Yellowstone County News to co-sponsor last Billings mayoral debate

BILLINGS — Yellowstone County News will host and sponsor the final debate between the Billings candidates for mayor on Oct. 17. The candidate forum and debate, co-sponsored by KULR-8 Television, begins at 7 p.m. in Petro Theater at Montana State University Billings and lasts one hour.

The event is free and open to the public. It can be seen on KULR-8’s Facebook Live. Yellowstone County News will also share the Facebook Live feed as well from KULR-8’s feed.

KULR-8 NBC Television Bilings

The two candidates, Bill Cole and Jeff Essmann, will answer questions posed by Billings City Council candidates, selected individuals and audience members.

Jonathan McNiven, publisher of the Yellowstone County News, will read more

Huntley Project and Shepherd Districts cancel school

1-10-18 Huntley Project and Shepherd School Districts have canceled school due to road and weather conditions. Accor All Activities, practices and sports have also been canceled.  Be safe and travel safely if you do have to travel. 

This communication came by way of Scott Carter, Superintendent of Shepherd Public Schools and Mark Wandle, Superintendent of Huntley Project School District.  


Davison named as VFW Teacher of the Year

Darci Davison

WORDEN — Huntley Project Elementary music teacher Darci Davison has been named statewide Teacher of the Year in Montana by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The post commander is John Carney and Corry Mordeaux is the Adj/Quartermaster.

VFW Post 7407 nominated Davison for her efforts to continue and further the Post’s recognition of those who have served in all branches of the military.

Under Davison’s direction, Huntley Project fifth and sixth graders march in a Veterans Day parade and present a read more

Obituary: “Charles Richard “Woody” Dick

"Charles Richard “Woody” Dick

“Charles Richard “Woody” Dick

In loving memory of Charles Dick (Woody), 87, who died on December 17, 2017.
Charles Richard Dick was born October 8, 1930 in Worden, Montana, to Grant and Myrl (Steck) Dick.
After high school in Joliet, Montana, Charles joined the Air Force at the end of World War II, working for the Weather Service. After being honorably discharged he returned to Billings, Montana.
He married Marian Wittman on August 22, 1953. To this union were born 3 daughters and twin sons.
He worked for the Bureau of Reclamation in Sheridan, Wyoming for two years. He returned to Billings to join the Teamsters Local 190. He retired in 2005.
He loved to camp, hunt, and fish with his family.
He is survived by read more

Worden Ambulance service still looking for good solution

Originally published the 12/8/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

WORDEN — The long and winding road to a countywide ambulance service just took a detour.

Instead of voting on a proposal by Belgrade-based Beartooth EMS Rescue to take over Worden Fire Department’s ambulance service, fire department members instead heard that Beartooth was no longer interested in a deal with Worden Fire.

Fire Chief Lance Taylor said Joel Kelm of Beartooth EMS and Rescue, who spoke to the fire department members at their Oct. 2 meeting, had never submitted a written proposal. “That was our whole problem with them,” Taylor said. “It’s not a surprise. This is what I figured might happen.”

At that meeting, Kelm had outlined a plan to purchase one of the department’s ambulances, operate an office on the Huntley Project and respond to calls in the areas the Worden ambulance crew now covers, such as Custer, Pompeys Pillar, Worden, Ballantine, Huntley and Shepherd.

Taylor said the department will look into two other options, including a proposal introduced Monday night by department treasurer Melissa Zimmerman.

Her plan included more cross training for firefighters and EMTs and paying EMTS small stipends to be on call for certain periods of time. She said that could improve response time and even out the numbers of volunteers responding to calls.

Taylor said he liked Zimmerman’s proposal, but needs to study it in depth.

“That one proposal has quite a few different things that we need to look at,” Taylor said. “We need to explore that quite a bit.”

At Monday’s meeting, fire board President Ryan Miller said Joy Eshleman would step in and direct the ambulance service while the Worden Fire Department determines whether to “either move forward with ourselves or move forward with someone else.”

The second option is a discussion with AMR of Billings. Representatives of that group are scheduled to meet with the Worden Fire Department on Jan. 8.

Brad Shoemaker, director of Emergency Services for Yellowstone County, said Tuesday that any levy proposal seeking a countywide ambulance service district would not be placed on an election ballot until at least May 2019. State law requires elections that ask voters to create special districts to be held the first Tuesday in May.

Shoemaker and Taylor said local fire chiefs will schedule town hall-style meetings after the first of the year to explain ambulance service proposals. Taylor said those meetings are likely to occur in February or March. He said countywide ambulance services operate successfully in other counties, including Carbon and Stillwater.

The main thing, he said, is finding a way to provide viable ambulance services.

“We’re here for the community and what is right for the community,” Taylor said. That community should have a say in what their ambulance service looks like, he said.


