Meeting describes interaction between BLM and county

 By Kay Braddock

        Prior to the May 6 road tour, Prairie County Board of Commission Chairman Todd Devlin recounted the events surrounding the May 4 grading of Scenic View Road. About 16 county officials and area economic representatives, including Rep. Dennis Rehberg’s field rep J.T. Korkow, attended the meeting and subsequent tour.

While working on the road Wednesday, May 4, county road supervisor Mark Trask was stopped by a constituent asking whether the county had permission to blade across federal ground, Devlin recounted. Trask explained that he was doing his job, following the instructions of the county commissioners. After the roadwork was finished, running a pass along the entire seven miles, Trask returned to the county road shop where he received a phone call from BLM’s Shane Findlay questioning Trask as to why the county was blading the road before the May 6 meeting. Trask said he was doing his job.
Devlin said he also spoke with the BLM on May 4, after returning a phone from BLM Field Manager Debbie Johnson. When asked whether road crews had bladed across federal grounds too, Devlin recounted replying, “Absolutely.”
When questions arose regarding whether the county could blade across the road running through federal grounds, Devlin said he pointed to the 1965 cooperative agreement. He then referred all remaining questions to Prairie County Attorney Becky Convery.
“... when I got that call I started calling people,” Devlin said of his conversation with Johnson.
On Friday morning county commissioner Marie Davis received a call from Johnson stating that BLM officials would not be attending the May 6 meeting, but would instead tour the road on their own. Davis said Johnson expressed concern regarding the number of people that would be attending the meeting.
“They are willing to work with us and they would like to meet with us and discuss the road someday, but not in a public arena,” Davis said of the BLM.
Convery pointed out that state law requires all meetings with county commissioners must be public.
“We met with them last October in private,” Convery said. “We’re not going to do it again. We will not meet with the BLM in private on this road again. Period. The public has a right to know.”
Published May 11, 2011

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