Written by John Plestina
More than 30 employees of Wolf Point bars, convenience stores and restaurants that have liquor and beer licenses took a mandatory alcohol sales and server training class Tuesday, Aug. 12. Great Northern Development Corporation hosted the presentation.
Owners and managers of all bars and restaurants that hold liquor licenses, bartenders and servers are mandated by Montana law to become certified within 60 days of being hired. Certification is good for three years. After 60 days, employees can not legally work without certification and owners of establishments could face fines for not ensuring that themselves and all of their employees are certified.
To become certified, they must take a one-day class with a curriculum developed by the Montana Department of Revenue, the state agency that issues licenses for alcohol sales.
Trained professionals present the class. There are only three in the local area. One of those people is Mike Hughes of the Montana Job Service, who presented the class in Wolf Point last week. He said there will be another class in Culbertson in the near future.
The class teaches bar and restaurant owners and employees who serve alcohol their legal responsibilities and potential personal liabilities that could result in criminal charges and/or a lawsuit. That includes checking IDs and not serving persons younger than 21. It also means knowing when it is time to cut off an intoxicated person. It is illegal for any licensed establishment in Montana and the licensee’s employees to sell or serve any alcoholic beverage to any obviously intoxicated person.
Hughes stressed that owners, managers, bartenders and others who serve alcohol in bars and restaurants are potentially criminally and civilly liable and can protect themselves from legal problems they don’t want and could avoid.
The class also addressed potential consequences for bar employees not calling police when they should be called. That includes not reporting fights.
Hughes showed a video recounting a June, 2010, incident where a Bigfork bowling alley bar manager served 17 days of a six-month jail sentence after allowing after hours sales to a coworker who became intoxicated and later killed a Montana Highway Patrol trooper in a crash. The potential for charges and jail or even prison time are possible for any bar or restaurant owner who holds a liquor license, manager, bartender or server.
“You could expect jail and you could expect up to $500,000 in liability,” Hughes said.
He also said servers are more likely than owners to end up in jail, even if they say their employer threatened to fire them if they refused to violate the law.
Bartenders and servers could be charged with manslaughter if they serve an intoxicated individual and that person kills another in a drunk driving crash or a fight.
Hughes also said there is a higher risk of lawsuits associated with beer gardens than there is with bars.
Montana considers alcoholic beverage licenses a government-issued conditioned privilege.
“Local law enforcement can actually shut your bar down,” Hughes said
He said city police officers and sheriff’s deputies can close down a bar on a temporary basis under the Montana nuisance law.
Hughes said parking lots are considered part of a business, therefore telling people fighting to take it outside could lead to criminal or civil liability.
“What happens in your parking lot; you’re just as liable,” Hughes said.
Penalties under Montana law for sales of alcohol to intoxicated persons includes fines of $250 for first offenses, $1,000 for second offenses, a $1,500 fine and 20-day suspension of a liquor license for a third offenses and revocation of the license on a fourth offense.
Hughes also addressed a new Department of Revenue Disorderly Licensed Premises form that is available to the public. Anyone who has patronized a bar where there is a fight where the police are not called, minors being served or violations of any alcohol or drug law can download, fill out and submit the form that is available at http://revenue.mt.gov/Portals/9/liquor/education/CitizenConcernForm.pdf.
Other issues the class addressed included:
● sales only permitted between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m., 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. for breweries, 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. for restaurants;
● bar and restaurant employees must be at least 18 to serve open containers of alcohol while there is no minimum age to sell closed containers [packaged beer and liquor in a store];
● while the minimum age to consume alcohol is 21, 18-year-olds may gamble in a casino and purchase tobacco products;
● establishments should have posted written alcohol sales policies.
Written by John Plestina
The search has shifted to North Dakota for two unidentified men who committed a gunpoint robbery near Culbertson on Wednesday, Aug. 13.
Roosevelt County Undersheriff John Summers said Monday, Aug. 18, that the McKenzie County, N.D., Sheriff’s Office [in Watford City] began searching for the two men Friday, Aug. 15, after Summers contacted them.
Summers said a resident of rural McKenzie County called the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office and said he had seen the suspect vehicle on a county road. He told Summers he learned of the search online.
Summers said the man attempted to follow the vehicle and the men took off.
