Economic group mulls move to former Battin Building

Originally published in the print edition 5/12/17 of YCN. 

BILLINGS — It’s a “wild idea,” admits Billings’ economic development leader Steve Arveschoug, but to consider locating Big Sky Economic Development (BSED) on the ground floor of the former federal Battin Building is something he has encouraged board members to consider. And, to include in those plans space to establish a business incubator.

The idea was taken up at a planning session in April of Yellowstone County’s sister economic development agencies – the Big Sky Economic Development Authority (EDA) and Big Sky Economic Development Corporation (EDC). As result of the discussion, Arveschoug said, the board members decided to create read more

Mobile home taxes will likely increase

Originally published in the 5/12/17 print edition of the Yellowstone County News.  

YELLOWSTONE COUNTY— A change in how the Montana Department of Revenue (DOR) assesses mobile homes means that many mobile home owners will see an increase in their taxes – and owners will receive their assessments and tax bills later than usual.

Assessments are expected to increase 15 to 19 percent, as DOR switches to using comparable sales to determine value, rather than a cost-method used previously, according to Robin Rude, DOR regional manager. Rude and Sherry Long, Yellowstone County treasurer, brought the matter to Yellowstone County Commissioners last week to give them a heads-up of what they read more

One vote tips election in favor of Independent School levy

Originally published in the 5/12/17 print edition of the Yellowstone County News.

Officials at Independent School are still holding their breath, even though the count of one provisional ballot broke the tie vote on their mill levy. Nothing is official yet, said Independent School’s district clerk business manager, Debi Orelup. The vote has yet to be canvassed and a recount could be requested by the lagging candidate in the trustee election – and while the possibility is slim, a review of the election results could change the outcome.

To the amazement of everyone, Independent’s mill levy election on May 2 ended in a 470–470 tie, but there were six provisional ballots that had been set aside because of read more

McNiven’s Meanderings 5-12-17

Jonathan McNiven

Well folks, I’m happy to return and report on what we’ve been working on for the last three months and the benchmark that we have now achieved.

However, before I do that, I want to recognize this time of year when graduation time is on the radar and congratulate all the graduating seniors for the accomplishment in their life. I remember my days graduating from Huntley Project High School in 1997 (yes, I know it was a long time ago). I thought that was a big milestone in my life, and it was at that time. It took me some years to go out into the real world and experience reality in order to appreciate the importance of going back to college to eventually finish two associate degrees and then transfer to Arizona State University to finish my four year Bachelor’s degree. However, I’ve found that I don’t stop learning

Nowadays, my education is applying what I’ve learned before to make my business, family and life better for me and those I now associate with. The only way I learned how to get out of poverty was by the education I received. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it and only helped me gain confidence in the next thing I set out to accomplish.

Just to prove that point of the importance of an education, my wife and I just finished a business read more

City awards legal ad contract to Yellowstone County News

Billings- The City of Billings awarded Yellowstone County News in Monday night’s City Council meeting the legal advertising contract for the next contract period. In an extensive consent agenda and debate, discussion revolved around long standing tradition of where Billings’ legal advertising has gone for many years, whether the business was located within city limits or whether businesses and individuals will follow the change.

City of Billings staff had recommended that the City Council approve the agreement for legal advertising with Yellowstone County News for one year, with five, one-year options to renew by mutual agreement.

During executive action and debate, Council member Brent Cromley made the motion to award the Billings Times as the legal advertising contract publication of record while Council member Mike Yakawich seconded the motion. Council member Rich McFadden said that he would vote against the motion, as Yellowstone County News actually “had won the bid and came in read more

Garth Brooks adds fifth Billings concert, ticket go on sale today

BILLINGS — Garth Brooks will perform five concerts at MetraPark next month after selling almost 40,000 tickets in half an hour.

Brooks originally announced one show, for Saturday, June 10. When tickets sales began, four concerts were on sale. A fifth has since been added, at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 11.

He will be joined in concert by his wife, Trisha Yearwood.

Tickets for this show went on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 11. If any tickets are available, they are sold only read more

Vice President Mike Pence to Visit Billings

Vice President Mike Pence

Vice President Mike Pence

United States Vice President Mike Pence announced that he will be visiting Montana this week in support of Greg Gianforte’s Campaign run for US Representative. The campaign announced that the Vice President will be in Billings on May 12 at a free event to the public.  As the special election is getting closer and absentee ballots have been sent out, the final stretch of the special election is entering the two week remaining time frame to rally supporters in Billings and throughout the state of Montana for all three candidates running.

The Rob Quist campaign also announced read more

Broadview places third in high school Challenge Bowl

Originally published in the print 5/5/17 edition of Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — The Montana Chamber Foundation has announced the winners of its inaugural Montana High School Business “Challenge Bowl.”

A team from Broadview High School placed third.

