CS Masthead

Both County Commission Candidates Respond To Election Questionnaire

Allen Bowker of Culbertson and Frank Smith of Poplar are running for the District 1 Roosevelt County Commission seat currently held by Jim Shanks, who is not running for reelection. The district covers the eastern part of the county. Both Bowker and Smith responded to a questionnaire. Do you intend to be a full-time commissioner? If you are unable to be at the Courthouse in Wolf Point four or five days each week, how do you intend to do the job? Bowker: I intend to be whatever I have to be, as best I can, to do the job effectively. With technology [smart phones, go-to-meeting.com etc.], this can be helpful but does not really take the place of actually being there. We have recently hired great help and other logistical changes in our sanitation business that will free me up to be an effective commissioner. I guess to sum it up, I’ll work as smart and as hard as I can while still keeping my modified day job. Smith: I believe that the Commissioner job is a full-time job and they should be at the office whenever possible. When the position was first set up, they could handle most business in one day a week but now with mandates from both federal and state governments, and demands from the public, it takes up more than the five-day week. Why did you declare yourself a candidate for commissioner? Bowker: I feel it would be beneficial for District 1 to be represented by someone a little further east in the county. I have had to deal with these changes and have been in tune with a large percentage of people in this area on a regular basis. Smith: I declared myself as a candidate because of my experience in both the state Legislature and federal government as an elected official and being on several statewide committees that are in our best interest on roads and schools. What are the three most important things you hope to accomplish on the commission? Bowker: 1. Roads, roads, roads! It’s more than an inconvenience, it is a serious safety issue. 2. Let the people know where the money comes from and how and when it is spent. 3. Establish better communication within the road department. Smith: There are a lot of important things that need to be addressed and hope to be accomplished. The main one is the roads that were never built for the traffic we now have. Next is to get the drug enforcement money back if we can and lobby our Legislature to get a better flow of money [tax money] back to the communities that need it because wherever there is an increase in population there is a increase in all public services including schools. What areas do you feel are the most in need of improvement? How would you address those areas? Bowker: Roads are my main concern at this point because that is what I have been dealing with in our sanitation business. To take care of the problem, the money needs to be tracked. Where is our money going that should be spent on roads? Communicate this to the people of District 1, pressure and work with the people who can solve the problem. Also, we, [area commissioners, everyone in the county] need to organize and let the legislature know what’s going on here. It’s going to take more than a few people to tell the legislature our concerns, whether by emails to a central website, in person or by phone. Smith: All the programs are important and I can’t comment on the spending or possible shortfall without reviewing the budget and talking to the directors of the programs. What areas do you feel have the most and least needs for spending? Bowker: The area most in need of spending is obviously the roads. It’s more than just an inconvenience, it is a serious safely issue. Smith: I feel all of our needs are important. That’s why I endorse a good planning board. If any programs need to be cut in the future due to a budget shortfall, what would you cut first, second and third? Bowker: To answer that question for me at this point would be not truthful. Any budget cuts, need to be looked at from both sides of the story. Smith: At this time, I don’t want to comment on possible cuts in programs until I take a good look at our finance records and have the input from the public because all of the programs got where they are for a reason.

