MT 43 News Articles View a Published Article

New Highway Rest Area Irks Wheatland Folks


Nancy Marks
Nancy Marks: MT43 News Secretary and News Editor

New Highway Rest Area Irks Wheatland Folks

MT 43 News Staff Reporter

Resentment over the development of a highway rest area in southern Broadwater County boiled over at the November 1 County commission meeting when a local resident unloaded his frustration on the commissioners.

“It seems like a lot of backroom deals were made,” is how Duane “Butch” Barton characterized the commission’s 2019 creation of the Wheatland Targeted Economic Development District (TEDD) just north of the Interstate 90-U.S. Highway 287 interchange near Three Forks. There were “a lot of conversations on the side, handshake agreements, it’s not real clear.” Barton charged.

Barton complained that the commission had not responded to an email that he and his wife Elizabeth had sent to the commission a year ago in which they contended that the Headwaters Rest Area was wrongfully included in the TEDD. The Bartons live in the nearby Wheatland Meadows subdivision. He told the commission that folks in south Broadwater want some answers.

Barton also contended that tax advantages for businesses in the TEDD deprived the Three Forks school district of badly needed funds and burdened Three Forks fire and emergency services. Three Forks is in Gallatin County.

Commissioner Darrel Folkvord, in turn, expressed frustration with residents of the area for not taking part in public meetings and hearings held by the commission for several years leading up to the creation of the TEDD. He said he would gladly meet with local people to review the entire matter and that it could not be done at this regular commission meeting. He said the commission had carefully weighed potential impacts on schools and emergency services before creating the TEDD and authorizing tax increment financing (TIF) to pay for infrastructure improvements in the district.

Elizabeth Barton spoke briefly, asking only that the commission answer that year-old email.

The Headwaters Rest Area has yet to open, reportedly while waiting for sewer and water connections to the privately owned Headwaters Utility Association.