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Montana Co-op Director Chris Christensen Elected NRECA Board of Directors President

Friday, March 5th 2021

ARLINGTON, Va. – Chris Christensen, a director of NorVal Electric Cooperative in Montana, today begins his two-year term as president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) board of directors. Curtis Wynn, NRECA’s outgoing board president and CEO of Roanoke Electric Cooperative, passed the gavel to Christensen during NRECA’s annual meeting.

Christensen was elected NRECA president by the association’s board of directors. He is the immediate past vice president and previously served as secretary-treasurer. Tony Anderson, general manager of Cherryland Electric Cooperative in Michigan, was elected vice president, and Joe Martin, board president at Mountain View Electric Association in Colorado, secretary-treasurer.

“I want to thank Curtis for his service and express my gratitude to NRECA’s board for this tremendous opportunity,” said Christensen, who has served on the association’s board for seven years. “Managing the impacts of the pandemic during this past year has presented co-ops and their consumer-members with challenges unlike any we’ve faced before. It’s critical that electric cooperatives meet these challenges together with compassion for our communities and continued dialogue with our elected leaders.”

“We are extremely fortunate to have had such strong and thoughtful leaders help electric co-ops navigate the evolving energy landscape and the challenges of the last year,” said NRECA Chief Executive Officer Jim Matheson. “It has been a pleasure working with Curtis as board president, and I look forward to working alongside Chris.”

Christensen is the first Montanan elected as an officer of the NRECA board of directors. He is a Credentialed Cooperative Director and is NRECA Board Leadership Certified. Christensen manages his family’s cattle ranch with his wife, Carol, and four children.
He is a former Agricultural Education instructor, Future Farmers of America advisor, member of the Agricultural Education Advisory Committee for Montana State University, and past director of numerous other school, association and professional boards.

Matheson recognized Wynn’s leadership during a tenure marked by the pandemic and social change. “Curtis has served this organization so well in so many ways, including focusing our membership on the significant changes in the energy sector and steps that co-ops should be taking to support their members in the years ahead,” Matheson said. “He has been a great source of counsel and advice for me and has contributed so much to our board of directors during these past six years as an officer.”

“It has been a privilege to serve as NRECA’s president and work closely with our board and membership to advance key electric cooperative business and policy priorities,” said Wynn. “The future is bright for electric co-ops, and I look forward to continuing my service to the cooperative family under Chris’s leadership.”

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national trade association representing nearly 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape. As local businesses built by the consumers they serve, electric cooperatives have meaningful ties to rural America and invest $12 billion annually in their communities.

Valley County Continues COVID Vaccinations

Thursday, March 4th 2021

The Valley County Health Department continues to conduct vaccination clinics for COVID-19. Over 200 Valley County residents received vaccinations on March 3rd and the hope is to provide even more vaccinations on March 10th. The amount of vaccinations available depends on the supply distributed by the State of Montana.

Governor Gianforte announced this week that the state will be moving to Phase 1B+ of the Montana's vaccination plan. Phase 1B+ will begin the week of March 8th.

Valley County Health Department still has over 300 people on the Phase 1B list. We will continue to accept all phone calls to 228-6261 to sign up for the Phase 1B and 1B+ vaccinations.

More Guns Were Sold By Retailers In February Than In Any February Since 2016

Thursday, March 4th 2021

More guns were sold by retailers last month than in any February since 2016.

According to Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting, gun retailers sold around 1.5 million guns in the United States in February.

“While the February 2021 number of nearly 1.5 million firearms sold is large, nonetheless it is smaller than for February 2013 (1.7 million) and February 2016 (1.6 million) even as the Biden administration formally announced last month that it would start reconsidering federal firearms-related legislation," SAAF Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer said in a press release. "Handguns continue to outsell long-guns, in February by a ratio of about 1.6-to-1.”

In February 2020, retailers sold 1.29 million guns, CNN reported.

SAAF reported that retailers sold over 2.2 million guns in January 2021.

The FBI conducted 3.4 million background checks last month, which is the busiest February on record.

They showed more than 4.3 million background checks in January, which is the highest number of checks conducted in one month.

Glasgow School Board Votes To Offer Contract To Ed Sugg To Be Irle School Principal

Wednesday, March 3rd 2021

Former Glasgow educator Ed Sugg is being offered a contract to become the next Principal at the Glasgow Irle Elementary School.

The Glasgow School Board voted Tuesday night to offer Sugg a contract after conducting interviews with Sugg and Rob Nyby of Shepherd, MT.

Sugg is a former educator in the Glasgow school system serving as a Title 1 teacher, fifth-eighth grade teacher and an administrative assistant from 2006-2016. He also served as the Superintendent of the Hinsdale School District from 2016-2018. The last two years he has been a sixth grade teacher in the Wadena Deer Creek School District in Minnesota.

A contract will be offered to Sugg and he will have until next week to accept the offer from the Glasgow School District. Glasgow has a administrative pay matrix and the salary offered to Sugg will be $77,147 per contract year.

Diamond Rio To Headline 2021 Northeast Montana Fair Concert

Wednesday, March 3rd 2021

GLASGOW, MONTANA – March 3, 2021 – Following the cancellation of the Northeast Montana Fair (NEMF) Concert in 2020, the NEMF Concert Committee is pleased to announce that they have secured Grammy Award winning country band Diamond Rio to join them in Glasgow on August 7, 2021.
With hits like “Meet in The Middle,” “How Your Love Makes Me Feel,” “One More Day,” “Beautiful Mess,” “Unbelievable,” “In A Week or Two,” and more, Diamond Rio is sure to have the crowd singing and dancing along.

The opening act will be local crowd-favorite 32 Below with plans to again host the widely enjoyed after-party in the beer gardens following the main concert.

After a multi-year hiatus, the Glasgow Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, Milk River Motor Sports, KLTZ/Mix-93, Glasgow Rodeo Committee, and Glasgow Tourism Business Improvement District worked together to resurrect the fair concert in 2016. “Twenty-twenty was a letdown,” said Committee Chair Haylie Shipp. “It’s time to add some energy and positivity into our community.”

Tickets will be March 15 at the Glasgow Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture. If you’d purchased tickets in 2020, please bring them in to be exchanged. Adult tickets are $40, student tickets (ages 5-12) are $20, and children under 5 will again get into the concert for free.
For more information…
Lisa Koski, Glasgow Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, 228-2222
Haylie Shipp, KLTZ/Mix-93, 228-9336

Governor Gianforte Announces Additional Montana Residents Eligible For COVID Vaccine Starting March 8th

Wednesday, March 3rd 2021

HELENA — Gov. Greg Gianforte said during a news conference in Helena on Tuesday beginning on Monday, March 8, Montana will move to Phase 1B+ of the state COVID-19 vaccination plan.

That means the age requirement for vaccine eligibility for Montanans will be lowered 10 years to 60 years of age and older. In addition, existing and chronic health conditions for people between 16 and 59 years old have been added, including such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and liver disease.

The governor added that it's still projected that Montana will move into Phase 1C of the vaccination plan by spring or early summer.

Gianforte added that the state is "seeing encouraging signs in our vaccine supply."

He announced on Monday that Montana is scheduled to receive its first doses of the new Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine later this week. Montana will receive 8,700 doses of the single-dose vaccine, and counties will begin distributing those doses the week of March 8. The state is expected to receive a total of about 60,000 COVID vaccines this week.

The number of Montanans who have received at least one of the two vaccine shots is 260,705 as of Tuesday morning, and the number who have received both shots and are now fully vaccinated is 90,463.

Valley County COVID-19 Update

Tuesday, March 2nd 2021

Valley County 3/1
Active cases: 20
Recovered cases: 806
Total cases: 837
Death due to COVID-19 and/or COVID-19 complications: 11

1570 total doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine have been administered in Valley County.
502 people have been fully immunized against COVID-19.

City Of Glasgow Interested In Purchasing National Guard Armory

Tuesday, March 2nd 2021

The Glasgow City Council voted Monday to request interest rate quotes from local financial institutions as the city continues to pursue purchasing the Montana Army National Guard Armory in Glasgow.

The armory is currently vacant and is being sold by the State of Montana. A recent appraisal of the property has the value at $320,000.

If the property is purchased by the City of Glasgow it would be used by the Glasgow Police Department and other city departments.

The City Council also approved spending $30,000 on a preliminary engineering report for the raw water transmission main. The city will hire Morrison/Maiearle to prepare the engineering report.

Montana House Of Representatives Defeats Right-To-Work Legislation

Tuesday, March 2nd 2021

Surrounded by union members who filled the gallery and packed Capitol hallways in opposition to right-to-work legislation, the Montana House on Tuesday voted down the proposal.

The vote was 38-62, with some Republicans joining Democrats in opposition to the bill.

State Representatives Casey Knudsen of Malta and Rhonda Knudsen of Culbertson voted for the Right-To-Work legislation.

