- Written by Angela Rose Benson
Over 60 community members gathered at the town hall in Culbertson Thursday, June 11, to weigh in on the pros and cons of a proposed radioactive waste disposal landfill.
The proposed landfill would be located seven miles north of Culbertson and be situated on 149 acres of a 160-acre site on the west side of Montana Hwy. 16 near 18 homes located within a two-mile radius of the proposed site.
“The biggest concern is that this landfill is in their backyard. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality says it is going to be a contained landfill with no leakage, but 40 to 50 years from now, we do not know what it will be like,” mayor Gordon Oelkers said.
If the MDEQ issues a five-year permit to Clay Butte Environmental of Minnesota, the company would be able to accept low radiation soil, salt water waste and petroleum dirt at a capacity of some 10-million cubic yards.
Oelkers stated he is not concerned about the science behind the landfill, but rather, is concerned about the close proximity to a largely populated area.
“I would say relocate the landfill three to four miles into the prairie, as opposed to around those homes, and move it away from the highway where people want to live,” he said.
Several attendees were also concerned with the potential for fumes coming off the landfill that might lower those resident’s quality of life. At the meeting, the MDEQ addressed this issue citing that any fumes present should not reach the residential home sites.
The MDEQ stressed that ground water and surface water would be contained safely through proper soil liners and disposal procedures. They would periodically test for radiation levels to ensure they are not exceeding maximum thresholds.
Oelkers acknowledged there is always a benefit to bringing more businesses to the area, noting, the landfill would bring two or more employees that would be paying taxes. He noted there are always economic benefits that come with new businesses.
“Are the drawbacks bigger than the benefits? That’s the question,” he said.
If the MDEQ determines the landfill would be safe to the environment, they will issue a permit within the next 30 days. Clay Butte Environmental has up to five years to get the landfill up and running. Oelkers noted that with little drilling currently taking place, there would not be a large demand for its use.
At this time, no further meetings are slated on this issue.
- Written by John Plestina
Sheriff Jason Frederick confirmed that one of two people arrested near Bainville Monday, June 15, is the sister of Congressman Ryan Zinke, R-Mont.
Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Dhara L. Zinke, 23, of Kalispell on misdemeanor charges of criminal possession of drug paraphernalia and endangering the welfare of a child, first offense.
“Not a young child, a teenager, but they’re considered a child [by legal definition],” Frederick said.
“We have an ongoing drug investigation, not with her, but with someone else in the vehicle,” he said.
Zinke was traveling with Nicodemus A. Kupka, 19, of Watford City, N.D. He is charged with criminal possession of dangerous drugs, which Frederick said was methamphetamine. Kupka is also held on a bench warrant out of Flathead County Justice Court.
Deputies stopped the vehicle carrying Kupka and Zinke and two juveniles about midnight near the Gold Dust Casino on U.S. Hwy. 2, about a mile from the North Dakota line.
Zinke and Kupka remained lodged in the Roosevelt County Jail on Tuesday, held on $1,170 and $25,000 bond respectively.
- Written by Jaimee Green
Roosevelt Medical Center has announced the hiring a new director of nursing to serve the hospital’s long-term-care and facilities.
Jessica Schmitz, a long-time resident of Culbertson, will begin this month and join RMC full-time in September.
“I am excited for the opportunity to help better my community. One way I can do that is by ensuring our area has access to quality healthcare that is here to stay,” Schmitz said.
She attended the University of Mary, in Bismarck N.D., where she received a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2012 and earned her bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Montana State University in Bozeman.
She worked in Bismarck as a laboratory technician for three years at what is today Sanford, a large hospital facility. She also worked three years at Trinity Hospital in Wolf Point and in dialysis for the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes in Poplar.
Schmitz will replace Brenda French, who has served as the DON for 20 years. French will be semi-retiring from RMC with plans to continue working part-time.
French, of Medicine Lake, originally came to RMC to help catch the Nursing Department up on some paperwork and was hired full-time as the patient care coordinator before becoming the director of nursing.
French will assist Schmitz throughout the summer while she orientates to her duties and learns the daily flow of activities.
