Written by John Plestina
Nearly two months after a contract was offered to a Bismarck, N.D., architectural firm to design the new county jail, the Roose-velt County Commissioners voted Tuesday, July 28, to extend a new offer to a Miles City architect.
Stevenson Design will be offered the contract after the commissioners became disillusioned with Klien McCarthy.
Commissioner Gary Macdonald said telephone calls to a Bismarck, N.D., phone number for Klien McCarthy were answered by someone in Minneapolis, Minn.
On May 29, the commissioners reluctantly awarded a contract to Klien McCarthy because the county was required to use a selection process based on points for each of four architectural firms that were finalists.
The commissioners complied with a requirement to apply for an interest-free loan from the United States Department of Agriculture that could offset the cost of construction of the jail. The maximum amount the loan could be is $5 million. If the county receives the loan at no interest, it would offset the amount owed for bond repayment. Klien McCarthy came out on top in the point selection process.
“I didn’t feel that the selection process ― the scoring process ― returned the results we wanted,” commission presiding officer Duane Nygaard said May 29.
“We did what we did so we will be eligible for a grant,” he said.
“In order to comply with the feds, we don’t have a choice,” commissioner Gary Macdonald said at the same meeting.
Written by John Plestina
Wolf Point residents are facing a possible tax hike this year with municipal officials considering doubling both the street and street maintenance assessments to fund needed street construction projects.
The budget process is winding down with the city council expected to adopt the full budget Monday, Aug. 19.
City residents are afforded an opportunity to comment on a proposal to double the street maintenance assessment during a public hearing Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 7 p.m. in the council chambers.
The proposal is to raise the assessment from $39.60 to $79.20 to fund major street maintenance projects municipal officials say are necessary because grant funding is not available.
“We need to fix our streets, which are going to be terrible,” mayor Chris Dschaak said during a recent city council meeting.
“I don’t foresee any increases in water, sewer or garbage,” Wolf Point’s clerk/treasurer Marlene Mahlum said.
How much taxes could increase remains a question.
“I don’t know where the mill levy is going. I don’t get the taxable values from the [state] Department of Revenue, which are based on levies, until the second Monday in August,” Mahlum said Thursday, July 23.
“The big question for me is the new tax evaluation the state has come out with,” she said.
The evaluation, conducted statewide during fall 2014, resulted 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 for some homeowners, increased only slightly for others and remained static for some.
Wolf Point’s total market value in 2014 was 41.3 mills. The net and gross taxable value was just over $1.2 million with a mill value of 1.222.
“I’m not sure how it’s all going to play out,” Mahlum said.
She said there is a possibility of a mill increase.
Mahlum said Interstate Engineering of Nashua has prioritized proposed street projects and estimated costs.
“At least we would have some dollars for a contractor to come in and bid,” she said.
“We have to do something. There is no grant money available right now,” Mahlum said.
Written by John Plestina
A snafu by federal appraisers has delayed land buy-back program payments for an estimated 5,000 Fort Peck Tribes members.
At issue is the failure to properly appraise mineral leases on 880 parcels resulting in the suspension of payments. Only land owners with mineral rights are affected.
Land buy-back department director Debra Colgan said letters will soon be mailed to tribal members impacted by the federal mistake. They need to sign the letter and send it back. They will receive another offer with those tracts appraised. Colgan said she does not know when the next offers will be made.
“They weren’t supposed to offer to purchase mineral tracks with leases because if it had a mineral lease it had potential [for considerably higher value] underneath it,” Colgan said.
The program was only offering $7.50 per acre for mineral tracts that did not have leases.
“So the buy-back program typically does not make offers on tracts because it is possible that tracts with leases have more than a nominal mineral value. There should have never been an offer made on a mineral tract with an active lease on it. We found out by looking at some of the offers that the opposite happened,” Colgan said.
She said mineral appraisals, including leases, will be conducted during the next few months.
