Giddy about Garth: Five concerts without a hitch

During a Friday press conference, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood posed for a photo with Yellowstone County Commissioners. From left are Kristie Ostlund, who attended in place of her husband, Commissioner John Ostlund, Commissioner Robyn Driscoll, Brooks, Commissioner Denis Pitman and Yearwood. (Jonathan McNiven photo)

Originally published in the print edition of Yellowstone County News on 6/16/17.

BILLINGS — Five Garth Brooks concerts drew massive crowds and generated massive revenues for the city’s motels and restaurants — but few if any problems, according to MetraPark officials.

Bill Dutcher, MetraPark’s general manager, told Yellowstone County commissioners on Tuesday that “everything went like clockwork,” for the five concerts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. “The promoter was happy and Garth Brooks was happy.”

Sue DeVries, assistant manager at MetraPark, said that unlike most performers, Garth Brooks is very hands-on. He was very involved in the production and ticket sales.

“He made sure every seat had a good view,” DeVries said, personally walking to every part of the arena to make sure that every seat was a good seat.

“He truly played to every seat,” DeVries said. “He is as personable as anyone you would want to meet.” read more

Realbird family hosts ‘Custer’s Last Stand’

Images taken from Custer’s last stand in previous years. (Jonathan McNiven photo)

Originally published in the print edition on 6/16/17.

GARRYOWEN — Custer is coming again to be killed by the Native Americans. Don’t miss the 141st commemoration of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, hosted by the Realbird family.

This is the 27th annual reenactment for the Realbirds. It is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on June 23, 24 and 25.

The Battle of the Little Big Horn Reenactment is held on the banks of the Little Big Horn River in the vicinity of Sitting Bull’s Camp, where a portion of the battle with Gen. George Custer was fought. The Reenactment is located at Exit 514 on I-90. There will be signs directing you from there.

The battle has also been called Custer’s Last Stand and the Battle of read more

Newspaper coming late??

UPDATE: The Post office did confirm that there was a glitch in the system and it was basically a one-off situation.  We were assured the process did not change and that the problem would not happen again like this.  Thank you to our Billings readers and subscribers for your patience this week in getting your paper.   

The Yellowstone County News is flooded with calls to our office in response to getting their newspaper late from last week.  Jonathan McNiven, Publisher of the Yellowstone County News, said that we are currently working on the issue and trying to figure out why the Post office has read more

Capsized kayakers prompt emergency search and rescue

Saturday evening prompted a search and rescue effort at approximately 9:10 pm when 2 kayakers overturned their kayakes in the Yellowstone River.  According to a press release from Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder.

A call was made to dispatch advising that 2 adult female kayakers approximately 30 years old, who had put in at Laurel had capsized near the Duck Creek Bridge. Emergency responders arrived and determined it was too dark to safely launch the Sheriff’s Office rescue boat. Rescuers discovered later that one read more

S&T Project Meats back to making jerky

Originally published in the 6/2/17 Yellowstone County News print edition.

SHEPHERD — Jerky is back on the shelf at S & T Project Meats, and the Huntley-based business went back into the production of jerky this week.

State inspectors demanded a recall of the company’s jerky on May 5, an action that business owners Shane and Tanya Flowers appealed and hoped to have rescinded by the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) at a hearing on Thursday, May 25.

But their jerky is not back on the shelf because of anything that happened at the hearing. In fact, there was no hearing read more

Hay crop off to early start

Hayfields along Yellowstone Trail south of Huntley dry in the sun Wednesday afternoon. First cutting came early in Yellowstone County this year with hay prices averaging about $140 per ton, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. (Jonathan McNiven photo)

Originally published in the Yellowstone County News print edition on 6/2/17.

HUNTLEY — Local growers are making hay while the sun shines.

Steve Lackman, Montana State University extension agent in Yellowstone County, said Tuesday that he’s surprised by how much first-cutting hay is on the ground.

“We’re a little ahead” for the first cutting, he said. Growers who want optimum feed value will cut alfalfa when about 15 to 20 percent of the plants are in bloom, he said, while those who want more tonnage “might let it go a little more.”

“We had a pretty decent spring” for hay production, he said. “I think we’re going to have an excellent hay crop, this first cutting anyway.”

Although the wet weather delayed… Read full story in print edition on 6/2/17.

