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Polson commission authorizes PILT agreement with S&K Gaming

by KRISTI NIEMEYER
Editor | July 4, 2024 12:00 AM

The Polson City Commission unanimously approved a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) agreement with S&K Gaming during its regular meeting Monday.

The agreement covers a new casino slated for development by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on a 79-acre parcel of tribal land located across the Flathead River. The casino, bordered by Hwy. 93 and Irvine Flats Road, will occupy about 10 acres of the property, and is part of a multi-phase development that could eventually include a hotel, low-cost housing and an RV Park.

According to City Manager Ed Meece, construction isn’t expected to begin for at least a year although some excavation could get underway later this summer.

Meece told the commissioners that the city staff has been working with S&K Gaming to craft a PILT agreement that mimics payments made on “any non-tribal taxable property” in the city limits. To that end, they crafted an agreement that will charge S&K Gaming at a rate of 1.89% of the development’s market value – the same rate paid by other commercial properties in Polson.

S&K Gaming has estimated the initial build-out cost of the casino at $15 million, which would translate into an annual PILT payment of nearly $39,000.

Under the agreement, the City of Polson will invoice S&K Gaming by Dec. 1 each year, with payment due by Dec. 30. The initial agreement period is 25 years, and neither party may unilaterally terminate the PILT for the first five years.

S&K Gaming and the City of Polson will choose property appraisers on a rotating basis.

Meece called the agreement “the fairest way for us to have a relationship” since the city will provide the same services to the tribal property as it does to other Polson properties. 

“It also creates a template going forward,” he said. He suggested a similar agreement may work for other tribal entities in the city, such as KwaTaqNuk Resort and S&K Housing, which have PILT agreements that differ broadly. 

City commissioner Brodie Moll praised efforts that both parties put into crafting the agreement as “a great partnership,” while commissioner Jake Holley called it “a good investment,” noting that the city has few opportunities to increase revenue without raising taxes.

Commissioner Laura Dever inquired about the process of selecting members for the Polson City Government Review Commission, which was approved by voters in June. Under state law, voters in November will select up to five members to serve on the commission, which then has a year to study and suggest changes to city government. 

Meece suggested that those interested in serving should contact the Lake County Election Office to learn more about the process. Commissioner Jen Ruggless recommended that a notice posted on the city’s website and with the Polson Chamber of Commerce might help generate interest.

Meece informed that commission that the city had received “a clean audit report” for the second year in a row, an accomplishment he credited largely to recently retired finance director Kim Sassaman.

He also noted that the city has hired former city employee Jodi O’Sullivan as finance director, beginning July 15. A certified public accountant who has worked for Black Mountain Software in recent years, O’Sullivan also served as a reserve police officer and is a longtime volunteer firefighter.

“Kim left a pretty high bar, but if anyone can hit that, Jodi is the person to do it,” Meece said.

The city is also looking to hire a new golf superintendent, assistant golf superintendent and restaurant manager.

The commission heard from Lee Mannicke, who encouraged the city to mow the overgrown field south of the Catholic Church and north of Seventh Ave. “There’s a pretty good crop of weeds coming on,” he said.

Mannicke, who has lived in the neighborhood for 54 years, said three fires have ignited on that property since. In 2023, neighbors submitted a request that the city mow the open field and reduce the fire hazard. Although two attempts were subsequently made, neither was particularly successful due to the density of the undergrowth.

The field is the site of a proposed 24-unit affordable housing development for seniors, Polson Gardens, which will be discussed during a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. July 15 in the commission chambers.

The next regular commission meeting begins at 7 p.m. July 15.