Written by John Plestina
Roosevelt County Sheriff’s deputy Clay McGeshick (left) and Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice officer Enrique Morales examine a Pontiac G6 that left the roadway on the north side of U.S. Hwy 2, one mile east of the Wolf Point Alco store, Tuesday, Sept. 23, and rolled multiple times ejecting the driver. (Photo by John Plestina)
The Montana Highway Patrol reported that alcohol was a factor in a rollover crash that seriously injured a North Dakota man on U.S. Hwy 2, one mile east of the Wolf Point Alco store, Tuesday, Sept. 23, a little after 8 a.m.
The 29-year-old male driver from Mandaree, N.D., who authorities had not identified by the time The Herald-News went to press, was driving a 2007 Pontiac G6 eastbound that left the roadway on the north side of U.S. Hwy. 2 and rolled multiple times ejecting the driver, who was laying on the ground about 60 feet from the car that had partially broken apart. The engine was on the ground on the driver side.
Sgt. Jeff Kent said about four hours after the crash that the MHP was still trying to determine the legal ownership of the vehicle, which had Montana 41 county license plates, indicating that the owner registered it in McCone County. He said it was not known if the driver had purchased the car, borrowed it, or if he was driving it for another reason.
“He struck a driveway approach,” Kent said, adding that the driver lost control and rolled an undetermined number of times, causing the car to partially break apart. He said it was undetermined whether the car rolled on its side or end-over-end.
“It’s difficult to determine once they go airborne,” Kent said. “It’s safe to say it [rolled] multiple times.”
“Alcohol appears to have been a factor,” he said.
“Charges are pending,” Kent said.
The driver, who was alone in the car, sustained undisclosed injuries and was transported by ambulance to Northeast Montana Health Services - Wolf Point Campus. The MHP, Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice, Wolf Point Volunteer Fire Department and NEMHS EMS personnel all responded.
Written by John Plestina
This house on the corner of Alder Street and Fifth Avenue North in Wolf Point shows no exterior signs of fire damage. The fire that started on a mattress and damaged one bedroom resulted in several people being transported by ambulance to the hospital for smoke inhalation. (Photo by John Plestina)
Four law enforcement officers from three agencies entered a burning house on the 500 block of Alder Street in Wolf Point and rescued three adults, Wednesday, Sept. 10.
The Wolf Point Volunteer Fire Department reported that the fire started on a mattress and was confined to one room of the split level house, which is located just west of Albertson’s.
The fire was reported to the 911 dispatch center at 10 p.m.
WPVFD chief Shawn Eggar said the three people who had to be rescued sustained minor injuries.
They were transported by ambulance to Northeast Montana Health Services -Wolf Point Campus where they were treated for smoke inhalation.
Wolf Point Police officers Joey Olson and Meshin Wehbe, Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice Sgt. James Combs and a Roosevelt County Sheriff’s deputy who has not been identified all entered the house.
An attempt to contact FPTDLJ Capt. Jim Summers for comment was unsuccessful.
Written by John Plestina
Whether there is a Bakken effect on local real estate or not, all property in Montana will be reassessed, but that might not translate to significant tax hikes, because higher valuation could force mill rates down.
That was a scenario presented during a public meeting held at the Sherman Inn in Wolf Point, Wednesday, Sept. 17, and another in Culbertson later the same day.
The Montana Department of Revenue traveled to Wolf Point, Culbertson and 16 other communities across Montana in advance of the 2015 reappraisal cycle to present the MDR’s “Property Reappraisal Road Show,” which consisted of public informational sessions about how the state determines property values.
The sessions addressed the reappraisal cycle timeline and highlighted methods the MDR uses to determine market values of residential property, commercial and industrial property, agricultural land, and forest land. The sessions also highlighted key components and trends in housing values and illustrated how property tax dollars are used.
“The primary purpose of the road show is to help taxpayers understand the property tax system and help community leaders make informed policy decisions,” MDR director Mike Kadas said while in Wolf Point.
“We encourage anyone in Montana with an interest in property valuation, especially those who are experts in local housings markets, to attend the sessions,” he said.
Since 1972, Montana law has tasked the MDR with establishing values for all taxable property, ensuring that all classes of property are valued uniformly and equally throughout the state for fair and equitable taxation.
Kadas said the Montana Legislature is concerned about shifting tax burdens between residential, commercial and agricultural properties. He said lawmakers could pass legislation in January mitigating the concerns.