Memorial Day Tribute

Originally published in the 6/2/17 print edition.

Memorial Day tribute
A military honor guard brings flags into the Yellowstone National Cemetery in Laurel on Monday. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, who in 2014 helped designate the Yellowstone Cemetery as a National Cemetery for service members and their families, was the keynote speaker at the ceremony. ‘The Yellowstone National Cemetery is a testament to the sacrifice of Montana’s bravest,’ Tester said. ‘These courageous men and women know the value of freedom and understand what it means to sacrifice to protect it.’ (Jonathan McNiven photo)

Lockwood Water & Sewer may delay sewer rate increases

LOCKWOOD — Lockwood water and sewer customers in Phase 2 of the sewer district will probably get a one or two year reprieve in the system development fee (SDF) increase that is being proposed by the Lockwood Water and Sewer District (LWSD) board. Following a public hearing on the proposed rates and SDF increases, members of the board decided to wait until their next meeting on June 14, to further discuss a possible amendment that emerged from the public comments Tuesday evening.

It was primarily the system development fee increases about which most of the 40 some people who attended the hearing seemed most concerned. It was pointed out that property owners in Phase 2 have had very little time to connect to the sewer and it seemed unfair to already increase the cost that is associated with doing so. SDFs are charged when a new property connects to the system.

It was also pointed out that it would perhaps be a detriment to the district to do something that would discourage and delay hookups, since having as many hook ups as soon as possible, is important to the financial success of Phase 2.

Over the past year, Raftelis Financial Consultants has been conducting a rate study for LWSD. Andrew Rheem of Raftelis presented the read more

Shepherd business S&T Project Meats appeals jerky recall

Originally published in the 5/26/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

SHEPHERD — Spring is peak jerky season.

So, for S&T Project Meats to suddenly have their jerky – their best-selling product – recalled by the government and to be forced to pull it from shelves, has been a devastating blow for this small family-owned business, located near Shepherd and Huntley on Highway 312.

All the more painful, given that there is nothing wrong with the meat — the action came as a result of efforts to improve upon the processes required of them by the state and the federal government. State inspectors imposed the recall on May 5, after failing to acquire documentation from the company, which the owners said they did not know they had to have. A meeting in the Yellowstone County Commissioners’ board room on Thursday was about more than hoping to get the Montana Department of Livestock to rescind the recall; they are fighting to retain the reputation of their small business upon which their livelihood is based.

Commissioner John Ostlund put the issue on the commissioners’ regular discussion agenda after being approached by Flowers about possible recourses open to them, saying that he did not believe that they were being treated fairly by state regulators.

In attendance at the meeting were public health officials, a representative of the governor’s office, other jerky manufacturers in the state, and supporters of S&T Project Meats.

Ostlund said that he was concerned about the impacts that the action has on local business and the local economy. “This is more than just confusing” for the producers, said Ostlund, “it is a crisis” given its impact to their businesses. read more

High school proposal draws early support in Lockwood

Originally published in 5/26/17 print edition.  

LOCKWOOD — A crowd of 50-plus people sat in the Eileen Johnson Middle School Commons last Thursday evening to find out what steps are next in a process to get a high school in Lockwood.

The passage of Senate Bill 139 was just the first step. The new law gives the community an opportunity to make a choice. It is now time to see what that choice will be, said Chad Hanson, who heads the Education Committee of the Lockwood Steering Committee.

A majority of those present seemed to be young parents in the company of a number of small children. The third and fourth graders among those children would most likely be the first students to attend a Lockwood High School, should the voters support it, said Hanson. A brief overview was given of the legislation that allows elementary districts with 1,000 or more high school students to create a new high school district. The audience pelted Hanson, Lockwood School Superintendent Tobin Novasio and a few school board members in attendance with questions for an hour and a half. Comments tended to reveal strong support for a Lockwood High School.

A scenario was put forth that indicated it would take at least five years to have a high school built in Lockwood. The audience response seemed to be that they hope it can be done sooner than that.

The Lockwood School Board, while leading the charge to get the legislation passed, because they believed the community should have a right to choose, will not now move forward “unless we ask them to,” said Hanson. Hanson said that they would present the results of this informational meeting to the Lockwood School Board at their next meeting, June 13. That could be the first opportunity to begin to persuade the board to ask for a “transitional levy” vote – probably next spring – although there were those who wondered if the vote could happen this fall.

