Written by Herald-News
Water from the Dry Prairie Rural Water/Assiniboine and Sioux Regional Water System was finally delivered to Plentywood on Wednesday, Aug. 5. There for the momentous occasion were (from left to right) Plentywood city clerk Kelly Thiel, councilman Randy Rice, municipal foreman Brian Tommerup, Dry Prairie manager Joni Sherman, and Dry Prairie board members Jon Bolstad and Jim Tande. (Submitted photo)
Dry Prairie Rural Water recently reached two milestones for the regional water project with the Assiniboine and Sioux Regional Water System.
Delivery of water from the
ASRWS treatment plant near Wolf Point to the Dry Prairie system on July 27, marks the historic first delivery of water off the reservation for the joint water project.
In its service area on the east side of Roosevelt County and in Sheridan County, Dry Prairie currently delivers water to over 700 rural customers and the communities of Fort Kipp, McCabe, Bainville, Froid, Medicine Lake, Homestead, Dagmar and Antelope. Each of the communities and all of the rural services were slowly converted to the new water source during recent weeks.
Culbertson had been the water source for the Dry Prairie Project on an interim basis during construction of the water treatment plant. The sale of water from Culbertson began in 2006.
Water was finally delivered to Plentywood on Wednesday, Aug. 5, ending a struggle to maintain groundwater wells and a failing water treatment plant. Plentywood is the largest community to date to receive water from Dry Prairie, with an estimated average water use of 10 million gallons per month.
As part of the Medicine Lake to Plentywood Pipeline Project, Dry Prairie constructed two 300,000 gallon reservoirs just east of Plentywood for additional water storage capacity.
West Of Wolf Point
Dry Prairie is ready to go to bid at the end of August with two new projects. The Nashua Connection Project will consist of one mile of eight- to 14-foot pipe that will connect the ASRWS project in Valley County to the Dry Prairie Project at Nashua. The Valley County Area B Project is located north and west of Glasgow and will consist of 38 miles of pipeline ranging in diameter from two- to 8-inch. The project has the potential to serve about 153 rural services. When completed, this will bring the total number of rural users to almost 600 in Valley County in addition to serving Nashua.
Written by John Plestina
Several parents and teachers became emotional and a few shed tears during a Wolf Point School Board discussion about shifting the sixth-grade classes at Northside Elementary School to the junior/senior high school on Monday, Aug. 10.
The next day, it appeared unlikely the students would be relocated.
The trustees voted Monday night to leave the decision with the school building administrators. After administrators met Tuesday morning, district superintendent Gary Scott told The Herald-News he was 90 percent certain sixth-grade students would remain at Northside.
District 2 trustee Linda Hansen cast the lone dissenting vote to leave the final decision with the principals.
At issue is a shortage of junior high teachers and difficulty the district has experienced recruiting teachers to fill vacancies. The need is most acute for English and science teachers.
Scott said the lack of district- owned or leased subsidized housing for teachers is preventing some applicants from accepting positions.
“If we had housing, we would probably be done with hiring,” he said. “There is nothing to rent.”
Scott said the district was left with few options. He cited the need to either hire two core subject teachers for English and science or move the Northside sixth-grade classes to the junior high.
The junior and senior high school and Northside and Southside schools are all experiencing a shortage of teachers.
Scott recommended moving the sixth-grade classes, including the teachers to the junior high wing of the combined junior and senior high school building.
“We don’t know if it’s going to be necessary,” Scott said at the trustees’ meeting.
“I know there is a concern that [the sixth-graders] would be with older kids,” he said.
“We have virtually no issue of high school and junior high. They just keep themselves separated,” junior high/high school principal Kim Hanks said.
Scott said sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students are housed in many junior high schools in Montana.
Northside School principal Kathy Adkins said there is considerable concern by Northside staff because 14-days [until the start of the school year] is not enough time to prepare children for a life-changing experience.
“I personally don’t feel it is best for them,” she said.
Adkins also expressed concern that Northside’s budget could be impacted next year because of the loss of the sixth-grade students.
Several teachers told the school board that 14 days is not adequate to prepare incoming sixth-graders for a transition from an elementary school to junior high. They all said a full year of preparation is necessary.
