Iona Stookey joins Hall of Fame Class of 2017

Iona Stookey – Huntley Project Volleyball Head Coach

Originally published in the 8/11/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

WORDEN — Huntley Project High School volleyball coach Iona Stookey officially joined the Montana Coaches Association Hall of Fame last week.

Her induction with the Class of 2017 was announced in April.

Stookey, who has coached at the school for 27 years, is also a read more

Obituary: Marlene F. Amen

Marlene F. Amen

Marlene F. Amen was born Dec. 12, 1938, and passed away July 29, 2017, at St. Vincent Healthcare of metastatic malignant melanoma at the age of 78 years and seven months.

She married George Amen on Nov. 16, 1957, at the age of 18 in Laurel, MT. To this marriage they have two children, Rhonda and Arla; and having four grandchildren, Shawntell and Skyar Armfield and Shelbie and Cearra Oblander.

She was a housewife and enjoyed farming and ranching. She loved doing her read more

Obituary: Philip Wade Schmidt

Philip Wade Schmidt

WORDEN – Philip Wade Schmidt, 42, of Worden passed away doing something he loved most, being outdoors and off-roading with family and friends.

Philip was born October 28, 1974, son to Mary and Gary Schmidt.  He started 1st grade and graduated from Huntley Project were he excelled in baseball, wrestling and football. At the time of his death, Phil worked at read more

NRCS offers wildfire recovery assistance to Montana farmers and ranchers

Originally published in the 8/4/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BOZEMAN — The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering technical and financial assistance to agricultural landowners impacted by 2017 wildfires across Montana.

NRCS is accepting applications for its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to assist with livestock grazing deferment, damaged read more

Rosedale Announces run to replace Tester

Matt Rosendale

HELENA — Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale announced Monday that he plans to campaign for the U.S. Senate seat in 2018.

A Republican, Rosendale would seek to unseat current Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, of Big Sandy.

“Montanans are fed up with politicians who say one thing back home but vote another way in Washington, D.C.,” Rosendale said. “The people of Montana deserve a senator who will defend our way of life, get the federal government out of the way, and return power to the hardworking people who make this country great.”

“It’s time to get read more

Work begins on new 911 dispatch center in Billings

County and City of Billings Officials dig in to start the construction project of the new 911 call center in Billings for Yellowstone County. (photo Dennis Ulvestad)

Originally published in the 8/4/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — Officials from Yellowstone County and the City of Billings on Monday broke ground for a new 911 dispatch center in downtown Billings.

The formal groundbreaking marked the beginning of construction on the new dispatch center, which should take about one year to complete.

At approximately 2,300 square feet, the new dispatch center is about twice the size of the current facility and is being built across the street at 911 N. 24th St.

CTA Architects Engineers designed the building; Fisher Construction is the general contractor.

The new dispatch center will cost about $6 million to construct. Money from the 911 fund generated by telephone customers funded the construction budget.

The dispatch center operates 24 hours per day. Emergency responders from several agencies, including the Billings Police Department, the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Department, ambulance services, rural volunteer fire departments and some state and federal agencies are dispatched through the call center.

County commissioners will ask voters to OK 8-mill levy

Originally published in the 8/4/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — In a unanimous vote, Yellowstone County Commissioners approved a resolution calling for an increase in the Public Safety Mill Levy of 8 mills to be put before the voters on Nov. 7.

County Attorney Scott Twito, whose office will primarily benefit from the additional revenue, made the request of the county commissioners, saying “This is difficult for me.” But, he said, the burden being faced by his office and the continuing increase in felony crimes “hits a lot of area of the office.”

The number of felony cases has read more

Lightning fire destroys Lockwood garage

Lighting is suspected in the fire that destroyed this garage on Tigard Avenue in Lockwood Tuesday night. (Jonathan McNiven photo)

Originally published in the 8/4/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

LOCKWOOD — A garage at 3433 Tigard Ave. in Lockwood was fully engulfed in flames when the Lockwood Fire Department arrived on scene just before 11 p.m. Tuesday evening. The fire is suspected of being caused by lightning, since it occurred as an intense lightning and thunderstorm passed through.

Residents of the adjacent home reported hearing a large boom at the same time it started, which would be indicative of lightening, said Lockwood Fire Chief John Staley.

Staley said that a large piece of metal artwork attached to the top of the garage is believed to have attracted the lightning strike.

At the time the garage fire was reported, the Lockwood Fire Department had … Read full story by subscribing online here or calling Yellowstone County News and receive the newspaper each week for a year for $34.

