- Written by John Plestina
After decades of off-and-on discussions about repairing and realigning Secondary Hwy. 327 in and near Bainville, the Roosevelt County Commissioners finally approved a Montana Department of Transportation memorandum of understanding Tuesday, April 15, that will allow the project to move forward.
The project includes paving, a bypass of Bainville and bridge replacement over Little Muddy Creek from U.S. Hwy. 2 to the North Dakota state line.
The commissioners delayed a decision Tuesday, April 1, in part because the full three-member commission wasn’t present.
With the MOU now signed, all phases of the project will be completed in one project with expected completion in 2017. If the county hadn’t signed the MOU, the project could have been done piecemeal and be spread out over far more than three years.
“That was one of our concerns that they would try to split the project,” commission presiding officer Duane Nygaard said.
“[The agreement with the MDT has] everything in there I wanted to see,” commissioner Gary Macdonald said.
Discussions during the April 1 commission meeting included that current and projected heavy truck traffic from the Bakken Oilfield has made the project urgent.
Highway 327, also known as the Bainville-Snowden Road, runs from the North Dakota state line southeast of Bainville into the town with access to U.S. Hwy. 2. The roadway also connects to a North Dakota state highway that goes to Williston, N.D.
Oasis Petroleum is planning to drill at least 50 new oil wells south of Bainville, according to Oasis spokesman Larry Skaare.
Bainville resident Wagner Harmon expressed concern about the current condition of the road and bridge and a projected increase in heavy truck traffic due to planned drilling during the April 1 meeting.
- Written by John Plestina
The message from several speakers during a public meeting held in the Fort Peck Lake Interpretive Center Thursday, April 10, was that flooding along the Missouri River in eastern Montana is unlikely this year unless there is substantial rainfall.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operations project manager John Daggett said there were 53.2 million acre feet of water in the total system on April 1.
There were 62.7 MAF in the total system on the same date in 2011.
Fort Peck Lake is 9.2 feet below annual flood control.
The Corps of Engineers is looking at potential mountain snowpack runoff during May and June, but there is not expected to be enough moisture to cause flooding without significant rainfall.
Snowpack water content is not as high as it was in 2011 when flooding impacted several communities along the Missouri River, including Wolf Point and Poplar.
The April 1 forecast was 32 million acre feet of water, 127 percent of average.
Mike Swenson of the Corps of Engineers reservoir control office in Omaha, Neb., said run-off started with an additional 5.5 MAF of flood control storage along the six-dam system due to the 2012 drought.
Fort Peck Lake’s share of that was 9.2 feet below the flood control level on April 7.
Record-high runoff and flooding in June 2011 damaged the spillway at the dam. A $42.9 million repair project has been ongoing.
Col. Bill Leady, deputy commander in the Corps of Engineers Northwest Division in Portland, Ore., said the spillway is usable, if needed, but use would add to contractors’ costs.
Fort Peck Dam, built during the 1930s, is the oldest of the six dams along the main stem reservoir system of the Missouri River Basin between Montana and St. Louis, Mo., and the second largest in capacity. Only Garrison Dam in North Dakota is larger.
- Written by John Plestina
When Bainville High School seniors take their senior trip to Phoenix, Ariz., in May, it might be one of the last senior trips for BHS.
Bainville School trustees authorized the current senior class to purchase airline tickets Wednesday, April 9, but mandated that the students come back before them during the May board meeting with questions answered if they want to actually go to Phoenix.
The future of senior trips might also be decided May 12.
Trustee Chris Hanson called for the board to revisit senior trips and if and when the annual trip should be discontinued.
Board members discussed the possibility that the current freshmen class could be the last senior class allowed to take a senior trip.
Before the current senior class receives final permission to make the trip to Phoenix, the students need to obtain a female chaperone who would be acceptable to the trustees before May 12 and agree to shorten the duration of the trip from five days to four days and up to two for travel. The plan includes a side trip to the Grand Canyon.
The students would be driven to and from the Billings airport and might have to stay overnight in Billings on the return trip.
Board chairman Dana Berwick said he was concerned that the seniors would not have enough money for eight days and recommended a shorter length for the trip.
The board voted to authorize the purchase of plane tickets with the caveat that a female chaperone be in place. If the trustees are not satisfied by the May school board meeting, they reserved the right to cancel the trip. In that event, the students could be charged a cancellation fee or possibly lose the cost of the tickets.