Community assessment kindles Lockwood’s can-do spirit

Originally published in the 12/8/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

LOCKWOOD — A lot has been happening in Lockwood the past few years.

Who and what is behind all these community-transforming events?

A “community assessment,” held in 2013, brought about communication and motivation that helped advance a host of projects in Lockwood that had long been on the community’s wish list.

Such was the conclusion of many Lockwood leaders, last Wednesday, who participated in a review of the community assessment, conducted by the Resource Team coordinated by the Montana Economic Developers Association (MEDA).

Headed by Gloria Higgins and Gloria O’Rourke of MEDA, the gathering at the Lockwood Fire Department was essentially a community-wide conversation of the many Lockwood citizens who have been involved in Lockwood’s most recent achievements. Funded by a special grant, MEDA is returning to the numerous communities in which they have conducted assessments to determine what has been achieved and if there are ways to improve upon how they conduct the assessments, said Higgins.

The Resource Team is sponsored by the Montana Department of Commerce in cooperation with Big Sky Economic Development.

Lockwood has demonstrated, by far, the most successes of all the communities in which they have done assessments, said O’Rourke.

Participants were asked to talk about what they perceive as their successes and to explain what they perceive to be the reasons for them.

The community assessment helped to draw attention from the broader community to the issues faced by Lockwood, was the essence of many comments. The event also encouraged more involvement of more citizens, most especially by younger people.

It gave momentum to “ideas that had been germinating in Lockwood for years,” said Sue Vinton, Lockwood’s state legislator. It especially motivated young people, said Vinton, recalling what seemed to be a “mini-reunion” of parents who attended the assessment meeting and who later encountered each other at a school event. The impact, of the opportunity for Lockwood people to see “their shared values, has been significant.” read more

Obituary: Lloyd J. Perkins

Lloyd Perkins met Jesus Christ face to face on Nov. 29, 2017, when he left his earthly home for the last time at Highgate Senior Living in Billings, MT.
Lloyd was born in Sheridan, WY, on Oct. 7, 1925, to Wright C. and Elva E. Perkins. Wright homesteaded 10 miles from Clearmont, WY, where Lloyd started school. They later leased a farm at Kaycee. Lloyd graduated eighth grade in Buffalo, and attended high school in Buffalo and Clearmont.
Lloyd was a true patriot and went to Denver to sign up for the United States Maritime Service following the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He did basic training at Santa Catalina Island. He was known as “Big Perk” since there also was a “Little Perk.” Due to his aptitudes, he was directed to Gallups Island Radio School in Boston, where he obtained his FCC Radio License. He graduated with a warrant read more

New Lockwood primary care clinic announced and soon

Originally published in the 12/1/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

LOCKWOOD — The Montana Healthcare Foundation has awarded Lockwood School District and St. Vincent Healthcare a $75,000 grant to develop a primary care clinic for the community of Lockwood. The clinic, when complete, will be located on the campus of Lockwood Schools and will provide care to students and Lockwood residents. The project is set to be complete and open in February 2018.

To Don Christman, director of Special Programs at Lockwood School District, opening the clinic is the fruition of years of hard work by numerous people, including the late Don Reed, a champion of local health care.

“I’m just really, really happy that after six years, it’s on the way,” Christman said. “The district has worked hard to develop a partnership with healthcare professionals to bring primary care to our campus and community. We are pleased to now see our vision realized through our partnership with St. Vincent Healthcare.”

The previously known Ronald McDonald Care Mobile will serve as the new stationary primary care clinic on the school campus. A full renovation of the vehicle will provide all of the necessary equipment and technology needed to treat patients at the new clinic. read more

New hockey franchise may bring game to MetraPark

Originally published in the 12/1/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — Billings is once again being asked to host a hockey franchise, only this time it is a professional team, a new one to be formed as part of the ECHL.

“The ECHL is a major professional league with 27 teams in the US and Canada. The play of ECHL hockey is at a higher level, and there should be no comparison to the semi-professional leagues with which Billings is familiar,” said Ray Massie, marketing director for MetraPark. “This is very far from Junior Hockey.”  

Massie sees the proposal as a potential boon for MetraPark in terms of filling event dates and generating additional revenue. MetraPark Advisory Board members are broaching the proposal with considerable caution. During their regular meeting last Tuesday, the board failed to pass a motion to ask the county commissioners to pursue the proposal, with many board members saying they want more information.

The hang up is ice and timing. The four businessmen who are making the proposal are asking that MetraPark invest more than $3.1 million to install ice and provide for offices, locker rooms and training space. MetraPark abandoned their aging ice facilities some years ago.

That’s a tough decision to make, said County Commissioner Robyn Driscoll, given all the other constraints on the county’s budget.

“The county isn’t going to say here’s $3 million, go for it,” she said.

Commissioner Denis Pitman, who was also at the meeting, said the commissioners would like feedback from the board.

