Written by Herald-News
A fire deemed suspicious destroyed a garage at a residence on H Street in Poplar Monday, July 28.
Poplar Fire Chief Greg Gourneau Jr. said the Poplar Fire Department responded to the 911 call at about 5:30 a.m.
The garage was fully engulfed by fire when firefighters arrived. They held the fire to the garage.
Gourneau said there was no damage to the house or vehicles.
He said there was no electricity to the garage, so the cause is suspicious.
Written by John Plestina
Roosevelt County’s Disaster and Emergency Services Director questioned whether proposed new federal safety regulations for trains carrying crude oil go far enough to protect Wolf Point and other communities that rail lines pass through.
Dan Sietsema said he didn’t think the U.S. Department of Transportation’s proposed new safety rules for moving flammable liquids by rail, including crude oil and ethanol, would increase safety.
“Letting us know what came through last week [proposed rule changes] doesn’t do any good for us,” he said.
“If you had a large fire on the railroad track, half of Wolf Point would probably burn,” Sietsema said.
An issue he cited was that Wolf Point is divided by railroad tracks.
“One of Wolf Point’s problems is the proximity of the fire hall and the rail line. It’s only a block away,” Sietsema said.
Just over a year ago, 72 cars from a train carrying 1.9 million gallons of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to a refinery in eastern Canada derailed and exploded, ravaging about a square mile a Canadian town of about 6,000 people. Forty-seven people were killed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
There were also several fiery oil train crashes in the U.S. during the past year, in North Dakota and other states. Oil train accidents accounted for more than $10 million in damages during the first five months of 2014, nearly tripling the 2013 total.
Details of the proposal were made public last week when U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx laid out what he called the Obama administration’s “new world order.”
The proposed rule changes include mandating that railroads share information with state emergency managers, phasing out of older and less stable rail tank cars during the next two to five years, lowering speed limits for trains, improving brake systems and addressing concerns that Bakken crude oil is more volatile than oil from other regions. The proposed changes also include provisions affecting ethanol.
The U.S. DOT proposal does not include some steps safety advocates have called for, including requiring oil producers to extract the most explosive gases from crude prior to shipping.
Foxx said during the announcement that the DOT’s responsibility is to ensure safety. He did not say when the rule changes could go into effect.
Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Director of Public Affairs Matt Jones said the BNSF would not comment at the current time and has been referring inquiries about proposed federal rule changes to the Association of American Railroads.
Jones provided The Herald-News with the AAR written response to the proposed rule changes, dated Wednesday, July 23.
According to the prepared statement, the AAR is probing the details of the proposed federal rulemaking and will comment at a later date.
AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger made the following statement: “This long-anticipated rulemaking from DOT provides a much-needed pathway for enhancing the safe movement of flammable liquids in the U.S. Railroads are playing a critical role in our country’s progress toward energy independence, moving more energy products like crude oil and ethanol than ever before.
“The fact that the proposed rule incorporates several of the voluntary operating practices we have already implemented demonstrates the railroad industry’s ongoing commitment to rail safety. We look forward to providing data-driven analyses of the impacts various provisions of the proposal will have on both freight customers and passenger railroads that ship millions of tons of goods and serve millions of commuters and travelers across the nationwide rail network every day.”
Written by John Plestina
Wolf Point school trustees approved an asphalt parking lot overlay proposal that is intended to make abundant potholes go away during a special board meeting, Monday, July 28.
School trustees authorized the district to spend $21,000 for Adam’s Asphalt, of Malta, to repair a portion of the parking lot at the 45-year-old Wolf Point High School.
The work could start as early as next week.
It is guaranteed one year.
The $21,000 price tag exceeds a board decision in June by $1,000 that authorized superintendent Joe Paine to expend up to $20,000 for repairs to the parking lot, a recommendation from the district’s facilities committee, in order to eliminate safety concerns associated with several large potholes.
Paine said he spoke with people he knows at the Montana Department of Transportation and was told $21,000 was very reasonable.
Voters in November rejected two school district levies, one of which was a $250,000 levy that would have run for one year only and would have increased the building reserve and provided funding for parking lot and gym floor repairs at the high school.
Board member Ed Bach questioned whether Adam’s has the correct equipment for the job.
Written by John Plestina
The Wolf Point School Board approved several new staff and resignations during a special board meeting, Monday, July 28.
The board approved the following resignations: Kim McCarthy-Cody, Northside teacher; Raymond Fleming, Northside teacher; Mike West, Northside head custodian; Mike Contreras, substitute teacher; Darlene Hanks, Northside paraprofessional; and K.D. Madison high school assistant volleyball coach.
The board approved hiring the following people: Billy MacDonald, Northside teacher, no previous experience; Jessica Sweet, high school assistant volleyball coach, 11 years experience; Nicole Paulson, junior high volleyball coach, no previous experience; Stacy Summers, head cross country coach, one year experience; and Janet Erickson, assistant cross country coach, one year experience.
In another matter, the board approved $35 per month added to the salary of each head custodian for a fuel allowance. This complies with IRS guidelines for employee business expense reimbursement.
Written by John Plestina
Wolf Point School District trustees rebuffed a counter offer from the Frontier School District for an athletic co-op and gave the Frontier district two choices during a special board meeting, Monday, July 28.
The Wolf Point board voted to split costs down the middle with Frontier for several co-oped sports or adopt the proposal the WPSD offered in June to develop a co-op contract with Frontier for all junior high sports for an estimated savings to the WPSD of $8,500. That includes charging Frontier a $400 fee per sport [all sports] totaling $2,800 and splitting travel costs with Frontier to scheduled events for a cost savings of $5,200.
The original WPSD proposal included a statement that if Frontier did not accept the terms, the WPSD would discontinue allowing Frontier students to participate in Wolf Point Junior High athletics.
The WPSD board decision was part of nearly $300,000 in budget cuts approved Wednesday, May 28, that included athletic and extra-curricular spending cuts totaling $51,050 and more than $20,000 in fee increase.
The Frontier School Board determined in June that they wanted to retain as much of the Frontier Mustang identity as possible and would keep their own boys’ and girls’ basketball and volleyball programs, while agreeing to continue to co-op with Wolf Point for football, cross country, wrestling and track, with Frontier paying Wolf Point a $400 fee per co-oped sport, even if no students are participating from Frontier.
The Frontier board also responded to a Wolf Point request that Frontier pay half of transportation costs with a counter proposal that Frontier share its bus with Wolf Point for all volleyball and basketball jamborees. Both schools take buses to those events. The Frontier proposal was for the Frontier district to incur the transportation costs.
Some Wolf Point school board members said Monday, July 28, that $400 per team per co-oped sport plus each student’s pay-to-play fee would not be enough.
Wolf Point supplies uniforms, helmets and pads.
“How come we can’t split the cost down the middle?” WPSD trustee Brent Nygard asked.
“I think half is very fair,” superintendent Joe Paine said.
There have been concerns that if the existing co-op agreement was discontinued, Wolf Point might have difficulty fielding some teams.
Paine said Wolf Point Junior High might need to bring sixth-graders up from Northside Elementary School to participate on some teams.
The next Wolf Point school board meeting will be Tuesday, Aug. 12. The Frontier board meets Monday, Aug. 11.