House Bill 251 was carried by Rep. Caleb Hinkle, R-Belgrade. It saw strong opposition from union members around the state as it advanced through a committee with opposition from Democrats and some Republicans who hold a majority in the Legislature.

But enough GOP members of the House Business and Labor Committee said last week they wanted to bring the debate to the full House floor, moving it along to Tuesday’s vote.

The bill would have prohibited the requirement of belonging to a union as a condition of employment. The bill would also bar private-sector unions from requiring non-members covered by bargaining agreements pay union dues.

The Janus decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 already made it so unions can’t collect fees for collectively bargaining on behalf of non-member public employees.

While past Democratic governors have made clear their opposition to right-to-work legislation, the landscape is different in Montana now with the first Republican to hold that office in 16 years.

During the 2020 gubernatorial campaign now Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras, a Republican, said at a stop in Sidney that now-Gov. Greg Gianforte would not veto a right-to-work bill. Juras clarified to the Montana Television Network later that she had not spoken to Gianforte about such legislation and said that a bill would not be a priority. The campaign also said the audio from the event had been edited.

Glasgow City Council Meeting Set For 4:30pm

Monday, March 1st 2021

The Glasgow City Council will meet today at 4:30pm for a regular council meeting.

Glasgow School Board To Interview 2 Candidates For Irle School Principal Position

Monday, March 1st 2021

The Glasgow School Board will interview 2 candidates for the Irle School Principal position over the next two nights.
The interviews will be conducted over Zoom and its possible the board will make a decision after the final interview on Tuesday.

December of 2020 thru February 2021 Has Brought Least Amount Of Snow To Glasgow Since Record Keeping Began

Monday, March 1st 2021

Dec 2020 thru Feb 2021 has brought the least amount of snow for a Meteorological Winter in Glasgow with only 1.5 inches (normal is 20.4 inches). Season snowfall overall is at 18.3 inches thanks to 8.6 inches in October and 8.2 inches in November.

December Through February Is 2nd Driest On Record For Glasgow

Monday, March 1st 2021

Meteorological winter 2020-21 which is December through February will be the second driest in Glasgow history. Here are the 10 driest winters since 1894.

Senator Tester Announces $20 Million In Federal Funding For Montana Airports

Sunday, February 28th 2021

As part of his continued efforts to ensure that Montana’s airports are able to continue serving the state throughout the coronavirus pandemic and beyond, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced that 68 airports across the state will receive a total of $20,034,965 in grant funding to keep up with costs and continue projects amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Tester secured the funding as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act that was signed into law in late December of last year. The grants are provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airport Coronavirus Response Grant Program to provide economic relief to airports across the United States.

“Communities across Montana rely on airports to support their local economies and keep folks connected,” said Tester. “The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in air travel for the last year, making it harder for our local airports to keep up with costs and continue critical infrastructure projects. I’m proud to have helped secure funding that will allow airports across the state to continue serving their communities long after this crisis is over.”

Tester announced that the following airports will receive funding as part of the FAA Airport Coronavirus Response Grant Program:

• Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport – $ 4,186,388
• Billings Logan International Airport – $3,643,376
• Missoula International Airport – $ 3,390,850
• Glacier International Airport (Kalispell) – $ 2,830,997
• Great Falls International Airport – $ 1,853,393
• Helena Regional Airport – $ 1,461,939
• Bert Mooney Airport (Butte) – $ 1,014,371
• Sidney-Richland Regional Airport – $ 1,005,651
• Baker Municipal Airport – $13,000
• Conrad Airport – $13,000
• Cut Bank International Airport – $13,000
• Dawson Community Airport – $13,000
• Deer Lodge-City-County Airport – $13,000
• Dillon Airport – $13,000
• Ennis - Big Sky Airport – $13,000
• Eureka Airport – $13,000
• Fort Benton Airport – $13,000
• Frank Wiley Field Airport – $13,000
• Havre City-County Airport – $13,000
• Kalispell City Airport – $13,000
• L M Clayton Airport – $13,000
• Laurel Municipal Airport – $13,000
• Lewistown Municipal Airport – $13,000
• Libby Airport – $13,000
• Polson Airport – $13,000
• Ravalli County Airport – $13,000
• Ronan Airport – $13,000
• Roundup Airport – $13,000
• Shelby Airport – $13,000
• Stevensville Airport – $13,000
• Three Forks Airport – $13,000
• Tillitt Field Airport – $13,000
• Townsend Airport – $13,000
• Wokal Field/Glasgow-Valley County Airport – $13,000
• Woltermann Memorial Airport – $13,000
• Big Horn County Airport – $9,000
• Big Sandy Airport – $9,000
• Big Sky Field Airport – $9,000
• Big Timber Airport – $9,000
• Bowman Field Airport – $9,000
• Broadus Airport – $9,000
• Choteau Airport – $9,000
• Circle Town County Airport – $9,000
• Colstrip Airport – $9,000
• Edgar G Obie Airport – $9,000
• Ekalaka Airport – $9,000
• Gardiner Airport – $9,000
• Geraldine Airport – $9,000
• Harlem Airport – $9,000
• Jordan Airport – $9,000
• Liberty County Airport – $9,000
• Lincoln Airport – $9,000
• Malta Airport – $9,000
• Mission Field Airport – $9,000
• Plains Airport – $9,000
• Poplar Municipal Airport – $9,000
• Red Lodge Airport – $9,000
• Riddick Field Airport – $9,000
• Scobey Airport – $9,000
• Sher-Wood Airport – $9,000
• Stanford/Biggerstaff Field Airport – $9,000
• Terry Airport – $9,000
• Thompson Falls Airport – $9,000
• Turner Airport – $9,000
• Twin Bridges Airport – $9,000
• Wheatland County at Harlowton Airport – $9,000
• White Sulphur Springs Airport – $9,000
• Winifred Airport – $9,000

Montana Senate Gives Initial Approval To Bills Changing Access To Abortion In Montana

Friday, February 26th 2021

Story credit to www.billingsgazette.com

The Montana Senate on Thursday in party-line votes gave initial approval to four bills that would change access to abortions in the state.

Republicans backed proposals that would restrict access to abortions or put in place additional processes a woman must go through before receiving an abortion. Democrats opposed the measures on an initial vote.

Similar attempts have been met with a veto pen in past sessions by Democratic governors, but Montana for the first time in 16 years has a Republican in that office.

During his State of the State address in January, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte said he supported two bills, including House Bill 136 that would ban abortions after 20 weeks gestational age and HB 167 that would put to voters the so-called "Montana Born-Alive Infant Protection Act."

In support of House Bill 136, Sen. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, said the state should involve itself in when women can access abortions.

"Our rights and the freedom to live should include the unborn child," Hertz said. " ... We must value our most vulnerable and we must value life."

Speaking against the bill, Sen. Janet Ellis, D-Helena, shared the story of her niece's pregnancy. At 18 weeks gestational age the niece learned the pregnancy would not be viable because of anencephaly, a condition when the brain and skull do not develop.

"Legislators should not be interfering with such a challenging and heartbreaking decision," Ellis said. "This decision needs to be made by individuals involved and their health care provider. Period."

The third bill would require notification of the opportunity to have an ultrasound (HB 140) and the final (HB 171) would require a woman to have what's called "informed consent" that includes warnings of death and other dangers at least 24 hours before a medical, or drug-induced, abortion.

In opposition to the bills, several Democrats noted the state's new political landscape for abortion legislation and said the proposals would face legal challenges.

"I know you all waited 16 years for these bills to get to the courts," said Sen. Ellie Boldman, D-Missoula.

On Wednesday, Sen. David Howard, R-Park City, advocated for his Senate Bill 315, the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, in a Senate committee. Howard's bill is similar to the "born-alive" referendum but would not put the question to voters and instead become effective upon passage by the Legislature and being signed by the governor.

The bill would need to clear the Senate by Wednesday's transmittal deadline to advance.

Gianforte's policy director spoke in support of Howard's bill Wednesday. Howard said Thursday he was aiming to amend his bill to include a provision that if it passes, the referendum bill would be struck.

Montana first saw a "born-alive" bill in 2019 after the concept came into the spotlight over failed legislation in West Virginia that year that would have removed barriers to third trimester abortions when a patient's life or health is at risk.

At the time, that state's governor said third-trimester abortions are "done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that's nonviable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother."

The anti-abortion movement seized on that message as part of a broader opposition to abortion rights and several "born-alive" bills have been introduced around the country since.

Democrats and others opposed to the bills have pointed out there are already protections in state and federal law for infants.

House Bill 167 was amended in the Senate, and will head back to the House for representatives to concur the amendments. HB 136, 171 and 140 have not been amended and will be on their way to the governor upon final approval by the Senate.

— Reporter Seaborn Larson contributed to this story.