The RCSO reported that two white males, believed to be in their middle 20s, robbed an individual with a pistol on the side of County Road 2054 north of Culbertson, about 8 a.m., on Wednesday, Aug. 13. They were seen later that morning headed southbound on the Lanark Road toward U.S. Hwy. 2.
“We’ve combed the area pretty good. We’ve canvassed the area,” Sheriff Freedom Crawford said at 4:30 p.m. on the day of the robbery.
He said the victim was re-interviewed to check details.
“The description that was given to us by the victim hasn’t changed,” Crawford said.
The vehicle is reported to be a black Ford pickup, possibly a 2000 model, with a temporary tag in the back window and a bullet hole in the tailgate.
One of the men was reported to have been wearing blue jeans and a gray sweater at the time of the robbery and the other was wearing a red shirt.
Anyone with any information should contact the RCSO at 653-6240. The telephone number for the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office is 701-444-3654.
Written by John Plestina
Wolf Point School trustees adopted the elementary and high school budgets for fiscal year 2014-15, Tuesday, Aug. 12.
The $5,103,787 elementary school budget includes a general fund of a little over $3.6 million.
The $3,449,560 high school budget includes a general fund of a little over $3.6 million.
The district mill levies are 124.61 for the elementary school budget, down from 126.32, the 2013-2014 levy and 93.79 for the high school budget, down from 94.87 one year ago.
In other business, the board approved purchase orders for $11,626 to Black Mountain Software for annual fees and maintenance and $5,927 to CDW Government Inc. for Microsoft server licenses. The board must approve purchase orders that exceed $5,000.
In another matter, the trustees approved a resolution adopting the environmental assessment for the paving of the parking lot at Wolf Point High School. An environmental impact statement is not necessary. This is for a possible future Montana Quality Schools Grant that might fund repaving of the parking lot. The trustees approved a $21,000 asphalt parking lot overlay proposal Monday, July 28, that is intended to fill potholes for safety. That work has not been done.
The board also accepted the resignation of high school and junior high in-school suspension supervisor David D’Ambrosio and assistant cook Claine Raining Bird.
The board authorized the following new employees: Henry Isle Jr., Southside custodian; Jana Elliott, Northside teacher; Brandi Charette, Northside substitute secretary; Ann Landsrud, Northside paraprofessional; Tiffany Szymanski, Northside paraprofessional; Tyler Desjarlais, assistant custodian; Arthur
Tapaha, assistant cook; Brad Solberg, junior high assistant football coach; and Samantha Starkey, volunteer assistant cheer coach.
Written by John Plestina
The Frontier School board approved the 2014-15 budget with no change in the mill levy during a special meeting, Thursday, Aug. 14.
The adopted budget includes a general fund of a little over $1 million and a total of all funds just over $1.46 million. The district’s property tax requirement is $393,501 and the mill levy is 119.87.
The budget reflects about a $10,000 increase over last year’s budget because of an increase in enrollments.
“I knew that in the middle of March that it was going to be that,” superintendent Christine Eggar said.
In other business, the trustees approved the admission of a first grade student from outside the district, bringing the total number of first-graders to 18.
The board also approved Ruth Garfield as a substitute.
In another matter, the board approved the state correction plan for special education deviation.
Written by John Plestina
The Wolf Point City Council approved a call for bids for the cleanup of the former site of Gysler Furniture and Appliance Monday, Aug. 18.
A fast-moving fire on March 10 destroyed the two adjacent Gysler buildings on the 100 block of Anaconda Street, leaving portions of block walls and other charred remains, some of which are believed to contain asbestos.
City officials have been working with Great Northern Development Corporation and environmental consultant Newfields of Missoula to clean up the site and redevelop it.
The council approved a plan in June for the city to purchase the property for $1 and get it cleaned up under the federal Brownfields program at no municipal cost or liability.
The site is expected to 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 would make the city eligible for funding through a revolving loan fund and/or federal grant funding for remediation and clean-up of the site.
While the buildings dated to the early 1900s, remodeling of both structures during the 1960s included roofing and flooring materials made of asbestos, which the fire this year rendered as “friable asbestos,” which is any building material containing more than 1 percent asbestos that could be pulverized or powdered by hand pressure, including asbestos that is damaged by fire, and is subject to federal regulation.
“[The Gysler cleanup project] is moving along very well,” mayor Chris Dschaak said. He is hoping to have bids back this fall.
The transfer of the real estate has not happened. Dschaak said the city is waiting to be sure that government funding for the cleanup is guaranteed.