CS Masthead

Froid Park Playground Fundraiser Planned

A fundraiser is planned for the new Froid Park playground equipment, Saturday, July 12, in Froid.
There will be music and fun with the Northern Lights GIA. There will also be a costume kiddie parade down Main Street at 5 p.m. A night of family fun will follow in the community center that will include kids carnival, volleyball, snow cones, kettle corn. cotton candy, hay rides and more.

The Searchlight Enters New Era ~ 112 Years Of Publication

In its 112 years of existence, The Searchlight has come from the days of hot lead, Linotypes and a black and white printed product to today's computerized layout and design, electronic transmission to the printer and the ability to publish a full-color newspaper to accommodate full- color advertising and an online website, as well.
The concept of the newspaper has changed little over the years — putting out a quality product, which is accurate and meaningful, is the goal of all in the business of publishing community weekly newspapers.
The community has been very supportive over the years and the backing of the merchants in this town and area are invaluable.
The Searchlight converted to offset printing in 1973. Prior to that time, all type was set on Linotypes using hot lead. This was a much dirtier job than today's computerized page layout.
The Searchlight rightfully claims the title of oldest continuously published newspaper in eastern Montana.
Frank S. Leed came from ownership of the Lisbon, N.D., Searchlight to establish The Searchlight in Culbertson on April 24, 1902. Russell Oelkers Sr. worked for Reed and he walked eight miles to work every week from his farm home in Dane Valley.
Reed is credited with much of the early and rapid growth of Culbertson. The town boomed in the homestead era; the 1906 Fourth of July celebration attracted more than 1,500 people.
Reed wrote his valedictory Oct. 29, 1920, after selling the paper to Edgar Erickson and Dale Curran. William Hagen and E.J. Buckingham Jr., together with Harry E. Polk of Williston, N.D., became owners in 1940. Palmer
Sondreal became editor and manager, followed by J.V. Lawson and Hazel Smith. D.W. Robinson took over the paper in 1943. He was followed by D.W. Robinson Jr. as manager in 1949. The next sale, by Robinson Sr., was to Mike Vukelich and Harry Downs Sr. of Wolf Point in 1954. Vukelich later went to Cody, Wyo.,
Harry Downs Sr., who was a past president of Montana Press Association, died in 1974. The family continues to operate The Searchlight and The Herald-News. He was inducted into the Montana Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1999.
His wife, Mamie, continued to publish the newspaper while management was taken over by Harry "Skip" Downs, her son. Harry "Skip" served on the board of the Montana Newspaper Association, and its predecessor the Montana Press Association, from 1985 to 1991. He was honored with a Master Editor/Publisher  Award in 1994.
Culbertson had another paper for about six years  the Republican came in 1907. Judge G.H. Coulter was publisher and Joe Hocking was editor. The Republican was sold to The Searchlight on July 13, 1913. Coulter and Hocking had parted political ways in the presidential election when Republicans split over the candidates of William Hovstad and Theodore Roosevelt. Each newsman used part of the Republican editorial page to express his views.
Ila Mae Forbregd served as editor of The Searchlight for over 42 years until her death in 2008. She was named to the Montana Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2009.
In January 1981, The Searchlight's sister paper, The Herald-News, purchased  Compugraphic typesetters, which could set eight type-styles in 12 sizes without changing film strips.
The Searchlight is now composed using Adobe InDesign with limitless fonts, sizes and graphics available.
One concept has remained true over the years  is that ever since volume number one, The Searchlight has striven to serve the community as an accurate, informative news source and provide our advertisers with a comprehensive, complete medium to make the public aware of their merchandise and services.
This policy will continue as The Searchlight moves towards our 115th anniversary. When this changes, we will have failed the people we are here to serve — our customers and friends — and most of all, we have failed ourselves.
The Downs family celebrated their 50th year of ownership of The Herald-News in 1995 and went on to sell the newspaper to John Stanislaw on March 1, 1999.
Harry "Skip" and his daughter Darla Downs continued working for the new owners, with Darla being named as publisher in 2006. Darla has since went into partnership with Stanislaw as owner of The Herald-News and The Searchlight.
Darla was elected third vice president of the Montana Newspaper Association at their annual convention in June and plans to follow in her grandfather's footsteps as president of the association. She served as president of the Montana Newspaper Advertising Service for several years and still serves on that board.
The current employees are very capable and understand what is necessary to publish a weekly newspaper. They are a devoted and loyal staff.
Darla's daughter, Katie Smith, works in advertising sales and design, as well as printing prepress operations in Wolf Point. Harry "Skip" continues to help on "press day," as does his wife, Ina, who also maintains the subscriber list.
Nancy Mahon currently serves as part-time reporter and ad sales in the
Culbertson office. John Plestina is the editor of The Herald-News and The Searchlight and works from the Wolf Point office. Garrett Pronto is helping in the Wolf Point office this summer before heading off to college in August.

