Wolf Point Herald

GNDC To Seek Funding To Level Gysler Furniture Store Ruins

Great Northern Development Corporation presented a proposal to the Wolf Point City Council Monday, May 19, to fund the cleanup of the fenced-off debris field in downtown Wolf Point that was the site of Gysler Furniture and Appliance until a rapidly-moving fire leveled both 84-year-old Gysler buildings the corner of First Avenue South and Anaconda Street Monday, March 10. A fenced-off debris field with the remains of masonry walls, rubble and other debris have left a blemish on downtown Wolf Point. The longtime Wolf Point furniture and appliance retailer has moved into what will be at least a temporary location on Main Street on the opposite side of Sherman Park. GNDC executive director Martin DeWitt told the council that the site could qualify as a designated Brownfield site where expansion, redevelopment or reuse of the property might be complicated by the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants. The designation could make the city eligible for federal grant funding to clean up the site. There was discussion of the current appearance of the downtown area and 2015 being the centennial year. “There would be zero or very minimum liability for the city,” DeWitt said of a Brownfield program grant. Mayor Chris Dschaak called for volunteers to serve on a committee to look into a cleanup. Appointed were council members Rollie Paulson, Laurie Evans, Tina Bets His Medicine, Public Works Director Richard Isle and City Attorney Jordan Knudsen. The committee will meet Thursday, May 29, at 6:30 p.m. Asked if a cleanup during the coming summer would be possible, DeWitt responded that such a timeline would be aggressive, but the end of the summer would be possible.

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Council Considers Landscaping Proposal For Sherman Park, Other Park Improvements

The Wolf Point City Council discussed a proposal by Steamboat Dry Goods’ owner Carolyn Whitmer Monday, May 19, that would fund landscaping at Sherman Park, which would include replacement of dead trees and the addition of more trees at no cost to the city. Mayor Chris Dschaak requested that the Park, Recreation and Tree Committee meet with Whitmer to discuss her proposal. In another matter concerning Sherman Park, the council approved a call for bids to build a ramp for the gazebo. Bids will be considered in June but construction will not begin until after the Wild Horse Stampede in July. The council also discussed rehabilitating the park on Fifth Avenue South and Fairweather Street. Mayor Chris Dschaak requested that the park remain on the council agenda for discussions during future meetings. In other business, the council discussed a proposal by Fire Chief Shawn Eggar to dispose of a fire truck the city purchased in 1974 and replace it with an up-to-date and efficient truck the county owns. City Attorney Jordan Knudsen will research the legality of selling the old truck and the joint city/county use of another truck. The council will revisit the issue during a future meeting. In another matter, the council discussed requests by residents of Crescent, Prospect, East Indian and East Johnson streets to place additional speed limit signs to attempt to discourage speeding in the residential area. The council also discussed a possible need for a social media ordinance that could set restrictions or guidelines over what city employees and volunteer firefighters could post on Facebook and other social media sites that could affect the city. Dschaak said there is a need to address the use of social media with a policy.

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Attempt Afloat To Keep Preschool From Sinking After Levy Failure