Knudsen Only One Of Six Legislative Candidates Who Responds To Questions

Incumbent state representative Austin Knudsen, R-Culbertson, was the only candidate of six running in three legislative races within the coverage areas of The Herald-News and The Searchlight who responded to a questionnaire that was sent to all local candidates. Knudsen seeking reelection in House District 34. Democrat Gene Hartsock of Glasgow is opposing Knudsen. He was contacted by telephone, said he does not use email and provided a home mailing address. Hartsock was sent the questionnaire by U.S. Mail but failed to respond. In House District 37, incumbent Lee Randall, R-Broadus, is opposed by Democrat Dixie Rieger of Miles City. The district includes parts areas of McCone County that are near Wolf Point. Randall provides neither a telephone number, nor email address on the list of candidates on the Secretary of State’s website. Attempts to obtain contact information was unsuccessful. Rieger was sent a questionnaire and a reminder the following week but did not respond. In Senate District 19, which includes McCone County, Democrat Bill McChesney and Republican Frederick Davis Moore are seeking election. Both are from Miles City. Neither responded to the questionnaire or a reminder sent the following week. Incumbent state representative Bridget Smith, D-Wolf Point, is unopposed and was not sent a questionnaire. The following are Knudsen’s responses: Why did you declare yourself a candidate? I am running for re-election because my experience in the Montana Legislature puts me in a position to more effectively represent the citizens of northeast Montana. I initially ran for the Montana Legislature in 2010 because I was unhappy with our area’s representation in Helena. What do you hope to accomplish during the next term? For the upcoming legislative session, there are several key pieces of legislation I want to see passed. First and foremost, a northeastern Montana Bakken oilfield infrastructure funding bill needs to be implemented. Last session, I co-sponsored House Bill 218, which would have sent $15 million dollars a year in direct state funding to our oil-impacted counties and towns. That bill passed with enormous bipartisan support, only to be vetoed by our governor. This bill will be run again in 2015. It needs to be for more money, and it needs to signed by the governor. Another priority is tax relief. Montana is currently sitting on a $350 million budget surplus. This means the state Department of Revenue took in $350 million more than is needed to fund our state government and its programs. These are tax dollars that are paid by Montanans through their income, property, and business taxes. If the state takes in more taxes than it needs, we should return that money to Montanans by lowering taxes for all Montanans. Finally, I will continue to advocate for school choice in Montana. Montana is one of only eight states in the U.S. that still does provide any alternative education options for parents and children. Our public schools in Montana wonderfully serve the needs of most Montana families. However, I believe parents should have alternative choices for those students who aren’t thriving in our public schools. We have choice in all other facets of our life: our food, our clothing, our automobiles, etc. Why is it Montanans are being deprived choice in our childrens’ educations? These are a few of my priorities for the upcoming 2015 legislative session. What do you see as being the major issues facing the state? Funding our state employee retirement and our teacher retirement systems is still a major issue in Montana. Last session, the Legislature threw more money at these systems, and played with the numbers in an effort to make these systems amortize. However, these are still $3-4 billion [with a ‘B’] liabilities to the state, which guarantee a benefit [even though the cost of that benefit has skyrocketed] as opposed to simply guaranteeing a dollar amount the state will contribute toward these pensions. While we continue to kick the can down the road, these pension problems will become a major funding issue for our state. Another issue that will continue to be discussed in the upcoming session is Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act [Obamacare]. Under the Affordable Care Act, states were required by the federal government to expand the qualifications and thereby the number of people who are eligible to receive state medical assistance under Medicaid. The United States Supreme Court later ruled that the federal government could not require state legislatures to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, so this expansion became optional in the individual states. Last legislative session, the state Legislature chose not to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. The reason for this is that Medicaid expansion will cost an incredible amount of money. The federal government has promised to pay for this expansion for the first two years, but after that the state will be responsible for paying for more and more of this new Medicaid population. What happens if the federal government breaks its promise and drops this entire bill on Montana immediately? Even if it doesn’t, eventually Montana will have to pay for this entire bill. How? This will be a huge new entitlement that Montana taxpayers will have to foot the bill for. I do not support Medicaid expansion in Montana, and I will continue to fight against Obamacare in Montana. What areas do you feel are the most in need of improvement? How would you address those areas? Obviously, our area is in dire need of infrastructure help due to strains put on us by the Bakken oil boom. Outdated and maxed-out sewer systems, municipal water systems stretched to the breaking point, and streets and county roads beaten to ruts and potholes from increased truck traffic; these are all issues that could be addressed by allowing more of the tax dollars created from oil development to stay in the impacted areas. What areas do you feel have the most and least needs for spending? As stated above, natural resource development impact has created legitimate need for spending. The state is creating these impacts through our state policy of developing our natural resources; therefore the state is responsible for maintaining the problems that come from this development. I’ve already discussed the sewer, water and road problems, but what about crime from the Bakken? Many of the hardened criminals arrested in our area end up released back on to our streets because the State Crime Lab is understaffed and underfunded and cannot get test results back to our area prosecutors fast enough for trial. This is not our prosecutors’ fault; the Montana Constitution guarantees the right to a speedy trial, and if drug test results aren’t completed in time for trial, the arrested individual must be released. This is one area that needs additional spending to keep our communities safe. On the other hand, I believe the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks needs to decrease its spending. This is an agency that, since I have been serving in the Legislature, has increased its budget every year, and continues to purchase private land at inflated prices. Recently, FWP has asked the Legislature to increase the costs of your hunting licenses, because FWP is claiming a budget shortfall. However, that didn’t stop the FWP from purchasing more than 200 new rifles for each of its game wardens, at a cost of nearly $2,000 per rifle. This is an agency that needs its budget reduced. What is your position on same sex marriage? I believe that marriage is a Christian institution that is between a man and woman. What is your position on the Keystone Pipeline? I support the Keystone XL Pipeline. It will create a huge property tax base for the Montana counties it will pass through. Additionally, the onramp in Baker will allow us to market our local Bakken oil at a higher premium because we can get it in the pipeline, thus reducing transportation costs.