Colgan said she does not know how long the process will take because it involves the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations in Washington, D.C.
The buy-back program implements the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land from willing individual landowners at fair market value. Consolidated interests are immediately restored to tribal trust ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal members.
Written by John Plestina
The Wolf Point School board approved the hiring of several teachers, other staff and coaches following a closed executive session during a special school board meeting Monday, July 27.
Approval of new hires and coaching appointments are usually routine and executive sessions are only held if an issue concerning an individual is discussed. It is not public who was discussed.
In open session, the trustees voted to hire: Jeanine Granada, teacher; Roberta “Bobbi” Munger, Northside School fifth- grade teacher; Kristi Raap, Northside School librarian; Marvin Bullchief, assistant high school custodian; Jason Brock. assistant football coach; Cody Larson, assistant volleyball coach; Nicole Paulson, junior high volleyball coach; Robert Manning, junior high basketball coach; and Ty Nygard, a high school student to work as a temporary custodian.
Cody Larson, recently hired to be a Southside School physical education teacher and high school head girls’ basketball coach, resigned as assistant football coach.
AJ Allen has resigned as a Southside School paraprofessional.
All new hires are pending satisfactory background checks.
District 1 trustee Cor-ey Reum took aim at the frequent use of profanity by Wolf Point High School student athletes.
Reum, who officiates games, said he has heard it on the football field and the basketball court. He said the problem escalates during rivalry games against Glasgow and Poplar.
Reum said he wants coaches to end the practice of cussing by students.
“I want our kids to be respectful and brought back to a higher standard,” he said.
“The kids are talking smack to each other,” Reum said. “I wasn’t raised that way.”
In other business, the board accepted a quote from Gary Brink, Inc., Hobart Sales and Service of Billings for to purchase a Vulcan Endurance 60-inch natural gas heavy duty range for $4,900 with installation at $1,700 and an additional $389 for a quick disconnect. The range is expected to be installed at the junior/senior high school before school starts.
In another matter, the trustees reviewed and approved continuation of a school wellness policy the district adopted in 2004. It is mandated by federal law for all schools participating in school nutrition programs including the National School Lunch Program. The Healthy Hunger Free Act of 2010 includes new provisions for the local wellness policy that include emphasize implementation, evaluation and public reporting on the progress of the school wellness policy goal.
The board also approved the junior/senior high student handbook and several policies that the Montana School Boards Association has recommended.
The trustees also approved 38 out-of-district admissions. They are: McCone County students, 12 elementary, four high school; Valley County, seven elementary, four high school; Poplar, three elementary, three high school; and Frontier School District, five K-8 students.
Written by John Plestina
The man who authorities say was drunk and caused the death of another man riding on a towed deck near Culbertson June 21, pleaded not guilty to five charges in 15th District Court Wednesday, July 15.
William Flynt, 36, of Tucson, Ariz., pleaded not guilty to vehicular homicide while under the influence, driving under the influence - fourth offense, criminal endangerment and failure to remain at accident scene involving another person or deceased person, all felonies and misdemeanor failure to carry proof of insurance.
District Court Judge David Cybulski granted a bail reduction from $40,000 to $10,000 and permitted him to return to Arizona.
An arrest warrant will be issued if Flynt fails to sign up for the court services in Arizona and he was required to sign a waiver of extradition.
David Penski, 30, of Vail, Ariz., fell off the deck. He was transported by ambulance to Roosevelt Medical Center in Culbertson. From there, he was flown to a Billings hospital where he died.
Montana Highway Patrol trooper Seth Adams said in June that the single-vehicle accident happened near the rodeo grounds. He said alcohol and drugs are considered a factor in the crash and that the deceased man was riding on a deck for a house that was being towed with a chain by a 2013 Ford F150 pickup.
Roosevelt County Sheriff Jason Frederick said Penski died from blunt force trauma to the head.
Adams said Flynt and Penski worked for a construction company in Culbertson. Both are listed as Arizona residents.