Celebrate Kurt Kautz at service at HP High School

Pre-released online due to time constraints

WORDEN — Huntley Project basketball coach Kurt Kautz will be remembered at
a celebration of his life on Friday at the high school where he returned a
decade after his graduation to help build a girls’ basketball program.
Huntley Project Red is the color of the day.
The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. in the school gym. Doors will open at 10.
Everyone is welcome. In lieu of flowers, Kautz’s family requests donations to Blankets and Bears or Citizens For Our Veterans.
Superintendent Mark Wandle, who helped the family with the arrangements,
said Kautz’s family requested that “those in attendance are asked to read more

Huntley Project Head Girls Basketball Coach passes in fatal accident

Mark Wandle, Huntley Project School District Superintendent, released the following statement this morning regarding last nights accident.

This morning we heard the extremely sad news that Kurt Kautz, our head girls basketball coach, died last night in a vehicle accident. This is the only information we have officially received on the circumstances surrounding the event. I know all of us at Huntley Project are saddened by Kurt’s death and send our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

The district will have support services established and available for students and staff in the upcoming days.

read more

Crime wave leaves victims of thefts angry and frustrated

Originally published in the print edition of Yellowstone County News.

HUNTLEY PROJECT — People whose businesses and homes have been broken into during a recent wave of burglaries are frustrated, anxious and angry about the thefts.

No one had been arrested by presstime Wednesday, as business owners who lost cash and merchandise and homeowners who lost dozens of different items turned to security footage looking for clues.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Mike Linder urged residents to be vigilant, looking for anything that semed out of place, and reminded people to lock up their vehicles and buildings (see related story.)

Many people turned to social media to discuss the crimes and attempt to determine who may have committed them.

Nikol Twitchell, who owns Bar T Restaurant and Saloon on Worden’s Main Street, said Wednesday that the thieves broke into her restaurant on Sunday night.

She said they “cut the camera lines and read more

Sen. Conrad Burns fondly recalled at memorial ceremony

Yellowstone County officials and guests on Wednesday unveiled a highway sign proclaiming Airport Road as the Sen. Conrad Burns Memorial Highway. (Jonathan McNiven photos)

Originally published in the 10/13/17 print publication.  by Evelyn Pyburn

BILLINGS — A Who’s Who of county residents, both past and present, filled the lobby of the MetraPark arena for the unveiling of the sign that will designate the Conrad Burns Memorial Highway and a commemorative rock with Burns’ brand on it, which has been placed at the Wall of Fame at MetraPark


Friends and associates of the late U.S. Senator walked down memory lane in recalling Burns anecdotes during the ceremony on Wednesday. They also underscored Burns’ achievements on behalf of the community while he served as a county commissioner and as a U.S. Senator.

“Being a county commissioner was the best read more

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

Obituary: George E. Walker

George E. Walker

George E. Walker, 73, of Billings, returned home peacefully to his Father in Heaven on Sept. 25, 2017, and was welcomed by his family and friends.

George was born on Sept. 27, 1944 in Wolf Point, to Harold Eugene Walker and Winnie Freseman Walker.

He graduated from Richey High School in 1962. After graduation, he attended North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton.

George served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Korea. He later worked on the construction of the Yellowtail dam and then the oil fields in Melstone MT until 1968.

George married Donna Rae Kesterson on Oct. 12, 1968, and was later sealed for all time and eternity in the LDS Idaho Falls temple on Nov. 14, 1970. They lived on a small farm outside of Ballantine for 38 years before moving to Billings for 15 years. George drove truck for Prince Inc 20 years. read more

Taxpayers save $1.7 million in county jail bond sale

Originally published in the 9/29/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — Good news for county taxpayers!

The bond sale to finance the addition to the Yellowstone County Detention Facility (YCDF) was much better for county taxpayers than even best expectations.

On Tuesday, County Commissioners approved a $9.7 million general obligation bond sale at 2.24 percent interest over 20 years to Robert W. Baird & Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their bid was one of nine — far more bids than expected — and the rate of interest offered by Baird was considerably lower than the conservative 3.75 percent originally estimated by County Director of Finance Kevan Bryan, in preparing the bond proposal for consideration by voters.