Bainville Council Seeks Public Input On New Town Office

The Bainville Town Council discussed the possibility of building a new town hall building, Monday, Oct. 20. The town is seeking public input on what people want for a town office building and whether the town should build a new structure. The current town office building is a former butcher shop that town employees say is drafty and too small to hold meetings. In other business, the council passed ordinance relating to containers for disposal of garbage on a first reading. Final approval is likely in November. The ordinance amends a current ordinance because the town has the larger dumpsters. Patrick Murtagh, of Murtagh Municipal Engineering of Billings, recommended a buried concrete water tank for the current water project and asked the town to go forward with it and bring a surveyor in but the town first needs a lease agreement from a private property owner. The council also authorized a letter in support of eastern Montana infrastructure improvements. Eastern Montana Impact Coalition and Great Northern Development Corporation are working toward legislation that could bring $90 million to eastern Montana.

Man Accused In Murder Of Sidney Teacher Signs Plea Agreement To Enter Guilty Plea

Michael Spell, one of the two men charged with the murder of Sidney teacher Sherry Arnold, has reached a plea agreement. Spell was scheduled to appear in District Court in Sidney at 3 p.m. Wednesday [Oct. 22]. Spell and his lawyer, as well as the State’s lawyers, have already signed the plea agreement, which is dated Wednesday, Oct. 22. The plea agreement includes Spell pleading guilty to deliberate homicide. The charge of attempted kidnapping will be dismissed. The state is recommending that the court impose a sentence of imprisonment in the Montana State Prison for a term of 100 years with no restriction on Spell’s eligibility for parole while serving that term. The parties agree that the defendant may recommend any legal sentence to be imposed against him at the time of sentencing. The defendant understands this to include a lesser sentence and/or a commitment to the Department of Health and Human Services. In May 2012, Spell and co-defendant Lester Waters Jr. each pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide and attempted kidnapping charges. As part of a plea agreement, Waters made a guilty plea to deliberate homicide by accountability in August 2013. Parties recommended a sentence of 100 years with 20 years suspended for Waters. There are no restrictions on Waters’ eligibility for parole. Law officials note that at least a quarter of the sentence must be completed before a parole request can be made. During Waters’ testimony in 2013, he said he dropped Spell off so Spell could stop Arnold after they observed her walking near a trailer park in Sidney. Waters testified that he then drove to a church parking lot for another hit of cocaine. He said that when he returned Spell was dragging Arnold from an irrigation ditch and she was dead. Waters testified that he helped load the body into the vehicle and traveled to Williston, N.D. When questioned by Judge Richard Simonton, Waters said his plan was to grab a woman to have sex with but not against the woman’s will. The Defense attorneys for Spell were seeking for the Montana Supreme Court to overturn Judge Simonton’s ruling that Spell is mentally fit to stand trial. Earlier this month, the Montana Supreme Court denied the petition. The Defense has also been seeking to suppress the statement that Spell made to law enforcement. The Defense stated the question is whether Spell “knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waived his rights pursuant to Miranda, not whether the statements were voluntary,” in a hearing that took place in early October in Sidney to cover the issue. On Jan. 13, 2012, Spell told FBI officials that he and Waters were traveling through Sidney on Jan. 7, 2012, when they saw a woman running along the road. Spell said Waters told him to grab the woman and pull her into the Explorer as she jogged by the vehicle. Spell said he got out of the Explorer and grabbed the female and forced her into the vehicle. During the struggle, the woman’s shoe fell off. Spell said Waters got into the back seat with the female and “choked her out.” Spell said Waters told him he would kill Spell and his family if Spell ever told anyone what happened.

