- Associated Press - Thursday, December 24, 2015

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) - Officials in a small Montana town say they will have to disincorporate the community or declare bankruptcy over an ongoing dispute with the Blackfeet Tribe about water and utility services.

In a press release, the town of Browning said it was in a dire financial condition because of a legal battle with the tribe, reported the Flathead Beacon (https://bit.ly/1RIWEOd ).

“The lawsuits filed by the Blackfeet Tribe, Two Medicine Water Company and certain tribal members have had the same goal: to eliminate the Town of Browning by bleeding it financially dry,” officials wrote in the press release.

There are unresolved lawsuits from both communities over ownership of the water system. There groups have been arguing for the past few years, ever since they joined forces for a multi-million dollar expansion of the system.

The tribe doesn’t want to see Browning disappear, said Blackfeet Tribal Business Council Chairman Harry Barnes, “but obviously there are some jurisdictional questions between the town and tribe.”

But Browning officials say the town doesn’t have the resources to keep going, so the two sides must reach a compromise immediately or “the Town of Browning will cease to exist.”

Browning Mayor Willie Morris did not return calls from The Beacon.

Barnes said he doesn’t want the town to go under but is skeptical about officials’ claims that the lawsuits are to blame for all their problems.

“They’re facing tough financial issues and they’re blaming it on the tribe. Does the town need more revenue? Probably,” he said. “Every government I’ve ever seen needs more revenue.”


Information from: Flathead Beacon, https://www.flatheadbeacon.com

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