Culbertson Construction Wraps Up, Other MDP Projects Include Roundabout In Poplar, Signals Getting Makeovers



Saturday in Culbertson, a construction worker tries to reconnect the orange barrier to block traffic from entering Broadway while the street signs bend in the wind. The construction has been completed.     (Photo by Nancy Mahan)

With Culbertson’s Broadway Avenue closed to traffic and tore up all spring, the construction is finally completed.
MDP reported that the contractor finished the paving last week. The improvements include new sewer, storm drain, sidewalk, curb and gutter.
MDP is hoping to get the street striped and opened by July 4.
Another Culbertson-area project, from the west edge of town to the Big Muddy, was chip sealed last week.
Work will soon begin on Montana Secondary 327 in Bainville from the railroad tracks to where the road turns east of town.
A major road construction project is planned for Poplar that might include a roundabout in the intersection of U.S. Hwy 2 and Airport Road.
“Major road construction is ahead for U.S. Hwy. 2 in Poplar,” MDP District 4 Administrator Shane Mintz said. He is based in Glendive and supervises MDP operations for all of eastern Montana.
For now, MDP is taking a Band-Aid approach with Hwy. 2 in Poplar.
“Later this summer we will do a rut fill in Poplar. It’s kind of like a really thin overlay,” Mintz said.
“We have a bigger rehab project planned for Poplar but that is several years out [depending on funding],” he said.
Mintz estimated that the Poplar project is 3-5 years from happening, depending on funding.
“We’re still developing that. It’s a major rehab. We would tear up the existing surface, put new gravel below the asphalt and new asphalt, new curbing and sidewalk [in some locations] all through Poplar,” he said.
The biggest proposed change for Poplar would be the installation of a roundabout.
“I don’t think that intersection warrants a new traffic signal,” Mintz said.
He said roundabouts don’t work everywhere but a traffic circle could be a good fit for the Poplar location and add a safety factor because crashes — if they occur — are more likely to be sideswipes rather than the potentially deadly t-bone crash that occurs in traditional intersections.
“We’re just looking at it now,” Mintz said.
About eight miles of Hwy. 2, from Poplar west was overlayed last year and MDT plans to chip seal it when the weather holds.
There are no projects currently planned for Wolf Point.
Construction delays of more than a half hour were reported for U.S. Hwy. 2 traffic between Wolf Point and Poplar late last week, due to a 16.6-mile chip seal project on Montana Hwy 13 north and south of U.S. Hwy. 2 that slowed Hwy. 2 traffic to 35 mph and caused lengthy delays. That project was completed with minimal striping remaining in intersections.
“Our maintenance crew along with a contractor did that work,” Laurie Ryan, a Helena-based MDT spokesperson said. She is originally from Poplar.
“We will have striping work to do and when we get the weather we will finish that,” she said.
“We are hoping to have a project called Fork Peck Northeast on Hwy. 117 from the Milk River to Fort Peck at the junction of Montana Hwy 24,” Mintz said.
“That’s depending on funding but were hoping it to get it to contract this fall. That will be a next summer project if it goes,” he said. “Montana for highway construction is heavily reliant on federal aid.”
The Milk River North project from the bridge south of Nashua to Hwy. 2 is at least two years from happening. That would include a new connection to Hwy. 2 on the west edge of Nashua and a railroad overpass.
“We’re probably looking at 2017 with that project,” Mintz said.
The MDT has an ongoing statewide project adding yellow reflective tape to traffic signal backings when construction occurs in the area.
The light with the yellow tape in the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 2 and Fourth Avenue North in Wolf Point is one of several that have been converted so far in various locations in Montana.
“It depends upon the contract in area where those backings will be placed,” Mintz said.
“MDT has identified reflective back plating as a good low cost safety measure which increases the visual contrast of the signals for drivers making it less likely for drivers to pass through without ever recognizing the signal. MDT is including this on all new traffic signals installed and will be upgrading existing signals such as this one over time.

