- Written by Angela Rose Benson
Fundraising efforts are underway for upgraded playground equipment and other improvements at Bruegger Centennial Park. (Photos by Angela Rose Benson)
For Culbertson Playgroup members Amber Fox and Amanda Alandt, cleaning up Bruegger Centennial Park, also known as “the bear park,” is about creating a better playground for not just their children, but for all children.
Together, with the help of other members of the group, as well as the community, they hope to make equipment improvements through several planned fundraisers that will enable younger children to enjoy outside playtime.
A Saturday, Sept. 12 event they are calling “Painting with Friends,” is set for 5:30 p.m., and will be hosted at the Culbertson Town Hall. There, those who attend will be painting on canvases while following an instructor and socializing with friends from Culbertson and surrounding areas. The $35 ticket price covers the cost for an individual’s painting supplies. Anyone who buys a ticket and attends the event will be entered in a drawing to win a discounted ticket for a future event.
All proceeds will go toward the upcoming improvement project.
Alandt attended a town council meeting and explained the Culbertson Playgroup’s plans to help repair Bruegger Centennial Park to the council. The council was supportive of the idea and open to any changes that meet legal and liability requirements.
“While we have seen older children playing on the park’s equipment, a majority of the kids are preschool-aged and it’s somewhat difficult for the younger children to play on,” said Fox.
“Our kids really like this park. It just needs a little tender love and care. Some of the equipment is well-worn or missing pieces. This park is also used for town gatherings, like the Centennial celebrations, and it’s one of the first public facilities you see when entering Culbertson,” she said.
The group plans to host several community events throughout the winter months, while saving all the raised funds in an account set up at Richland Federal Credit Union in Culbertson. There, donations can be given directly.
In the spring of 2016, Culbertson Playgroup plans to begin the cleanup of Bruegger Centennial Park. After the repairs are completed, the group will continue raising money until new equipment can be purchased.
- Written by John Plestina
Several members of the Wolf Point Police Department, Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office and Montana Highway Patrol attended a Montana Department of Revenue alcohol law enforcement training in Wolf Point Wednesday, Aug. 26.
The DOR is educating law enforcement officers and the public across the state about enforcement of existing liquor laws and the need to change a deeply ingrained Montana drinking culture that is stubbornly resistant to change.
Montana ranks first in the nation for alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 people, highest in the nation for fatalities per 100 million miles traveled and third at almost 40 percent of fatalities related to alcohol.
Lisa Scates, a Helena-based Montana DOR alcohol education coordinator, told local law enforcement officials and officers that the drinking culture in Montana is very strong.
“We’re fighting a tough battle,” she said.
Scates said 65 percent of crime nationwide begins or ends at a bar or liquor store.
Wolf Point police chief Jeff Harada said that percentage is low for Wolf Point.
Scates said alcohol-caused crimes include assaults, domestic violence and sexual assaults.
According to Montana Department of Corrections statistics, 90 percent of inmates had alcohol or drugs or both related to the crimes of which they were convicted.
Scates said the percentage of crimes that are related to both alcohol and marijuana are increasing.
She said powdered alcohol and alcohol-filled chocolates are not illegal in Montana. She compared powdered alcohol to Kool-Aid packets that become beverages when water is added.
“How easy that is to entice kids to try that,” she said.
Scates said the DOR denied a cereal-flavored vodka called Loopy with a Fruit Loops-style design on the bottle.
“It’s perfectly legal for a bar to make Jell-O shots and sell them,” she said and added that it is not legal to sell in stores. Scates also cited alcohol-filled chocolates, which are illegal in Montana.
“There’s bacon-flavored vodka. There’s salmon-flavored vodka,” she said.
Scates cited Washington state, which deregulated alcohol sales four years ago with a voter approved liquor privatization initiative.
The availability of alcohol increased with the number of retailers increasing from 338 state stores to more than 1,700 private stores.
Large retailers lobbied voters to approve the initiative.
“Costco spent about $33 million,” Scates said.
