Written by John Plestina
It is not yet clear whether Wolf Point taxpayers will suffer sticker shock or just minor heartburn when new tax bills are mailed at the end of October.
One thing that is clear is a dire need to repair several streets, a lack of available funds and no grant monies currently available. Municipal officials want to double both the street and street maintenance assessments to fund street construction projects.
The proposal is to raise the assessment from $39.60 to $79.20.
Interstate Engineering of Nashua has prioritized proposed street projects and estimated costs.
The Wolf Point City Council scheduled a public hearing in City Hall Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 7 p.m., to provide more information about the final city budget, including street assessments, and to hear public comments.
The council is expected to adopt the full budget Monday, Aug. 30.
Roosevelt County and the Wolf Point and Frontier school districts adopt their own budgets. Taxes for all taxing entities appear on tax bills.
Wolf Point’s clerk/treasurer Marlene Mahlum said Thursday, Aug. 20, that a tax increase is expected, but she did not know how much.
She cited the needed repairs of city streets and the voter approval in November 2014 authorizing the county commissioners to issue and sell up to $11.86 million in general obligation bonds to be repaid within 20 years for a new county jail as possible drivers for a tax increase.
The current jail is outdated and under-sized for current needs. It does not meet current state and national jail standards.
Legal action brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2013 forced Roosevelt County to reduce the number of jail beds by nearly one half.
“They [tax bills] have to be mailed out by Oct. 31 because we have to give them 30 days [prior to due dates],” Roosevelt County treasurer Betty Romo said.
“I’m really hope people don’t see too bad of a sticker shock,” she said.
“I don’t know how the mills are going to relate to individual taxpayer’s properties,” Mahlum said. “The bottom line is the taxes are going to go up in Wolf Point.”
She said she does not foresee a large overall tax increase.
“There are no increases for water, sewer and garbage at this time,” Mahlum said.
“The police department has requested another officer,” she said.
Mahlum said last week that she did not know if the department would get an additional officer.
Police chief Jeff Harada has said that an additional officer is needed.
Harada told the council Monday, Aug. 17, that city police responded to 533 complaints during July, which was 4 percent increase over July 2014. The WPPD responded to 27 percent more calls for service in June than they did for the same period last year.
A looming question for Mahlum has been the new tax evaluation by the Montana Department of Revenue that was conducted statewide during fall 2014. It resulted in Roosevelt County real estate values increasing substantially, but more so in Culbertson and Bainville, which are Bakken Oilfield-impacted. In Wolf Point, taxes doubled for some homeowners, increased only slightly for others and remained static for some.
Taxable values recently became available to Mahlum.
“The taxable values went up to $395 per mill, which is not a lot,” Mahlum said.
She was uncertain last week how that would relate to individual residential property taxpayers. The mill value last year was 304.86.
“We’re looking at less mills this year. We’re probably looking at about 245 mills less because the mill value is more, so as a result I need less mills,” Mahlum said.
Mahlum said the Oil, Gas, Coal and Natural Resources Distribution from the state to county and municipal governments could decrease.
“The Bakken money — we’re seeing a decrease in those funds,” Mahlum said.
For the last quarter, a total of $67,555 went to various governmental entities in Roosevelt County with Wolf Point receiving $24,212.
Written by John Plestina
The ruins of the former VFW Club on the 100 block of Main Street may be torn down during the coming year, if asbestos and mold problems are abated. First Baptist Church hopes to build a new church and food pantry at the site. (Photo by John Plestina)
The site of the former VFW Club in downtown Wolf Point could become a church and food bank with the sale of a tax lien more than eight years after fire gutted the building.
The ruins of the structure that once housed the VFW with a restaurant and bar, and included a bowling alley, has remained on the 100 Block of Main Street next to the Montana Health and Human Services office since the fire on Jan. 21, 2007. The VFW Club closed more than a year prior to the fire.
The burned out building has attracted vagrants and people looking for a party place for years, according to several sources, including the Wolf Point Police Department.
Roosevelt County Treasurer Betty Romo said the county sold the tax lien against a long absent property owner to First Baptist Church during the annual tax lien sale in July.
Romo and the county commissioners talked about selling the burned out structure for unpaid taxes earlier this year with the goal of demolition and redevelopment.
The church has an assignment on the property that could lead to ownership.
Taxes had not been paid since May 2007, four months after the fire. The property has remained in the name of Miranda Coleman, the owner of record since 2007. She left Wolf Point several years ago and attempts to locate her have been unsuccessful.
Romo told The Herald-News in January that her records show a Malta man purchased the property prior to the fire and sold it to Coleman after the fire.
Romo said Coleman, who had relocated to Wolf Point from Louisiana, left Wolf Point within a few months of purchasing the property.
