County Rainbow Gathering expenses top $200,000

Rainbow Family members celebrate July 4 following their world peace prayer. While the family enjoyed a party atmosphere, Beaverhead County residents face a steep tab. J.P. Plutt photo


The numbers are in and the impact to Beaverhead County, all non-incorporated areas under the jurisdiction of the county government, of this summer’s Rainbow Family Gathering totaled nearly $230,000.  That figure does not include costs incurred by the Forest Service, a federal entity that came in with a budget of $400,000 to deal with the annual event, or the City of Dillon which chose not to submit a disaster declaration to the state of Montana.

For Beaverhead County to become eligible for the emergency funding, they had to make a disaster declaration and pass a two mill levy.    The estimated cost to county taxpayers of the levy is $26,886.  In addition, the cash balance of $3,100 in the county’s Disaster Fund added to the emergency levy is deducted from any amount of disaster relief the state decides to send to the county.

The largest share of Beaverhead County’s disaster relief request comes from the impact on Barrett Memorial Hospital.  With and estimated Rainbow Family Gathering population of 9,700, there were 105 visits to the hospital and many were uninsured patients.  The impact on the hospital totaled $193,132.68.  The expense breakdown included $188,775.75 for uncollectible patient charges, $3,838.88 for extra security staff, and around $500 for additional staffing and financial assistance with prescriptions.

By comparison, the 2000 Rainbow Family Gathering at the same location near Jackson attracted an estimated 23,000 family members but just 40 visits to the hospital for an impact of $124,190.

Beaverhead County Disaster and Emergency Services Director David Marx compared this year’s Rainbow event with the recently held Red Pants concert in the White Sulphur Springs area.  Red Pants drew and estimated 10,000 concert goers for the week-long event and had no impact on the local hospital.

“That is a really good comparison just to show you the type of crowd that comes with the Rainbow group,” said Marx.

The expense to Emergency Medical Services, the Dillon area ambulance service, totaled $16,500 for second on the list.

The balance of reimbursement requests included prisoner meals and officer mileage $8,664.28, DES salary and benefits $8,366.86, Jackson Volunteer Fire Department $1,988.92, supplies $1,067.84, in-kind $1,633.38, Equipment rental $1,904, mileage $140.12, and road salary and benefits $722.79.

The total impact came to $234,763.93 which will drop to a reimbursement request of $204,254.86 after the emergency two mills and cash balance from the disaster fund ($29,866) is deducted.

“Hopefully, we can get everybody reimbursed,” said Marx.  “They’re going to go through there and audit it and they may find things that are not eligible.”

Marx has been working with Tim Thennis, the Montana DES Response and Recovery Bureau Chief, on the disaster relief.

Marx said the documentation of the Beaverhead County expenses will be submitted to Thennis and his staff.  Following an audit, the staff will make a recommendation on how much Beaverhead County can be reimbursed under the provisions of state law.