Kadas stressed the MDR only determines values and local governments set mill rates based on local need, and higher values do not necessarily mean there would be a higher local need for revenue.
“If there’s a valuation increase, there’s probably going to be a tax increase,” he said, but added that mill levies could decrease as a result.
“Every place [city and county] has its own unique answer about what is going to happen,” Kadas said.
A chart for possible changes in market value in Roosevelt County that was provided by the MDR shows 43.53 percent increase in the median home price in Roosevelt County, but MDR Region 2 manager Charles Pankratz said that increase is driven by the east end of the county, much more so than Wolf Point and Poplar.
“The eastern side of the county will be effected more than the western side of the county,” James Johnson of Wolf Point’s AG Land Realty said.
“The tax appraisals are separate from a true lender’s appraisal. The typical tax appraisals have been lower,” he added.
An attempt to reach Shane Gibson of Northern Prairie Realty was unsuccessful.
Wolf Point City clerk-treasurer Marlene Mahlum said it was unknown how much Wolf Point valuations would increase.
Property owners will receive valuation notices in June or early July 2015. Most will show valuation increases.
“Wolf Point is a different model than Culbertson and Bainville,” Pankratz said.
Written by John Plestina
A public meeting will address needs for new tribal housing in Wolf Point at the Fort Peck Tribes’ new community center on Sixth Avenue South in Wolf Point, Thursday, Sept. 25, at 6 p.m.
A similar meeting will be held at the senior center in Frazer, Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m.
The nonprofit Make It Right Foundation, a New Orleans, La., based charitable organization that was born out of the devastation created by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is set to soon begin building the first 20 houses in Poplar of what could be 100 new energy-efficient homes for tribal members during the coming years.
The meetings in Wolf Point and Frazer are to hear what the housing needs are in each of the communities. A meeting was held in Brockton earlier this week.
The first phase of the project is on a 5.2-acre site at the former Poplar airport along the north side of U.S. Hwy. 2.
Long-range plans include construction of a total of 100 houses in Poplar, Wolf Point, Brockton, Fort Kipp, Frazer and Oswego. Timelines for construction beyond the first 20 houses and specific locations have not been disclosed.
Make It Right Foundation’s webpage says homes it will build on the Fort Peck Reservation would be available to tribal members whose income levels are at or below 60 percent of the area median income. Homeownership will be available to tribal members and structured through a low income housing tax credit rent-to-own program with ownership transferring to tenants after 15 years of renting.
Written by John Plestina
The mother of long incarcerated former Poplar resident Barry Beach told The Herald-News Friday, Sept. 12, she is hopeful a bill that will come before the Montana Legislature in January will help free her son.
The legislation would grant Montana governors clemency authority over inmates regardless of recommendations of the Board of Pardons and Parole, a power governors of several other states have.
Gov. Steve Bullock wrote a letter in April asking the board to focus on Beach’s worthiness for parole and not on whether he is guilty or innocent.
The parole board received about 500 letters from people supporting clemency with approximately 25 letters opposing Beach’s release.
A three-member panel of the parole board announced Wednesday, June 11, that it rejected Beach’s request for a full clemency hearing by the seven-member board.
That latest clemency bid sought to commute Beach’s 100-year sentence with no eligibility for parole based on a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that juvenile offenders can no longer be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Beach, now 52, was 17 when the crime occurred. The board rejected that position, saying the Supreme Court decision did not apply in this case.
The recent bid for clemency marked the fourth time since 1994 that the panel declined to hold a full clemency hearing for Beach.
The draft bill passed out of the bipartisan Law and Justice Committee by a 9-3 vote, Wednesday, Sept. 3, and is expected to be heard by the full legislature in January.
“I’m hoping so. I’m hoping the full legislature will pass it. I feel it’s real sad that it will take legislation to make that change,” Beach’s mother, Bobbi Clincher of Laurel, said.
“It’s not only just for Barry, but in the future other people are going to be able to benefit from it, hopefully,” she said.
“We’re lobbying the legislature from both sides of the aisle to be sure to vote and support the legislation,” Clincher said.
Accused of the 1979 slaying of Poplar High School classmate Kim Nees and dumping her body in the Poplar River, Beach was 22 years old when he was convicted in 17th District Court in Glasgow in April 1984.
Beach has maintained his innocence for 35 years.