“They’re now dealing with the consequences [in Washington],” she said.
“The cost of alcohol has gone through the roof. Their grab and runs [shoplifting of alcohol] has gone up,” Scates said.
She said “border stores,” which are liquor stores in Oregon just across the state line from Washington, have benefited.
“Washington is really suffering for that now,” Scates said. “It’s a benefit that we are a control state.”
Montana is one of 18 control states, which means the DOR controls all liquor sold in the state. Other control states include neighbors Idaho and Wyoming.
The vendor owns the liquor and must send it to a state warehouse in Helena. The DOR acts as a middleman before it is distributed to retailers.
Thirty-eight states are licensing states, which license establishments and the state is not in the wholesale business.
Scates said there would be more consumption if Montana were a license state.
Liquor distribution in Montana is a three-tiered system. The tiers are breweries and wineries, wholesalers and retailers. Licensed businesses cannot be more than one. Brewer be more than one. Breweries are not on the retail tier.
Montana is one of only 17 states that use a system of quota areas for liquor licensing. Quotas for the number of liquor licenses include the area that is within city limits, within a five-mile radius of the city limits and within the county.
“It’s a way for us [DOR] to control how many licenses there are out there,” Scates said.
Agency stores in Montana are privately owned liquor stores under contract with the state. Agency stores are not bars.
“They cannot consume on the premises,” Scates said.
That is what is called “self pour,” which is not allowed in Montana.
Over service and sales to minors are lingering problems across Montana that have been reported to be prevalent in Wolf Point.
It is unlawful in Montana sell or serve alcohol to a person who is actually, apparently, obviously intoxicated.
Scates said the DOR wants to fix the problems.
“We don’t want to put them [bars and convenience stores] out of business. They’re Montana businesses,” Scates said.
She said bartenders and retail sales people should cut off people who are not obviously intoxicated if it is apparent that they are attempting to purchase alcohol for an intoxicated individual.
The DOR issues licenses and is the only entity that can take them away, but there is action local law enforcement can take.
“If law enforcement deems a bar a public nuisance, they can shut them down,” Scates said.
A city can revoke a business license, she said.
“The Montana Department of Revenue functions with a four-strike policy. Four strikes in three years, you’re out,” Scates said.
She explained that any liquor law violation against a bartender, server or retail employee counts against the liquor license. As far as individual employees that are cited for violations, some judges are stricter than others.
Scates recommended that law enforcement send copies of citations for violations that include over service and serving minors against establishments, managers and owners to the DOR. She said even if there are no formal charges or cases are dismissed, the DOR could investigate for state liquor law violations. Also, law enforcement should forward DUI reports that include where the person charged purchased package alcohol or ordered bar drinks.
Montana is among the most lenient of states with some of the lowest dollar amounts of fines.
The fines for violations that include over service and serving minors are: first offense, $250 fine; second offense, $1,000 fine; third offense, $1,500 fine; and fourth offense, revocation of the liquor license.
“It is very difficult to change liquor laws in Montana without the support of the [alcohol] industry,” Scates said.
Scates cited a landmark case with consequences where a bartender became the first in Montana to go to jail for over service after an intoxicated patron caused a fatal crash.
Bartender Nathan Hale, 28, of Bigfork was employed in a bar in a bowling alley in a rural area near Flathead Lake in 2009. Scates called the location of the establishment “in the middle of nowhere,” with a substantial amount of driving required for patrons leaving the bar.
Hale was convicted of negligent endangerment, selling alcohol after hours and selling alcohol to an intoxicated customer, all misdemeanors, and served six months in jail.
“It was the first time that anyone was held accountable for that in Montana,” Scates said.
Hale was reported to have served 13 drinks in two and a half hours to off-duty coworker Travis Vandersloot, 29, of Columbia Falls. After leaving the bowling alley, Vandersloot crashed head-on into a Montana Highway Patrol cruiser while traveling at about 80 mph in the wrong lane on U.S. Hwy. 93. MHP trooper Michael Haynes and Vandersloot both died in the crash. Police found a glass pipe for smoking marijuana in Vandersloot’s car and determined that his blood alcohol level was 0.18.
