’s recommended by the local compensation board. County staff recommended increasing the pay of Park County Sheriff Brad Bichler to roughly $73,000.

“I think we’ll be ready to respond if we need to, to be competitive,” said Steve Caldwell, commission chairman. “This is a good first start and I think it’s timely.”

Commissioners also formalized a $70,000 grant received by Park County’s free public transit service, Windrider. The grant comes from the National Rural Transit Assistance Program.

Included in the expanded services are a half day Saturday, starting Oct. 23, which people have asked about but the county hasn’t been able to afford, said Kristen Galbraith, Park County director of grants and special projects.

In addition to Saturday service, Windrider will offer dial-a-ride services for medical and dental appointments within the city of Livingston twice a week starting in November. Residents who have appointments with medical specialists in Bozeman will be able to catch a ride over the pass once a week.

In other business, commissioners voted to:

• Have engineers put together prospective details for a roughly 60-foot pedestrian bridge that would span Fleshman Creek and connect the dog park by Mayor’s Landing with Lewis Street, near O Street. The connector bridge is an addition to a project looking into building a pedestrian bridge over the Yellowstone River in the same area. Public comment on the project is open through the end of October.

• Sign a contract to build a communications tower for emergency services.

• Approve using American Rescue Plan Act funds to purchase equipment to perform vision screenings at schools.

• Amend the job description for a road operator. The changes give the road operator six months to acquire a Commercial Driver’s License and are intended to incentivize people to apply to the two open positions.

• Approve an open container waiver for the annual fundraiser dinner for St. Mary’s Catholic School.