Montana Legislative Committee Gives Approval For Bill Giving County Commissions Authority To Approve Or Deny Wild Bison Transplants

Thursday, February 25th 2021

Story from www.billingsgazette.com

The Montana House Agriculture Committee advanced a bill this week giving county commissions authority to approve or deny wild bison transplants while also voting down a pair of bills tribes said would better help them bring bison to reservations.

Bison management in Montana has long been a challenge with management of domestic herds and wild bison that migrate from Yellowstone National Park. Due to the presence of the disease brucellosis in some wild bison, fears that it could spread to livestock has led to significant state and federal regulations and certifications before wild bison may be considered disease-free.

The committee voted along party lines with the Republican majority in favor of House Bill 302 from Rep. Josh Kassmier, R-Fort Benton. The bill would require any state relocation of wild bison, except on Indian reservations, to first receive approval from the county commission of the county where the transplant would occur. Kassmier described issues that could arise with bison including destruction of fences and co-mingling with cattle.

“This is only giving power to the locals in areas that will be affected, not trying to usurp the authority of Fish, Wildlife & Parks to manage wildlife,” Kassmier said in support of the bill.

Rep. Andrea Olsen, D-Missoula, opposed the bill, saying it allowed projects to be stopped that included management plans developed by many people and entities outside of the county.

Republicans on the committee also voted down two bills from Rep. Marvin Weatherwax, D-Browning. House Bill 311 sought to eliminate the requirement for state certification that bison are disease free if bison are being moved from one federal entity to a reservation. House Bill 312 sought to allow tribes to quarantine Yellowstone bison if proper facilities are available.

Supporters of the bills felt HB 311 could streamline a largely administrative process while HB 312 would greatly increase capacity for the certification program, which would increase the number of bison available to tribes and cut down on the number sent to slaughter.

The committee earlier passed House Bill 318 from Rep. Kenneth Holmlund, R-Miles City, that seeks to clarify wild versus domestic bison by adding payment of a per capita fee to the criteria for domestic animals.

14 Active COVID Cases In Valley County

Wednesday, February 24th 2021

Valley County COVID-19 Report

Active cases: 14
Recovered cases: 799
Total cases: 824
Death due to COVID-19 and/or COVID-19 complications: 11

13 positive persons since our last report on 2/17/2020 -- Cases 812 -- 824

COVID-19 Vaccination rate for Valley County:
Eligible population fully vaccinated with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine: 5.7%

Bozeman Daily Chronicle Reports Details Surrounding Severance Package For Former Bozeman School Superintendent Bob Connors

Wednesday, February 24th 2021

For full story visit www.bozemandailychronicle.com

A “verbal assault” and perceived retaliatory actions from former Superintendent Bob Connors toward other employees led to his being placed on administrative leave last fall and the ultimate termination of his contract.

An incident on Oct. 19 involved Connors and two unnamed district administrators who reported he verbally assaulted them after a meeting with top district officials, according to documents obtained by the Chronicle.

“The incident, which involved an administrator, may have resulted in bullying, harassment, or intimidation, and/or created a hostile work environment,” Mike Waterman, the Bozeman School District’s director of business services, wrote in a letter to the school board on Oct. 20.

The incident, which led to Connors being placed on administrative leave, was detailed in documents provided to the Chronicle this week. The documents include letters from the two individuals — identified as A and B due to privacy concerns — and screenshots from text messages and emails detailing the events and perceived retaliation from Connors.

One individual described what they felt was a long-running pattern of negative behavior against them by Connors.

The documents were released to the paper after it filed a lawsuit against the school district on Nov. 20 for the release of minutes from two closed meetings and documents related to Connors’ suspension.

Citing privacy concerns, the school board had refrained from releasing details on the alleged policy violation and Connors’ subsequent suspension and the termination of his contract. However, attorneys for the Chronicle and the district ultimately negotiated the release of nearly 50 pages related to the superintendent’s actions.

“The Chronicle took the legal steps available when a public entity violates the constitutional right to know,” said Martha Sheehy, the attorney representing the paper, on Tuesday.

With the release of the redacted documents, the Chronicle decided not to seek the closed session minutes and the lawsuit will be dismissed.

In an emailed statement on Tuesday, David Paoli, an attorney representing Bob Connors, said Connors’ only regret from his tenure was to no longer be working with the students, teachers and staff of the district.

“There is no question that Bob Connors did not violate any district policy of any sort and the Board has found that he has not violated any policy and an independent third party investigation found no policy violation,” Paoli said. “Unfortunately, minor interpersonal communications during these stressful times with his staff were blown out of proportion and allowed to develop into an unfortunate situation.”

School Board Chair Sandy Wilson said the board was committed to ensuring a safe workplace, which was reflected in its polices and procedures and in the course of actions it took last fall.

“The board really takes seriously the safety and well being of our staff and students,” she said.

On Jan. 20, the school board approved a severance package worth more than $290,000. The payment includes money Connors would have made if he had remained employed with the school district until his contract was scheduled to end on June 30, 2022.

The package, which comes from the district’s general fund, also includes vacation and unused sick time.

Next Big Project For City Of Glasgow Is Renovating Water Transmission Line. Cost? Estimated 8 Million Dollars.

Wednesday, February 24th 2021

The City of Glasgow last year completed an $8 million dollar retrofit of its water treatment plant and is now looking at another huge and expensive project. Public Works Director Robert Kompel said the city is starting the preliminary work on an upgrade of its water transmission line. The City of Glasgow receives its water from the Missouri River near Fort Peck and uses the water transmission line that moves water from the Missouri River to St. Marie.

The City has its own transmission line that moves water from the main line to the City of Glasgow. This line has 4 river crossings and renovating this water line could cost $8 million. Earlier this month, the Glasgow City Council approved a request for proposals for a preliminary engineering review for the raw water transmission line upgrade.

City Public Works Director explains:


Legislation To Prohibit Employers And State Agencies From Refusing Services For Those Who Don't Get Vaccinated On Way To Full House For Vote

Wednesday, February 24th 2021

Story from www.billingsgazette.com

A bill to prohibit employers and state agencies from refusing services for those who don't get vaccinated was passed by a House committee on Tuesday.

The legislation has arrived at a time when vaccines for the COVID-19 pandemic are becoming more widely available and offer some reprieve from the 11-month pandemic that's killed half a million people in the U.S. alone. A week ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci in a University of Montana Mansfield Lecture told the 6,000 Zoom attendees that the distance to the end of the pandemic is dependent on how many people get vaccinated. The Legislature is being held under a hybrid model this year to allow lawmakers and the public to participate remotely; five lawmakers have tested positive for the virus since the beginning of January.

But Rep. Jennifer Carlson, a Republican from Manhattan, said whether or not someone has chosen to get such a vaccine is private, protected medical information and shouldn't be held against someone.

"There is not reason for that privacy to be violated by anyone, employer, state agency, licensing board, grocery store, bar, for any public accommodation," Carlson said.

House Bill 415, which would prohibit state agencies from refusing to provide public services to people who aren't vaccinated and employers from barring employment to the same group. Rep. Jedediah Hinkle called the proposal "one of the most important bills of the session."

Several supporters of the bill said they were worried choosing not to be vaccinated could mean they could be refused child care services. Jessica Fruitman, a registered nurse in Polson, said she has friends at the hospital who are afraid of losing their jobs if they refuse vaccination for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shelly Harkins, president and Chief Medical Officer at St. Peter's Health, said it is a common practice for health care providers to require vaccinations — like the flu shot — of their employees.

"It is the gold standard of health care to have no employee be a vector of disease to their patients or colleagues," Harkins said.

While the bill focused on discrimination related to vaccination choice, some supporters made their case against the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Carolyn Truscott, a supporter of the bill, likened a screening process with temperature checks and questions about close contacts to being "assaulted" and treated as cattle.

"It feels like in the spring, when they do all that to calves," Truscott said. "They brand them, clip their ear and castrate them."

The bill would also prohibit the creation of an "immunity passport," which would grant certain access for people who are vaccinated. Committee Chair Barry Usher, a Republican from rural Yellowstone and Musselshell counties, questioned Carlson about whether immunity passports exist for the flu, measles or the chickenpox. Carlson conceded there were not.

All Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted for the bill to move it on to the House on a 12-7 vote.

Valley County Commissioners Write Letter To Senator Daines Opposing President Biden's Department Of Interior Secretary

Wednesday, February 24th 2021

President Joe Biden's Interior Secretary nominee, Deb Haaland, will face a fresh round of questions from lawmakers on Wednesday during the second day of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The Valley County Commissioners have written a letter to Senator Steve Daines opposing the confirmation of Haaland. In their letter to Daines, the commissioners write that Haaland's record shows an alarming bias against the culture, values and economy embraced by Montana Montanans.

The Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico, who would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary if confirmed by the Senate, pledged to work in service of the Biden administration during the first day of the hearing on Tuesday as Republicans on the panel expressed concern over her nomination and described her views as radical.