Some parents said their children might not be able to adapt to a life-changing event without adequate preparation.
One parent said she wants to find out if she could transfer her child to Frontier Elementary School as an alternative.
Northside sixth-grade teacher Lee Vandall predicted that a substantial number of relocated students could be at risk of failing. He taught fifth-grade last year, the same students that could be moved to the junior high.
“If we had known, we could have prepared them,” he said. “I don’t want to see any of them fall by the wayside.”
There were also suggestions to move the third-grade from Southside to Northside.
Hanks became emotional saying she did not want to disrupt Northside School and the students.
“I feel like people are attacking the junior high; that our teachers are scary,” she said.
Junior high/high school assistant principal and activities director Brett Scott said Northside students moving to junior high would still be with the same children they are familiar with.
“Nobody is going to be completely happy and we have to respect each other’s opinions,” Hansen said.
“We have a responsibility to educate the children with the means that we have,” board chairman Mark Kurokawa said.
Written by John Plestina
(Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a two-part series addressing the recent vote by the Fort Peck Tribes Executive Board to legalize medical marijuana, potential roadblocks in federal law, whether the tribal law would compliment or clash with Montana’s 11-year-old voter-approved measure that allows medical marijuana and attempts to overturn the Montana statute.)
With the Fort Peck Tribes Executive Board voting 6-4 in late July to legalize medical marijuana, the decision evokes questions of federal legality.
The action by the executive board does not legalize recreational usage.
It would recognize Montana medical marijuana cards carried by enrolled tribal members.
The change would go into effect Oct. 1.
The executive board approved a resolution by a 7-4 vote in January to legalize medical marijuana on the reservation. Further action was not taken at that time, largely due to gray areas with federal law.
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.
It remains illegal in the view of the federal government to possess, distribute or cultivate any amount of cannabis. Though at least one federal judicial decision, federal authorities can disregard state law and federal law does not shield medical marijuana users from federal prosecution.
Essentially, Montana’s state law passed by voters in 2004 that legalizes medical marijuana does not apply to the seven Indian reservations within 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.
The tribes’ law includes a one-ounce limit, lists illnesses that qualify for a medical marijuana card and states that only legal providers may provide marijuana. Patients may not grow their own plants.
In addition, Indian Health Service issued a memo saying the federal agency does not recognize medical marijuana, that it would not allow health care providers it recognizes to issue cards and that IHS pharmacies would not provide marijuana.
It is not clear whether the tribes would operate a dispensary. There is a risk that federal agents could raid the facility, seize marijuana and arrest people in the facility. That has happened elsewhere in Montana.
Billings attorney Majel Russell represents the tribes and presented a medical marijuana code to the executive board.
She did not respond to attempts to reach her for comment at her office and on her cell phone.
Executive board members Ed Bauer, Dana Buckles, Marva Firemoon, Roxanne Gourneau, Terry Rattling Thunder and Stacey Summers voted in favor of legalizing medical marijuana and Charles Headdress, Pearl Hopkins, Rick Kirn and Grant Stafne voted against it.
Written by John Plestina
The Bike & Build cyclists who stopped in Wolf Point last week after riding through Culbertson and Poplar enjoyed hospitality at First Lutheran Church on Johnson Street. The Optimist Club provided a potato bar and dessert supper. The church and Optimists provided hospitality to the annual coast-to-coast bicycle ride for seven years. (Photo by John Plestina)
None of the 24 mostly east coast cyclists that rode into Wolf Point Wednesday, Aug. 5, had ever been here and few had heard of the city in northeastern Montana.
The group that range in age from 18 to 26 had arrived after peddling 104 miles through Culbertson and Poplar from their last overnight stay at Brush Lake State Park, east of Plentywood.
Promoting affordable housing and community service, the group of college students and recent graduates taking the northern U.S. route of the national nonprofit Bike & Build’s annual coast-to-coast bicycle rides to raise money for affordable housing programs were treated to two nights of meals and lodging by the Wolf Point Optimists Club and First Lutheran Church for the seventh consecutive year. Friday, the cyclists rode to Glasgow.
