Wolf Point Herald

Nemont Opens New Poplar Office

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Nemont has opened a new temporary retail office in Poplar, located on the backside of the James E. Shanley Library next to the Fort Peck Community College. The new temporary retail office opened on Thursday, Jan. 15, to take bill payments, conduct plan changes, and number changes. Nemont is grateful to the Fort Peck Community College for working with them to help secure a space in less than four days after fire destroyed the retail office on Second Avenue early Sunday, Jan. 11. “We are excited and appreciative of the Fort Peck Community College partnering with us in our time of need.” stated Mike Kilgore, CEO of Nemont. “These actions just prove what a great place northeast Montana is to live and work in and demonstrates great partnerships within our small communities.”

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Montana State Prison Escapee From Wolf Point

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Wolf Point Police and other law enforcement agencies across the state are looking for a Montana State Prison escapee who is originally from Wolf Point and authorities believe might have fled to the Wolf Point area.
Eric Bruce Fowler, 34, was discovered missing from a Montana State Prison Watch Program facility in Deer Lodge on Monday, Jan. 18, at about 8 p.m.
Wolf Point Police Chief Jeff Harada said Fowler has been incarcerated for a drug offense.
Fowler is 6-foot-3, 250 pounds with brown hair. He has several scars and tattoos.
Fowler escaped from the Fort Peck Adult Detention Center in August 2013.
Valley County Sheriff’s Deputies apprehended Fowler two weeks later.
He had been arrested on felony charges of possession of dangerous drugs [methamphetamine], failure to register as a violent offender and misdemeanor charges of possession of dangerous drugs [marijuana], driving with a suspended license and failure to have a child properly restrained.

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Transient Who Injured Deputy Sentenced To Prison

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The man who attacked and injured a Roosevelt County deputy sheriff after tailgating his sheriff’s cruiser in April 2014, was sentenced to five years in Montana State Prison and a $10,000 fine in 15th District Court, Wednesday, Jan. 14.
A second five-year sentence for a conviction for a felony DUI was suspended.
Gary Ray Jones, 45, with residences listed that included Culbertson, Arizona, Tennessee, Oregon and Washington, was sentenced for assault on a peace officer with injury and the felony DUI, which was his fourth.
Jones, who has had DUIs in Oregon and Tennessee, tailgated and flashed headlights of a black Chevrolet sedan with Arizona license plates at RCSO Deputy William Black Dog on U.S. Hwy. 2, April 29, 2014, at about 10:42 p.m., according to an RCSO narrative written by Black Dog.
Black Dog got behind Jones and stopped him near mile marker 636 east of Brockton.
Black Dog wrote in the narrative: “The driver jumped out and stated, ‘I challenge you,’ and got right in my face.”
Black Dog also wrote that he smelled a strong odor of alcohol and that Jones got back into his vehicle. The deputy ordered him to exit the vehicle.
“He stated, ‘I always wanted to challenge a cop,’” Black Dog wrote.
The two men fought and Black Dog eventually handcuffed Jones, but Jones injured Black Dog, leaving him with a knee injury that required surgery and several months that he could not work.
Black Dog called for assistance. RCSO Sgt. Tim Lingle, Dep. Patrick O’Connor and Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice officers arrived at the scene.
“That was a bad one,” undersheriff John Summers said.
“It happened during a busy period,” he said.
“We were without him for months. He’s back to work,” Summers said.
“Jones followed him, tailgating him, wanting a law enforcement officer to engage him,” Summers said.
In addition to the felony counts of assault on a peace officer and DUI fourth offense, Jones was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing a peace officer, operating a motor vehicle while the privilege to do so is suspended or revoked, following another vehicle too closely and failure to exhibit proof of liability insurance.
Jones’ troubles were not over. He posted $40,000 bail in August 2014 and was drunk and in a bar fight in Culbertson the next night.
“He bonded out on a Friday and was where he was living in Culbertson. He was released with conditions – no alcohol. That Saturday he was boozing it up and got in a fight in a bar,” Summers said.
Jones appeared in District Court on Aug. 13, 2014, on a bench warrant to answer a petition to revoke bond due to failure to comply with bail conditions. District Judge David Cybulski said the $40,000 Jones had posted no longer applied and it would take an additional $40,000 bond to get out of jail. Jones remained lodged in the Roosevelt County Jail the next five months.
During that court appearance, Jones signed a plea agreement in court. He pleaded guilty to assault on a peace officer and the felony DUI.
Jones might owe more money for restitution. A restitution hearing may be held at a later date when more information becomes available.
Probation officer Trevor Newman testified that Black Dog’s loss was substantial.
Newman said he recommended that Jones be sentenced to 10 years confinement in Montana State Prison with five years suspended, fines and restitution for medical expenses for the assault on a peace officer charge and 13 months confinement with substance abuse treatment for the felony DUI.
“Fighting with the cops is a bad plan,” Cybulski said after he imposed the sentence.
“I fought with the law and the law won,” Jones said.
“You’re one of those people who whacks a cop and when you bop a cop, you’re going to get whacked,” Cybulski said.
Jones was transferred to the Fort Benton Detention Center, Thursday, Jan. 15, where he is being held until the Department of Corrections transfers him.

