By now you have probably heard all about the controversy surrounding the First United Methodist Church in downtown Great Falls.  First there was an encampment that sprung up in the church parking lot all started by encouragement by church officials. That was over a year ago. Then the city filed suit against the church and the encampment was removed early this past summer.

Now the church has a new problem.  They are again letting people stay on church property.  Church pastor Dawn Mauer-Skeritt tells us the church is trying to show compassion by letting people stay on the property.  Then, a week ago a woman was found dead on the property.  An autopsy showed she died of natural causes brought on by alcohol.

On the KMON morning show this week Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter had some harsh words for the church saying the church needs to be held accountable.

The sheriff says he gets reports all the time about things happening at the church.

The sheriff also had some harsh words for the church pastor.

Pastor Dawn Mauer-Skeritt says the church just met with police this week and have come up with a plan she feels good about. When asked if she would share the plan, she said, no. And instead will wait for police to release the plan.

Sheriff Slaughter says the church is beyond irresponsible and what is happening at the church needs to stop.

The sheriff added, this is not Seattle or Portland and the church should not  be bringing this crap here.  He called it an open air drug market and the church is not helping anybody.

Pastor Mauer-Skeritt says, our ministry is evolving and we have every intention of buckling down on the issue of people trespassing on church property.  And she hopes the sheriff will want to sit down and talk to church officials. We will be reaching out to city officials to see what the plan is for the church.  When we find out,  you will find out.

More From The River 97.9