Browning Closes City Offices Amid Financial Crisis

Town blames financial troubles on Blackfeet Tribal Business Council

By Justin Franz
Browning City Hall on Jan. 27, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The city of Browning was closed on Feb. 1, nearly a week after the mayor told its seven employees the city couldn’t afford to keep paying them.

On Monday, Browning Mayor William Morris told the Beacon that city offices were closed that day but he declined to speak further about the financial troubles his town faces. He said he did not know if or when the offices would reopen.

In December, the town announced that it was on the verge of bankruptcy and has even considered disincorporation. In a press release posted online, town officials blamed the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council for most of its struggles, specifically an ongoing legal battle over water and utility services.

For the last few years, questions have arisen about who owns the water system in Browning following a multi-million dollar expansion that was spearheaded by the town and the tribe. Unresolved lawsuits have been lodged from both sides in tribal and federal courts. Tribal officials dispute the claims that they are at fault for the town’s troubles.

If the town does go under, it is likely that Glacier County would have to start providing services like plowing and street repair.

About 1,000 people live in Browning, located in the heart of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.