The woman who has been the owner of record as Miranda Coleman and her husband told The Herald-News their name was Hancock in an April 2007 news story that reported their plans to repair the building, reopen the bowling alley and include a youth-orientated game room with pool tables and arcade games. According to that news story, the couple had moved to Wolf Point with a small child after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
A WPPD report from 2007 shows the woman’s last name as Coleman.
Roosevelt County officials have said the property, which is believed to contain asbestos and mold, likely qualifies as an Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields site for environmental cleanup funding and redevelopment.
First Baptist is working with Great Northern Development Corporation for cleanup of asbestos through the Brownfields program.
The Brownfields program funded the now completed cleanup of the Wolf Point city-owned site of the former Gysler Furniture and Appliance store on Anaconda Street. That site is slated for a sale and redevelopment. Municipal officials worked with GNDC on that project.
“We’ve been waiting for the EPA report before we can do anything,” First Baptist pastor Mike Kauffold said.
He said the church is hoping to clean out the former bowling alley next summer.
“Depending on how things go, we could have a shell [of a new building] next year,” Kauffold said, but added that progress might take longer.
The church does not have a timeline, as there are too many variables.
“We are going to have a church there and eventually have a food bank there,” Kauffold said.
“There were several objectives. One, we want to provide a service to the community and one of the objectives was a food bank,” he said.
Kauffold said the current church building on the 900 block of Third Avenue North is too small and not practical with no storage space.
“We can’t even have a potluck there,” Kauffold said. “That turned into a search for another location [to move the church from its current location].”
The First Baptist Church’s plan for a food bank is separate and in addition to the food bank that is slated to open in September in the former Boys and Girls Club building on the corner of Main Street and Fifth Avenue South. The Fort Peck Tribes owns that building and is allowing it to be used for a food bank.
Written by John Plestina
Just 22 days after a DUI arrest, police say the same driver was drunk, struck a bicycle with an SUV and fled the scene, leaving an 11-year-old Wolf Point girl lieing on Blaine Street between Albertson’s and Triangle Park Sunday, Aug. 23.
The Wolf Point Police Department identified the driver as Kayla Beauchman, 21, of Wolf Point.
The child was transported by ambulance to Northeast Montana Health Services - Wolf Point Campus with non-life threatening injuries.
Lt. Brian Erwin responded to the 911 call that the dispatch center received at 5:06 p.m. A short time later he located the suspect black Chevrolet Suburban and arrested Beauchman at a residence on Eighth Avenue North.
Beauchman was booked into the Fort Peck Tribes jail in Poplar on charges of DUI and duties in the event of an accident, which is a tribal code equivalent to leaving the scene of an accident.
The WPPD previously arrested Beauchman for DUI and contributing to the delinquency of a minor on Aug. 1. Police also cited Beauchman for following too closely, driving without a driver’s license and driving without insurance following a motor vehicle accident on April 1
Written by Angela Rose Benson
The annual Fort Kipp Celebration, a long-standing tradition on the Fort Peck Reservation, celebrates Native American culture and traditions through dancing, food, crafts and fellowship. It was held Thursday, Aug. 20 through Sunday, Aug. 23. (Photos by Angela Rose Benson)
Written by John Plestina
Twin sisters (from left to right) Trinity and Serenity Poitra, eight, and older sister Geni, nine, of Wolf Point push a big broom as volunteers cleaning inside the new food pantry. (Photo by John Plestina)
More volunteers are needed for the new food pantry set to open Monday, Sept. 21, in the former Boys and Girls Club building on the corner of Main Street and Fifth Avenue South.
It will fill a void as Wolf Point has been without a food pantry for several years. Some local residents have sought services from a food pantry in Culbertson, the nearest location to Wolf Point. Services from that food pantry might not remain available for Wolf Point residents.
Renovations began nearly a year ago on the Fort Peck Tribes-owned Boys and Girls Club building after a lease had been signed by Fort Peck Tribes and Food Pantry Inc.
Food Pantry Inc. will serve anyone living in Wolf Point and the surrounding area with a need that would be based on income levels of 150 percent of the poverty level.
Rose Neumiller Green has envisioned a food pantry in Wolf Point with a friendly grocery store atmosphere where people could come into a waiting room where they would be registered on a computer and then given a grocery list in which they would go around the shelves and put their own food items the cart.
Physical renovations are nearing completion in the building.
Walk-in coolers/freezers are still needed.
The food pantry had been slated to open in early September, but delays in getting food delivered has moved the opening date to Sept. 21.
Northeast Montana Health Services’ Emergency Medical Services will host a Halloween haunted house with donated food as the admission price. All of the food will be donated to Food Pantry Inc.
Green said in February that she expects to feed between 600 and 1,000 families each month.
The food pantry will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday each week and would serve all surrounding communities.
Blue Earth Boxing Club occupies the second floor in the building.
The club teaches boxing to youth and competes against other boxing clubs from Montana and surrounding states.
To volunteer for Food Pantry Inc., or for more information, contact Green at 650-5667.