Written by Herald-News
Northside Elementary School fourth- and fifth-graders give a cheer for the start of their first day back from summer vacation Monday, Aug. 24. The children pictured are from two classes, both with teachers that are new to the Wolf Point School District. The new teachers are pictured in the back in front of the doors. They are: Dezi Adams, fourth grade, who is from Wolf Point and taught in Arizona for several years; and Bobbie Munger, fifth grade, who relocated from Bozeman. (Photo by John Plestina)
Written by John Plestina
Frontier School District trustees adopted the final fiscal year 2015-2016 budget during a special meeting Monday, Aug. 24, one day in advance of the Aug. 25 state-imposed deadline.
Final adoption was delayed during the monthly school board meeting Tuesday Aug. 18, due to concerns by superintendent Christine Eggar that the totals might not have been correct.
She said the difference could change the amount of property tax home and business owners in the district pay.
The final adopted budget [total of all district funds] was $1,506,756. Before the recalculations, the total budget was presented at $1,630,309, a difference of $123,553.
The new calculations reduced bus depreciation from $164,522 to $72,225 and retirement from 151,200 to 119,993.
In other business during the special meeting, the board approved the admission of three out of district students, two in first grade and one in second.
The trustees also approved the renewal of the contract with Marianne Rees to renew her contract as athletic director.
In another matter, the board approved a rental housing contract with new district clerk Angela Hernandez, allowing her to move into a subsidized rental the district leases.
Written by John Plestina
With an unanticipated vacancy in the District 1 seat on the Roosevelt County Commission, applicants are sought for an appoint for an interim term.
Allen Bowker submitted his resignation from the commission Monday, Aug. 17, just over nine months after he was elected in November 2014. The resignation is effective Monday, Aug. 31.
Bowker, 52, of Culbertson was elected to a six-year term, defeating Frank Smith of Poplar 645-368 in the general election for the seat formerly held by Jim Shanks of Brockton, who did not seek another term.
District 1 covers the eastern part of the county from the east end of Poplar to the state line.
“I have been thinking about it for the past several months,” Bowker said. “Between my garbage business and the farm, I have bitten off too much.” Bow-ker owns Bowker Sanitation & Roll Off of Culbertson and a farm east of Culbertson.
“I wanted to get things done but I didn’t have enough time,” he said.
“Everybody on this end [of Roosevelt County] already knows. I pretty much spread the word around,” Bowker said.
He said he wanted to get roads improved on the east end of the county when he ran for the commission seat.
“I’m still looking forward to working with the commissioners down here on road issues,” Bowker said. “Just because I’m not a commissioner doesn’t mean I can’t work with them.”
Assistant County Attorney Jordan Knudsen said the person the commissioners appoint would serve through 2016. If the person appointed chooses to run for the seat, that individual would have to run for a four-year term [to complete Bowker’s six-year term] in the June 2016 primary and win the November 2016 general election.
Commission presiding officer Duane Nygaard said Bowker’s position will be advertised for two weeks. Interested persons will be interviewed and the commissioners will make an appointment on a undetermined date, likely in mid- or late September.
Written by John Plestina
It is not yet clear whether Wolf Point taxpayers will suffer sticker shock or just minor heartburn when new tax bills are mailed at the end of October.
One thing that is clear is a dire need to repair several streets, a lack of available funds and no grant monies currently available. Municipal officials want to double both the street and street maintenance assessments to fund street construction projects.
The proposal is to raise the assessment from $39.60 to $79.20.
Interstate Engineering of Nashua has prioritized proposed street projects and estimated costs.
The Wolf Point City Council scheduled a public hearing in City Hall Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 7 p.m., to provide more information about the final city budget, including street assessments, and to hear public comments.
The council is expected to adopt the full budget Monday, Aug. 30.
Roosevelt County and the Wolf Point and Frontier school districts adopt their own budgets. Taxes for all taxing entities appear on tax bills.
Wolf Point’s clerk/treasurer Marlene Mahlum said Thursday, Aug. 20, that a tax increase is expected, but she did not know how much.
She cited the needed repairs of city streets and the voter approval in November 2014 authorizing the county commissioners to issue and sell up to $11.86 million in general obligation bonds to be repaid within 20 years for a new county jail as possible drivers for a tax increase.
The current jail is outdated and under-sized for current needs. It does not meet current state and national jail standards.
Legal action brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2013 forced Roosevelt County to reduce the number of jail beds by nearly one half.
“They [tax bills] have to be mailed out by Oct. 31 because we have to give them 30 days [prior to due dates],” Roosevelt County treasurer Betty Romo said.
“I’m really hope people don’t see too bad of a sticker shock,” she said.
“I don’t know how the mills are going to relate to individual taxpayer’s properties,” Mahlum said. “The bottom line is the taxes are going to go up in Wolf Point.”
