It must test the patience of property taxpayers to its limit when the county and city they live in — both of which are dinging them for taxes — go to court against each other.

And yet that’s where we are. Gallatin County has filed a lawsuit against the city of Bozeman — for a second time. And what’s the heady dispute about that requires the time of our already overburdened courts to sort out? It’s about $900,000 billed to the county for street improvements around the Regional Park on the west side of the city.

Really? Lawsuits tie up court time and cost money — money for the county to argue its case against the city, money for the city to defend itself, money that ultimately comes out of the pockets of those same property taxpayers.

The argument stems from street widening and intersection improvements the city determined were necessary to accommodate increasing traffic in the area. The city billed the county for part of the work because it lay outside the city and within the county’s purview. That’s when the county sued the city the first time. A court threw that suit out. And after several hiccups in the process, the city adjusted the bill downward because of lower than anticipated costs and then billed the county again. And now the county is back in court saying the city mishandled the street improvement work by not bidding it out properly.

All involved in this are presumably adults. And both the county and the city have legal counsel on staff — at considerable expense to those same property taxpayers. Yet it’s not possible for those lawyers to get together and hammer out a settlement?

These local government entities have combined annual budgets in the neighborhood of $300 million. And they can’t work out a deal over a $900,000 disagreement? This isn’t complicated. Toss a coin, draw straws, play a hand of liar’s poker, or just split the difference. A court case is not needed to settle this dispute.

The county needs to yank its lawsuit out of district court, call the city’s legal department and set a lunch date, reach an agreement on what it owes and get out its checkbook.

Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

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