The “Challenge Bowl” pitted the top teams from the fall and spring semester competitions against each other for a full day of business simulations. The results are based on the teams’ simulated stock price at the read more

Great American Bagel celebrates grand opening downtown

Great American Bagel Inc. owners Sherman Kirby, left, and John Smith celebrate a ribbon cutting ceremony at their new downtown location on Fourth avenue North in Billings on Monday. They were assisted by members of the Billings Chamber of Commerce. (Jonathan McNiven photo)

Originally published in 5/5/17 print edition of the Yellowstone County News

BILLINGS — Billings bagel lovers have a new breakfast and lunch source downtown with the grand opening of Great American Bagel Inc. on Fourth Avenue North.

Owner John L. Smith said the new location will augment the original Great American Bagel Inc. on South 24th Street West. The bagels will still be prepared at the 24th Street bakery, and then brought downtown every day.

Smith said he plans to install a read more

Libertarian Party Chair resigns, Party says candidate is legitimate

Editors note: This article has been updated from its original to reflect party representatives stating that all paperwork is up to date and Mark Wicks is a legitimate candidate.  

Montana Libertarian Party Chairman Ron Vandevender has resigned.

He said vice chairman Elinor Swanson will take his place.
“For my own sake and my family’s sake, I need to back down,” Vandevender said Monday morning.
“I’m not giving up Libertarian ideals.” He’s been state party chairman since the October 2016 death of Mike Fellows in a car accident north of Missoula. He lives in Craig, where he intends to run for election in House District 80 in 2018.
“After all this time, it’s just kind of catching up with me,” Vandevender said. “It’s just a combination of things, a little too much physical strain.”

He cited health problems facing him, his wife and family members as factors in his decision to resign.
The Montana Libertarian Party launched a massive reorganization after Fellows’ death, Vandevender said, including organizing more local and county groups and making the state group, which had been loosely organized, more cohesive.
“We’ve never hid that fact,” Vandevender said. “We’re not the best organized.”
“In a short period of time it’s really been a major step forward,” he said. That new direction will not change, he said.
“I don’t think it will,” he said. “I don’t see why it should.
read more

County reaps $2 million savings on jail addition

Originally published in the Yellowstone County News 5/5/17 print edition.

BILLINGS — A report that the bids for the new jail came in $2 million under estimates had Yellowstone County Commissioners smiling last week. The project could hardly be turning out better, said Commissioner John Ostlund.

James Matteson, the county’s purchasing agent, seemed especially pleased to present a commitment of $11,363,675 in total costs from the construction manager, Swank Enterprises, to be approved by the read more

Huntley Project’s Mark Branger named to ACTE Region V Hall of Fame

Mark Branger, right, and Pam Ferguson received the Region V Hall of Fame Award at the 2017 Region V ACTE conference in Rapid City, South Dakota. (Courtesy photo)

Published in the 5/5/17 edition of Yellowstone County News.  

WORDEN — Huntley Project Technology and CTE Director Mark Branger was one of three new members welcomed into the ACTE Region V Hall

of Fame during the opening session of the 2017 ACTE Region V Conference, held in Rapid City, South Dakota.

The ACTE Region V Hall of Fame was established four years ago and the honor

recognizes the contributions and distinguished accomplishments of those who have been identified with the work and purposes of Region V and the Association for Career and Technical Education. The Hall of Fame honors ACTE members who have made a significant impact on the field of career and technical education at the national, regional or state levels. read more

Three HP teachers headed to New York City Marathon

JayDee Lindeen, left, Mara Beard and Tara Christman run in marathon in 2016. They, along with Ronda Jensen, are training and fundraising to run in the New York City Marathon in November. Their efforts will raise money for the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research. (Courtesy photo)

Originally published in the 5/5/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News. 

Eva Grace Jensen

HUNTLEY PROJECT — Three educators from the Huntley Project School District are teaming up to run the New York City Marathon in a few months to raise money for a foundation that helps people with a rare genetic disease.

JayDee Lindeen, Mara Beard and Tara Christman are hosting a spaghetti dinner and silent auction at the school on Thursday, May 11, the first step toward raising $20,000 by September.

The spaghetti dinner is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on May 11 in the school commons. Tickets cost $7 for adults and $3 for children 10 and under. A family of four or more can eat for $25. Silent auction items will be on display. Also that night, the Huntley Project High School read more

Shepherd School Board: Shane, Shane, Shayne

Originally published in the print edition 5/5/17 of Yellowstone County News. 

SHEPHERD — Several new trustees will join the Shepherd School Board at its next meeting.

Shane Flowers received the most votes with 373, followed by Shane Rekdal with 294 votes. Both will take seats on the board vacated by Jamie Mertz and Russ Curry, who did not seek re-election.

Candidate Michael Gallagher received 245 votes.