County considers weekly newspapers as option for legal ads

BILLINGS — County officials are mulling over whether they want to change the publication designated as the official publisher of legal notices for Yellowstone County.

It’s been about three years since County Commissioners designated the Billings Gazette as their publisher of legal notices.

Raising the question last week was Jonathan McNiven, publisher of the Yellowstone County News. In a discussion on Monday, McNiven said he wanted to know if there was any interest by the commissioners in considering other publications and what exactly the criteria would be.

The Yellowstone County News was recently named the legal publication for the City of Billings, wresting the contract from the Billings Times, which had held the contract for a couple of decades.

McNiven said that he believed his company was able to do that by offering a better value. So far, he said, the city has been satisfied with the arrangement.

Commissioners and other county department advisers were not … Read full story in 7/28/17 print edition of paper or by subscribing online here.  

PSC approves settlement, rate hike for NorthWestern, customers

Originally published in the 7/28/17 print edition.

HELENA – The Montana Public Service Commission voted 5-0 last week to approve a natural gas rate increase for NorthWestern Energy customers.

The Commission largely accepted a settlement presented by the parties, which included consumer advocates. However, the Commission modified a proposal by NorthWestern to embed several gas production fields located in northern Montana into rates paid by customers.

“The settlement before us was mostly good, but we discovered a few problems that needed our attention,” said Commissioner  … Read full story online or by subscribing here.   

Billings airport receives $1.5 million for terminal work

Originally published in the 7/28/17 print edition.

BILLINGS — Billings Logan International Airport will receive $1.573 million in federal funds to expand the terminal building.

The Billings financial award is part of nearly $5 million to upgrade airports in Kalispell, Billings, Butte and Glendive.

The funding comes from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program, which provides grants to airports across the country in order to expand and improve America’s air travel infrastructure.

“This grant will go toward the design of our terminal renovation project, a project that will provide ... Read full story in print or by subscribing online here.  

Custer School to build $3 Million Gym

Originally published in the 7/28/17 print edition.

CUSTER — Custer Public Schools is preparing to build a new gym after voters approved a $3 million bond in May.

“It will be very functional for a school this size,” said Superintendent Dr. David Perkins of the new gym. The new gym will be in a 14,070 square foot metal building attached to the west side of the existing school building.

Custer school district voters passed a bond in the May election to cover the costs of the gym and a few additional improvements. The vote came after a long educational process during which the school board tried to explain to voters why a new gym is so important the school and community.

Voters approved a $3 million bond, which will cover building a new gym, improving the physical plant and repairs to the existing gym, which will remain in use.

“The town has been divided over this for a long time,” Perkins said. But “the days of the gym were numbered” and they had to take steps, he said.

One major problem is that the gym’s foundation is sinking in spots, leaving the floor uneven and dome-shaped, he said. The sides have slumped as much as 5 inches in some places, he said.

The new gym will have a full-size basketball court with about 10 feet on each end. Perkins didn’t know the exact square footage of the existing gym, but it’s cramped.

“The end line is a foot, foot and a half off the end wall,” he said. The floor isn’t regulation size. People sitting on the bleachers find their knees in people’s backs.

The new gym will have …  Read full article online or in print edition by subscribing here.  

Obituary: Claude “Snuffy” Billman

Claude “Snuffy” Billman, 90, of Billings, Montana, passed away on July 16, 2017.

Snuffy was an avid hunter and fisherman, always looking for that elusive big buck or a majestic bull elk. He spent his life doing what he loved most.

Snuffy is survived by daughter Jo Billman, son Jim (m.p.) Billman, grandson Steve Miller and great-grandchildren Jared, Kyra and Callie, all of California.

He is also survived by his extended family, stepson Skip (Bobbie) Christman of Roundup, Montana; grandchildren Chad of read more

Lockwood Irrigation battles ‘green slime’


Sago Pond Weed is forcing the closure of the Lockwood irrigation system beginning Aug. 1. The slimy green plant chokes off water supply channels. (Courtesy photo)

Originally published in the 7/21/17 print edition.

LOCKWOOD — “It’s a banner year for green slime.”

So declares Carl Peters, manager of the Lockwood Irrigation District, in making the announcement this week about the closing of the irrigation canals to kill the plant growth more accurately called Sago Pond Weed. Irrigation water will be shut off from Aug. 1-7 to allow the weed to dry out, which kills it.

The “slime” thrives on sunlight and water, said Peters, and it’s been thriving very well this year, “because of the  … Read full story by subscribing to the Yellowstone County News online or in print.

