By Joe Morey
LCO Secretary-Treasurer Jason Weaver presented the tribal budget to the membership at a meeting held in the new Sevenwinds Casino Conference Center on Saturday, Oct. 27. Several hundred tribal members attended the meeting.
“We have been operating within our means,” said Weaver. “We may have other sources of revenue coming but we haven’t included them in this budget so that we can plan our operations with the best actual estimate of income.”
Weaver asked the membership to support local businesses to help make them more profitable, which provides more funds for the membership.
“Every time you gas up at Kwik Trip or buy groceries at Walmart, it is money leaving our reservation. If we can’t sustain our businesses, we will have to close them,” Weaver said.
Weaver went on to thank Diane Peterson, the tribe’s chief financial officer, and the whole Accounting Dept. staff for doing so much to meet the tribe’s needs and to help get the tribe off of high-risk status.
“They are understaffed and completing a software upgrade that will increase our abilities to operate in the modern era. They have jobs posted and are looking for a few good accounting staff members,” Weaver said.
Following Weaver’s presentation, the tribal governing board (TGB) unanimously passed the FY2019 budget.
TGB member Tweed Shuman said additional funds have been added to the Elder Services portion of the budget which includes a $10,000 increase for home improvements and a $20,000 increase for snowplowing.
“Last year was a bad winter and we ended up spending more than we budgeted for with snowplowing, so this year we went ahead and added that extra money from the start,” Shuman said.
An additional $10,000 has been added to the auto repair budget for Elders as well.
Shuman said with a new deal almost signed concerning LCO Financial Services, the amount of employees the entity has will raise from 16 to 43 within a year. Their starting wages average $14 to $16 hourly, he said.
TGB Member Rose Gokee said the council approved the new Health Center Director, Dr. Jacqueline Bae, to work remotely as needed and keep in constant contact with Don Smith, assistant health director, until she is able to relocate here.
“Dr. Bae has a hard time getting here because she takes care of elderly family members back in Nevada,” said Gokee. “She is doing a great job for LCO, so please, be patient, she will be here soon.”
Gokee also reported to the membership that the TGB approved the use of the old Halfway House as a sober house, named “The Recovery House.”
“I want to acknowledge Dottie Crust for her work on this drafting policies and a budget,” said Gokee. “A workgroup comprised of Dottie, Tammy Bergum, Dr. Jacqueline Bae and myself will continue to meet regarding the formation of the Recovery House.”
Gokee said the target date to open the sober house is Nov. 19.
It was asked of the TGB if they are pulling back funds recently allocated to the school for a new playground. Weaver said the funds are still there and they are just waiting for the deposit of Enbridge funds.
“This works out better anyways because the project can’t begin till spring due to the weather,” Weaver said. “The current playground that is there now will also be used to put up a playground in another part of the reservation.”
LCO Vice Chairman said in his report the Big Fish Golf Course acquisition is still on the table and they are waiting on funds. He said the course was profitable this year and the course would make for a great marketing tool in general.
“We are looking at building a travel plaza at the corner and we can build homes there,” Schlender said. “We can connect with our youth and our veteran’s by holding fundraisers there.”
Some education updates Schlender presented included that he is advocating for a new gymnasium/storm shelter to be built at the early head start which could be used as another facility for the membership to hold larger gatherings.
“The K-12 school was approved for a grant to create an environmental school,” Schlender said. “The grant was in excess of $3 million and I’d like to acknowledge the grants department for this one. It provides options for our families and a top-notch education for our youth is what we strive for.”
Schlender said the college is moving forward with some progressive things happening, one of which included chartering the new environmental school.
TGB Member Joel Valentin told the membership that the LCO Fire Department is in serious need of volunteers. He called upon the youth to sign up and become a volunteer firefighter and go through the training.