“My immediate goal is to get to know the staff and to develop a great working relationship with them. I also want to learn the processes and address changes that need to be made to continue improving the facility,” she said.
Just as Schmitz joins RMC, her mother, Sharon, is retiring after 30 years of service to the clinic and the business office. Healthcare is a profession that runs in the family. She also has an aunt who is a nurse, and an aunt and uncle, whom are both pharmacists.
“In recent years I have rediscovered just how much I enjoy working with patients to improve their health and wellness. In this leadership role, I will have an opportunity to continue ensuring patients at RMC receive the very best care in their own community, Schmitz said.”
- Written by John Plestina
The Roosevelt County Commissioners discussed the needs for ordinances addressing vicious dogs and heavy trucks using county roads to avoid scales Tuesday, June 16.
No action was taken. Both proposed ordinances were tabled and could be passed as early as next week.
Several people had asked the Roosevelt County Attorney for a dog ordinance that would impose penalties of $250 for first offenses for owners of dogs that bite and break skin. Second offenses would carry a $500 fine.
The commissioners also delayed a decision on an ordinance that would establish weight limits for commercial trucks and prohibit through traffic on county roads.
The proposed ordinance is a response to numerous complaints that oil industry truckers from North Dakota use McCabe Road in the Culbertson area to avoid state scales, resulting in damage to the roadways.
During a recent meeting where construction on McCabe Road was discussed, a woman who lives on the road asked the commissioners if oil trucks could be kept off the road.
- Written by John Plestina
The Fort Peck Tribes Executive Board approved a resolution May 26 to restrict ownership of dogs classified as dangerous breeds, specifically pit bulls, wolf hybrids and rottweilers on the Fort Peck Reservation, but it only applies to enrolled tribal members.
Wolf Point Police Chief Jeff Harada raised questions of jurisdiction.
“It applies in the city to members of the Fort Peck Tribes’ criminal jurisdiction,” Harada said.
“The tribes will argue the point,” city police animal control officer J.T. Szymanski said.
Fort Peck Tribal Health director Dennis Four Bear said the language “reservation wide” was included in the resolution to include the entire reservation, but the new law pertains only to enrolled tribal members living on the reservation.
“This does not apply to non-Natives on the reservation. The non-Natives fall under Montana state law. I believe this was said by Wolf Point City Police Chief Harada,” Four Bear said.
He said tribal court will have jurisdiction.
The new law allows for owners of dogs that were on the reservation prior to the passage of the law to keep the animals only if they obtain a special license within 60 days of the law taking effect. Mandatory restrictions will include that owners obtain and maintain $100,000 liability insurance on the dog, the dog be spayed or neutered, vaccinated against rabies, owners must be age 21 or older, the dogs must be kept indoors or in a secure pen and warning signs must be placed on the property. Dogs must be transported in kennels and wearing muzzles when walked on leashes. Sales or gifting of the dogs outside the owner’s immediate family are prohibited.
The language in the resolution includes that it is unlawful for anyone to own, possess, keep, exercise control over, harbor, transport or sell any pit bull or other restricted breed within the reservation and further defines restricted breeds to include rottweilers, wolf hybrids and any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of those breeds.
Fort Peck Tribal Health and Fort Peck Housing Authority each have two animal control officers. They work for separate tribal entities and are not attached to the Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice.
If city animal control picks up a dog owned by a tribal member, the owner must pay the city to get their dog back but they can only be cited into tribal court.
The city has a contract with the tribes to house dogs picked up by tribal animal control. The tribes do not have an animal shelter.
Four Bear said owners of breeds addressed by the new law have 60 days to contact tribal health and register their dogs.
Breed-specific laws exist in many places. Laws are in place that restrict or prohibit pit bull ownership in 12 states [not including Montana or any neighboring states] and many local jurisdictions in the United States and several foreign countries. Appellate courts in 12 states and the District of Columbia have upheld the constitutionality of breed-specific pit bull laws. In Montana, Baker, Libby and Lincoln County prohibit pit bull ownership. Wolf hybrid ownership is also illegal in Baker and Lincoln County. White Sulphur Springs requires mandatory insurance to keep pit bulls, rottweilers and Doberman pinschers.