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What the Lockwood Transportation District did in 1983 may have been illegal, according to a county attorney opinion, released last week.
To have imposed a mill levy to help fund the building of the Johnston Lane Intersection was “inappropriate,” said Deputy County Attorney Dan Schwarz, in presenting to Yellowstone County Commissioners, a formal legal opinion about the authority of the Lockwood Transportation District. The district was formed in 1983, specifically to raise,— through a voter approved mill levy— funds to build the interchange. In fact, intentions were to dissolve the District after achieving that goal.
The District was never dissolved, however, and after sitting dormant for 14 years, a group of Lockwood residents have been attempting to utilize its authority to address a myriad of transportation needs in the Lockwood community. Their efforts have led to conflicts with Yellowstone County Commissioners and differences of opinion regarding what the District can do. After several years of debate, and some discord, county commissioners submitted a request, earlier this year, to County Attorney Scott Twito, to issue an opinion as to exactly what authority the District has under Montana law.
Essentially, Twito’s opinion says that the only purpose, under state law, for transportation districts is to deal with issues regarding mass transit systems, such as bus or train systems. He based the opinion primarily on the definition of terms in the phrase “transportation services and facilities,” which is the only stated purpose for such districts in the law. There is no mention of roads or highways. So, what was done over 25 years ago, was not a legal use of transportation districts, said Schwarz, who presented the opinion in Twito’s absence.
The statute states that the purpose of transportation districts is to authorize “the establishment of urban transportation districts to supply transportation services and facilities to district residents and other persons.”
Twito’s written opinion reads “Not one statute found… makes reference to roads, county roads or highways. Conversely, other entire statutory sections are replete with the County’s duties as to roads as exercised by the BOCC.” (Board of County Commissioners.)
The Big Sky Business Journal
P.O. Box 3262
Billings, MT 59103