Board member Chanon Romo said he was not happy with the plan, but he conceded that the students put a lot of time into planning the trip. He made the motion to allow the students to purchase the airline tickets.
In other business, Berwick expressed concern that the school district could lose Concentric Circle funding. That is money paid by the state to school districts where neighboring districts receive more than 130 percent in oil and gas revenue. The funds spill over into neighboring districts.
“The governor has got the notion to capture the Concentric Circle money. He is eyeballing it. The money would go to away from our schools and go Pre-K,” said Berwick.
District clerk Marsha Schmidt told the board the school board election will be settled by acclamation if there are no write-in candidates. Only Berwick is up for election this year and no one filed to oppose him.
The board did not vote on two candidates for coaching positions with the fall volleyball program after there were discussions of developing a new policy for the way coaches are hired. The board is likely to revisit this issue and the open positions in May.
The board voted to move forward with the purchase of two new double-wide mobile homes at $75,725 each plus utility hookups and place them on a district-owned lot for housing for new teachers.
Maintenance supervisor Chuck Hyatt said a district-owned house on Main Street is not able to be occupied due to asbestos and water damage.
Hyatt said the cost of asbestos abatement, demolition and removal would be $41,845.
The board discussed demolition and new construction of teacher housing and the possibility of selling the house to a private party with disclosure about the asbestos and retaining part of the property for a new house or fixing the house and selling part or all of the land.
The board also authorized the expenditure of up to $13,000 for the purchase of new classroom furniture.
- Written by John Plestina
The boom might be about to get louder in eastern Roosevelt County as Oasis Petroleum prepares to drill about 50 new wells south of Bainville.
“We’ve got 98 wells in Montana at the present time. Most of them are in Roosevelt County right around Bainville and a few in Richland County,” Oasis’ Williston, N.D.-based spokesperson Larry Skaare said.
“We’ve got two rigs that are drilling over there [in the Bainville area] now. One rig will drill between 12 and 24 wells. We might be able to get two wells a month,” he said.
“This will be ongoing for next two years for sure,” Skaare said.
“That would be close to 50 more wells over two years,” he said, adding that it could be more than 50 wells.
Some people said Oasis plans to drill several hundred new oil wells south of Bainville during a recent Roosevelt County Commissioners’ meeting.
Skaare placed the number of future wells much lower.
How many total wells?
“It all depends what happens in the ground,” he said, adding that hitting good oil production would drive a need for continuing drilling.
Other companies are also drilling in eastern Roosevelt County.
Increased drilling and production in the Bainville area translates to more jobs and people relocating to Bainville and Culbertson.
“It will allow people to move in [to eastern Roosevelt County] or commute from Sidney or Williston,” Skaare said.
Both communities lack available rental housing.
We put an average of 100 men to take care of one well, Skaare said. He was referring to the drillers, truck drivers, pumpers and roustabouts.
“It depends on the size of the field,” Skaare said.
“It’s always fun to grow and the company loves to grow. We’re trying to do it right,” he said.
“We don’t want to get into a position where it would cause problems for landowners or anyone else. We just want to do it right,” Skaare said.
Texas-based Oasis Petroleum raised $400 million of long-term debt during November 2011 to fund the company’s drilling program and operations, according to information on Oasis’ website. The company purchased a substantial amount of leases on land in eastern Montana during 2010.
- Written by John Plestina
Culbertson School trustees decided not to ask voters for a tax levy during a special meeting Monday, April 7.
The school board scheduled the special meeting during the March 24 board meeting. Superintendent Larry Crowder said at that time that the district is eligible to levy $8,600 for the elementary school and $168 for the high school.
The school district could lose about $11,000 in oil money by not having a levy, because a levy would increase the budget.
Voters May 6 will consider three candidates for positions on the board of trustees. They are incumbents Amanda Cullinan and Ron Larsen, both of which filed nomination papers by the March 27 deadline. Write-in candidate Cassandra Bergum met the April 10 deadline for write-in votes to be counted.
The trustees also approved a bus fuel credit card for extra curricular trips only during the special meeting.
In another matter, the board approved a request by the McCann Family Trust to release a 105-year-old right-of-way to clear up a deed. The 1909 right-of-way was given for future construction of a school that was never built. The right-of-way had remained on books.
The board also approved reimbursement for class credits a teacher took for recertification.