Scates said that crash and another DUI-caused crash in 2008 that also claimed the life of an MHP trooper resulted in then MHP colonel and now Montana Department of Transportation director Mike Tooley, who is formerly of Wolf Point, telling the Montana Legislature they failed the families of the two MHP troopers, who were the only fatalities in the line of duty in about 50 years. Tooley lobbied for and got stricter DUI laws.
Scates said she has had calls from owners of bars and stores that sell alcoholic beverages, bartenders and other employees that sell or serve alcohol that are upset because they cannot serve intoxicated people. She said some people told her they don’t think they should be responsible for others.
“If you think about it, over service is a big problem in Montana,” Scates said.
She said some other states license servers as well as establishments, holding bartenders and table servers to a higher level of accountability than they are in Montana.
Scates said if Montana licensed servers, a fired bartender or server would have a license to work in jeopardy and a difficult time finding another job.
Montana does require sales and service training within two months of being hired. Several certification classes have been held in Wolf Point and Culbertson.
A few other points that Scates presented included that a city can be more restrictive than state law, but not less.
She said there is no state law that says a person younger than 21 cannot be inside a bar. Some states prohibit any person under 21 from being in any bar, even with a parent.
Scates said bars could set “house policies,” which are limits on minors being inside establishments, as long as the policies do not violate civil rights.
Minors at 18 are permitted to work in bars and to serve open containers of alcohol. There is no legal minimum age to sell, stock or carry out for customers closed containers of alcohol.
Licenses are not needed for private events that include weddings and office parties where alcohol is served. An exception would be for catering businesses.
Anyone having a private event or party could be liable if someone becomes intoxicated and hurts him or her self or someone else.
- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
Wolf Point Pound Puppies animal rescue organization held “Diamonds in the RUFF” adoption day and foster recruitment in the Shopko parking lot Saturday, Aug. 29. Culbertson High School graduate Kelli Hackley holds a dog she and her mother fostered while she was home for the summer from Montana State University - Billings. The dog is available for adoption. For additional information about adoptions and fostering, contact Tina at 650-2177, Darla at 451-4847 or Carol at 768-7581. (Photo by John Plestina)
- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
Sam Waters, who was born and raised in Froid, and is president and CEO of First Community Bank in Glasgow was elected vice chairman of the Montana Bankers Association at the 112th annual membership meeting.
Waters will serve one year as a policy maker for the banking community.
Waters grew up on a family farm in eastern Roose-
velt County and graduated from Montana State University with bachelors degree in accounting and ag business. He also graduated from the Pacific Coast Banking School.
Waters’ career started with Farm Credit in 1977, where he worked for 14 years.
He joined First Community Bank in 1991 as vice president and ag loan officer, and was appointed president in 1999.
Waters is married to his wife Judy Waters and enjoys hunting, fishing and golfing.
Also from northeastern Montana is Rich Kingsley, president/CEO, of Valley Bank of Glasgow. He was elected to the board of directors.
- Written by John Plestina
The Roosevelt County Commissioners approved a preliminary plat for the five-plot Prairie View subdivision near Wolf Point Tuesday Sept. 1.
The subdivision would be located in the Macon area near Montana Hwy. 13 and Indian Highway. The developer is Ken Luckow, a part-time Wolf Point resident who is from Arkansas.
In other business, the commissioners approved $1,418,939 to Century Companies Inc., of Lewistown for the now completed construction on McCabe Road north of Culbertson.
Commissioner Gary Macdonald commended Century for doing a good job on McCabe Road.
The commissioners also approved the replacement of the server for sheriff office at a cost of $4,539.
In another matter, the commissioners appointed Fort Peck Tribes Health Department director Dennis Fourbear to the Roosevelt County Board of Public Health. He will replace Julian Shields on the board.