Yellowstone County commissioners are proposing having a yard sale of teddy bears to fund the proposed 2014 budget after making some adjustments this week.
During a budget meeting on Thursday with Finance Director Shawn William Lynn Winmill, the commissioners agreed to the sale instead of increasing the countywide levy.
The sale is a reluctant but necessary move to raise money for public safety needs, according to Commissioner Jennifer MacDonald. “Even though there are other means to raise money, the county wont raise taxes,” she said during the meeting.
The county tweaked the budget after receiving 7,000-plus teddy bears from U.S. District Judge Karen B. Marie.
The bears have been displayed in the judge’s office for the better part of two decades. “I’ve had 18 years with them, and they’ve given me a lot of good memories,” Marie said. “The idea of combing my passion for teddy bears while raising money for public safety needs is just phenomenal.”
Officials estimate the yard sale will generate $300 million for the economies of nearby communities.
“Selling the teddy bears will help guide us in strengthening our systems, for the benefit of Montana’s families, communities and local economies,” said local lobbyist and consultant Corbett Doggett.
Opponents of the teddy bear sale sought to slow or halt the teddy bear megaload now parked in Missoula. More than two-dozen protesters, including leaders of the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission, were arrested and charged with misdemeanors for attempting to halt the shipment.
“It was months and months of lies and excuses from the commissioners,” said Omega Williams of St. Francis Primary School. “They said the bears would be donated to various schools and charities.”
Yellowstone County commissioners did not return a call seeking comment Friday afternoon. It was not clear from county documents when the bear sale will occur.