Republicans have repeatedly argued that the Biden administration is going to kill jobs through its clean energy agenda, which Haaland supports. If confirmed, Haaland would be part of Biden's plan to tackle the climate crisis and reduce carbon emissions.

Ag Producers Could See Increased Payments In Potential Third Round Of CFAP

Tuesday, February 23rd 2021

Farmers could see increased payments in a potential third round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

National Corn Growers Association Vice President of Public Policy Brooke Appleton said congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December.

“Included in that package was an additional $20 per acre payment for CFAP program,” she said. “As well as it gave the USDA the authority to provide support for ethanol producers impacted of course by the drop in demand that we saw throughout last year whenever the pandemic hit.”

She said the Biden administration placing a hold on CFAP payments in January is standard procedure when a new administration takes over. But Appleton says there are a few questions around the program.

“The department has not yet announced details or a time line for assistance or how they’re going to approach assisting biofuels,” Appleton said. “They’re waiting on Secretary Vilsack to be confirmed so we can assume, once he gets there, this is going to be one of the first things that he’s going to have to tackle.”

So far, nearly $24 billion has gone to farmers through the CFAP program.

In CFAP Round 1, Montana producers received $184 million in CFAP payments including $162.7 million to livestock producers.

In CFAP Round 2, Montana producers received $262.8 million in CFAP payments including $122 million for livestock producers and $118 million to acreage based producers.

Limited numbers of tickets still available for Saturday’s Hi-Line Sportsmen’s banquet

Tuesday, February 23rd 2021

Only a few dozen tickets remain for this Saturday’s Hi-Line Sportsmen’s fundraising banquet. The event will be held Saturday evening, Feb. 27, at Glasgow’s St. Raphael’s Parish Center gymnasium. Doors open at 4:30 p.m., and a full prime-rib dinner will be served starting at 5:30.

Organizers note that the event will be held with all relevant COVID restrictions in place, including sanitation measures, limited attendance, and limited mingling. But other features of the annual banquet, including gun raffles, a live auction, and adult refreshments, will be available as normal.

Tickets are limited to 160 people, and at press time about four dozen tickets remain. Price is $35, which includes admission, a prime-rib dinner with all the fixings, and opportunities to participate in gun raffles and a live auction. If you’re interested in tickets, call Jennifer Jackson (406-263-7339) or Hi-Line Sportsmen president Jack Medlicott (425-760-5828) or visit Hi-Line Sportsmen’s Facebook page.

Governor Gianforte Orders All Flags Flown At Half Staff In Montana Honoring Those Who Have Lost Their Lives To COVID-19

Tuesday, February 23rd 2021

Governor Greg Gianforte, pursuant to President Joe Biden’s proclamation honoring 500,000 Americans and more than 1,300 Montanans who have lost their lives to COVID-19, has ordered all flags flown in the State of Montana to be flown at half-staff until sunset on February 26.

Governor Gianforte's Proclamation:

I hereby order all flags flown in the State of Montana to be flown at half-staff on Monday, February 22, 2021 until sunset on Friday, February 26, 2021 to honor the 500,000 Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

For almost a year, Montanans, and all Americans, have faced a public health and economic pandemic with great resiliency. Tragically, more than 500,000 Americans, including more than 1,300 Montanans, have lost their lives to COVID-19. We remember their lives and keep their loved ones close to our hearts.

Two finalists Selected For Irle School Principal Position

Monday, February 22nd 2021

Glasgow School Superintendent Wade Sundby announced their were 5 applications for the soon to be vacant Irle School Principal position. Rachel Erickson will retire at the end of the school year. Sundby said the school district will be reaching out to 2 applicants to set up an interview this week.

The 2 applicants to be interviewed include:

Ed Sugg -- Verndale, MN
Sixth Grade Teacher, 2018- Present Wadena Deer Creek HS

Superintendent of Schools/Principal , July 2016- 2018. Hinsdale Public School K-12

Administrative Assistant , 2009-2016 Glasgow East Side School, Glasgow, MT

Fifth-Eighth Grade Teacher, 2008-2016 Glasgow East Side School, Glasgow, MT

Title I Teacher, 2006-08 Glasgow East Side School, Glasgow, MT

Fourth – Sixth Grade Teacher, 1998-06 Parkers Prairie Elementary, Parkers Prairie, MN

Fourth Grade Student Teacher , Fall 1998 Southside Elementary, Glasgow, MT

Montana State University , Bozeman, MT Graduated, August 2011 M. Ed, Educational Leadership

K-12 Principal/Superintendent Endorsement

Dickinson State University , Dickinson, ND Graduated , December 1998 Bachelor of Science Degree,

Elementary Education Minor: Psychology / Concentrations: Math & Coaching

Rob Nyby -- Shepherd, MT
Educational Leadership internship - Shepherd School, 216+ hours, August 2019-May 2020. Fulfilled
duties of an educational leader including handling discipline, administrative meetings, and classroom
walk-throughs at both the elementary and high school levels.

Middle School PE/Health teacher - Shepherd School, Fall 2020 to present. Taught health and PE to
grades 6-8.

Third-grade teacher - Shepherd School, Fall 2017 to 2020. 2017-2018 taught all subjects including
math, reading, science, and writing. 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 taught math in a departmentalized

First grade - long-term sub, Newman Elementary, Spring 2017. Taught all subjects for twelve weeks.

Worked with students in a one-on-one, small group, and whole-group setting.

Masters of Educational Leadership from Rocky Mountain College, Billings, Montana, June 2020

Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from Rocky Mountain College, Billings, Montana,
December 2016.

Montana Senate Rejects McKean Confirmation While Governor Gianforte Expected To Name Dodson Woman To Fish And Wildlife Commission

Monday, February 22nd 2021

he Montana State Senate on Friday voted 31-18 to reject Andrew McKean’s nomination to the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission. Yes votes were against the nomination while no votes were for McKean’s nomination.

The 2 state Senators from the hi-line split their votes. Senator Mike Lang of Malta voted against McKean’s nomination while Senator Mike Fox voted for the nomination.

Governor Gianforte plans to nominate his 2016 gubernatorial running mate, Lesley Robinson of Dodson to be appointed to the Fish and Wildlife Commission to serve District 4. Robinson is a Phillips County rancher, former county commissioner, and has served on several business and ag boards, including the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

Stan Ozark Reports On Keystone Pipeline

Monday, February 22nd 2021

Governor Gianforte visited Glasgow on Friday seeking input from area residents on how they would be effected by the termination of the Keystone Pipeline. Along with a loss in millions of dollars in tax revenue, businesses will miss out on the economic benefit of construction workers in the area building the pipeline.

NorVal Electric Cooperative will be hit hard with the termination of the pipeline. Keystone would of increased their electrical load by 400% to 500% which would of stabilized rates for customers and allowed NorVal to rebuild their transmission system.

There were questions at the meeting on Friday where Senator Jon Tester stood on the Keystone Pipeline. Senator Tester is the only Democrat in the Montana Congressional Delegation and a supporter of President Biden. Biden rescinded the cross border permit for Keystone which terminated the project which was to run from Alberta to Nebraska.

Stan Ozark reports on the Keystone with comments from NorVal Electric Cooperative along with Senator Jon Tester who was on the Showtime series "The Circus" on Sunday.


68,191 Montana Residents Fully Immunized Against COVID-19

Monday, February 22nd 2021

The State of Montana reported today that 68,191 Montana residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The number of COVID doses administered is 216,383 as the state continues to be in Phase 1-B of Governor Gianforte's plan for vaccinating Montana residents.

Valley County has administered 1249 doses of the vaccine with 335 people fully immunized.

Phillips County has administered 861 doses and 256 people are fully immunized.

Daniels County has administered 431 doses and 134 people are fully immunized.

Sheridan County has administered 947 doses and 358 people are fully immunized.

Roosevelt County has administered 1964 doses and 575 people are fully immunized.

Montana is still in Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccination. Montanans 70 years of age and older, 16 to 69 years of age with a high-risk medical condition, and Native Americans and other persons of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications are in Phase 1-B

Valley County is looking for those residents who are in Phase 1B.

The Valley County Phase 1B list has only 335 people. Valley County Health estimates that 1000 more residents should be on the list to be vaccinated. Call 228-6261 to get on the list to get vaccinated.

On 2/24/2021, they will resume the dose1 vaccine administration and give the first dose 2 at St. Raphael’s.

Informational Public Meeting for FLAP application for Duck Creek Road Upgrade

Monday, February 22nd 2021

Valley County will hold an informational public hearing on Thursday, March 11, 2021, at 6:00 p.m. via ZOOM meeting (see below.) The purpose of the meeting is to provide information and obtain public comments regarding the County’s Federal Land Access Program (FLAP) Application to upgrade the Duck Creek Road. You may join the meeting:

The Valley County Commissioners will apply for funding from the Federal Land Access Program by April 1, 2021. Information on the Duck Creek project can be found on the Valley County website at http://www.valleycountymt.net/.