But, even more, the rate was also lower than the most likely 2.75 percent rate that the county’s advisors, Springstead, said they should expect. Springstead, a public sector financial consulting firm, also said that the county should expect only four to six bidders. The stiff competition of nine bidders generated the lower interest rate.

“It was a surprise,” said Bryan, “They paid a premium to get this bond.”

The interest of so many firms wanting to get the loan results from the fact that Yellowstone County is such a good credit risk. Standard & Poor recently gave the county a AA+ rating, the highest possible and the highest of any government entity in the state, said Bryan. read more

New Veterans Park ready to host veterans’ fundraiser for Huntley Project area

The location of the new Huntley Project Veterans Park in Huntley along Nahmis Ave and the Yellowstone River. The Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative shop is also near the new park. (Jonathan McNiven photo)

Originally published in the Yellowstone County News 9/22/17 print edition.

HUNTLEY — It has a new name and a new home, but a Huntley group’s mission has not changed: Help local veterans, 100 percent.

In its fourth year, the Citizens for our Veterans fundraiser begins at 7 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 30 at its new home, Veterans Park in Huntley.

Citizens for Our Veterans, formerly known as Wounded Warriors, received use of the park along Nahmis Avenue in Huntley from the Huntley Project Irrigation District last spring. The parkland was deeded to the irrigation district by the Bureau of Reclamation.

Event organizer Tamy Lucas of Huntley said the group has been sprucing up the park, removing some old trees and getting ready to host the fundraiser. read more

Rally in the rain: High school boosters make progress

Originally published in the 9/22/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

LOCKWOOD — Despite the continuation of a drizzling rain, a number of parents and students turned out Saturday for the Kickoff Rally for the Lockwood High School election campaign at the Ace Hardware parking lot. Volunteers collected packets and received neighborhood assignments to distribute information aimed at encouraging support for a proposal to consider building a high school in Lockwood.

Voters in Lockwood School District will decide on Nov. 7 whether to authorize the Board of Trustees to pursue designing and gathering cost estimates for a possible new high school and expanding Lockwood into a K-12 district.

Chad Hanson, chairman of the Lockwood Community Education Committee that is leading the campaign, emphasized that the election will not raise taxes. That choice will be the subject of a bond election, which will likely be held in the spring of 2019.

Joining the volunteers were a few school board members and Superintendent Tobin Novasio, who pointed out some of the benefits of having a high school in Lockwood. A recent survey, he said, added to a growing mountain of research that says students do better in smaller schools. Novasio’s primary motivation for a Lockwood high school is concern about the fact that a fourth of Lockwood students fail to complete high school.

He also commented that there are those who don’t believe that Lockwood is large enough to have its own high school, but it would be the largest high school in Montana east of Billings. read more

Couple begins new septic tank business- Straight Flush Septic Services

Originally published in the 9/22/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BALLANTINE — A Ballantine family has launched a new septic tank service business.

Christopher and Shauna Calentine believe their new business will dovetail with their ranch and trucking businesses.

Their new business, Straight Flush Septic Service, consists for now of pumping septic tanks, but Christopher Calentine is training to become certified to install and service septic systems.

They are taking on clients in Yellowstone County, Shauna Calentine said, but plan to read more

Local option tax separates Billings mayor candidates

Bill Cole

Jeff Essmann

Originally published in the print edition of the Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — One of the most significant differences in positions between the two candidates running for mayor of Billings is their support for a proposed local option tax. A local option tax is essentially a limited sales tax, restricted to a specific city or county and assessed on some goods and services, for the purpose of increasing revenue for local government.

Candidate Bill Cole is an enthusiastic supporter, and in fact, in his previous role as president of the Billings Chamber of Commerce, he helped lead the charge in support of a bill in the last state Legislature that would have permitted a community to ask voters if they want to adopt a local option tax.“

Reasonable minds can differ whether a local option tax is good, but I think it is a pretty clear case that communities should be able to decide for themselves,” he said in an interview with the Yellowstone County News.

