Monday, June 24, 2024

County library district initiative fails; voters pick Duram over Letcher

The Western News | June 7, 2024 7:00 AM

Lincoln County voters denied District 3 Commissioner Josh Letcher a second term and also voted down an initiative to create an independent library district in Tuesday’s primary election.

According to results on the Montana Secretary of State website, Eureka resident Noel Duram collected 1,928 votes to Letcher’s 1,792.

Duram will be opposed in the general election by Democrat Doug Davies and Independent Brian Phillips. Davies was uncontested on the Democratic ticket. He received 896 votes.

Letcher’s six-year term ends Dec. 31, 2024.

For the library district initiative, 2,346 voters were against it while 2,271 supported it. The county’s budget crisis led commissioners to approve putting the question of forming a separate library district on the primary election ballot.

The 104-year-old county library system will continue to operate under the current county structure, but with reduced funding and fewer services. 

Also, according to a May 24 press release from Congressman Ryan Zinke’s office, he nominated the Troy branch of the system to receive $1.5 million in federal money for the conversion into the Troy Library and Opportunity Center. Zinke submitted that and other requests to the federal House Appropriations Committee, of which he is a member.

For county Clerk and Recorder, Corrina Brown received 61% of the votes, 2,063, to top her challenger Lorrene Henson, who received 1,303. Brown was appointed to the position when former clerk Robin Benson resigned in March 2023.

In the election for the newly formed state House District 2 seat, which encompasses an area from Marion to Libby, Marion resident Tom Millett beat Libby’s Tom Jenkins. In Lincoln County Millett collected 903 votes to 786 for Jenkins. In Flathead County, Millett had 363 While Jenkins received 163.

Millett will face Democrat Elizabeth Story. She was uncontested and received 480 votes in Lincoln County and 57 in Flathead.

Also on the ballot were study commission questions for the county and the municipalities of Libby, Troy, Eureka and Rexford.

Voters overwhelmingly supported the creation of study commissions in the county, Libby, Troy and Eureka. In Rexford, the study commission was voted down, 4-1.

Required every 10 years, the local government review election asks voters to decide if they want to review their local government. The purpose of the study commission is to look at the existing form and powers of the local government and compare them with other forms available under the laws of the State of Montana. 

The study commission members must write a report detailing their recommendations for changes to the county government.

For the county, the local study commission would include five members. According to the resolution, the cost to operate the commission would not exceed $59,000.

In Libby, the study commission will include three members whom would be elected in the Nov. 5 general election. If voters give it the OK, a tax levy not exceeding $30,000 would support the 3-person study commission to examine the City of Libby government and submit recommendations on it. City officials estimated the cost of putting the question on the ballot to be $8,000.

For Troy, its study commission will include three members and the cost would not exceed $5,000.

Following the studies, the respective commission would either say no changes are needed or make recommendations for change to voters by November 2026.

The county saw a poor voter turnout with just under 35% of registered voters casting ballots. It was similar to statewide figures that showed only 40% voted.

    Lincoln County election judges assist a voter Tuesday, June 4, 2024, at the Memorial Center during the primary election. (Scott Shindledecker/The Western News)
    Two Lincoln County election judges run primary election ballots through the tabulating machine on the night of Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Scott Shindledecker/The Western News)