- Written by John Plestina
Culbertson Mayor Gordon Oelkers expressed disgust with the Roosevelt County Commissioners during a meeting in Wolf Point Tuesday, Dec. 8, for not appointing a new commissioner to the District 1 seat, which has been vacant nearly four months.
“We’re getting a little disgusted — real disgusted,” Oelkers said.
“We need representation. It’s becoming a running joke in Cul-
bertson,” he said.
“We do not have representation on the east end of the county. When are you going to appoint?” Rachelle Aspenlieder of Culbertson asked.
District 1, which covers the eastern part of the county from the east end of Poplar to the state line, has been vacant since Allen Bowker of Culbertson resigned in August, just over nine months after he was elected to a six-year term in November 2014.
The vacancy has been advertised, at least 10 people have applied, but no appointment has been made. The two commissioners — presiding officer Duane Nygaard and commissioner Gary Macdonald — represent the Wolf Point and Poplar areas.
“Gary and I have decided we are going to make that decision within the next 10 days,” Nygaard said.
Oelkers and other people from the east end of the county said it would be acceptable if the position is filled within 10 days.
He challenged Macdonald and Nygaard to make an immediate appointment.
“You need three guys, three gals, three people,” Oelkers said.
Oelkers, Bowker, who attended the meeting, and several other people expressed support for the appointment of Darrell Synan of McCabe, an applicant for the position who has attended most of the council meetings since August.
The commissioners declined to make an immediate appointment.
Nygaard said they are still looking at applicants.
“We can decide to reopen it [to new applicants],” Macdonald said.
If an appointment is made this month, the person appointed would have to file for election in 2016 in January and then run in a primary election in June and the general election in November.
Bowker, 52, defeated Frank Smith of Poplar 645-368 in the 2014 general election for the seat formerly held by Jim Shanks of Brockton, who did not seek another term.
Nygaard said in August that the commissioners would make an appointment on a undetermined date, likely in mid- or late- September.
- Written by Jaimee Green
Children arriving at the Roosevelt Medical Center’s Emergency Department will be given a comfort kit donated by Culbertson’s American Legion Auxiliary, Thomas Mann Post 81. (Photo by Jaimee Green)
When kids come to the emergency department at Roosevelt Medical Center, they are usually anxious and upset, either because they are sick, or someone they know is sick.
One local group is hoping to ease the often scary experience of a visit to the emergency department, by donating comfort kits to the ED to distribute to pediatric patients in need of some comfort and distraction. As a direct result, they are also helping put worried parents at ease, who are concerned about how their child is feeling, or handling the experience of an emergency medical situation.
Last week, the American Legion Auxiliary, Thomas Mann Post 81, donated half-a-dozen, hand-sewn, brightly colored bags filled with small toys, coloring books and crayons to be given to kids visiting the ED.
“Our group was kicking around different ideas for community projects we would like to do and we really liked the idea of creating something that could bring the stress level of young patients down,” said Julie Johnston, president of the ALA.
The comfort kits are not just bags of toys. The contents of each bag have a purpose.
“They help encourage coping behaviors, while distracting the child. They help promote relaxation, provide comfort and enable the child to focus on something other than the reason for their emergency department visit,” said Haley Henry, Legion Auxiliary vice president and RMC business office employee.
At times, a trip to the emergency department can mean an overnight stay in the hospital. “The kits can make it easier for staff to relate to the pediatric patients and keep their minds off of their illness. It’s also nice for the staff to be able to give them something fun to help create a relationship of trust from the beginning,” said Jessica Schmitz, director of nursing for RMC.
Since 2010, RMC has seen an average of 94 pediatric patients each year.
- Written by Angela Rose Benson
During the Culbertson Town Council meeting Monday, Dec. 7, several individuals were in attendance to discuss matters regarding the United Grain tax abatement request. Travis Northington, who manages the Culbertson United Grain facility, began the discussion by reciting the abatement details to the council. “[The Town of Culbertson] won’t see the money right away, but you will in the long run,” he said.
Great Northern Development Corporation executive director Tori Matejovsky was also in attendance to encourage the council to assist United Grain in the tax abatement.
“We want local businesses to be able to expand and stay, for both the benefit of the business and the community,” she said.
“County commissioner Gary Macdonald is for the abatement. He feels United Grain is well-liked by the community and believes they deserve some good will and support,” Matejovsky said.