In the high school-only district, Shayne read more

Steve Erb, Brooke Logan win HP School Board seats

HUNTLEY PROJECT — Incumbent Steve Erb and challenger Brooke Logan bested a field of seven candidates for two seats on the Huntley Project School Board in Tuesday’s election.

In the School District 24 race, Erb received 588 votes. Logan received 438 votes. Voters could vote for up to two candidates of the seven in the race. read more

Republican lawmakers deliver on Republican values, Op Ed


Originally published in the print 5/5/17 edition of Yellowstone County News. 

By: Senate and House Majority Leadership (Senate: President Scott Sales, Majority Leader Fred Thomas, Pro Tem Bob Keenan; House: Speaker Austin Knudsen, Majority Leader Ron Ehli, Pro Tem Greg Hertz)


As the 2017 legislative session has come to an end, we want to make sure that Montanans have a clear view of what’s happened the past few months in Helena. The mission of the Senate and House Republicans from Day One has been to help create more opportunities for all Montanans by making our state a better place to work, live and do business. Government should work in service to the people, not the other way around. In large part, this means fighting against policies that increase taxes, grow government and take from the citizens of Montana.

When the legislators arrived in January, we were faced with a read more

Annual catfish tournament reels in planned date May 12-13

Randy Franco, Left, and Nicholas Fortier, Right, both of Billings , showing off hitter winnings catfish that were caught during the Yellowstone Challenge. (courtesy photo)

Originally published in the Yellowstone County News print edition.

HUNTLEY — An annual catfish tournament next weekend will bring about 60 two-person teams to fish the Yellowstone River.

The Yellowstone Challenge begins Friday, May 12, with a calcutta and social at 6 p.m. at Cowboys Bar on Nahmis Avenue. The fishing tournament begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 13. Anglers will weigh their fish at Cowboys at 7 p.m. Saturday.

According to tournament director Brady Flaten of Glasgow, president of the Montana Catfish Association, entries for the boat-only tournament are limited to 60 two-person teams.

Montana Cats field staff member Jason Flaten started the Yellowstone Challenge in the spring of 2007.

Randy Franco (Billings, MT), Left, and Nicholas Fortier (Billings, MT), Right, displaying their trophies when winning the Yellowstone Challenge.

The annual tournament is scheduled for the second weekend of May on the Yellowstone River with headquarters at Huntley. Anglers can fish for catfish from mouth of the Bighorn River near Bighorn, Montana to the Huntley Bridge. read more

Lockwood shoots down Billings high school levy, Lockwood mill levy fails,

Squeaker school elections shot down some mill levy requests and approved others throughout the county on May 2. Some are still undetermined.

Lockwood Superintendent Tobin Novasio said that he was “very disappointed” with their very close 13-vote loss. Lockwood voters, by a total of 891 votes to 878 votes, turned down an 11.1 mill increase request from Lockwood trustees that would have generated $268,080.

Independent School’s mill levy vote was locked in a tie at 470 to 470 at press time. An election canvass, recount and review of six or seven provisional ballots next week could tilt the results in either direction. Provisional ballots are ballots that were set aside because of some problem, such as not having been signed. Voters were given until the end of the day on Wednesday to go into the elections office and sign the ballots.

Lockwood District had 30 provisional ballots, the outcome of which has the potential of changing read more

Mustangs support John Barta in contract negotiations with City of Billings

Dehler Park at Ninth Avenue North and 27th Street in Billings will be home to Mustangs baseball for the next decade under a contract approved by the Billings City Council on Monday. (Jonathan McNiven photo)

Originally published in print edition of Yellowstone County News. 

BILLINGS — After over a year of negotiating, the city of Billings and the Billings Mustangs have approved a lease for Dehler Park.

The lease extends until 2026.

The City Council approved the new lease on an 8-1 vote after a long Monday night session in the council chambers. Brent Cromley voted no; Larry Brewster and Angela Cimmono did not attend the meeting. Part of the discussion on the lease renewal centered around an addendum to the lease agreement that spelled out education and certification for the field’s groundskeeper, or turf manager. Mustangs owner Dave Heller asked the city to remove Exhibit B, saying it would require the Mustangs to find a new turf manager to replace John Barta, who is the club’s senior director of field maintenance and facilities.

Currently, Barta does not have the formal certifications that Exhibit B would have required.

Gary Roller, general manager for the Billings Mustangs, said Wednesday that the team’s support for Barta as an experienced and exemplary turf manager was only one of its concerns over Exhibit B, which refers to any current or future employees in that position.

Barta, a Shepherd High School teacher, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has announced his retirement from the school district.

“John is our turf manager and will be our turf manager until he decides not to be,” said Roller. One of the concerns with what has been titled Exhibit B was that it locked any present or future turf manager into certain required certifications and degrees.

“It would have been difficult to read more