Written by Herald-News
(Editor’s Note: The following blotter is a partial list of activities involving the Wolf Point police and volunteer fire departments between April 27 and May 3. All those arrested or cited are presumed innocent.)
2:05 a.m., police conducted a traffic stop on U.S. Hwy. 2 at Alder Street and arrested a 16-year-old Wolf Point male for minor in possession of alcohol, curfew violation and hindering law enforcement. They also cited a 17-year-old Wolf Point male for a curfew violation. Officers also arrested Brent Follett, 20, of Wolf Point for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
5:12 a.m., officers responded to Town Pump for a report of a theft from a vehicle with a loss valued under $1,000. The incident remains under investigation.
7:30 a.m., officers responded to a residence on the 300 block of Main Street for a report of vandalism to a vehicle with a loss valued under $1,000. The incident remains under investigation.
8 a.m., officers responded to the Wolf Point Airport for a report of damage to a fence from a possible hit-and-run motor vehicle accident. The incident remains under investigation.
9:20 a.m., officers responded to Farmers Union Lumber for a report of a theft from the property with a loss valued under $1,000. The incident remains under investigation.
4:45 p.m., officers responded to a residence on the 600 block Sixth Avenue South for a report of vandalism to the residence with a loss valued under $1,000. The incident remains under investigation.
8:20 p.m., officers responded to the Northside School for a report of vandalism to playground equipment and cited a 13-year-old male for criminal mischief.
8:13 a.m., officers responded to a residence on the 500 block of Granville Street for a report of a theft from a vehicle with a loss valued under $1,000. The incident remains under investigation.
10:25 a.m., officers responded to a residence on the 200 block of Helena Street for a report of an assault. Charges are pending against a Wolf Point adult male.
Time not stated: Police cited two juveniles in connection with several window shooting incidents that occurred during November and December 2014.
4:40 p.m., officers responded to Steve’s Auto on U.S. Hwy. 2 for a report of a hit-and-run motor vehicle accident. The incident remains under investigation.
6:44 a.m., officers responded to a residence on the 200 block of Fallon Street for a report of a theft from a vehicle with a loss valued under $1,000. The incident remains under investigation.
9:16 a.m., officers responded to Subs & Such for a report of a theft from the property with a loss valued over $1,000. The incident remains under investigation.
11:53 a.m., officers responded to a residence on the 400 block of Eureka Street after the dispatch center received a 911 hang-up call and arrested Glenn Cantrell, 20, of Wolf Point for possession of drug paraphernalia and on a warrant.
4:17 p.m., officers responded to Northeast Montana Health Services - Wolf Point Campus for a report of an assault. Charges are pending against a Wolf Point adult male.
6:06 p.m., officers responded to the 200 block of Main Street for a report of a disturbance in the street and arrested Elias Walking Eagle, 33, of Wolf Point for disorderly conduct.
12:20 a.m., police conducted a traffic stop at Sixth Avenue South and Front Street and cited Ashley Johnston, 32, of Wolf Point for possession of dangerous drugs and driving without insurance.
12:28 a.m., firefighters responded to a haystack fire on Smith Road with two trucks.
8:25 a.m., police took a report of vandalism to Farm Bureau Insurance building on U.S. Hwy. 2.
1 p.m., police took a report of a theft of a motor vehicle from High Plains Motors by a man taking a test drive. The Montana Highway Patrol recovered the missing pickup truck in Helena three days later.
9 p.m., officers responded to a residence on the 500 block of Dawson Street for a report of an intoxicated person sleeping in the yard and arrested Kevin Belgarde, 28, of Wolf Point for disorderly conduct and public intoxication.
8 a.m., officers responded to a residence on the 500 block of Edgar Street for a report of a vehicle entry with no reported theft. The incident remains under investigation.
8:51 a.m., officers responded to the 100 block of Main Street for a report of a burglary at the Montana Department of Child and Family Services with a loss valued over $1,000. The incident remains under investigation.
6 p.m., officers responded to a residence on the 500 block of Dawson Street for a report of criminal trespass to a vehicle. The incident remains under investigation.
7:55 p.m., officers responded to the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office for a report of a violation of a restraining order. The incident remains under investigation.
3:20 p.m., firefighters responded with one truck and five firefighters to a structure fire in Frazer as mutual aid for the Valley County Long Run Fire Department. An abandoned residence was completely destroyed.
In addition to the above calls, the WPPD responded to the following calls between April 27 and May 3: checks of wellbeing, four; domestic disturbance, five; public assistance, 30; motor vehicle accidents, two; removal of unwanted individuals, nine; animal complaints, three; medical assistance, five; alarm, five; assist other agency, three; unfounded reports, 14; driving complaints, seven; and school requested assistance, one.
