DILLON – Though the Rainbow numbers are down, the money figures aren’t, and Gov. Steve Bullock is sending relief to Beaverhead County.
On Monday, the governor signed a state of emergency executive order for the county, allowing Beaverhead access to state emergency money and services to cover the cost of the Rainbow gathering near Jackson.
The county commissioners — Garth Haugland, Mike McGinley and Tom Rice — voted unanimously Monday to levy two taxes totaling $26,789 on the unincorporated towns in Beaverhead County to gain access to the state money and services. Because they are incorporated, residents of Dillon and Lima won’t be taxed.
The county will have to spend the levy amount and an extra $3,100 in reserves before it taps into the state money, according to David Marx, the director of disaster and emergency services for Beaverhead County.
Marx said the county had budgeted $123,000 to manage the Rainbow gathering, but said he expects the actual costs to exceed that.
The Forest Service estimates that the number of people at the Rainbow gathering was around 6,000 as of Monday. On July 1, 2000, about 19,000 Rainbow people gathered in the same spot, according to statistics provided by the Forest Service.
“Even with less people, they are having a greater impact,” Marx said. “It’s a younger, rowdier crowd.”
And despite the lower turnout for this year’s gathering, at least one area hospital is seeing a higher volume of patients than 2000.
Carol Kennedy, chief clinical officer for Barrett Hospital and Healthcare in Dillon, said as of Monday the hospital had received 49 emergency room visits from people with the Rainbow gathering at a total cost of $101,000. The hospital received a total of 30 ER visits in 2000 from Rainbow Family members.
Barrett Hospital will have access to state emergency money to help cover those costs.
Kennedy is hopeful that a medic tent setup last week at the gathering and manned by Rainbow volunteers, including an ER doctor from Kentucky and a midwife from Missoula, will reduce the number of Rainbows visiting the Barrett emergency room.
Haugland said that along with Barrett’s recent spate of expenses, law enforcement and other county services have been strained. He said the county jail has had double the typical population in the last week, and that some county employees who normally work part-time have had to work full-time.
Along with law enforcement and the hospital, Marx said sanitation, public health, and disaster relief services have also been hit hard.
Commissioner Haugland said the county had little option but to levy the taxes.
“Unfortunately, we had to decide on the two mills so some people could put on a party,” he said. “We didn’t have any other option.”
— Reporter Francis Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org