The concept of a local option tax has been introduced in several past legislative sessions, led primarily by the Billings Chamber of Commerce.

Supporters, like Cole, see the tax as a means to help finance projects that they believe would improve the quality of life in Billings and attract young people to work here.

Candidate Jeff Essmann, who has dealt with the issue many times as a state legislator, concedes to having mixed views about a local option tax. Essmann said, “I know that I have constituents – especially senior citizens – who are interested in reducing property taxes and supported the concept of a local option tax to spread that burden to others.” Because of that, Essmann said he “took a number of runs at it,” beginning in 2006. “But the purpose was to reduce the property tax burden.”

“I have a real problem with the local option sales tax that the chamber and my opponent pushed because the purpose is different,” he continued. “Their purpose is generating new revenue for the government… that’s where I draw a line.”

Cole is supportive of a local option tax as a means to replace revenue that communities used to get from the federal government. “Those days are over,” said Cole. “If we want to solve local problems, we are going to have to look more and more to local solutions.”

A reoccurring thought for many is that other than levying more property taxes, there is a group of people who use the amenities of the community but do not pay for them – tourists. They spend $400 million in Billings every year, according to Cole.

Those local projects that Cole sees as necessary have to do with building “a community that can compete, not just regionally, but nationally with other cities, to attract young people to grow Billings in the future,” he explained.

Cole cites projections that estimate that Billings is going to need to fill 32,500 job openings in the next 10 years.

“Most will be filled with people 25 to 40 years old,” he said, and they will be hard to draw when most areas of the country have 3 to 4 percent unemployment.

“It is a workers’ market,” Cole said. “In order to attract those — the most skilled and most educated — they need to read more

Monday Morning Sheriff’s Report

Originally published in the Yellowstone County News 9/22/17 print edition.


* James Joey Hill, 31, Busby, was arrested Sept. 16 on a warrant from Park County alleging felony assault with a weapon, partner or family member assault, third or subsequent offense, aggravated assault and failure to appear.

Hill was in jail at presstime Wednesday on $67,500 bond.

* Nathaniel Dean Wick, 29, an inmate in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility, was arrested Sept. 14 for alleged assault with bodily fluids after he allegedly threw a tray covered with urine at a staff member. He has been in jail on theft charges since April, according to sheriff’s office records. Total bond was set at $15,000 on the two charges.

Probation violation

* Freddie Lawrence Colvin, 42, was arrested Sept. 13 on a county warrant alleging felony probation violation and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. Colvin was in jail without bond at presstime Wednesday.

* Ryan Scott Romero, 31, was arrested Sept. 13 on a county warrant alleging felony probation violation, alleged felony possession of methamphetamines and alleged possession of paraphernalia. He was in jail on $15,000 bond at presstime Wednesday.

* Fermin Joseph Vasquez, 33, was arrested Sept. 13 on a county warrant alleging felony probation violation. Vasquez was in jail at presstime Wednesday on $7,500 bond.

* Christopher John Faw, 37, was arrested Sept. 14 on a city warrant alleging felony probation violation. Faw was in jail on $10,000 bond at presstime Wednesday.

* Misti Lee Liudahl, 35, was arrested Sept. 14 on a county warrant alleging felony probation violation. Liudahl was in jail without bond at presstime Wednesday.

* Clifford Lee Brown, 50, was arrested Sept. 15 on a county warrant alleging felony probation violation. Brown was in jail without bond at read more

Huntley Project teacher salaries increase this year

Originally published in the 9/22/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

WORDEN — Teachers in the Huntley Project School District will receive raises and increased health insurance contributions under a one-year contract approved by the school board.

The agreement caps a negotiation process between the Huntley Project Education Association and the school board. It increases the salary schedule by 1.9 percent beginning with the current school year.

The district will also pay up to $613 per month toward a participating teacher’s individual health insurance premium in the district’s group insurance program, which is an increase of $50 per month.

The salary agreement includes an increase in the read more

Cranford sentenced to prison on sexual assault charges

Published in the 9/22/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News. 

