CHOTEAU — The City of Choteau was alarmed to discover that on July 3, 2023, heading into Independence Day festivities, refuse dumping would be halted at the end of the July 1, 2023, fiscal year.
Mayor Chris Hindoien received a call at 3:00 pm on Monday with news that Northern Montana Joint Refuse Disposal District lacked liability insurance. Following that call, the mayor ordered his City Trucks to dump at its roll-off site before the end of the business day to ensure some coverage for the remainder of the week.
“The tough part for us was the last-minute notice, we should have known more. We should have been kept in the loop.” Hindoien said. “That may be the fact that the board wasn't kept in the loop. We'll look at it from the city side and say we asked for a different contract so that if they don't have the renewal within 30 days of renewal time, they don't have one procured. They let us know so we could start looking for other options.”
The problem comes from the Montana Association of Counties, an organization that covers counties in several facets. MACO gave NMJRDD six months' notice that its coverage would not span to waste management. Mayor Hindoien who is an insurance agent in his day trade says that coverage for refuse districts is a difficult find.
Dick Snellman is a Teton County Commissioner and board member for the NMJRDD Board of Directors and for the Waste Management board, it was a waiting game to receive proposals from four different insurance agencies.
“We looked in a lot of places, and I know there was a minimum of four different companies that they were requesting bids from, in quotes, but they didn't materialize.” He explained.
NMJRDD covers nearly four counties in waste disposal services. The City of Choteau was a model for neighboring counties, filing a waiver that allowed for their city trucks to dispose of at the site. The concern from the mayor was the time in which it would take to NMJRDD to find liability coverage, seek quotes from Great Falls dump sites and calculate the cost a garbage truck would cost at nearly five miles per gallon of diesel.
Luckily, for city residents and surrounding communities, a deal was voted on by the NMJRDD board via email and few details on the plan are known at this time.
“We do have a signed proposal from an insurance company,” said Snellman.
As of late Friday morning, when a proposal was agreed upon, Snellman had no indication of what the price of the coverage plan is or what company it is for. Therefore, he has no indication as to what this would cost taxpayers in the future.
The NMJRDD Board of Directors is working on finding an insurance company that covers all its insurance needs entirely. For now, the most important, liability is covered and services are estimated to begin Tuesday morning.