Written by John Plestina
The veteran educator who taught at Wolf Point High School for nine years and was slated to return to become district superintendent turned down an offered contract.
Jim Baldwin, originally from Culbertson and currently of St. John, Wash., was the top finalist for the position. The second choice to become superintendent, Monte Silk, withdrew from consideration.
As of early afternoon, Wednesday, April 29, it is not know what course of action the Wolf Point School Board will take. They are likely to begin the advertising, application and interview process for a third time.
Current superintendent Joe Paine leaves June 30 for a new position in Grenora, N.D.
Written by John Plestina
What authorities are saying was an excessive case of child abuse has left a three-month-old victim from Wolf Point with what doctors say could be life-long disabilities and possibly many years of therapy ahead.
The child, who underwent surgery, was severely injured March 30, a victim of alleged child abuse while in the care of his father.
The father, Dustin Gunville, 26, of Helena pleaded not guilty to felony aggravated assault during an arraignment in 1st District Court in Helena Thursday, April 23.
According to an affidavit from 1st District Court in Lewis and Clark County, emergency room staff at St. Peter’s Hospital in Helena requested assistance from Helena police with a suspected case of child abuse on March 30.
Court documents state that the mother of the child, Whitney Marie Garfield, 28, of Helena, formerly of Wolf Point, had gone to work and left her infant son and two-year-old daughter with Gunville, her boyfriend and the father of both children.
According to the affidavit, emergency room staff told police the child arrived at the hospital lethargic and vomiting with bruises on his face and other marks. The terms “non-accidental” and “caused by abuse” were contained in the court document and attributed to an emergency room physician.
The child was flown from the Helena hospital to Great Falls Benefis Pediatric Hospital. There, a CT scan revealed a subdural hematoma [bleeding in the brain], according to court documents.
The child underwent surgery in Great Falls to remove excess blood in his skull from the earlier hematoma.
The affidavit also stated that testing at the Great Falls hospital confirmed the presence of retinal hemorrhaging in one of child’s eyes, however, the other eye was not tested because the physician was unable to dilate the pupil.
It was also stated that as a result of the injuries from the alleged abuse, doctors think the child, now nearly five months old, may have lifelong disabilities and possibly many years of therapy ahead.
Shaylene Alvstad of Trenton, N.D., a cousin of Garfield who was raised with Garfield in Wolf Point said the child is out of the hospital.
“He has ongoing appointments ahead of him,” Alvstad said, and adding that the boy might have issues related to injuries for the rest of his life.
“[Gunville’s] parents have tried to lessen his bond. The judge said no,” she said. “They just said that he is a high flight risk.”
District Judge James Reynolds said Gunville’s bail will remain at $50,000, despite arguments from defense attorney Christopher Abbott to reduce bond to $5,000.
Other newspapers quoted Lewis and Clark County Deputy County Attorney Jeremy Gersovitz as calling the defense motion for a reduction of bail “laughable.” He also called the allegations “gut-wrenching.”
The Billings Gazette reported Lewis and Clark County Deputy County Attorney Jeremy Gersovitz said Gunville has a criminal history, including partner/family member assault charges in Montana and North Dakota.
Gersovitz told The Herald-News that Gunville had one partner/family member assault in Montana and one in North Dakota.
“[Gunville] was very abusive. He’s broken her arm in the past,” Alvstad alleged to The Herald-News.
Gunville, who is from Trenton, N.D., is scheduled for trial Sept. 15. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.
Alvstad said she and others friends and family of Garfield are raising money via www.gofundme.com/fightforwyatt so that Garfield could move to Billings for better medical care for her son when the abuse case is closed.
“She is in dire need of help and the system is failing her,” Alvstad said.
Written by John Plestina
The first round of collective bargaining mediation ended in a deadlock, Thursday, April 23, between the Wolf Point School District and the Wolf Point Educational Support Staff Association, which represents non-certified school staff.
The WPESSA, which represents classified school district employees that include non-certified aides, cafeteria workers and others, requested intervention by a state mediator because of continuing stalemates over employee health insurance and wages.
The Montana Department of Labor and Industry assigned Max Hallfrisch of Great Falls, a member of the Department of Labor and Industry’s Board of Personnel Appeals, to mediate the Wolf Point negotiations.
Negotiations that have been ongoing since February between the school district negotiations committee that consists of superintendent Joe Paine and representatives of the school board, the WPESSA and the Wolf Point Education Association, which represents teachers. The WPEA did not participate in mediation and will meet again with the school district’s negotiations committee, Wednesday, April 29.
“I would say right now [Friday, April 24] our biggest obstacle is to come to an agreement on health insurance,” Paine said.
Part of the issue is that the district will, by law [Affordable Care Act], have to include nine-month employees.