WORDEN — A Worden man has been sentenced to 20 years incarceration with 15 years suspended for sexual assault involving a minor victim.

District Judge Mary Jane Knisely sentenced Dallas Wade Cranford, 56, to 20 years in the Montana Department of Corrections with 15 years suspended.

Deputy County Attorney Mary Barry, who prosecuted the case, said Knisely recommended Cranford be assigned to a pre-release program. That means he could be a candidate for the Alternatives Inc. program in Billings or be sent to the Missoula Assessment and Sanction Center, a correctional assessment facility operated under an agreement between the Montana Department of Corrections and the Missoula County Detention Facility.

Or, Canford could be sent to the state prison in Deer Lodge, Barry said.

“They sit in jail until they are assigned,” she said. Cranford was listed as read more

Billings colleges gain huge financial commitment from economic development groups

Originally published in the 8/22/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — Big Sky Economic Development (BSED) is making two donations and a loan commitment that will help put the campaigns to build state-of-the-art science buildings on two college campuses in Billings “over the top.”

An offer for a $1 million loan from BSED for the Montana State University Billings project is aimed at securing a $10 million commitment from the Montana State Legislature to build a $15 million building, contingent upon the MSUB Foundation’s success in matching it with $5 million in other contributions. It is hoped that the loan will allow construction of the building to begin before the end of 2018, even if they do not have all the contributions needed.

The joint boards for Big Sky Economic Development Authority and Big Sky Economic Development Corporation also voted unanimously last week to contribute $100,000 each to MSUB’s and Rocky Mountain College’s efforts to raise funds to finance the new science buildings.

In addition, BSED will match another read more

DOT announces open house regarding Billings Bypass

Originally published in the 9/15/17 print edition of YCN.

LOCKWOOD — An open house to update the community on the progress of the Billings Bypass will be held on Thursday, Sept. 28, 6-7:30 pm at the Eileen Johnson Middle School Commons at Lockwood School.

The Montana Department of Transportation is inviting the public to attend to learn about the “Arterial Roadway Connecting Lockwood and Billings Heights,” that has been many years in development.

Since the meeting date is the same as the monthly meeting of the Lockwood Planning Steering Committee, that meeting will be canceled so everyone can attend the open house.

The DOT will also host an open house on read more

Cole, Essmann win Billings mayor primary election

Jeff Essmann

Bill Cole

Originally published in the 9/15/17 print edition of the Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — Mayoral candidates Bill Cole and Jeff Essmann will advance to the general election after receiving the most votes in Tuesday’s primary. Cole received 7,826 votes, or about 32 percent of the 24,228 votes cast. Essmann received 6,502 votes, or about 27 percent. County results are unofficial until after provisional ballots are counted at 3 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18 and after an official canvass of the results is complete. Cole and Essmann were read more

Obituary: Shirley May (Burton) Kuykendall

Shirley May (Burton) Kuykendal

Shirley May (Burton) Kuykendall, 83, of Worden, passed away Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, at the RiverStone Hospice House.
Shirley was a stay-at-home mom who enjoyed sewing, knitting and reading. She was a 60-year member of the Worden Women’s Sewing Club and belonged to the Worden Lioness Club.
She is survived by her children, Gary (Eva) Kuykendall, Janet Kuykendall, Randy (Roxanne) Kuykendall, Ronnie (Lorreen) Kuykendall and Paula (Duane) Borer; two sisters, Ruth Amdor and Pauline Powers; nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her husband Kenny preceded her in death on read more

Lockwood group kicks of rally for High School vote

Originally published in the Yellowstone County News 9/8/17 print edition.

LOCKWOOD — The Lockwood Community Education Committee will host a kickoff rally on Sept. 16 as it begins a door-to-door campaign about the Lockwood high school proposal.

The kickoff rally begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 16 at Lockwood Ace Hardware, 678 Johnson Lane.

Organizers said the rally will present information about the proposition to expand the Lockwood School district to a K-12 district, which would enable it to build a high school.

Members of the Lockwood Community Education Committee will also meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13 and Wednesday, Sept. 27 at the Lockwood School Administration Building.

The committee defines itself as “a group of your read more