McNiven Meanderings 7-21-17

Jonathan McNiven

Well, folks, we are ready to announce a new addition to our weekly columnists. I’ve had a good number of readers ask me why there is no Democrat viewpoint in our paper each week, to which I’ve replied that I haven’t found the right person and fit for our publication.

It’s not that I haven’t put out the call for those interested in getting their viewpoints out to the masses. However, many have other obligations and time restrictions that don’t allow the commitment to a weekly column of this nature. However, I’ve found the next person and platform that we will be providing to the masses.

Jennifer Merecki, a progressive Democrat, will have a platform in our newspaper to explain her points of view as do our other columnists, like Krayton Kerns, Carl Wolf and Brad Molnar. As Krayton Kerns is from the conservative viewpoint, Carl Wolf has an outdoor perspective with his own twist and Brad Molnar has a constitutionally independent view, each has a viewpoint that has a valuable and intriguing input into the national debate of politics and state of our union, whether it be locally or nationally.

We welcome Jennifer Merecki as our newest columnist to the Yellowstone County News. I’ve met with Jennifer, and I believe she has a lot of experience and insight that will add to our conversation.

As I was formerly a Republican state legislator here in Montana, that does not mean I read more

Yellowstone County News features new columnist

Originally published in the 7/21/17 print edition.

Jennifer Merecki

HUNTLEY — The Yellowstone County News has a new columnist.

Jennifer Merecki will write a column, “Progressive Pioneer,” which will appear in the newspaper beginning this week. This week’s introductory column is on Page 4.

Merecki has an extensive health care background. She earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and biology and is a license massage therapist and body work specialist as well as a licensed personal trainer a holistic and fitness nutrition practitioner

Merecki’s columns will feature the viewpoint of the Democratic Party. Her political resume includes working on the grassroots campaign of Bernie Sanders, where she was a spokeswoman, rally presenter and speark. She was elected Yellowstone County Democrat delegate and represented Montana at the national Democratic Convention.

She has also worked on Montana legislative campaigns and was a candidate for both Yellowstone County Commissioner and Senate District 25 in 2016.

She has worked as a lobbyist for several organizations and received the Billings Business Association “Top 40 under 40” Award in 2007.

Check for her weekly column each week in YCN newspaper.

Sen. Conrad Burns buried at Arlington National Cemetery

Originally published in 7/21/17 print edition.

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY — Sen. Conrad Burns was buried in a small family ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday.

The Montana Republican was a longtime Billings resident and former Yellowstone County Commissioner. He died at his Billings home on in April 2016.

His family delayed his burial at Arlington to schedule a time when they could all travel to Washington, D.C., to attend the service, said Yellowstone County Commissioner Denis Pitman.

Burns was a Marine who served in East Asia.

At his funeral at Rimrock Auto Arena in May 2016, his son Garrett, noting that his father would be buried at Arlington, said, “even in death, my father gets a really good parking..”... Read full story in print or online by subscribing here.  

Commissioners set hearing on safety mill levy

Originally published in the 7/14/17 print edition.

BILLINGS — Yellowstone County Commissioners approved a resolution on Tuesday that sets a public hearing to be held Aug. 1, regarding a request of voters, on Nov. 7, to increase the Safety Mill Levy to help relieve pressure on the budget for the County Attorney’s office.

The proposal would increase property taxes by 8 mills, which would generate about $2.75 million, annually, in perpetuity.

Not only would the levy help meet the needs of the county attorney’s office, where felony cases have doubled in the last six years, it would also relieve pressure on other parts of the county general fund and reserve funds, which have been subsidizing the county attorney’s office. The county needs all those funds to address increasing costs in other county departments, associated with the same increase in crime.

County Attorney Scott Twito said that since 2000, his office has seen filings triple from unprecedented escalating crime, which is being driven by illegal drug use, primarily from methamphetamines.

The increasing caseload faced by the county’s judicial system prompted the state Legislature to approve two new district court judges for the county, which while important to alleviating the backlog of cases, puts even more pressure on Twito’s office. With the addition of two new judges, “it is going to be frightening,” said Twito.

Ideally, each judge should  …  Read full story on line by subscribing online here.

5.8 magnitude Montana earthquake felt in Billings

An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.8 rattled residents of Western Montana Thursday morning about 12:30 AM with after shocks persisting afterwards being felt many hundreds of miles away.  As many residents were sleeping, the earthquake startled enough residents to the point that many posted to Facebook online to see if others felt the same thing.

The epicenter of the earthquake occurred just south of read more