Topic: Duck Creek Road FLAP Application
Time: Mar 11, 2021 06:00 PM Mountain Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 998 1223 5686

Anyone who would like more information should contact the Valley County Commissioners at (406) 228-6219 or vccomm@valleycountymt.gov.

Governor Gianforte Visits Phillips And Valley County Talking Keystone Pipeline

Saturday, February 20th 2021

Governor Gianforte listening to Phillips County Commissioner Richard Dunbar and Marty Jorgenson, president of Barnard Construction.

HELENA, Mont. – Governor Greg Gianforte today visited Phillips and Valley counties, where he saw firsthand the impacts of President Joe Biden’s decision to shut down the Keystone XL Pipeline project.

Governor Gianforte listening to Phillips County Commissioner Richard Dunbar and Marty Jorgenson, president of Barnard Construction.

After the visits, Governor Gianforte issued the following statement:

“President Biden’s decision to shut down the Keystone XL Pipeline project is devastating to Montana. Today, we heard from Montanans who invested millions in their businesses in anticipation of this project and the economic boost it would bring their communities.

“We heard from school administrators and parents, who had anticipated increased revenues to recruit and pay teachers to educate their kids.

“We heard from officials with electric cooperatives, who had plans to build dozens of miles of transmission lines to the pipeline – bringing electricity to some of the region’s most rural areas.

“We heard from the local chamber of commerce, about how the project would have benefited their local businesses, created good-paying Montana jobs, and boosted our economy.

“And we heard from Montanans, who were once optimistic about what the Keystone XL Pipeline project could mean for their treasured rural communities.

“With the stroke of a pen, President Biden took all of that away. I join these Montanans in sending a loud and clear message to President Biden: your Keystone XL decision must be reversed.”

During the visit, Governor Gianforte visited a Keystone XL pipe yard where he met the president of Barnard Construction. Before President Biden’s executive order, the company was beginning construction on the first 90 miles of the project in Montana.

Governor Gianforte later met with representatives of Big Flat Electric Cooperative, one of several coops that had invested capital to prepare to build transmission lines to the project.

To conclude the visit, the governor hosted a public roundtable with community stakeholders and residents, where he heard about the impacts of the project’s shutdown on local businesses, schools, and families.

State Senate Fish And Game Committee Rejects Nomination Of Andrew McKean To Montana Fish And Wildlife Commission

Friday, February 19th 2021

The Montana State Senate Fish and Game Committee rejected the nomination of Glasgow resident Andrew McKean to the Fish and Wildlife Commission on a vote of 7-4 Thursday.
Stan Ozark has the story:


Governor Gianforte Signs Legislation That Allows Concealed Firearms To Be Carried In Most Places In The State Without A Permit

Friday, February 19th 2021

HELENA — A bill signed into law Thursday by Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte allows concealed firearms to be carried in most places in the state without a permit, and expands the list of places where guns can be carried to include university campuses and the state Capitol.

The law allows concealed firearms to be carried without a permit inside bars and banks. Private property owners and tenants are allowed to ban firearms on their premises.

The law also allows permit holders to carry concealed firearms inside state and local government buildings, including the Capitol. Current rules ban all firearms inside the Capitol and other state government buildings.

These changes take effect immediately.

Spokespeople for the governor’s office and the Department of Administration, which oversees security in the capitol, said a new policy “is forthcoming.”

A separate bill making its way through the session would allow lawmakers to carry concealed handguns without a permit on state property.

On public university campuses, the law will permit firearms as long as gun owners follow certain training requirements and regulations laid out by the university system board of regents, including a ban on firearms at campus athletic or entertainment events.

Firearms carried on university campuses must be kept inside holsters unless removed for self defense, and must be stored in locking devices.

The new rules impacting university campuses will take effect June 1. Previously, the university system board of regents had banned firearms on all public campuses.

Proponents of the bill said getting rid of so-called “gun-free zones” will increase safety by allowing law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. Opponents said it will jeopardize public safety and risk increasing Montana's suicide rate, already one of the highest in the nation.

The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Seth Berglee, and passed the Republican-controlled House and Senate along party lines, with Democrats opposed.

“Educators, gun owners, bankers, and law enforcement officials came in to oppose this bill because it makes our communities and our campuses less safe,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Kim Abbott in a statement.

Gianforte, the state’s first Republican governor is 16 years, said Thursday that he was signing the bill because “gun control measures step on the rights of law abiding citizens."

Former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed several gun-related measures passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature during his tenure, including bills that would have allowed legislators to carry concealed firearms in the Capitol and eliminated local governments’ ability to restrict concealed firearms.

U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers Face Masks Required In All USACE Buildings And Facilities

Thursday, February 18th 2021

As we work to slow the spread of COVID-19, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reminds all visitors, volunteers and employees that a face mask is required in all USACE buildings and facilities. Masks must also be worn outdoors on USACE-managed lands and recreation areas if physical distancing cannot be met, such as when hiking on trails or visiting sites that may be popular or crowded.

Visitors actively engaged in water-related activities with a clear and immediate risk of masks becoming wet may temporarily forgo wearing masks. These activities may include but are not limited to swimming, waterskiing, riding on personal watercraft, kayaking and other boating related activities that present a clear and immediate risk to the mask becoming wet. However, physical distancing must always be maintained whenever possible.

This requirement complies with President Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing, issued Jan. 20, as well as guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

USACE continues to evaluate facility capacity limits and implement measures to adjust the density of visitors in buildings, recreation areas, and other areas prone to crowding. Areas where crowding impedes physical distancing will be evaluated for closure or modification of operating procedures to reduce impacts.

USACE will continue to leverage social media and local media to inform the public of mask and physical distancing requirements, and to inform the public when areas have reached capacity to reduce overcrowding. We ask visitors to assist in our efforts by avoiding crowded areas and wearing masks. Park rangers are available to provide information, protect visitors and park resources, and to encourage compliance with this requirement.

“Protecting the health and safety of our visitors and workforce are our top priorities,” said Thomas Smith, USACE Chief of Operations and Regulatory Division. “We must do all we can to ensure the health and safety of our workforce, our families, and our communities.”

Thursday, February 18th 2021


HELENA — The Montana House Republican majority Wednesday endorsed a bill that says businesses cannot be required to enforce local public-health orders, such as mandates to wear a face-mask or limit customer numbers.

House Bill 257, sponsored by Rep. Jedediah Hinkle, R-Belgrade, also says businesses cannot be penalized for not following any local ordinance or public-health order that denies customers access to their services.

Public-health orders during the Covid-19 pandemic “have compelled private business to be their enforcement arm … through fear, with threats,” Hinkle said on the House floor. “This has placed our businesses between a rock and a hard place.”

The House voted 66-34 for HB257, with all but one Republican in favor. The bill faces a final House vote Thursday before advancing to the state Senate.

Democrats, who opposed the measure, acknowledged that the Covid-19 pandemic and orders to try to control its spread have hurt many businesses.

But they also said HB257 will “destroy” public health efforts and handcuff government in responding to any future outbreaks of a deadly communicable disease.

“My real concern with this legislation is, it’s fighting the last war,” said Rep. Tom France, D-Missoula. “Constraining our health departments over the tough times we’ve had in this last year negates our ability to respond flexibly and intelligently with the next pandemic.”

HB257 says cities, counties, local health boards or a state emergency plan cannot take any action that “compels a private business” to deny a customer access to their premises or denies the customer access to the business’ goods or services.

It also says that if an ordinance or order takes that step, businesses cannot be penalized for not enforcing it.

In arguing for the bill, Republicans said businesses had been put in the difficult position of having to enforce face-mask mandates or other regulations, or face possible penalties or lawsuits from local officials.

That burden has led to many businesses alienating customers and, in some cases, having to close their business, they said.

“In the Flathead, almost everyone who’s reached out to me has said … Montana’s government, either city, local or state, does not have the authority to do these things,” said Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell. “This bill is to designed to listen to them. … This bill is to make sure we never make the mistakes we made on Covid again.”

State Representatives Casey Knudsen of Malta and Rhonda Knudsen of Culbertson voted for the legislation. State Representative Frank Smith of Poplar voted against the bill.

Valley County Health Department Searching For Valley County Residents To Vaccinate For COVID-19

Thursday, February 18th 2021

From Valley County Health Department:

We are still in Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccination. Montanans 70 years of age and older, 16 to 69 years of age with a high-risk medical condition, and Native Americans and other persons of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications – we want to vaccinate YOU! Please call 228-6261.

Our Phase 1B list has only 335 people on it – isn’t it great that, with the help of Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital, Valley County, and volunteers, we are getting the vaccine in arms! We should have about 1,000 more Valley County residents to add to the 1B list. Tell your neighbors; tell your friends!

Our vaccine for dose 1 this week did not arrive due to the weather in the southern US. But next week on 2/24/2021, we will resume our dose 1 vaccine administration and give the first dose 2 at St. Raphael’s.