Massie laid forth details of the proposal, which would include a five-year lease agreement with the team. MetraPark’s finance team crunched the numbers, based primarily upon the experience of the franchise team in Rapid City, South Dakota and they believe the proposal is doable. The worst-case scenario is that MetraPark would break even and be left with a valuable asset – an ice sheet – that would accommodate MetraPark engaging other events, such as Disney ice productions or exhibition games, which would generate other revenues. read more

Commissioners OK TEDD Master Plan’s planning, infrastructure approach

The yellow line in the illustration shows the intended route of the Billings Bypass, which could begin construction in 2019. (Courtesy image)

Originally published in the 12/1/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

LOCKWOOD — The Yellowstone County Commissioners on Tuesday approved the recently completed Master Plan for the Lockwood Targeted Economic Development District (TEDD) after a public hearing.

Planners under the direction of KLJ, have spent most of the past year developing a plan under which an industrial park will be developed in Lockwood through the taxing mechanism of a TEDD. The TEDD is a tax increment finance district in which future new tax revenues are applied to infrastructure development within the district boundaries. Highlights of the draft TEDD Master Plan were presented during the county commission meeting last week.

With the approval of the document by the Yellowstone County Commissioners, the next steps can be taken to develop the TEDD, which including appointing an Advisory Board and beginning an application process for grants to fund additional planning and development. read more

Worden getting ready to celebrate the season on Friday, Dec. 1

Originally published in the print edition of Yellowstone County News.  

WORDEN — Worden is ready for its annual holiday celebration, the Worden Christmas Stroll.

The annual holiday celebration begins at 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1.

Ludell Heaton said the annual Worden Community Club event is known to draw 300 to 500 people. The event includes taking passports to local businesses for stamps, enjoying snacks and holiday décor and visiting Santa, who will be on hand from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Worden Ballantine Yellowstone County Water and Sewer District Office on Main Street.

Door prizes will be awarded to close out the evening. The ticket drawing is at the read more

Christmas is coming to the Huntley Project Museum

Originally published in the Yellowstone County news print edition.

HUNTLEY PROJECT — The Huntley Project Museum of Irrigated Agriculture is hosting a series of December events to celebrate the holiday season.

First up is a gingerbread house contest. On Saturday, Dec. 3, everyone is welcome to decorate a gingerbread house at the museum any time between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Bring your own gingerbread or pre-made house, and the museum staff will supply decorations and other materials.

The gingerbread houses will be on display at the museum through Dec. 9, when the winners will be announced. People coming to get passports stamped during the Huntley Christmas Stroll will be able to see the gingerbread house display.

Museum director Kelli Maxwell said people who want to enter the contest may also decorated a gingerbread house at home and bring it into the museum early next week before judging on Friday, Dec. 8. read more

Lockwood School Board announces special work session to interview Architectural-Engineering firms

The Lockwood School board of Trustees announced a special work session with interviews of the firms that submitted bids and designs for the upcoming proposed Lockwood high school. Lockwood Voters and residents supported a mill levy request to expand the K-9 school district into a K-12 School District about a month ago.  Lockwood school supporters and the Lockwood School Board are not wasting time to move to the next phase.  Some residents, pushing for the new proposed Lockwood high school, are concerned that Billings School District is going to request a mill levy increase and more funding that would affect Lockwood residents as they are still in the Billings High School District.  

Hence, the special work session to interview the firms who responded to the RFQ legal request for bids that was put out in the Yellowstone County News.  


Here are the details and schedule that Lockwood School Board of Trustees released yesterday:  
read more

Man critical after shooting at Lockwood house party

Originally published in the early edition of YCN for 11/24/17.

LOCKWOOD — A 19-year-old man shot in the upper chest at a house party in Lockwood Sunday remained in critical condition in a Billings hospital at presstime Monday.

Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said in a press release that the man suffered a gunshot wound to his upper chest/neck area. The person who fired the gun and witnesses cooperated at the scene, Linder said. He did not identify anyone involved in the incident. No arrests had been made by presstime.

“Alcohol and marijuana were found at the scene,” Linder said, “although it is unknown at this stage of the investigation if they were factors in the incident.”

One witness did read more

Lockwood high school planners shooting for May 2018 ballot

Originally published in the early edition of 11/24/17 print edition.

LOCKWOOD — Every effort will be made to get a bond proposal to build a new high school for Lockwood on the ballot in May 2018. A special meeting of the Lockwood School Board will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Lockwood School Administration Building to further discuss what they want in a high school and to interview architectural firms.

Putting a bond measure on the ballot this spring will be tough, but it can be done, said Chad Hanson, who heads the committee that is leading the campaign for a new high school. Hanson told the Lockwood School Board last Tuesday that whatever they decide, his committee is ready to support them.