Over the years, United Grain has paved and fixed railroad crossings in Cul-
bertson, Brockton and
Bainville to make access to their facilities less dangerous, according to Northington. Garbage is the only service provided by the city that United Grain uses; they have their own septic tank.
City clerk KT Northington said it is important to note that if the council were to approve the abatement, the money that would be distributed back into the town would go into the general fund. It would not be allowed to go towards the Wastewater Phase II sewer project or any other city services.
“As a businessman, I am very well for the tax abatement. United Grain is one of the best things to happen to the town of Culbertson,” Mayor Gordon Oelkers said.
The council made a motion to approve the tax abatement, though, were not able to get a second. This was the second time that the council was unable to pass an approval on the abatement.
Council member Bruce Houle gave an update on the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway, saying that Congress approved a five-year highway bill that would give states $44 billion each year for five years.
“There’s 50 states all competing for this. It’s not much, but those funds may complete a portion of the expressway,” he said.
Houle also mentioned that the Port of Raymond is now only open 16 hours a day, which may cause a delay in traffic.
“Montana Congress [congressional delegation], with the help of the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway people, are trying to reverse this and get the Port of Raymond back to being open 24 hours. Montana has to step it up,” he said.
Oelkers agreed that the region should not lose the 24-hour port.
The possible Amtrak stop in Culbertson was discussed, with Oelkers saying that Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad is still checking on signals and other requirements before Culbertson is given approval.
“Once we receive their blessing, we can begin looking for funding. The two BNSF men that came to visit last month seemed in favor of it,” Oelkers said. “It’s estimated that the Amtrak stop would bring through about 7,000 people a year.”
The Wastewater Phase II project is currently on hold during the winter months. All WWC Engineering employees and B&B Builders have been relieved of their duties in the project until spring. The Department of Environmental Quality approved suspending the project until the frigid temperatures and snow pass.
The council reviewed a letter of appointment for Mark Nelson to be on the Roosevelt County Conservation District and approved the appointment.
At the last regular meeting, the council was interested in enforcing parallel parking only outside Al’s Mini Storage. The Montana Department of Transportation plans to take away any parking in that area in two years when they redo U.S. Hwy. 2. The council is now looking into enforcing parallel parking until the MDT takes control.
“Two years is a long ways away, so we don’t want to have that hazard there for the time being,” said Oelkers.
Dr. Rex Crick of Sionix Oilfield told the council that he is working on the Sionix annexation with a corporate lawyer and getting all questions answered.
“We are more than likely going to get this rolling before 2016,” he said.
According to Oelkers, the Wheatland Hills warranty item process is in it’s final stages.
“All the major stuff is over. We’re just working on follow-up letters now,” he said.
The council approved to place an ad in the Christmas greeting section of The Searchlight.
Houle and Jaimee Green will be sworn in as council members at the next meeting, which is slated for Jan. 4.
- Written by John Plestina
The Roosevelt County Commission took no action on a tax abatement for the expansion of the United Grain elevator facility in Culbertson Tuesday, Dec. 8, but expressed a willingness to revisit the request once a new commissioner is appointed from the east end of the county.
Since former commissioner Allen Bowker of Culbertson resigned in August, the seat representing the eastern portion of the county has remained vacant.
Commission presiding officer Duane Nygaard said he was opposed to abatement because the county did not grant an abatement to Columbia Grain. He said the commission could revisit the issue in the future.
Commissioner Gary Macdonald said Columbia Grain was denied because the request was made after construction.
The Culbertson City Council made a second attempt to abate city taxes for United Grain the previous day, but a motion died for lack of a second.
Culbertson Mayor Gorden Oelkers said one council member who supports the United Grain request was absent from the council meeting on Monday. Oelkers said the council will address it again in January.
The tax break would only be for the expansion of the elevator and not for other properties United Grain owns in Culbertson.
Oelkers said it is a shame that the county has not supported the abatement. He also called it “frustrating” and not a positive business attitude.
In other business, the commissioners appointed Michelle Isle of Wolf Point as aging coordinator.
The commissioners also approved $3,750 for a software purchase for electronic fingerprinting for the Sheriff’s Office.
The commissioners approved $83,000 for Interstate Engineering for design work for a new hangar at the Wolf Point Airport for Cape Air. Ninety-five percent of the cost is funded by an FAA grant. The remaining 5 percent is a split between the county and city.