Roosevelt County Jail Roster For Oct. 30

(Editor’s Note: The Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office distributes an inmate roster each week with charges and communities of residence to The Herald-News and The Searchlight to help keep the public informed and to illustrate that the jail has been dealing with overcrowding issues in the 17-bed facility.)
As of Monday, Oct. 27, 17 inmates were housed in the Roosevelt County Jail. Valley County Detention Center was holding two female inmates and the Fort Benton Detention Center was holding three males to alleviate overcrowding.
The RCSO reported that the following individuals were incarcerated at the jail between Thesday, Oct. 21 and Monday, Oct. 27:
•Adam Alonzo, 31, Williston, N.D./San Bernadino, Calif., criminal possession of dangerous drugs with intent to sell;
•Malinda Bibb, 31, Minot, N.D., arrested on a warrant for bail condition violation, criminal possession of dangerous drugs, criminal possession of dangerous drugs with intent to distribute and criminal possession of drug paraphernalia;
•Brandon Bigham, 30, Minot, N.D., criminal possession of dangerous drugs with intent to sell; criminal possession of dangerous drugs;
•David Ciorrocco, 49, Miami, Fla., driving a motor vehicle while suspended, and displaying fictitious license plates;
•Scott Crain, 27, Froid, criminal possession of dangerous drugs, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia, obstructing a peace officer and misdemeanor criminal mischief;
•Kristy L. Daugherty, 29, Wolf Point, arrested on warrant;
•Joshua Eagle, 20, Poplar, criminal contempt, arrested on a federal warrant, transferred to Great Falls;
•Kyle Fuchs, 32, Culbert-
son, disordelry conduct, partner family member assault, assault with weapon, unlawful restraint, criminal endangerment;
•Alexander Jirone, 33, Rapid City, S.D., criminal endangerment, fleeing or eluding a peace officer, speeding on non-interstate-exceed night speed limit, operating with expired registration, operating without liability insurance;
•Gary Jones, 44, Madisonville, Tenn., assault on a peace officer;
•Dustin Kinzie, 20, Wolf Point, criminal production/manufacture of dangerous drugs, criminal endangerment, criminal possession with intent to distribute, criminal endangerment;
•Jason Knight, 37, Spokane, Wash., criminal possession of drug paraphernalia;
•Gabriel Lopez, 19, partner/family member assault, released;
•Timothy Oglesby, 31, Hot Springs, Ark., out-of- county warrant;
•Michelle Parker, 41, San Diego, Calif., arrested on bench warrant;
•Jesse Antonio Rodriguez, 20, Wolf Point, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia, criminal production/manufacture of dangerous drugs, criminal possession with intent to distribute, criminal endangerment;
•Victor Romero, 47, Wolf Point, disorderly conduct, carrying a concealed weapon;
•Jeremy Sepanski, 30, Plentywood, forgery, theft, obstruction of a peace officer;
•Kelly Severson, 47, Saco, criminal possession of dangerous drugs, criminal possession of dangerous drugs with intent to distribute, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia;
•Kalob Trowbridge, 22, Wolf Point, assault on a peace officer;
•Scott Varner, 22, Crawfordville, Fla., criminal possession with intent to distribute;
•Hilrio Velasquez, 33, Riverside, Calif., possession of dangerous drugs, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia.