Written by John Plestina
At least two households remained evacuated and six miles of Montana Hwy. 250 closed Tuesday morning following the rollover crash of an Agland Co-op propane truck, about 11 miles from Wolf Point.
A passing motorist made a 911 call reporting the single-vehicle crash at 10:22 a.m., Monday, Oct. 27.
Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Kent acknowledged that the tanker was northbound, drifted to the east side of the roadway, skidded on wet pavement, went off the west side of the roadway and rolled, coming to a rest on its side about 50 feet off the road. Wind gusts might have been a factor, he said.
“Wind gusts were up to 30 mph and, with that large of a vehicle, it’s possible,” Kent said.
At the time The Herald-News spoke to Kent, he had not yet interviewed the truck driver and said he could only speculate that wind could have been a factor.
The driver was transported by ambulance to Northeast Montana Health Services - Wolf Point Campus were he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries and released.
Kent did not identify the driver, only saying he is a 52-year-old Wolf Point male.
Hwy. 250 was initially closed at the junction with U.S. Hwy. 2, about nine miles south of the wreck. Later, the road closure area was reduced to an area from mile markers 6 through 12.
MHP, Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice, Wolf Point Volunteer Fire Department and Roosevelt County Disaster and Emergency Services all responded to the scene.
Police and firefighters remained on scene throughout the night.
Wolf Point fire chief Shawn Eggar said early Tuesday that he expected the truck to be righted onto its wheels and towed sometime during the day. Six miles of Hwy. 250 would remain closed until the wreck would be removed.
Eggar said firefighters vented the tanker during the night, releasing propane into the atmosphere, which necessitated the overnight evacuation of homes as much as a mile from the accident.
“There was no way to upright the truck with the gas in it. The decision was made to let the gas go into the atmosphere,” Eggar said.
Written by John Plestina
Work has begun cleaning up the burned-out former site of Gysler Furniture and Appliance. Although there is no public health threat, workers are wearing hazmat protective suits because of a presence of asbestos. (Photos by John Plestina)
The environmental cleanup began last week of the burned-out former Gysler Furniture and Appliance site on Anaconda Street and Second Avenue South and might take a few weeks.
The City of Wolf Point now owns the two adjacent lots and hopes to resell the property for a new commercial development, possibly in 2015.
City officials are informing the public that Anaconda Street will remain open to traffic, but Second Avenue South will be temporarily closed during daytime hours between Anaconda Street and the alley one-half block south. There will be a temporary increase in truck traffic in the downtown area at times.
Worker from Safetech Inc., a Billings asbestos abatement contractor, are dressed in haz-mat protective clothing that is required by federal regulations for asbestos cleanups. Municipal officials want the community to know there is no public health threat.
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 site is 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.
There is a 45-day limit for completion of the clean-up phase of the project.
A fast-moving fire on March 10 destroyed the two adjacent Gysler buildings, leaving portions of block walls and other charred remains, some of which contain asbestos.
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. Asbestos in that condition is subject to federal regulation.
For more information about the cleanup and redevelopment of the site, contact the city office at 653-1852 and speak to Marlene Mahlum or Rick Isle.
Written by John Plestina
Municipal officials are concerned that Wolf Point could risk losing state water rights when the city connects to the $200 million Assiniboine and Sioux Rural Water System project pipeline.
According to what has been said during recent Wolf Point City Council meetings, negotiations are nearly completed between city and tribal officials to connect city water users to the ASWRSS pipeline.
Concerns about retaining water rights came after Mayor Chris Dschaak and city council member Tina Bets His Medicine attended a meeting of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation in West Yellowstone recently.
The concern is that if the city hooks onto the ASRWSS pipeline, existing city water rights could be significantly reduced.
Dschaak said city officials are contacting DNRC to determine how to retain water rights.
“We have water rights for the city based on what we use. What we are allotted is based on that,” Dschaak said.
“If we lose our water rights, it’s very difficult to get them back,” he said.
“When it comes to water, I need to have some sort of backup,” Dschaak said. “We are just being cautious right now.”
Dschaak said the tribe is doing a good job of providing water to Poplar and expects the same positive outcome for Wolf Point.
If the city cannot retain existing water rights, it is currently unknown what might happen.
“I would say it’s way too early to tell,” Dschaak said.
Two wells currently supply Wolf Point, which operates its own treatment plant.
Potential lower water rates and cleaner ASWRSS-treated surface water from the Missouri River have been cited as advantages for municipal water users.
Well water extracted locally could contain metallic elements including manganese and iron, both potential causes of staining, odors and taste issues.
The federally funded ASRWSS is part of a larger regional water project that includes Dry Prairie Rural Water. Federal funding was provided in 2009. New pipeline and a water treatment plant east of Wolf Point have been constructed.
Written by John Plestina
It is not often that a person who is deemed a victim by the prosecutor ends up in jail, but that’s what happened to Heather Fuchs, 29, of Culbertson when she attempted to visit her husband in the Roosevelt County Jail in Wolf Point while under the influence of alcohol, according to the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office.
The Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office reported that a detention officer told Fuchs, Friday, Oct. 17, at 8:15 p.m., that she could not visit her husband in the jail because he could smell alcohol on her breath.
The RCSO provided The Herald-News with a narrative Sgt. Patrick O’Connor wrote. O’Connor stated that he approached Fuchs and detected a strong odor of alcohol, that her speech was slurred and she appeared to have difficulty with her motor skills and coordination.
The RCSO narrative also states that Fuchs is on felony probation in Devil’s Lake, N.D., for assaulting a peace officer.
“When I discussed her probation status with her previously [when O’Connor responded to an incident at Fuchs’ home], Heather wasn’t clear on whether she had permission to live in Montana. She did tell me she wasn’t permitted to drink, however,” O’Connor wrote.
He also wrote that Fuchs refused to provide a breath sample, refused to divulge the name of her North Dakota probation officer and that her demeanor became angry and belligerent.
O’Connor wrote that he arrested Fuchs for obstructing a peace officer because she attempted to hinder his investigation of her probation status.
Fuchs was charged with a single misdemeanor count of obstructing a peace officer. She was booked into the jail and was lodged there several days. Fuchs has since pleaded not guilty before Judge Traci Harada in Wolf Point City Court and bonded out. A trial date has not been set.
The Roosevelt County Attorney’s Office has accused her husband, Kyle Fuchs, 32, of threatening her with a shotgun, Sunday, Sept. 28, during an alleged domestic dispute at their Culbertson home. He was arraigned in 15th District Court, Wednesday, Oct. 15, for disorderly conduct, partner family member assault, assault with weapon, unlawful restraint and criminal endangerment. He pleaded not guilty to all five charges.
Heather Fuchs was present for the arraignment in district court and asked Judge David Cybulski for permission to visit him in jail. Supervised visits only were authorized.
Written by Bill Vander Weele, Sidney Herald
Michael Spell, one of the two men charged with the murder of Sidney teacher Sherry Arnold, has reached a plea agreement.
Spell was scheduled to appear in District Court in Sidney at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22.
Spell and his lawyer, as well as the state’s lawyers, have already signed the plea agreement, which is dated Wednesday, Oct. 21.
The plea agreement includes Spell pleading guilty to deliberate homicide. The charge of attempted kidnapping will be dismissed.
The state is recommending that the court impose a sentence of imprisonment in the Montana State Prison for a term of 100 years with no restriction on Spell’s eligibility for parole while serving that term. The parties agree that the defendant may recommend any legal sentence to be imposed against him at the time of sentencing. The defendant understands this to include a lesser sentence and/or a commitment to the Department of Health and Human Services.
In May 2012, Spell and co-defendant Lester Waters Jr. each pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide and attempted kidnapping charges. As part of a plea agreement, Waters made a guilty plea to deliberate homicide by accountability in August 2013.
Parties recommended a sentence of 100 years with 20 years suspended for Waters. There are no restrictions on Waters’ eligibility for parole. Law officials note that at least a quarter of the sentence must be completed before a parole request can be made.
During Waters’ testimony in 2013, he said he dropped Spell off so Spell could stop Arnold after they observed her walking near a trailer park in Sidney. Waters testified that he then drove to a church parking lot for another hit of cocaine. He said that when he returned Spell was dragging Arnold from an irrigation ditch and she was dead. Waters testified that he helped load the body into the vehicle and traveled to Williston, N.D. When questioned by Judge Richard Simonton, Waters said his plan was to grab a woman to have sex with but not against the woman’s will.
The defense attorneys for Spell were seeking for the Montana Supreme Court to overturn Judge Simonton’s ruling that Spell is mentally fit to stand trial. Earlier this month, the Montana Supreme Court denied the petition.
The defense has also been seeking to suppress the statement that Spell made to law enforcement. The defense stated the question is whether Spell “knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waived his rights pursuant to Miranda…not whether the statements were voluntary,” in a hearing that took place in early October in Sidney to cover the issue.
On Jan. 13, 2012, Spell told FBI officials that he and Waters were traveling through Sidney on Jan. 7, 2012, when they saw a woman running along the road. Spell said Waters told him to grab the woman and pull her into the Explorer as she jogged by the vehicle. Spell said he got out of the Explorer and grabbed the female and forced her into the vehicle. During the struggle, the woman’s shoe fell off. Spell said Waters got into the back seat with the female and “choked her out.” Spell said Waters told him he would kill Spell and his family if Spell ever told anyone what happened.