Many people at the school board meeting urged advancing the bond election as soon as possible to sustain the momentum of the 2-1 — almost 70 percent — election victory of the previous week, which established the boundaries of the proposed K-12 district.

But the concerns of the Lockwood School Board go beyond sustaining momentum. They are concerned about the possibility of Billings School District 2 (SD2) passing a bond election that would encumber Lockwood taxpayers should Lockwood fail to get their bond on the ballot prior to SD2.

In order to finalize the creation of a Lockwood K-12 district, Lockwood has two years to put a bond proposal before the voters, but until then, Lockwood remains part of Billing’s high school district and is responsible to pay for any bonds they might pass in the interim.

Under state law, Lockwood K-12 district would come into existence on July 1 following a successful bond levy. If a bond were approved in read more

Lockwood Fire credits newspaper story for tax revenue increase

Originally published in the 11/10/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

Good news for the Lockwood Fire Department.

The department will be getting an additional $54,000 added to their 2016-17 budget as a consequence of efforts of the County Treasurers Department and the Department of Revenue to determine why the district has not been getting the tax revenues expected.

Lockwood Fire Chief John Staley attributed the turn of events, to last month’s article in the Yellowstone County News, which focused attention on a problem with which the district has been wrestling for the past three years.

As a result of getting the additional revenue, the Lockwood Fire Board approved adding another read more

Huntley Project Volleyball Wins Class B State Championship

Huntley Project poses with their trophy after winning the state Class B tournament Saturday afternoon at the Brick Breeden Field House in Bozeman. (Jonathan McNiven photo)

#10 State Championship title in the history book!

WORDEN — The Huntley Project High School volleyball team capped a perfect, undefeated regular season with a perfect, undefeated post-season and won the state Class B title Saturday, Nov. 11, at Montana State University in Bozeman.

The Ladies defeated Florence-Carlton 25-17, 25-22, 25-20 for the title win.

It was the 10th state volleyball championship for the school.

It was a smooth run to the title for Huntley Project, which swept all its opponents. They defeated Joliet 25-8, 25-11, 25-14 in the undefeated semi-final round Friday night.

On Thursday, HP opened the tournament with a first-round win over Fairfield, 25-14, 25-10, 25-8. They won again Thursday evening, sweeping Jefferson 25-10, 25-16, 25-19.

Coach Iona Stookey said she was impressed with her team’s performances.

“I just thought we put together a great tournament, all three days,” she said.

The Lady Devils were runners-up last year, losing to Red Lodge in title play. Red Lodge did not qualify for the state tournament this year.

The HP team also won the district tournament, which HP hosted this year, and the Southern B divisional at Red Lodge.

Stookey has 769 career wins. The HP volleyball team has qualified for state 19 years in a row and has brought home 18 state trophies: 10 firsts, four for second place and four for third place. Stookey’s teams have played for the state Class B championship for eight years in a row.

The team will … Read the full story in the print edition or by subscribing here online.  

Safety mill levy wins overall vote, rural vs urban voters differ

YELLOWSTONE COUNTY — Voters in urban parts of Yellowstone County helped pass the safety mill levy in Tuesday’s election, while voters in rural areas mainly voted against the proposal. The mill levy passed by a margin of about 1,450 votes with 32,387 ballots cast.
Voters were asked to approve an additional 8-mill levy that would generate an estimated $2.752 annually to “support the county attorney’s office in its prosecution of violent crime,” according to the wording on the ballot. The measure is estimated to increase property taxes by read more

Lockwood High School vote with huge support

Lockwood residents and supporters gathered at Yellowstone Coffee and Canvas Tuesday evening as election results were released. Here, supporters gather to view the tv monitor while children celebrate in the expansion of a Lockwood School District from K-8 to a K-12 School District allowing Lockwood to now decide in a High School price tag and building model. (Jonathan McNiven Photo)

LOCKWOOD — A dozen or so Lockwood residents, campaign volunteers and school board members gathered at Yellowstone Coffee and Canvas to await election returns and to celebrate what turned out to be an overwhelming victory in the process to build a new high school.
Early returns made it clear that Lockwood voters, by a 2-1 margin, are giving the Lockwood School Board a green light to proceed with the process of designing and determining costs to build a new high school. With about 2,000 votes counted, 68.3 percent supported a measure which established boundaries for a proposed K-12 district.
“We are very read more

Election results, Cole Wins Mayorship vote for City of Billings

BILLINGS– Billings voters selected Bill Cole as their next mayor on Tuesday, as the former Chamber of Commerce board president easily defeated former state Rep. Jeff Essmann in the municipal general election.
In unofficial results reported Tuesday shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m., Cole received 15,852 votes, or 63.43 percent of the ballots. Essmann received 8,968 votes, or 35.89 percent.
Voters also cast 170 write-in ballots in the mayor’s race.
Unofficial results showed countywide voter turnout was read more