Grobel Scholarship Trust Scholarships Available

Thursday, February 18th 2021

For the 2021-2022 school year, the Grobel Scholarship Trust shall award two (2) scholarships, each in the amount of $2,750.00. Scholarship applicants must be graduates of a Valley County high school and must have completed at least 30 semester hours, or equivalent, in a course of study leading to a degree or certification in nursing (for example, CNA, LPN, RN, nurse practitioner) or other medical-related occupation.

Lynn and Lois Grobel established the Grobel Scholarship Trust in 1997 in honor of their daughter, Mary, a nurse, and dedicated health-care professional. The trust provides a continuing source of funds and has awarded more than 65 scholarships.

The trust is administered by Samuel D. Waters, President and Chairman of First Community Bank, and Stephen L. Grobel, Attorney, York County, Virginia.

Applications may be obtained from Jessica Pehlke at First Community Bank, (406) 228-8231. Completed applications must be received by May 21 and awards will be announced May 28.

Scottie Booster Club License Plates

Thursday, February 18th 2021

The Glasgow Scottie Booster Club has 556 Scottie license plates in circulation in the State of Montana. This is a huge fundraiser for the Booster Club! Mike Pehlke is the President of the Booster Club and he talks about the origin of these unique license plates.


Message From Valley County Commissioners Regarding Wearing Of Masks

Wednesday, February 17th 2021

Message from the Valley County Commissioners:

We are getting inquiries about how we are responding to Governor Gianfortes’s February 12th directive.

The new directive recommends and encourages Montanans to wear masks and practice CDC guidelines for hand washing and social distancing, rather than requiring them to do so.

We are following the Governor’s directive by continuing to request and encourage visitors and patrons in our facilities to wear masks, wash hands and practice social distancing.

At the Glasgow Airport and on Valley County transit buses, per Federal mandates, masks must be worn.

We encourage everyone in Valley County to continue following these protocols to keep our children in school, keep our businesses open and protect our most vulnerable citizens.

John, Paul and Mary

Montana Legislature Considers Right To Work Legislation

Wednesday, February 17th 2021

HELENA -- Nearly 60 union leaders and workers appeared at the state Capitol Tuesday to oppose a bill that would make Montana a “right-to-work state.”

Right-to-work laws prohibit unions from collecting dues from non-union workers. House Bill 251, sponsored by Rep. Caleb Hinkle, R-Belgrade, would establish those laws in Montana, joining it with 27 other states with similar laws, including many of Montana’s neighbors.

Justin McEwen was one of the crowd of union men and women who spoke against the bill. He spoke on behalf of Bricklayers and Allied Craft Workers Local 1, which represents bricklayers and masons in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

“[The bill] is about supporting corporate America,” McEwen said. “It is about destroying the stopgap between middle class and poverty: our right to unionize.”

The bill’s committee hearing drew 13 supporters.

Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell, was one of the supporters, although he said for the purposes of the hearing he was acting outside of his role as a legislator.

“Unions are critical,” Skees said when giving public testimony in support of the bill. “I love unions. I have nothing against unions. I agree that unions should not be compulsory. There should not be a force to join the union.”

Union members said if people don’t want to work union jobs, they are free to take a non-union job. Almost 90% of workers in the U.S. do not belong to a union according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Current law allows workers to make what is called a “closed shop” where union membership is required for new hires. HB 251 would require “open shops,” Where unions must let non-union members in.

Others said passing the bill would force unions to act under free-market pressures. If they want to maintain membership, and therefore funding, they would have to better represent their members.

Randy Pope is the executive director of Montana Citizens for Right to Work.

“Without right-to-work protections there is little incentive for union officials to offer good service to their members because they can compel people to pay them either way,” Pope said.

Union leaders also raised concerns over the fate of Montana’s apprenticeship programs, many of which are funded by union dues.

Others raised concerns over infringement on their first amendment rights to assemble. One section of the bill would make picketing, boycotting, or other actions to make employers come to the bargaining table illegal.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Valley County With 12 Active COVID Cases

Wednesday, February 17th 2021

Valley County COVID-19 Update

Active cases: 12
Recovered cases: 788
Total cases: 811
Death due to COVID-19 and/or COVID-19 complications: 11

9 positive persons since our last report on 2/11/2020 -- Cases 803 -- 811

It is with great sadness that Valley County Health Department confirms last week’s death of a man in his 50s from COVID-19 illness. We extend our sympathies to his family and loved ones.

Valley County has lost 11 residents due to this SARS CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 infectious disease.

Time Change For 4-Day School Week Meeting

Tuesday, February 16th 2021

####There has been a time change for the meeting tonight. The meeting will be @ 6:00 pm not 5:00 pm. This will allow families to attend.####

February 12, 2021
Glasgow Community,

We will be having a virtual community forum to discuss a 4 day school week for the Glasgow School District. We have a ZOOM meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 16, 2021, at 6:00 pm to review a 4-day week as well as try to answer questions from the community. This meeting is set up for 500 attendees, we also have the availability to do a Facebook live of the meeting. We hope to stream it that way as well.

Here is the information:

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 757 3058 2289
Passcode: K803zG

If you have any questions or concerns prior to the meeting or would like something addressed while we have the meeting, please email me at wsundby@mail.glasgow.k12.mt.us or call 406.228.2406 and we will address concerns while on the meeting.

Respectfully submitted,

Wade O. Sundby

Glasgow School District To Continue With Mask Mandate

Tuesday, February 16th 2021

Should Montana Religious Organizations Be Allowed To Make Political Contributions Without Reporting Them?

Tuesday, February 16th 2021

HELENA -- Lawmakers heard testimony Monday from religious leaders and government officials about a bill that would change campaign finance laws for religious institutions.

Current law does not allow churches to make political contributions without reporting them. Senate Bill 162 would allow them to operate like 501(c)(4)s, commonly known as dark money groups.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. David Howard, R-Park City.

Chad Hesler is the pastor at Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church in East Helena, which filed a lawsuit over similar issues in 2008 against the commissioner of political practices. He and members of his congregation told the Senate State Administration Committee the bill would help make the line between church and state sharper.

“SB 162 follows the footsteps of Thomas Jefferson to limit the intrusion of government into the well-being of mankind, which is the essential role of religion,” Hesler said

The bill also has the support of The Montana Family Foundation and the Montana Department of Justice, who said the bill could prevent costly lawsuits like the one filed by Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church.

Opponents from several nonprofits and the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices office said religious organizations already have the authority to make whatever contributions they want to, as long as they make them public.

Jaime MacNaughton is the attorney for the Commissioner of Political Practices. She said passing the bill could give religious organizations a false sense of security. She joined the hearing via Zoom.

“While Montana law allows us to participate in candidate campaigns, and we don’t have to worry about reporting and disclosure, but [churches] could end up losing their tax exempt status,” MacNaughton said.

Other opponents said churches wishing to participate in politics could easily make another organization with a different nonprofit designation as their political arm.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Blood Drive Set For Glasgow February 16th And 17th

Monday, February 15th 2021

GREAT FALLS — The Montana Red Cross is asking people to give blood in honor of Black History Month. As an incentive, all donors who give in February will receive a $5 Amazon gift card, made possible by a one-million dollar donation from Amazon.

Montana Red Cross director Diana Wright said that when the temperatures drop this low, a lot of people tend to cancel their blood appointments. But despite the winter weather and potential decline in supply, the Red Cross still has a high demand for blood and plasma donations.

They’re also using Black History Month to promote the accomplishments that African-Americans have made within Red Cross.

“We are celebrating Black History Month and African-Americans have contributed so much to our country, and particularly at Red Cross,” Wright said. “Dr. Charles Drew, you may not know this, but he’s actually the brains behind our Bloodmobile. So, when we have blood drives and we don’t have the space in our location, we send out the Bloodmobile. He was the brains behind that. Dr. Jerome Holland, he has been on our Board of Governors for many, many years, and he has contributed much to advance research in blood and blood products. So, this is a great time, not only because it’s winter, but in honor of Black History Month, it’s a great time to get out and donate blood.”

There are several upcoming blood drives in Montana this month:

2/18/2021: 11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Little White Church, Little White Church, #21 South 2nd St. W.

2/16/2021: 10:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., VFW, 1222 US Highway 2 W.
2/17/2021: 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., VFW, 1222 US Highway 2 W.

Wright also added that COVID-19 has had a strong impact on the Red Cross over the past year, affecting everything from the need from their demand to the precautions they have had to take to keep staff, volunteers, and donors safe.

“It’s impacted us in many ways, not only in the procedures, we have heightened cleaning, extra safety protocols at our blood drives, so it’s changed in that regard,” she explained. “We’ve had lots of businesses that their employees are now working from home, so they don’t have the space in their offices where we would normally have a blood drive. We’re always looking for new blood sponsors, we’ve had people who don’t feel safe going out in the public, even though giving blood is very safe. So, that’s impacted our collections.”

