Written by Culbertson Searchlight
Nearly 5,000 miles and over 15 hours of flight time from Culbertson, 24 local people toured Peru on a 10-day excursion.
The group of 24 adults and Culbertson High School students joined six people from Minnesota on the 30-person trip that was sponsored by Education First, which arranges educational travel for student groups.
The group left Culbertson lMonday, June 9, and flew to Lima, Peru’s capital. From there, they toured several cities in the South American nation and the Amazon basin. They returned home Thursday, June 19.
Tara Nickoloff took the trip with her two oldest daughters, Bailey, who is a junior in college, and Erica, who just graduated from Culbertson High School.
“Short of having my children, it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done,” Nickoloff said.
“We walked and walked and walked,” she said, and added that it was so hot and humid.
“We had to raise our own money,” Nickoloff said.
“It was $3,000 for everything; really an amazing price,” Culbertson Mayor Gordon Oelkers said.
That included airfare, hotels and tours.
Oelkers and his daughter Renee, also a 2014 Culbertson graduate, took the trip together.
“It was a good experience for [the students} to see people who don’t have toilets or good water,” he said.
Oelkers said the average income in Peru is about $400 per month.
Other people from Culbertson who took the trip included CHS teacher Jeri Gustafson, Laura Kristofferson and her daughter Emily Nielsen.
Written by John Plestina
The board of county commissioners said Monday, June 16, that the unsuccessful public safety bonding measure that would have funded a replacement for the aging Roosevelt County jail will reappear on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
The bonding issue failed at the polls Tuesday, June 3, after receiving 57.93 percent [986-716] of the votes cast because it did not receive a minimum of 60 percent, a state requirement when voter turnout is between 30 and 40 percent of registered voters. The voter turnout was 34.88 percent.
The county commissioners have clarified that they were incorrect by previously saying a minimum of 35 percent of registered voters must cast ballots for passage.
“Without a doubt, we will run it again,” commissioner Gary Macdonald said.
He said one problem he saw with the language on the primary election ballot was that it did not explain the cost of the new jail to voters.
Instead, Macdonald said, “We went out and explained to them what it would cost [at several public meetings]. It wasn’t on the ballot.”
The bonding measure asked voters to authorize the commissioners to issue and sell $11.86 million in general obligation bonds to be repaid within 20 years with an estimated annual fixed interest rate of 10 percent.
If the June 3 bonding measure had passed, the costs to taxpayers for construction-related costs would have been $46.06 per year for residential properties valued at $100,000 and $11.18 annually for operational expenses.
Macdonald said the commission will hold public hearings earlier than during the month leading up to the election, which is what was done before the primary election.
“We might have to do evenings,” he said.
“[Previous meetings prior to the election were] in the middle of seeding and farmers aren’t going to come out during seeding,” commissioner Jim Shanks said.
With the bonding measure not approved June 3, the county is at risk of being forced to close the aging jail because of potential liability and the cost to the taxpayers could be substantially higher than a mill levy increase that would be necessary to fund construction and operational costs.
All three commissioners said they are expecting a larger voter turnout for the general election.
The commissioners must file with the county clerk’s office for a new jail bond measure no later than Aug. 11.
The proposal is to remodel the existing sheriff’s office and jail facility behind the Roosevelt County Courthouse with an addition, a less expensive option than building a completely new facility at a different site because it would reduce construction expenses and eliminate site acquisition costs. It would also retain the jail in close proximity to courtrooms, minimizing transportation costs
The addition would provide a 60-bed jail that would be compliant with all standards.
The bonding includes the costs of designing, building, equipping and furnishing the jail and office space for the sheriff’s office that would be included. The proposed facility would include an “eyes-on” master control center, booking area, medical isolation area and several Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant cells. An E-911 communications center would be included in the facility.
The larger jail could generate revenue by accepting inmates from other counties and would be large enough to handle a much higher volume of local offenders as increases in crime are projected.
The current 17-bed jail has a rated jail capacity, per state standards, of only 11 beds. The jail averaged 15 inmates per day in 2012, with occasional peaks as high as 20.
Written by John Plestina
There will be no shortage of things to do this weekend with Frontier Days in Culbertson, Wild West Days in Poplar and the Red Bottom Celebration in Frazer.
Rodeos are planned at the events in Culbertson and Poplar.
The 52nd annual Frontier Days rodeo will be this Friday and Saturday, June 20-21, in the Culbertson Saddle Club Arena.
Performances are scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Friday and 7 p.m., Saturday.
The estimated purse is $18,000.
Slack will be at 9 a.m., Saturday and the parade will follow at noon.
The Culbertson Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a meal Saturday, June 21 after the Frontier Days parade.
Shredded pork sandwiches, chips, and water will be served by the Culbertson Women’s Club at the High School parking lot for $5. All proceeds will go towards the funding of the new Splash Pad at the swimming pool.
Wild West Days
Poplar’s annual four-day Wild West Days celebration kicks off Thursday, June 19, at 11 a.m.
The rodeo begins at 2 p.m., Saturday, June 21, and Sunday, June 22.
Friday, June 20, events include: kids parade at 10 a.m., kids day races, kids carnival games, duck pond, bike rodeo, dunk tank, children’s crafts, petting zoo, face painting, bounce house, magician, horseshoe tournament, magic show and pig mud wrestling at 6 p.m.
Saturday, June 21 events include: rummage sale, street vendors, community pie social, arm wrestling tournament at 6 p.m., and the Class of 2004 reunion and dance.