Culbertson’s Finnicum Named Montana School Boards Association President



Long-time Culbertson School District trustee and board chair Paul Finnicum was recently appointed to fill the post of president-elect of the Montana School Boards Association board.
Finnicum will succeed current MTSBA president Sabrina Steketee  at the Montana Conference of Education Leadership in October. Finnicum will serve as MTSBA president through the 2015 Legislature and the Montana Conference of Education Leadership in October 2015.
Finnicum will fill a vacancy that occurred when Wayne Todd, of Denton, no longer served on his local board as of May.    
“Paul’s experience as a trustee has served MTSBA well in the past and we look forward to Paul’s continued leadership both as President-Elect and President,” said MTSBA Executive Director Lance Melton. “In making the appointment, I believe the board recognized Paul’s tremendous experience not only in board leadership, but in understanding local control and the legislative process.”
“The MTSBA Board recognized that Paul (Finnicum) has many endearing qualities like a sense of humor and a love and knowledge of music, but with this appointment, we see the tremendous commitment he has to K-12 public education not only in Culbertson, but for all Montana students,” Steketee said.
“Paul and his family have a great history of public service not only on the school board – where Paul is a third-generation board chairman – but with local government and civic organizations as well,” she said.
“We really look forward to the leadership qualities Paul brings; he will serve MTSBA well,” Steketee said.

Changing Of The Guard: Stennes Retiring After 41 Years, Jeri Toavs Slated To Move Up



Retiring District Court clerk and Roosevelt County Superintendent of Schools Pat Stennes (seated) with Jeri Toavs, who has acted as Stennes’ deputy clerk for 16 years.   (Photo by John Plestina)


A longtime fixture in the Roosevelt County Courthouse, Pat Stennes is retiring after more than 41 years working for the county, 23 of which as clerk of the District Court.
Stennes started working for Roosevelt County in the Clerk and Recorder’s Office in January 1973. She had returned home to Wolf Point after working in Billings following college. She later worked as a deputy under the Clerk of the District Court and was appointed clerk in 1991.
She was formally appointed Roosevelt County Superintendent of Schools in 2000. The position had been in her title earlier than 2000, but a past justice of the peace served as superintendent prior to 2000.
The changing of the guard for both of Stennes’ positions will be Thursday, July 31, with 16-year county employee Jeri Toavs as the likely designee to replace Stennes. The county commissioners must formally appoint her.
“[Toavs] started in the clerk and recorder’s office, also.” Stennes said.
After working for the clerk and recorder for about one year, Toavs began working under Stennes as a deputy district court clerk in October 1999.
Laurie Evans recently began working with Stennes and Toavs and will be the new deputy clerk. She previously worked in the county treasurer’s office.
Stennes was born in Wolf Point and graduated from Wolf Point High School. She spent time in the courthouse as a child. Her mother, Marge Stennes, is a former county employee. She continues to live in Wolf Point.
“When I was born, my mother was working in the clerk and recorder’s office,” Stennes said.
“I’ve always been here — it feels like. The lady who was my mother’s boss was still here when I started,” she said.
Stennes has seen a lot of changes come to the Roose-velt County Courthouse.
“Oh, man, the changes are unreal,” she said.
“Judge [James] Sorte was the judge when I came,” Stennes said.
The late Judge Sorte served on the bench in the 15th District from 1969 until 1994.
Judge David Cybulski took the reins of the 15th District in 1995 and remains as district judge.
“We didn’t have computers when I started here,” Stennes said.
She said everything was done manually in 1991. Today, the state provides software that is in use in the courthouse.
“The changes are the biggest thing and the changes in the crime. When I started here — criminal cases — maybe eight a year,” Stennes said.
The number of felony cases — mostly drug-related — that are currently filed in the 15th District are at least eight each month. Six people appeared in court in Wolf Point for arraignments on felony drug cases, Wednesday, June 25.
Despite the sharp increase in criminal cases, Stennes said she will miss her job.
“You see the bad, but you see the good. The adoptions; they’re the special cases,” Stennes said.
Stennes said she plans to continue to live in Wolf Point for at least a few more years, but she wants to spend more time with her daughter and grandchildren in California.