The legislation allows the board of trustees to request a 2-3 mill transitional levy which would help fund the preliminary feasibility study, research, and preliminary engineering regarding all questions and issues pertaining to a proposed high school. Such a levy would raise up to $70,000.

How the vote comes down on that levy will probably give an indication of the district’s level of interest in a high school.

If voters approved the transitional levy, the Lockwood School Board would have two years in which to put a bond levy request to build the school before the voters. The stickler – the point that makes him nervous, said Novasio – is that should the levy fail, or should the school board fail to present the bond levy request – the issue could not be brought to the voters again for another five years. read more

Sinkhole closes Pinto Drive, culvert fixed

A sinkhole that developed along Pinto Drive off Clark Road in the Shepherd area has been repaired. (Jonathan McNiven photo)

SHEPHERD — A culvert that failed led to a sinkhole 20 feet deep that closed Pinto Drive for several days.

Tim Miller, director of the Yellowstone County Department of Public Works, said water flowing though the failed culvert eroded the roadside soil, exposing underground telephone and electric lines. The county closed Pinto Drive off Clark Road on May 17, but it was read more

Greg Gianforte elected to House of Representatives

Greg Gianforte speaking in Billings when Vice President Mike Pence visited. (Jonathan McNiven photo)

YELLOWSTONE COUNTY — Yellowstone County voters turned out to support Greg Gianforte Thursday in his Republican bid for Montana’s only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Gianforte won 29,745 votes in Yellowstone County, or 55.84 percent of the county’s ballots.
Democrat Rob Quist received 19,671 votes, 36.93 percent of the Yellowstone County vote.
Independent Mark Wicks won 1,766 votes, or 6.74 percent.
Of the 97,062 registered voters in Yellowstone County, 53,336 ballots were cast for 54.9 percent voter turnout. Statewide, voter turnout was calculated at 54.22 percent as 379,763 of the state’s 700,428 registered voters cast ballots in Thursday’s special election.
Gianforte will complete the read more

US Candidate Greg Gianforte scuffles with reporter, cited with misdeamenor assault

Greg Gianforte speaking in Billings when Vice President Mike Pence visited. (Jonathan McNiven photo)

With one day before Montana decides who will replace former US Congressman Ryan Zinke in the United States House of Representatives, an audio recording of candidate Greg Gianforte was released of Greg apparently in a scuffle with a Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs where both ended up on the ground.  In a statement after the incident, Shane Scanlon, spokesman with the Gianforte campaign, issued the following statement regarding the incident:

“Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office responded to the report of the assault at 5:08pm Wednesday evening, one day before the election polls were to open.  After reports from those present were taken,  the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office and detectives determined probable cause existed to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault.

The special election has had absentee ballot voting for about 4 weeks now.  Physical polling places and locations are all open for voters throughout Montana today Thursday, May 25th.

As this is a developing story today, stay tuned as more info comes available and full details will be in the Yellowstone County news print edition next week.


read more

Yellowstone County to pay $1.25 million to Loren Simpson’s family in civil suit

Originally published in the 5/19/17 issue of YCN.

HUNTLEY — Yellowstone County officials have settled a lawsuit that stemmed from the January 2015 shooting death of Loren Simpson by two sheriff’s deputies.

The settlement calls for the county to pay Simpson’s family $1.25 million. He was driving an allegedly stolen vehicle when two deputies shot at him on White Buffalo Road south of Huntley. He died at read more

Record flows produce record weights in Yellowstone Challenge

Nicholas Fortier and Randy Franco show off their Championship cats. (courtesy photo)

Originally published in the 5/19/17 YCN newspaper- by Brady Flaten

HUNTLEY — The 11th annual Yellowstone Challenge Catfish Tournament once again threw the top catfish anglers in Montana a curve ball.

With erratic spring weather, this tourney consistently provides inconsistent and unpredictable conditions.

Due to unseasonably warm temperatures during the week leading up to the event, the river swelled to over 30,000 cubic feet per second, with water levels rising nearly a foot on tournament day. The increased flows created a makeshift obstacle course on the water with floating debris, trees and branches requiring extra attention during river navigation.

Throw in some afternoon rain showers and it was setting up to be an intriguing day on the water.

The anglers, however, were up to the challenge and knocked this curve ball out of the park. An amazing 47 read more

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