You can find available blood donation times and learn how to sign up at redcrossblood.org.

Canada Revamps COVID-19 Requirements For Entry Into Country

Sunday, February 14th 2021

Canada is extending the requirement for travelers to provide a negative COVID-19 test to land border crossers as early as Feb. 15.

Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, told Canadians that the test must have been done within 72 hours, and it must be a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.

Travelers who come to the border without showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test could be refused entry or face fines of up to $3,000.

These measures are similar to the mandatory testing that was put in place for air travelers in January.

Travelers coming by plane will also need to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, and will need to stay in a hotel for three days while awaiting results. Trudeau previously said that this would cost travelers an estimated $2,000. Hotels will be required to provide transportation to and from the airport and deliver food to the traveler’s room, according to instructions for hotels participating in the new measure on the government website. The starting date for this new measure has not yet been released.

These tests are in addition to the mandatory 14-day quarantine order on all incoming travelers. This two week period is inclusive of the three days air travelers are required to spend in a hotel. Travelers to Canada also need to download the ArriveCAN app.

Only four Canadian airports are accepting international travelers: Vancouver International Airport, Calgary International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, and Montreal-Trudeau International Airport. Canadian airlines have also cut services to Mexico and the Caribbean.

International travel was only responsible for 2 per cent of coronavirus cases in Canada thanks in part due to travel restrictions, Trudeau said previously. Travel has been significantly reduced to Canada, both by land and air. As of January 31, there was a year-over-year decrease of roughly 88 per cent in the number of land border crossings, and a 92 per cent decrease in air travel crossings, according to Canadian Border Services Agency travel statistics.

Foreign nationals are only allowed to enter Canada for essential reasons, or to reunite with family. Canada’s travel restrictions are currently in place until February 21, and are expected to be renewed. Canada’s borders have been subject to travel restrictions since March 2020.

Glasgow City Council To Meet Tuesday

Sunday, February 14th 2021

Glasgow School District To Hold Virtual Meeting To Answer Questions About Possibility Of 4 Day School Week

Saturday, February 13th 2021

February 12, 2021
Glasgow Community,

We will be having a virtual community forum to discuss a 4 day school week for the Glasgow School District. We have a ZOOM meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 16, 2021, at 5:00 pm to review a 4-day week as well as try to answer questions from the community. This meeting is set up for 500 attendees, we also have the availability to do a Facebook live of the meeting. We hope to stream it that way as well.

Here is the information:

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 757 3058 2289
Passcode: K803zG

If you have any questions or concerns prior to the meeting or would like something addressed while we have the meeting, please email me at wsundby@mail.glasgow.k12.mt.us or call 406.228.2406 and we will address concerns while on the meeting.

Respectfully submitted,

Wade O. Sundby

Area COVID-19 Update

Saturday, February 13th 2021

Valley County
Active cases: 29
Recovered cases: 763
Total cases: 802
Death due to COVID-19 and/or COVID-19 complications: 10

Phillips County
Active Cases: 2
Recovered: 473
Total Cases: 489
Active Hospitalizations: 1 (Total: 42)
Deaths: 15

Roosevelt County
As of 2/12
21 Active Cases
1 Hospitalized
53 deaths due to or related to COVID 19

Sheridan County
0 Active Cases
0 Hospitalized
5 Deaths

February 13, 2021

Increase In Minimum Wage Proposed For Montana

Saturday, February 13th 2021

HELENA -- A bill in the Montana Legislature seeks to increase Montana’s minimum wage by $1.25 an hour by next year.

State minimum wage is $8.75 an hour, or just shy of $16,000 per year, after taxes. Senate Bill 187 would increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour in 2022 and add an extra dollar every year, culminating in a $12 an hour minimum wage in 2024.

The proposed $1.25 an hour raise would give Montanans about $2,000 more per year.

Sen. Mark Sweeney, D-Helena, the bill’s sponsor, said his bill is about more than a wage.

“It doesn’t raise taxes or give a government handout. What it does is it gives hope,” Sweeney said.

He said giving workers a raise would allow them to put more money back into their communities.

“Employees can finish their shift, grab a beer from the brewery, pick up a pizza on their way home, and maybe make needed repairs on their vehicles,” Sweeney said. “This is money that’s spent locally.”

Minimum wage workers make $3,673 less annually now than they would have if wages had increased at the rate of inflation since 1971.

Proponents representing unions and small businesses echoed Sweeney’s ideas.

John Forkan spoke on behalf of the Montana State Building and Construction Trades Council and was one of five who testified in support of the bill. Even though his organization doesn’t represent many minimum wage workers, he said he spoke in solidarity with all workers.

“They aren’t looking for a handout. They’re looking for a hand up,” Forkan said.

The bill’s opponents raised concerns over rising prices and companies closing their doors if payroll expenses increase. They proposed ways to give people a living wage that don’t involve increasing the minimum wage.

Bridger Mahlum from the Montana Chamber of Commerce was one of the bill’s two opponents at the hearing. He said lawmakers should focus on providing training for low-wage workers so they can move into higher paying jobs rather than forcing a wage increase.

“I would suffice to say that you need to think about the potential domino effect that raising the minimum wage, at any amount, really has,” Mahlum said. “It’s not just about the wage that you’re paying extra on, it’s also the other costs.”

He said minimum wage jobs should be an entrance to the workforce where people develop the skills to move to a better paying job.

In 2019, 41.5% of people working at the federal minimum wage were over 25, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

214 Valley County Residents Receive COVID-19 Vaccine On Wednesday

Friday, February 12th 2021

Report From Valley County Health Department:

214 Covid-19 vaccines were given Wednesday at St. Raphael's Parish Center - RNs and staff from Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital, STAT Air Ambulance, Valley County Public Health, and community volunteers are getting this done weekly for the health of everyone in Valley County!

Valley County is in Phase 1B in vaccinating the persons most medically vulnerable.

Over 1000 doses of the COVID Vaccine have been administered to Valley County residents.

Governor Gianforte Issues Directives Eliminating Statewide Mask Mandate

Friday, February 12th 2021

Governor Greg Gianforte Friday issued two new directives and an executive order.

The first directive rescinds and replaces all prior directives implementing Executive Order 2-2021, which the governor issued on January 13, 2021.

Consistent with the governor’s announcement on February 10, the new directive allows the statewide mask mandate to expire. Local jurisdictions may still choose to implement their own mask requirements.

“Since January 5th, I have provided a clear, consistent path to rescinding the mask mandate,” Governor Gianforte said. “First, we need to start getting the vaccine to our most vulnerable. Second, we need to protect businesses, nonprofits, places of worship, and health care providers from lawsuits if they make a good faith effort to protect individuals from the spread of coronavirus and follow clear public health guidelines. We have met both criteria, and the statewide mandate expires today.”

Governor Gianforte emphasized how providing incentives and encouraging personal responsibility are more effective than imposing impractical, unenforceable government mandates.

On February 10, Governor Gianforte signed S.B. 65 into law which provides a liability shield to businesses, nonprofits, and others who protect their workers, their customers, and their clients from the spread of COVID-19.

“We will provide incentives to protect the health and safety of Montanans, and we will emphasize personal responsibility. Since we’re not out of the woods yet, I will continue wearing a mask and encourage all Montanans to do the same to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors,” Governor Gianforte said.

As Friday, Montanans have administered more than 167,000 doses, and nearly 47,000 Montanans are fully immunized.

The state remains in Phase 1B of its vaccine distribution plan, which the governor updated on January 6 to protect the most vulnerable Montanans, including people 70 years of age and older, Montanans 16 years of age and older who have severe underlying medical conditions, and Native Americans and other persons of color who are at a heightened risk of severe COVID-19-related complications.

In keeping with Governor Gianforte’s January 13 directive which removed restrictions on hours of service and capacity for businesses, today’s directive continues to encourage businesses to adopt industry best practices or public health guidance to protect their employees and customers.

Today’s directive also continues to promote the use of telehealth services, protect vulnerable Montanans from eviction or foreclosure, ease licensing for health care professionals, and reduce regulatory burdens.

The second directive repeals the election-related directive dated August 6, 2020. The governor also issued Executive Order 3-2021 which rescinds Executive Order 15-2018.

“Our Constitution makes it plain as day: the Legislature makes our laws, not the governor and not the courts,” Governor Gianforte said. “It’s the responsibility of our Legislature to determine how Montana’s elections are conducted, and it’s the responsibility of our Legislature to determine whether an individual must disclose donations to a nonprofit group.”

“These issues are up to the Legislature now, which is where they should have been decided all along,” Gianforte said.

Glasgow School District To Keep Mask Requirement

Friday, February 12th 2021

Governor Gianforte today signed a directive eliminating the statewide mask mandate in Montana. The directive for the Governor though continues to give local jurisdictions the option of a mask requirement in schools, cities and towns and counties.

Wade Sundby is the Superintendent of Schools in Glasgow and he told Kltz/Mix-93 on Friday that the Glasgow School District will most likely continue the requirement through this school year.