This year was the 13th year Bike & Build cyclists have stopped in Wolf Point.
Nineteen hail from eastern states, mostly from New England, and five from the South.
They began the 76-day, nearly 4,000-mile ride on June 13 at Portsmouth, N.H., an Atlantic coast city at the state line between New Hampshire and Maine. The trip will end Aug. 26, at Vancouver, B.C., Canada. The rider’s typical day averages about 70 miles.
While most of the cyclists plan to fly home from Vancouver, 76 days won’t be the end of the summer trek for a few.
“A few people are going to bike to Alaska,” Michelle Marrocco of North Adams, Mass., said.
Bike & Build is a Philadelphia, Pa.-based philanthropic organization, which each summer sends eight groups of cyclists across the northern, central and southern United States.
Along the way, they volunteer with affordable housing projects, including Habitat for Humanity.
The 24 cyclists made several stops where they worked on service projects, including Habitat for Humanity projects in Rugby, N.D., and Duluth, Minn.
“The mission is two parts. First to encourage young people to become involved in civic engagement. The second is to support affordable housing,” Marrocco said.
“That is a way to encourage people to engage in careers that are service orientated,” Alyssa Solomon of Andover, Mass., said.
Marrocco said each participant must raise $4,500 before they begin the trip. There is no prescribed way to raise the money.
“Each of us did it a little different,” Marrocco said.
She said one girl knitted nose warmers and sold them. Another had a karaoke fundraiser.
“We all find out about it [Bike & Build] differently,” Marrocco said. “I found it through a friend of a friend of a friend. It’s largely word of mouth.”
The group is not religiously affiliated but frequently stays at churches, a means of not spending any more money than they need to.
To its credit, Bike & Build has more than $4.5 million in donations over the past 11 years and over 160,000 volunteered labor hours.
Safety of the cyclists is stressed and most Bike & Build rides are completed without mishaps. One of the cyclists said a motorist who was texting while driving struck two riders on a southern route trip in Oklahoma on July 30, resulting in the death of one of the cyclists.
Written by John Plestina
A decision by the Roosevelt County Commissioners to deny additional compensation to three county elected officials during a special administrative meeting Monday, Aug. 3, has all three raising questions.
The commissioners voted 3-0 to deny the jury commissioner and the justices of the peace in Wolf Point and Culbertson up to $2,000 in annual compensation above base salary.
The Montana legislature passed a bill earlier this year allowing for the added compensation for the three positions.
Jeri Toavs, who serves as clerk of 15th District Court, jury commissioner and Roosevelt County superintendent of schools, said the matter should have gone before the Compensation Board first for a recommendation. That action is not required.
When asked the reason for the decision, commission presiding officer Duane Nygaard said, “no additional workload.”
“I would second that, exactly,” commissioner Allen Bowker of Culbertson said.
Toavs said she met with Nygaard and Bowker Thursday, Aug. 6.
“I told them, ‘You have no idea what I put into this,’” Toavs said.
“There is additional workload and we’ve had more juries than in the past. We’ve had to pull more people into our [jury] pool because of the number of juries that we’ve had,” she said.
“I’m disappointed, of course,” Culbertson Justice of the Peace Penny Hendrickson said.
“There was nothing to tell us why they were denying it,” she said.
Hendrickson and Wolf Point Justice of the Peace Traci Harada met with the commissioners July 1, asking that compensation be approved.
“We had asked for Judge Harada and I to sit in [when the decision was made] and we were never notified. It was a public meeting,” Hendrickson said.
She cited the work load for both justices and said she thought the justices had a substantial case when they met with the commissioners on July 1.
“We are the only elected officials that are required to take certification,” Hendrickson said.
“It’s kind of frustrating when the commissioners will give themselves compensation,” she said.
“I sent in a claim for mileage for coming to Wolf Point [to meet with the commissioners on July 1] and they denied it. They claimed it was personal business,” Hendrickson said.
“I believe my right to participate was violated because I received no notice,” Harada said. “I saw no posting, was not notified by email or phone.”
She said she had asked specifically when the meeting would be held when she and Hendrickson met with the commissioners July 1.