She said she does not foresee a large overall tax increase.
“There are no increases for water, sewer and garbage at this time,” Mahlum said.
“The police department has requested another officer,” she said.
Mahlum said last week that she did not know if the department would get an additional officer.
Police chief Jeff Harada has said that an additional officer is needed.
Harada told the council Monday, Aug. 17, that city police responded to 533 complaints during July, which was 4 percent increase over July 2014. The WPPD responded to 27 percent more calls for service in June than they did for the same period last year.
A looming question for Mahlum has been the new tax evaluation by the Montana Department of Revenue that was conducted statewide during fall 2014. It resulted in Roosevelt County real estate values increasing substantially, but more so in Culbertson and Bainville, which are Bakken Oilfield-impacted. In Wolf Point, taxes doubled for some homeowners, increased only slightly for others and remained static for some.
Taxable values recently became available to Mahlum.
“The taxable values went up to $395 per mill, which is not a lot,” Mahlum said.
She was uncertain last week how that would relate to individual residential property taxpayers. The mill value last year was 304.86.
“We’re looking at less mills this year. We’re probably looking at about 245 mills less because the mill value is more, so as a result I need less mills,” Mahlum said.
Mahlum said the Oil, Gas, Coal and Natural Resources Distribution from the state to county and municipal governments could decrease.
“The Bakken money — we’re seeing a decrease in those funds,” Mahlum said.
For the last quarter, a total of $67,555 went to various governmental entities in Roosevelt County with Wolf Point receiving $24,212.
Written by John Plestina
The ruins of the former VFW Club on the 100 block of Main Street may be torn down during the coming year, if asbestos and mold problems are abated. First Baptist Church hopes to build a new church and food pantry at the site. (Photo by John Plestina)
The site of the former VFW Club in downtown Wolf Point could become a church and food bank with the sale of a tax lien more than eight years after fire gutted the building.
The ruins of the structure that once housed the VFW with a restaurant and bar, and included a bowling alley, has remained on the 100 Block of Main Street next to the Montana Health and Human Services office since the fire on Jan. 21, 2007. The VFW Club closed more than a year prior to the fire.
The burned out building has attracted vagrants and people looking for a party place for years, according to several sources, including the Wolf Point Police Department.
Roosevelt County Treasurer Betty Romo said the county sold the tax lien against a long absent property owner to First Baptist Church during the annual tax lien sale in July.
Romo and the county commissioners talked about selling the burned out structure for unpaid taxes earlier this year with the goal of demolition and redevelopment.
The church has an assignment on the property that could lead to ownership.
Taxes had not been paid since May 2007, four months after the fire. The property has remained in the name of Miranda Coleman, the owner of record since 2007. She left Wolf Point several years ago and attempts to locate her have been unsuccessful.
Romo told The Herald-News in January that her records show a Malta man purchased the property prior to the fire and sold it to Coleman after the fire.
Romo said Coleman, who had relocated to Wolf Point from Louisiana, left Wolf Point within a few months of purchasing the property.
The woman who has been the owner of record as Miranda Coleman and her husband told The Herald-News their name was Hancock in an April 2007 news story that reported their plans to repair the building, reopen the bowling alley and include a youth-orientated game room with pool tables and arcade games. According to that news story, the couple had moved to Wolf Point with a small child after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
A WPPD report from 2007 shows the woman’s last name as Coleman.
Roosevelt County officials have said the property, which is believed to contain asbestos and mold, likely qualifies as an Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields site for environmental cleanup funding and redevelopment.
First Baptist is working with Great Northern Development Corporation for cleanup of asbestos through the Brownfields program.
The Brownfields program funded the now completed cleanup of the Wolf Point city-owned site of the former Gysler Furniture and Appliance store on Anaconda Street. That site is slated for a sale and redevelopment. Municipal officials worked with GNDC on that project.
“We’ve been waiting for the EPA report before we can do anything,” First Baptist pastor Mike Kauffold said.
He said the church is hoping to clean out the former bowling alley next summer.
“Depending on how things go, we could have a shell [of a new building] next year,” Kauffold said, but added that progress might take longer.
The church does not have a timeline, as there are too many variables.
“We are going to have a church there and eventually have a food bank there,” Kauffold said.
“There were several objectives. One, we want to provide a service to the community and one of the objectives was a food bank,” he said.
Kauffold said the current church building on the 900 block of Third Avenue North is too small and not practical with no storage space.
“We can’t even have a potluck there,” Kauffold said. “That turned into a search for another location [to move the church from its current location].”
The First Baptist Church’s plan for a food bank is separate and in addition to the food bank that is slated to open in September in the former Boys and Girls Club building on the corner of Main Street and Fifth Avenue South. The Fort Peck Tribes owns that building and is allowing it to be used for a food bank.