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School Board Rehires Coach Amid Controversy

The Wolf Point School board rehired one coach and hired another amid controversy over hiring practices for coaches during the monthly board meeting Monday, Jan. 19.
The board voted 3-2 to rehire head football coach Bruce Knerr. School board chairman Martin DeWitt and trustee Janice Wemmer-Kegley voted not to approve four hires at the present time that included Knerr.
Wemmer-Kegley said she was concerned that Knerr was the only head coach on the list of candidates for hiring at the January meeting, ahead of all other coaches, and she thought the head coach and assistant coaches should be hired as a package so that the football program would be fully staffed.
Several people said they felt that Knerr should be hired at the January meeting.
“We want our head coach going out and searching for assistants,” junior and senior high principal Kim Hanks said.
Activities director Mike Erickson said during the December school board meeting that Glasgow — a high school the size of Wolf Point — has a football coaching staff of seven while Wolf Point had two [staff coaches] in 2014. That issue was reiterated during the meeting Monday night.
Erickson had also made a point that it is sometimes difficult finding coaches.
Hanks added Monday night that she wants Knerr to know he has his job and to feel free to hire assistant coaches.
Superintendent Joe Paine praised Knerr for his positive work with student athletes.
“He’s gone above and beyond,” he said.
In response to a comment that Knerr was being brought to the board for rehiring too early, Paine said, “It’s a vote of confidence for Coach Knerr.”
Knerr, who also coaches the WPHS wrestling team and the Babe Ruth Baseball program in Wolf Point, has five years as head football coach and about 30 years of overall coaching experience.
The vote came six weeks after the board discussed hiring practices and the need to address the issue during a coming meeting.
Several parents addressed the board during the previous meeting, Monday, Dec. 8, about district’s practice of not hiring school district administrators and supervisors as athletic coaches, which some parents said might not give student athletes the best possible coaches.
DeWitt said during the December meeting that he was concerned whether a system of checks and balances would be in place if an administrator were to serve as a coach and evaluate him or herself. DeWitt said there could be a loss of the level of chain of command.
Hired along with Knerr were: Brad Solberg, junior high boys’ basketball coach; Greg LaRoche, assistant cook and records keeper; and Darlene Hanks, junior and high school ISS supervisor. All were hired pending background checks.
The resignations of three employees were announced. They are: Linda Warmbrod, Southside School paraprofessional; John Sweet, head volleyball coach; and Tommy Olson, junior high boys’ basketball coach.
DeWitt told the board that the junior high wrestling team needs new uniforms before the next season.
The board approved the Swing Choir tour to Minnesota March 18-22. The students have the funding in their account.
Northside Elementary School principal Hannah Nieskens told the board her school’s enrollments increased by seven students last week.
Nieskens also reported that attendance percentages have increased.
In contrast, Southside Elementary School principal Susan Brown told the board that attendance at her school has decreased.
DeWitt said the blame for the district’s truancy problems falls on parents. He called the problem “egregious.”
The board held a 92-minute closed executive session at the beginning of the meeting where five student disciplinary issues and one personnel matter were discussed behind closed doors. The board voted in open session to expel three students for the remaining of the current school year and to readmit the students for the 2015-2016 school year. Two must have behavior contracts and another a psychological evaluation. One student may be readmitted now with a behavior contract. A decision on another student issue was tabled until the next school board meeting. The board also voted to terminate an unnamed school district employee.
The next scheduled school board meeting will be Monday, Feb. 9, at 6 p.m., in the Wolf Point High School library.

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Tribes Tread Into Pot Hullabaloo

The Fort Peck Tribes Executive Board approved a resolution 7-4 to legalize medical marijuana on the reservation, during a meeting earlier this month.
There are, however, gray areas with federal law.
Montana’s state law legalizing medical marijuana does not apply to the seven Indian reservations in the state and other federal lands. It has been interpreted that non-Indians living in Wolf Point, Poplar and elsewhere on the reservation cannot legally use medical marijuana.
Voting in favor of the resolution were council members Ed Bauer, Garrett Big Leggins, Dana Buckles, Tom Christian, Marva Firemoon, Roxanne Gourneau and Stacey Summers. Casting no votes were Charles Headdress, Pearl Hopkins, Terry Rattling Thunder and Grant Stafne. Rick Kirn was not present at the meeting.
Questions remain of whether the approval of medical marijuana complies with federal law and, if not, whether federal funding to the tribes could be jeopardized.

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