County’s taxable value up 4.6 percent

Originally published in the 8/25/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — The total taxable value of property in Yellowstone County increased 4.6 percent in FY 2016-17.

About half that increase is due to the construction of new property or what might be called the addition of new value to the total of assets in the county.

The balance of the increase in taxable value is the result of revised estimate of the value of existing property.

Only new construction results in increased revenue to county government and other taxing jurisdictions. The taxable value of Newly Taxable Property in FY2017-18 is $8,064,294, compared to $13,971,270 in FY 2016-17.

Yellowstone County’s base levy will generate $785,000 in new read more

Prouse released from jail, promises to provide court-ordered documents

Originally published in the Yellowstone County News 8/25/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News. 

SHEPHERD — Former state legislator Wesley Prouse has been released from jail after pledging to produce court-ordered financial documents in the illegal campaign funding case against him.

District Judge Michael Moses sent Prouse to jail last week after a court hearing in which Prouse refused to produce information about his assets.

Prouse was jailed on contempt of court for failing to provide documents or information about his assets. He is one of nine Republican candidates charged by then-Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl with accepting illegal corporate campaign contributions.

Before his Aug. 15 court hearing, Prouse had told the Yellowstone County News he was read more

Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office moves this week

Originally published in the 8/25/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — The Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office will be in a new home at the end of this week.

Sheriff Mike Linder said in a press release that remodeling projects are nearly complete at the former Payne West Insurance building at 2323 2nd Ave North.

At the end of this week, the office will move there from its current location at 2550 3rd Ave N.

Linder said business operations for the sheriff’s office will move on Thursday, Aug. 24 and Friday, Aug. 25.

“While there will still be some work to do on the exterior, including signage,” Linder said in the release, “office space and security features have been completed.”  read more

City, county may split ways on zoning regulations

Originally published in the 8/25/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — Yellowstone County Commissioners approved a proposed separation of the zoning regulations that govern the City of Billings and Yellowstone County.

Called the Unified Zoning Regulations, the City-County Planning Board proposed separating the governance of the two governmental entities to facilitate a planned update and revision of the goals and policies of each.

By the time County Commissioners approved the separation, the City Council had already approved the proposal, said Nicole Cromwell, zoning coordinator and code enforcement supervisor for the Planning Department.

Cromwell said that the separation involved no other changes or deletions to the Unified Zoning Regulations and, in fact, much time was spent on making sure that the zoning regulations for the county and for the city remained the same. Going forward, each governing body will be able to consider and adopt changes to the zoning code for their own jurisdiction.

The City and County agreed to unify the zoning code in 1993 and it was completed in 1997. The separation was initiated by the Yellowstone County Board of Planning as a step in a multi-year project to update and “modernize” the zoning codes to meet the goals and guidelines adopted through Growth Policies, Neighborhood Plans and other land use policies. read more

Solar eclipse wows Pompeys Pillar crowd

With their eyes protected by special glasses, a crowd gathered at Pompeys Pillar National Monument (behind group) to watch Monday’s solar eclipse. Ham radio operators used the eclipse to test how radio waves were affected the changes in solar energy. (Jonathan McNiven photo)

Originally published in the 8/25/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News

POMPEYS PILLAR — Monday’s solar eclipse wowed people who gazed up at the sky, but on the ground at Pompeys Pillar, ham radio operators from the Yellowstone Radio Club were listening for responses to their broadcasts at the national monument.

For Bob Hall, a ranger for the Bureau of Land Management and longtime ham radio operator, Monday’s solar eclipse was a mix of the mystical with pure scientific data.

“Hams, by their nature, have a scientific bent,” Hall said. The ham radio operators on Monday were part of a nationwide fabric transmitting and receiving both Morse code and voice transmissions, collecting data for Virginia Tech researchers.

The experiment was set up to find out more about how the interruption of solar radiation during an eclipse affects radio transmissions.

For Hall, it’s important that everyday citizens, not just PhDs in research labs, can contribute to the scientific base of knowledge.

“We kind of like to push the idea of citizen science,” Hall said. “The average citizen can contribute to real research,” and given his ranger assignment at Pompeys Pillar, doing it on public land makes it an even sweeter accomplishment.

The event drew dedicated eclipse viewers, veteran and new ham radio operators, Boy Scouts and a couple of read more

New mega fertilizer plant taking shape in Lockwood

Originally published in the 8/25/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

LOCKWOOD — The economics of unit trains and improving technology are making possible the building of a new mega fertilizer plant by Town & Country Supply Association near Lockwood.

Construction began in February and is expected to be completed in December. It will be operational just in time to serve the needs of farmers for the 2018 growing season. The $12.5 million facility — $2 million of which is the cost of building a rail spur — has been a long-term goal of the cooperative.

Town & Country Supply Association is a cooperative that supplies farmers and ranchers in south-central Montana and northern Wyoming with feed, fuel, fertilizer and a variety of supplies. It also has convenience and ranch stores in Laurel, Billings, Bridger and Hardin.

The mega plant will allow Town & Country to dramatically increase production, implement new technology and equipment that reduce blending times, centralize dispatching of deliveries, expand their market opportunities, and buy materials in greater quantities – all of which, “We hope long-term gives customers a better price while we get enough to pay for the new facility,” explained Wes Burley, Town & Country’s general manager.

Building the railroad spur allows Town & Country to purchase the materials used in making fertilizer by the train load, which is not only less expensive, but delivery is more dependable, said Burley, who strongly commended the cooperation and commitment they received from Montana RailLink in the process of building the rail spur. read more

Homecoming week postponed for Huntley Project,

Originally published in the 8/25/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

WORDEN — Huntley Project High School’s Homecoming has been postponed until the week of Oct. 2-7.

HP Superintendent Mark Wandle said the original schedule changed because Poplar was unable to play the Sept. 8 game.

The Red Devils will host Poplar on Friday, Oct. 6.

The HP cross country meet at Huntley Project Museum of Irrigated Agriculture is still scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4. The district encourages everyone to show up in force to support the cross country team at the home meet. read more

YVEC’s new ‘Operation Round Up’ is “opt-out rather than opt-in”

by Judy Killen-Originally published in the print edition of Yellowstone County News.

HUNTLEY — With the “Operation Round Up” program launching this month, YVEC general manager Brandon Wittman would like to remind co-op customers that the program is totally voluntary.

Customers who choose to participate in Operation Round Up will receive monthly electric bills from Yellowstone Valley Electric Co-op at the usual time. On the statement, the bill will be rounded up to the next whole dollar amount. 
read more

City and Mayor candidates respond in special edition of YCN

Just published in the 8/18/17 special print section of the Yellowstone County News, Here is what was published for the Mayor and City Council publication this week.

The 2017 primary election for the City of Billings is now upon us.  The absentee ballots in for the City of Billings will be going out in the mail next Friday August Aug 25th . The City of Billings Primary election is a mail-in only ballot election.  All ballots are due in the Yellowstone County Elections Department on or by 8pm Tuesday September 12th. We asked the candidates to answer the following questionnaire regarding local hot topic issues in the area and help us, the readers, decide in voting.

Some candidates chose not to respond for reasons we are not sure. We are grateful to those candidates who did take the time to respond as the answers are pretty telling and you will know where they stand on issues that are hot button issues for the City of Billings residents.   You can read their responses in this special issue.  Some candidates decided to be short as others decided to add detail.  We hope this special edition gives some insight into the candidates that are running in this area for our readers.
read more

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.