Wolf Point Herald

Commissioners Send Jail Initiative Back To Voters

The bonding issue for a new Roosevelt County Jail that failed at the polls two months ago will be before voters once again for the Nov. 3 general election. The Roosevelt County Commissioners voted unanimously, Tuesday, Aug. 5, to place the measure back on the ballot.
The need to replace the aging jail is critical due to overcrowding and outdated facilities. The county is at risk of being forced to close the facility because of potential liability. If that happens, the cost to taxpayers could be substantially higher than a mill levy increase that would be necessary to fund construction and operational costs.
The bonding issue received 57.93 percent, 986-716, of the votes cast on primary election ballots in June but failed 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 bonding measure will again ask 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.
The costs to taxpayers for construction-related costs would be $46.06 per year for residential properties valued at $100,000 and $11.18 annually for operational expenses.
Commissioner Gary Macdonald said in June that 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.
All three commissioners said they are expecting a larger voter turnout for the general election.
“We are going to get some more information out and have a reasonable turnout,” presiding officer Duane Nygaard said.
“It’s going to carry if we get that 40 percent voter turnout,” Macdonald said.
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.
The approval of the placement of the bonding measure on the November ballot meets a filing deadline with the county clerk’s office by six days.

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Big Box Retailer Interested In Developing 25-Acre Wolf Point Site

A developer from the Twin Cities representing an unnamed major retailer has expressed interest in a 25-acre site on U.S. Hwy. 2, east of the Homestead Inn that the Wolf Point Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture has owned since the 1970s.
Drew Johnson, representing Oppidan Investment Company, a development company in Minnetonka, Minn., told the chamber board, Tuesday, Aug. 5, that his company is asking the chamber to either donate the land or sell the site for $1. Oppidan would then build a 26,000-square-foot building for what Johnson called a general merchandise retailer and lease the building to that company.
The proposal includes an 80-stall parking lot.
The identity of that retailer remains shrouded in secrecy.
The chamber board will meet soon to consider the proposal.
Oppidan has developed general merchandise retail, large chain grocery stores and national chain fast food restaurant sites in several Midwestern states, including both Dakotas, numerous developments in Williston, N.D., and in Glendive and Sidney.
The site is smaller than most Walmart, K-Mart or Target locations. The proposed 26,000- square-foot building would be slightly larger than the 25,000- square-foot Alco store in Wolf Point.
“Overall, we’re excited about the community,” Johnson said.
“[Oppidan has] done grocery store developments in the Bakken [Oilfield] and Glendive,” he said.
Johnson said the project would cost $4 to 4.5 million. He also said the retailer is expected to do between $4 and $7 million in sales annually and produce substantial tax revenue.
Great Northern Development Corporation is involved in the project and GNDC was represented at the chamber meeting.
Johnson said if the chamber board votes to accept the proposal and move forward with the project, construction is likely to begin during spring 2015 with a late fall 2015 opening.
Oppidan, founded in 1991, is a national property development firm offering numerous real estate services, including construction, project management, asset management and brokerage services. Oppidan has successfully developed more than 300 projects valued at more than $1.5 billion in 26 states.
National retailers on Oppidan’s online client list include Bed, Bath and Beyond; Best Buy; Dollar Tree; J.C. Penney; Kohls, Lowe’s; Michael’s; Office Max; Old Navy; Radio Shack; Shopko; Target; and Walgreens. In addition, the client list includes several national fast food and restaurant chains, Wells Fargo Bank and other types of businesses.

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Small Tax Hike Likely As City Budget Hearing Nears

Wolf Point taxpayers can expect a small tax increase, but probably not a big one. The public can offer comment during a public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2014-15 preliminary budget, Wednesday, Aug. 6, at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.  
The budget was fully prepared and numbers were not available early this week.
“They will see a slight increase in our [city] taxes because our mill levy fell about $30 per mill less this year,” clerk/treasurer Marlene Mahlum said.
The levying entities within the city are lighting, street maintenance and the street maintenance district, which includes snow removal and filling potholes.
“The main thing is there won’t be any increase in water, sewer and garbage. The rates will remain the same,” Mahlum said.
Levies for the general fund, fire relief association and swimming pool general obligation fund will increase by small amounts, she said.
She said the permissive medical levy might also increase a little.
The new budget might include a wage incentive to retain municipal employees.
The council-appointed Personnel, Policy & Wage Committee met Wednesday, July 30, and discussed municipal employee wages and employee retention. Several positions remain unfilled.
“We’re competing with the oilfield. We are losing employees. We can’t compete with them,” Mahlum said. “We may do something similar to what the county is doing.”
The Roosevelt County Commissioners approved a $300 monthly stipend for all permanent non-elected county employees, Tuesday, July 22. The commissioners are expected to address stipends for themselves and other elected officials at another time.
Those stipends are above and beyond the employees’ salaries and are intended as an incentive to remain on the job.
Mahlum said the incentive the PP&W Committee discussed is not a stipend in the same way the one the county adopted and would be for the current fiscal year only.
“We have to do something to entice people to stay,” she said.

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Fire Restrictions Issued For State Parks, Fishing Areas

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks adopted Stage I fire restrictions for all FWP fishing access sites, state parks and wildlife management areas throughout Roosevelt County, Thursday, July 31. Restrictions are also in place in Valley County and include the Glasgow area.
Until further notice, the following are prohibited: building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire and smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.
Exemptions include persons with written permits specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited act, individuals using devices solely fueled by liquid petroleum or LPG fuels that can be turned on and off and persons conducting activities in designated areas where the activity is specifically authorized by written posted notice. Federal, state and local law enforcement officers and members of organized rescue and firefighting forces are also exempted in the performance of an official duty.
All land within a city boundary is exempted.
Campfires will be allowed in established steel fire grates only if posted.

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Police Say Woman Intentionally Run Down In Wolf Point Hit And Run

A woman is jailed, accused of intentionally running over another woman with her car on the 200 block of Anaconda Street, Saturday, Aug. 2.
Wolf Point police responded to the 200 block of Anaconda Street at 11:22 a.m., for a report that a Dodge Caravan minivan fled the scene after striking a woman in a gravel parking lot near the corner of Third Avenue South.
Police did not identify the victim; however, several people reported that she is Monica Campbell, 51, of Wolf Point.
Wolf Point Police chief Jeff Harada said she was transported by ambulance to Northeast Montana Health Services - Wolf Point Campus and later flown to a Billings hospital.
Police did not state her condition, only saying injuries were very serious.
Harada said witnesses told police an altercation between the two women began in Arlo’s Bar. Both women went outside and one of them got in the silver Dodge Caravan and struck the other woman in the nearby parking lot.
Officers located the minivan about a half-hour later on the 500 block of Cascade Street and arrested Ramona Fern Clark Vivier, 41, of Wolf Point for aggravated assault, driving under the influence, driving without a license and no insurance, and booked her into the tribal jail in Poplar.
Police took Vivier to the NEMHS hospital for a blood draw, which Harada said is standard procedure for motor vehicle crashes where there are serious injuries. According to information contained in the charging documents Vivier is charged with driving under the influence, but authorities did not say what her blood alcohol content was.
“The case file has been released to tribal criminal investigation,” Harada said.
Investigators from the Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice did not return phone calls from The Herald-News by deadline on Tuesday, Aug. 5.
Harada said the United States Attorney in Great Falls might take over the case.
Wolf Point police also arrested a passenger in Vivier’s vehicle. Mareno Eder, 40, of Wolf Point, was arrested following a pat down search. He was booked into the tribal jail, charged with unlawful possession of prescription medication.

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