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.
Written by John Plestina
Wolf Point School District trustees adopted the 2015-2016 elementary and high school budgets as presented Monday, Aug. 10. The combined budgets include a minimal mill levy increase that might result in a small tax hike for local property owners.
School district, municipal, county and other taxing entities will contribute to final determinations of taxes.
The total of 10 funds in the elementary school budget total $5,203,476 for 2015-2016, an increase from last year’s $5,103,787. The mill levy increases from 122.17 to 124.36.
The total high school budget will be $3,622,801 for 2015-2016, up from $3,449,560 in 2014-2015. In contrast to the elementary mill levy, the high school mill levy decreases from 95.18 last year to 91.87 for 2015-2016.
Current mill values are driven by taxable values of local real estate that the Montana Department of Revenue determines. Taxable values are market values of individual pieces of property times the tax rate for the property.
District superintendent Gary Scott said there has been a significant increase in taxable values in Wolf Point since the Department of Revenue conducted new tax valuations across the state during fall 2014, resulting in Roosevelt County real estate taxes increasing substantially, but more so in Culbertson and Bainville, which are Bakken Oilfield-impacted. In Wolf Point, taxes doubled and even tripled for some homeowners, increased only slightly for others and remained static for some.
Taxable value multiplied by the number of mills levied by the various taxing entities — school district, county, city, etc. — determine property tax liability.
One mill is valued at one-tenth of a penny.
How much could be appropriated from the new fiscal year budget for needed school building repairs remained in question.
The newly adopted high school budget adds $329,070 to the building reserve fund that currently has about $280,000. Part of the fund could pay for a new gym floor, repair or replacement of the bleachers, high school parking lot repaving and sidewalk drainage. The exact costs are not yet determined.
Scott is seeking private funding and grants to pay for part of the projects.
Written by John Plestina
More than two years after the robbery of Northern Lights Casino that injured one casino employee, the third person implicated in the crime has been sentenced in U.S. District Court in Great Falls.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris sentenced Patrick Beauchamp, 35, to 34 months in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and ordered him to pay $1,358 in restitution Tuesday, July 28. Beauchamp will also face two years of supervised release.
He could have been sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Beauchamp pleaded guilty to aiding/abetting a robbery in April.
Authorities say Beauchamp planned the robbery with John Myrick, 43, Olyn Payne, 35, and Donelle Parker, 43, all of Wolf Point, and drove the getaway vehicle following the robbery and assault that injured a casino cashier on June 12, 2013. Parker was reported to have been Payne’s girlfriend.
According to court documents, Parker and Payne entered the casino and Payne struck a 19-year-old female cashier on the head with an ax handle while Parker threatened customers with a bat. The two men fled to the vehicle Beauchamp was driving with $1,340 in cash.
The injured cashier was transported by ambulance to Northeast Montana Health Services - Wolf Point Campus and treated for non-life threatening injuries.
The Wolf Point Police Department, Roosevelt County Sheriff Office, Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice and Montana Highway Patrol all responded to a 911 call. Officers stopped the car moments after they fled the Northern Lights parking lot and arrested the four individuals. Police found cash strewn throughout the vehicle, as well as the bat. The ax handle was found on the floor of the casino.
The WPPD and Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice investigated the case.
Myrick was indicted on a federal robbery charge in August 2014. He entered a guilty plea.
Morris sentenced Myrick on Jan. 13 to 46 months in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons with a court recommendation that he participate in a 500-hour residential drug treatment program in Oregon, if eligible. Myrick was ordered to pay $1,358 restitution. He was also ordered to three years supervised released.
Parker and Payne pleaded not guilty during an arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge John T. Johnston in Great Falls on March 10, following federal grand jury indictments.
Morris sentenced Payne on July 9 to 48 months in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons with two years supervised release, $1,358 in restitution and a $100 special assessment.
A sentencing hearing for Parker was continued from July 30 and reset for Thursday, Aug. 13.
Written by Herald-News
A grass fire burned several acres east of Wolf Point just east of Windy Hill Road about five miles north of U.S. Hwy. 2 on Tuesday, Aug. 11. Firefighters were called out at 10:42 a.m. and the fire was under control with firefighters mopping up at the scene before 1 p.m. The Wolf Point Volunteer Fire Department, Brockton Volunteer Fire Department and BIA firefighters responded. In addition to a local BIA truck and crew, trucks and crews from Wisconsin and Michigan that were in the area also responded. (Photo by John Plestina)