Insurance coverage has been optional for the employees who are paid by the hour and work only during the school year.
“In reality, it is optional but not nearly affordable,” Paine said and added that the cost would take a significant portion of some employee’s paychecks.
District employees will be going to tiered rates that will include single, employee and spouse, parent with child and a family plan.
The cost to the district of the WPESSA proposal would be $627,750 per year, according to Paine.
“I’m concerned where the district will be able to come up with those funds when you look at the facilities that are in need of repair,” he said.
The school district is offering to pay $937.50 per month, per employee, for insurance coverage. That would leave employees with families having to pick up part of the cost.
The WPESSA is asking for the district to pay $1,356 per month for every employee to purchase whatever coverage they wish.
The district has agreed to a $220,000 increase to the district that includes insurance and a district-proposed 1-percent pay increase for certified staff and 25 cents per hour for non-certified employees that have been employed 12 months or longer.
The WPSD’s current two-year collective bargaining agreements with the two unions expire June 30. The district hopes to have new agreements in place before that.
Neither side is bound by a mediator’s recommendations.
Hallfrisch was a Teamsters Union Local 2 steward, business representative and executive board member for about a 35-year period, and has retired from the Teamsters. He is now a state employee.
A new school board will be seated during the May 11 school board meeting, that may or may not include the one incumbent board member who is running or either of two people with school board experience that are running for board positions. A possible scenario could be a new school board seated in less than two weeks with no experience and a new superintendent taking the helm July 1, possibly someone with little or no knowledge of the Wolf Point district or the local area.
Paine has given notice to resign in June for a position in Grenora, N.D.
There is no cost to the school district for a state mediator. Dues the district pays to the Montana School Boards Association and union dues paid by district employees fund mediation costs by state mediators.
The second round of negotiations with Hallfrisch is scheduled for Thursday, April 30, at 6 p.m.
Written by John Plestina
Mediation, meditation or medication?
It might be just a play on words, but serious questions loom of whether collective bargaining negotiations between the Wolf Point School District and the two unions representing teachers and support staff will be settled before the July 1 deadline and if long-term financial effects could negatively impact the children.
Hopefully, the needs of the students will be the highest priority when decisions are made.
Negotiations between the school district and the unions have been ongoing since February and have stalled over issues that include health insurance costs to the district and union-proposed substantial longevity pay increases that could translate to about $8,000 annually for some long-time employees. There is a difference in the costs to the school district of more than $400,000 between what the district and support staff union are proposing.
A first-round of mediation with a state intermediary, Thursday, April 16, did not settle the thorniest issues. A second meeting with the mediator is planned. It’s anyone’s guess if or when a settlement will be agreed upon. A major concern could be the next school year starting with no signed contract with one or both unions.
Adding to the chaos, a lot of changes are coming to the school district all at once. Following the May 5 election, a new school board will be seated during the May 11 trustees meeting that may or may not include the one incumbent board member who is running or either of two people running for board positions with school board experience. A possible scenario could be an entire school board seated in less than two weeks with no experience. Newly-hired superintendent Jim Baldwin, a former WPHS teacher, athletic director and coach, takes the helm July 1.
The new board will be a first in court-mandated redistricted single-member districts. Five of the six positions will be districted and there will be one at-large board member. The entire six-member current board was elected at-large.
Current superintendent Joe Paine has given notice to resign in June for a position in Grenora, N.D.
What is currently happening might be remembered years from now as a pivotal time for the Wolf Point School District with a new board to take the helm with difficult decisions looming and a new superintendent coming in, leaving a possible scenario of a totally inexperienced school board and a new superintendent who has been away from the Wolf Point School District 21 years. Stirring the pot even more is the departures after the current school year of a significant number of district staff [higher than most years] that include administrators, teachers and coaches.
With the school board having already accepted some resignations and other staff and coaches having given notice, the district must hire one elementary principal, an activities/athletic director for the high school, and head football, boys’ basketball, wrestling and volleyball coaches.
The outgoing school board might fill some positions during the next monthly school board meeting, Monday, May 11. That is the meeting where the new school board will be sworn in.
Staff departures account for 14 students leaving the district that are some of the most gifted students with the highest grade point averages. A loss of enrollment numbers also translates to a loss of some state funding that is based on enrollment figures.
A new board that could be comprised of no one who ever served on a school board might inherit the stalled school district/union negotiations and tough financial decisions that might follow a settlement that could include job and program cuts if all union demands are met.
Facilities are another concern a new board will have to address with the gym, entering its 47th year of Wolves dribbling across the floor, needing a new floor, ceiling and bleachers. The high school parking lot needs to be repaved and other renovations and repairs are needed at school buildings.
Let’s remember the kids come first. Their needs, including a high-quality education for every student, is priority No. 1.