Sunday June 22 events include: Cowboy Church service at 9 a.m., and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” parade at 11 a.m.
Red Bottom Celebration
With more than 100 years of celebrating native culture and traditions through dancing, food, crafts and fellowship, the annual Red Bottom Celebration in Frazer is the oldest pow wow on the Fort Peck Reservation.
The four-day event opens with a feed at 5 p.m., Thursday, June 19, followed by a youth pow-wow beginning about 7 p.m. Festivities begin at 7 p.m., Friday, June 20. The hours for Saturday and Sunday, June 21 and 22, will be 1-7 p.m. Each day will open with a grand entry. Intertribal contests will be held.
The Red Bottom Celebration will be held along U.S. Hwy. 2, east of Frazer, beside the highway.
The public is welcome.
Written by John Plestina
Roosevelt County commissioners voted Monday, June 16, to amend the plat for the Prairie South Subdivision north of Bainville.
Four lots of the existing 40-lot subdivision will accommodate 16 duplex units.
There was a discussion about site cleanup. A consensus among the commissioners was that the builder would comply with a request to clean up the construction site. No conditions were added to the amended plat.
The commissioners also approved a claim for $68,793, the county’s share of the $137,587 a U.S. District Court judge ordered the county and the Wolf Point High School District to pay to the American Civil Liberties Union for court fees and costs in the settlement of the lawsuit that redistricts the Board of School Trustees.
It stems from a consent decree approved by a federal magistrate in April, after the ACLU filed a motion for summary judgment that mandates the Wolf Point High School District to reduce the number of school board members to six, creating five districts with nearly the same number of residents and one at-large position.
The commissioners took the funds from county superintendent of schools Pat Stennes’ budget.
In another matter, the commissioners approved $1,700 the county recently received from the state to become a revenue line item for the DUI Task Force.
The board also approved a $25,000 home visiting grant from the Department of Public Health and Human Services as a revenue line item.
In other business, the commissioners reappointed hospital district trustees Dallas O’Connor and Jim Albertson.
Written by John Plestina
Although the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole announced Wednesday, June 11, that it rejected a clemency application from former Poplar resident Barry Beach, his attorney said the fight for Beach’s freedom is not over.
The decision by the three- member panel that heard testimony about Beach’s clemency application April 29 seemingly dashed Beach’s hopes that the full seven-member board would hold a full clemency hearing and commute his 100-year sentence with no eligibility for parole.
“Although the [parole] board suggested this is the end, it’s not the end. We are not going to give up on freeing Barry. This is not over by any means,” Beach’s attorney, Peter Camiel of Seattle, Wash., said. “There are a number of court options we are exploring.”
He did not elaborate except to say he is considering options with the Montana Supreme Court and the federal court system.
“While we are done with the parole board, we are not done,” Camiel said.
“We were profoundly disappointed. We think the reasoning of the board is illogical. We feel it is outside the statutes for clemency,” he said. “This exercise was in my mind a charade.”
Accused of the 1979 slaying of Poplar High School classmate Kim Nees and dumping her body in the Poplar River, Beach, now 52, was 22 years old when he was convicted in 17th District Court in Glasgow in April 1984 of a crime that occurred when he was 17.
His recent clemency application was partly based on a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that juvenile offenders can no longer be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The board rejected that position, saying the Supreme Court decision did not apply in this case.
In his latest application, Beach did not argue his innocence. Instead, his attorneys argued that circumstances had changed since his last clemency application was denied in 1979. The recent bid for clemency marked the fourth time since 1994 that the panel declined to hold a full clemency hearing for Beach.
An offender whose application previously was denied may apply again only if there is a substantial change in circumstances, parole board executive director Fern Johnson said.
People supporting clemency for Beach have said he showed model behavior in prison and when he was free for 18 months and living in Billings after a judge ordered a new trial in 2011.
“[The parole board] seem to be saying there is no changed circumstances no matter what,” Camiel said. “I think the decision was disrespectful of the people who support Barry,” he said, and added that he felt the board viewed Beach’s supporters as ignorant.
Gov. Steve Bullock wrote a letter in April asking the board to focus on Beach’s worthiness for parole and not on whether he is guilty or innocent.
The parole board received about 500 letters from people supporting clemency
with approximately 25 letters opposing Beach’s release.
The New Jersey-based prisoner advocacy group Centurion Ministries, whom Camiel is affiliated with, also has worked to free him.
Twenty of the more than 60 people who attended the April 29 hearing testified in favor of clemency for Beach, citing that he was a productive member of society and displayed good character while freed in 2011 awaiting a new trial. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2013 overturned a Montana District Court decision allowing a new trial, sending him back to prison.
Bullock would have made the final determination on clemency had the board made a recommendation to him. He said in a statement that he was disappointed with the panel’s decision.
In their two-page decision, board chair Mike McKee and board member Pete Lawrenson wrote opinions opposing clemency. Board member John Rex signed the decision but did not issue statements.
Parole board director Fern Johnson told The Searchlight May 29, “I think we’ve gotten two of the three [individual decisions].”
Beach told the Great Falls Tribune after the parole board decision: “In January 1983, I was coerced into making a confession to a crime I did not commit by aggressive interrogators. In a lot of ways [the board’s] statement is the same sort of coercion. They’re saying, ‘We’re going to hold your freedom over your head until you confess.’ I have not ever accepted responsibility for this crime, and I never will. I did not kill Kim Nees.”
Beach could be eligible for “good time” credit leading to early release due to the law that was in effect in 1979. That would put a possible release date in October 2036. Beach would be 74 years old.