The commissioners approved the purchaser of a new Dodge 3500 pickup for the weed department for $40,448 from Northern Prairie Auto Sales. It will replace a pickup that was wrecked during the summer. The commissioners sold it for $7,000 as salvage during the same meeting.
The commissioners also accepted the resignation of Wolf Point Museum summer employee Evan Bartel.
In other business, the commissioners approved a security camera system for the jail at a cost of $5,209. The new jail that will be built during 2016 and 2017 will include a new security system. The cameras the commissioners approved Tuesday will be used in the courthouse once the new jail is completed.
- Written by John Plestina
The president of Montana’s Highway 2 Association said Friday, Nov. 4, that he wants the Montana Legislature to convene in a special session to address highway and infrastructure funding following passage of the first long-term national highway bill in a decade.
Montana lawmakers failed to act on highway and infrastructure funding during the last legislative session.
President Barack Obama signed the $305 billion Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act, Friday, just hours before the most recent of several temporary highway-funding measures was scheduled to run out.
Highway 2 Association president Bob Sivertsen of Havre called the passage of the bill a milestone.
“It creates some certainty in long term planning for construction of highways; the prerequisite to economic development,” said Sivertsen, who has brought various transportation proposals to meetings in Wolf Point and Culbertson in recent years.
The association has considerable members and supporters from Roosevelt County.
“It’s a big boost for Montana. After meeting its prior obligations — paying for work that’s already done — MDT [Montana Department of Transportation] will be able to forge ahead on highway projects approved under the five-year plan,” Sivertsen said.
He said the Highway 2 Association would continue advocating for upgrades along the U.S. Hwy. 2 corridor. Some portions of that roadway are currently four lanes, including in Wolf Point.
“Montana’s segment of the Highway 2 corridor is the only portion that is not a four-lane,” Sivertsen said. “Yes, we can and should make a case for major upgrades to Hwy. 2. North America’s economy will benefit.”
Since its inception in 2001, the Highway 2 Association has been a strong proponent of the “4 For 2” campaign to build a four-lane U.S. Hwy. 2 across the 666 miles that crosses Montana, for an adequate transportation system along the Hi-Line with safety, tourism, agriculture and the enhancement of energy and other economic development cited as reasons for the need.
Sivertsen cited MDT’s Bainville West Project for construction of a four-lane roadway in eastern Roosevelt County once the funding becomes available.
“We will continue submitting projects to be considered in the five-year plan. We have to make a case that justifies every project and I’m confident we can,” he said.
“Consider this: northern Montana sits at the gateway to three of the strongest economies in North America; Alberta, Saskatchewan and North Dakota. Montana is included in what I call the Golden Economic Region of North America,” Sivertsen said.
More than $7 million people live in that international region with a $600 billion gross domestic product (GDP), a monetary measure of the value of all final goods and services produced over a set period of time. Sivertsen cited agriculture, energy and tourism.
“The Highway 2 Corridor sits smack in the middle of all the activity. Yes we can make a case for major upgrades to Highway No. 2,” he said.
Sivertsen cited Phase 1 of the Multi-Corridor Operations and Management study that looked at the capacity of rail service in Montana and other northern states, and along both segments of Hwy. 2, which extends from Washington to Michigan and from upstate New York to Maine. About 40 million people live along the corridor, which has a $2.5 trillion GDP.
The 1,300-page highway and transit construction package received final approval in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 83-16. The House of Representatives previously approved it by a margin of 359 to 65.
It is intended to make up for a long-standing shortfall in the highway trust fund, which is funded from an 18.4 cent per gallon federal tax on gasoline, which has not been raised in 20 years. Lawmakers reauthorized the 18.4-cent tax without increasing it.
Since 2005, lawmakers have not passed a highway spending bill lasting more than two years.
Sivertsen recently cited funding for the Export-Import Bank of the United States as a major problem with the highway bill.
A controversial provision of the measure revives the charter of the EX-IMP Bank, which expired earlier this year.
Republican lawmakers have called the EX-IMP Bank, which is backed by Democrats, a waste of government money. GOP members of the House and Senate have said its revival could cause job losses in the U.S.
The FAST Act contains several riders addressing numerous related and unrelated issues. They include: lowering the minimum age for interstate truck drivers from 21 to 18, but only for veterans and current military members and reservists; and requiring automotive dealerships and rental car companies to fix vehicles that are subject to safety recalls before renting, loaning or selling the vehicles to the public.