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With Wolf Point voters rejecting a $200,000 continuous elementary general fund levy Tuesday, May 6, the Indian Education Committee might have found a way to keep the preschool program running after the current school year, the catch is that teaching jobs could be lost.
The IEC presented a recommendation to the Board of School Trustees Tuesday, May 13. The IEC voted 3-1 with one abstention to make those recommendations. The school board could not act on the recommendations because it had not been on the agenda. School trustees will soon schedule a special meeting to make a final determination of the fate of the preschool program.
The continuous elementary general fund levy failed by just two votes, 392-390, leaving the future of the district’s preschool program in jeopardy. A second levy for $250,000 that would have run for one year only would have increased the building reserve and provide funding for parking lot and gym floor repairs at the high school. It failed 409-370 with voters in the city and 49-37 among Frontier School District voters.
School trustees discussed a need to reduce spending due to the failure of both levies and costs the district incurred from legal fees after a lawsuit that resulted in redistricting before trustees are elected next year. Preschool is one of several programs that could face elimination.
The Indian Education Committee met twice during the seven days between the election and the school board meeting, Thursday, May 8 and Monday, May 12. The committee will meet again Monday, May 19, at 5 p.m.
The IEC agreed on a proposal during the second meeting that was similar to a proposal Superintendent Joe Paine made to the IEC four days earlier. That proposal require cuts from other schools.
The school could have followed the proposal, made changes to it or rejected it and opted to discontinue the preschool program.
If school trustees followed the recommendation, the cuts would include the elimination of a pre-K teacher and two pre-K classroom aids at Southside School, the Southside after school program, the breakfast buddies program and the home school coordinator at Northside school.
Discussions of other possible cuts have included elimination of school district bus transportation to and from preschool, a reduction from four to three fourth grade teachers at Northside Elementary School and elimination of one language teacher.
IEC chairman Rob Manning said during the IEC meeting Monday, May 12 that the decision was coming down to eliminating the preschool program or restarting the junior high school within a school program, which costs the district $66,295.
Southside Principal Susan Brown expressed concern that although she would like to retain the preschool program, she did not want tom lose teachers.
“I hate to say it because I love the preschool; if I had to vote right now, I’d have to vote against the preschool,” she said.
“It breaks my heart, but I have these other children I have to teach reading to,” Brown said.
During the IEC meeting Monday, May 12, a woman suggested charging tuition for preschool.
Paine rebuffed the idea, saying preschool enrollments would drop and some parents would opt for Headstart instead.
“I do think our program numbers would decline. I also think they would decline if we don’t offer a bus,” Paine said.
One man suggested cutting extra curricular activities and not teachers during both IEC meetings.
“I think academics are more important,” he said.
A woman suggested eliminated the golf and tennis programs at the high school.
Paine said the high school would lose enrollments if athletic programs were cut. He said there were extra curricular activity cuts a few years ago, but not at the high school.
“Preschool for me is essential. it gets them ready for kindergarten,” Manning said.
“I’ve talked to the administration at the Faith (Lutheran) Home and they are going to lose a lot of their workers,” he said of employees of the nursing home not being able to afford daycare.

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Plan For New Refinery At Shuttered Kenco Site

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The old Kenco Refinery site east of Wolf Point will require a major clean up if plans for a new refinery are approved. (Submitted photo)

The former Kenco Refinery east of Wolf Point, now closed 29 years, could be the site of the proposed Fort Peck Clean Energy Campus that could include a new oil refinery that would serve the Bakken Oil Field.
Ken Elliott and Steve Houston, doing business locally as Wolf Point Green LLC, purchased the former Kenco site in December 2011 with plans to build a new refinery that could accommodate 20,000 barrels daily, a wind farm and solar and geothermal energy production. There are also long-range plans that include greenhouses heated with energy produced within the site and a commercial fish farm.
“Ours is what is called a clean-energy campus,” Elliott said.
The alternative energy produced on-site would partially power the refinery.
“If the refinery is the only thing that is built, we are missing the mark,” Elliott said.
He said he envisions a hotel at the site and a rail terminal that would serve the oil industry and promote oil industry development in Montana.
“There are 15 crude oil terminals in North Dakota. We’ve got none in Montana,” Elliott said.
He said the refinery and rail terminal could be built within two to three years.
Elliott hopes to create a substantial number of jobs that people living in the Wolf Point and Poplar areas could benefit from. Elliott said he wants to employ Native Americans and veterans.
The site, located about six miles east of Wolf Point on Montana Hwy. 13, is about one half mile south of U.S. Hwy 2. There is an abandoned oil refinery, which has been reported as being in operation from 1965 to 1985. Elliott said the refinery actually opened in 1963.
One major hurdle lies ahead. A cleanup of an estimated 315,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil is estimated by a recent study to cost about $30 million. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated the cost at $25 million in 2008.
The EPA declared the former Kenco refinery a superfund cleanup site in 1997. It is a designated Brownfield site where expansion, redevelopment or reuse of the property might be complicated by the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants.
Wolf Point Green is working with the Wolf Point headquartered Great Northern Development Corporation and the Eastern Montana Brownfields Coalition. The two organizations are administering the Clean Up Revolving Loan Fund and Assessment Grant for petroleum and hazardous substance cleanup.
“This is a significant Brownfield site,” Elliott said.
He said he hopes to recycle about 750,000 gallons of old product by running it through the future refinery.
There are also several tanks at the site with old product that has turned into sludge.
Elliott said GNDC contacted him several years ago about the Kenco site.
Elliott, who lived in Colorado at the time of the purchase, said he now lives in Wolf Point. He also is president of the Colorado-
based Fidelis Environmental Risk Management which represents clients Brownfield site developments, environmental construction and other services.
“There’s obviously a cleanup solution. It’s a matter of how much it’s going to cost,” Elliott said.
“Because of the proximity to the Bakken and the need for diesel in the area, there is a heck of a need,” he said.
Currently, much of the region’s crude oil is leaving the Bakken headed south for refining. There is only one small refinery in North Dakota, located at Mandan.
The Roosevelt County Commissioners voted Tuesday, May 13, to sponsor a $500,000 grant GNDC is writing for Wolf Point Green to help pay for the Kenco cleanup.
The commissioners approved a letter of support for Wolf Point Green in January 2012.

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DUI Task Force Discusses 15th District Court DUI Court Program

Roosevelt County’s new DUI Task Force discussed asking 15th District Court to establish a DUI Court sentencing diversion program Wednesday, May 7.
The DUI Court Program, in existence nationwide since the 1990s, uses substance-abuse interventions and treatment, and is dedicated to changing the behavior of alcohol and drug dependant offenders arrested for driving under the influence. DUI Court uses a premise that most repeat offenders are alcoholic.
So far, the Fort Peck Tribal Court is the only court in Roosevelt County that has embraced the DUI Court program and orders participants to attend 12-step recovery meetings and obtain attendance verification signatures.
Seventh District Court which includes Dawson, McCone, Prairie, Richland and Wibaux counties uses the DUI Court program.
An increasing number of judges across the nation have accepted that they cannot jail their way out of the ever-increasing drunk driving problem and are sending people convicted of DUI to the DUI Court program.
DUI Court was modeled after the Drug Court program, established in Miami-Dade County, Fla., in 1989. Today, Drug Court is used in many locations across the nation and there are hybrid DUI/Drug Court programs in use in several judicial districts in Montana.
Fort Peck tribal members who have felony status DUIs enter the DUI Court program, locally administered as a 12-month, four-stage program that includes substance abuse treatment, daily check-ins, positive activities and required attendance of 12-step recovery meetings.
Failure to comply with the requirements result in sanctions that could include jail.
“The inn is full will major criminals,” Roosevelt County Sheriff Freedom Crawford said.
The aging Roosevelt County Jail cannot accommodate the current volume of offenders. Roosevelt County voters will consider a bonding measure Tuesday, June 3, asking for authorization for the commissioners to issue and sell  $11.86 million in general obligation bonds to be repaid within 20 years that would fund a modern and larger jail.
“Hopefully, after June 3, we’ll have another inn,” Crawford said.
“They need help. They don’t need jail time,” Roosevelt County Commissioner Gary Macdonald said during the last DUI Task Force meeting.
“I want to get our judges to do it,” he said, referring to a possible DUI Court in 15th District Court.
Fort Peck Tribes probation officer Courage Crawford said if 15th District Court establishes a DUI Court, services for clients who are not tribal members would be available through Spotted Bull Recovery Resource Center in Poplar.
Medicine Wheel, a cultural-based spiritual healing circle, is a spin-off of the DUI Court program. The group that addresses alcohol, drug and other addictions meets every Friday in both Wolf Point and Poplar and is open to the public.
“We talk about the reasons why they drink,” Courage Crawford said.
In addition to Medicine Wheel, there are 12-step recovery program meetings in Wolf Point and Poplar.
The Montana Department of Transportation funds the DUI Court program.

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