The Glasgow School Board has ultimate authority on the mask requirement and it wasn't discussed at the regular board meeting on Wednesday.

Valley County and the City of Glasgow currently have no order in place requiring masks for citizens. Local businesses may require masks to enter their premises.

Montana Lawmakers Consider Reduction In State Income Tax

Friday, February 12th 2021

HELENA -- For more than two hours Thursday, lawmakers heard testimony from 20 proponents and 18 opponents on Senate Bill 159, which would slash the top income tax rate from 6.9% to 6.75%.

The bill’s supporters said it would help bring the state more in line with other western states with lower income tax rates, incentivizing business to move to Montana.

Montana has the second highest income tax rate among its neighbors. However, it is also the only state in the region without a sales tax.

Gov. Greg Gianforte’s Budget Director Kurt Alme said lowering Montana’s income tax would position the state well as it comes out of the pandemic.

“This is the perfect time for us to begin our move to move our top rate down to get competitive with the neighbors in the south,” Alme said.

Donna Arduin is the president of Arduin, Laffer and Moore Econometrics, a Florida-based business consulting firm. She said lowering Montana’s top tax bracket would help the state reach its “economic potential.”

The tax cut would cost the state about $30 million every year, a deficit Gianforte has said he would like to meet by streamlining government agencies and taking advantage of future recreational marijuana tax revenue.

Heather O’Loughlin spoke on behalf of the Montana Budget and Policy Center, which opposes the bill. She said making such a large cut is reckless. She pointed to Colorado as an example, which she said relies too heavily on recreational marijana and sales tax revenue to offset its low income tax rate.

Jon Ellingson spoke in opposition to the bill for Big Sky 55+, a nonprofit which advocated for Montana seniors. He talked about the ramifications such a large deficit in the state budget could have.

“Mark my words,” Ellingson said, “If this [bill] passes, you will create a revenue crisis and shortfall, and the budget will be balanced not by repealing this legislation, but by decreasing support for those of us who need it the most.”

Other opponents said the bill represents a handout to the richest Montanans with little benefit for middle and working class Montanans.

“This really is an insult to average workers trying to make an honest living and providing tax cuts for the wealthy does not help people like me,” said Rachelle Sartori, who lives in Helena.

If the bill passes, Montanans earning $60,000 or less would save $50 or less each year, while those making $2 million per year would save about $3,000.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Governor Gianforte To Lift Statewide Mask Mandate Friday

Thursday, February 11th 2021

Story from www.billingsgazette.com

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said he'll lift the statewide mask mandate Friday, during a ceremony where he signed legislation aimed at creating a liability shield for businesses, nonprofits, churches, health care providers and other organizations over exposure to COVID-19.

Senate Bill 65 was carried by Great Falls Republican Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick. The bill was part of Gianforte's requirement to lift the statewide mask mandate that has been in place since July. The other part was starting the vaccination of vulnerable people.

"I've ... emphasized that to combat the virus, providing incentives and promoting personal responsibility are more effective than imposing impractical government mandates," Gianforte said Wednesday in the bill signing ceremony.

Gianforte cited holding at least a first vaccination clinic at all the state's assisted living centers and nursing homes as meeting that threshold to lift the mask mandate.

"On Jan. 5, I laid out a clear path to rescinding the statewide mask mandate," Gianforte said. "First, we need to start getting the vaccine to our most vulnerable. We have done that. Second, we need to protect businesses, nonprofits, places of worship and health care providers from lawsuits if they make a good-faith effort to protect individuals from the spread of the coronavirus and follow the public health guidance. We have done that too.

Gianforte also cited "great strides" in combating the pandemic. The New York Times' tracker of state data shows the 14-day change in new cases added daily in Montana is down 17%. The state is adding an average of roughly 273 new cases every day. The number of deaths reported and people hospitalized over the 14-day average period has also decreased.

Local communities can still implement their own, more restrictive mandates. Local school districts can also enact their own masking measures if they decide to.

Gianforte acknowledged Montana was "not out of the woods yet" and said he would continue to wear a mask and encourage others to do so. While on the floor of the state House before their daily session Wednesday, Gianforte was not wearing a mask when speaking with Republican representatives, who generally do not wear mask in the Capitol, but put one on to talk with a Democratic lawmaker.

Gianforte also encouraged people to get vaccinated and said he will when it's his turn.

On Wednesday, Matt Kelley, the public health officer for Gallatin County, said the rescinding of a statewide mask mandate was not welcome news.

"It's very concerning and very confusing," Kelley said. "We have thousands of vulnerable Montanans who can't get a vaccine and now he's dropping the mask rule. I'm worried this puts Montanans at greater risk. And it's happening on a day when the CDC is releasing guidance doubling down on the use of masks to slow transmission and emphasizing the use of masks."

Gianforte said this week he was on a call with the White House and was told Montana will see modest increase in the vaccine doses it gets from the federal government over the next few weeks.

Democrats, who are a minority in the Legislature, were sharp in their criticism of the mandate lifting.

“Despite touting his commitment to vaccinating Montana’s most vulnerable before lifting his mask mandate, Gov. Gianforte is now going back on his word and endangering the health and safety of those he has a duty to protect,” Rep. Kim Abbott, minority leader in the House, and Sen. Jill Cohenour, minority leader in the Senate, said in a joint statement. “By passing the buck on public health, Gov. Gianforte is putting Montana businesses and workers in an impossible position and undercutting our economic recovery. Montanans deserve better."

Glasgow School District Considering 4-Day School Week

Wednesday, February 10th 2021

Glasgow School Superintendent Wade Sundby and Glasgow teachers Lizzie Peters and Kristin Waarvik were on Live Under the Big Sky on Wednesday talking about a proposed 4-day school week for Glasgow.

Sundby said he hopes to have the Glasgow School Board make a decision at the regular school board meeting in March. He also said a zoom public meeting will be held and the public will be surveyed on their thoughts regarding a 4-day school week before a decision is made.

Here is the link to the LUBS program:

Lizzie Peters and Kristin Waarvik put together a presentation showing what a 4-day school week would look like for the Glasgow School District:


Would You Pay More For Energy If It Kept Coal Fired Energy Plants Operational?

Wednesday, February 10th 2021

Story from www.billingsgazette.com

What a power plant costs Montana customers might not be the determining factor for whether it stays on utility bills under a proposed law drawing some support from the Montana Public Service Commission.

Commissioners on Tuesday weighed the merits of not making decisions about coal-fired power plants without first considering the economic impacts to host communities.

Commissioner Randy Pinocci said his constituents in Eastern Montana were ready to pay more for electricity to keep Lewis and Clark power plant operating.

Owned by Montana Dakota Utilities, the coal-fired power plant near Sidney will be closing in a few weeks.

“In the past few months, the public reached out to MDU and said ‘Look, we’re having such a negative impact of the shutdown, we don’t mind paying higher energy costs.’ And that’s something you don’t hear very often,” Pinocci said.

House Bill 314 would allow commissioners to make decisions about coal-fired power plants based on community economics and not just customer cost. The bill isn't sponsored by legislators from either of Montana's coal power plant communities, but rather by Republican Rep. Braxton Mitchell, of Columbia Falls. Pinocci, of Sun River, said he supports the bill, as did Tony O’Donnell of Billings, the only other commissioner with a coal-fired power plant in his area.

Commissioner Brad Johnson cautioned that keeping an uneconomical power plant running for the sake of its host community meant putting the burden on a utility’s customers.

“If we look at a decision being made in regard to the economic impact that’s made on a particular community and that results in higher prices for energy for other service areas, then you have ratepayers, outside of that particular community of interest that we’re looking at, picking up the tab for the higher prices of keeping that less efficient asset in production,” Johnson said.

The utility commission has struggled repeatedly with the economic demands of power plant towns like Sidney and Colstrip. The power plants in both communities are owned by utilities the commission regulates. MDU is the sole owner of Lewis and Clark. NorthWestern Energy owns a 30% share of Colstrip Unit 4.

Pinocci has been opposed to closing Lewis and Clark. The power plant built in the 1950s supports a small coal mine that also provides coal seasonally to a Sidney sugar beet processing plant. There are concerns in Sidney that the coal will be hard to come by after the power plant closes. MDU has explained that Lewis and Clark is uneconomical. The utility will turn to a gas-fired power plant, renewables and market-purchased power to replace the coal burner at a cheaper cost.

Lewis and Clark doesn’t just serve Sidney. MDU’s other customers in North and South Dakota pay the higher expense for Lewis and Clark electricity without Sidney’s community benefits.

Pinocci has no power to prevent the closure.

For the Colstrip Power Plant region, the PSC has been asked by the Northern Cheyenne Tribe to collect transition funds from NorthWestern to offset the costs of the power plant’s eventual closure. NorthWestern objects to the tribe’s request and the commission has sided with the utility. But the town of Colstrip, population 2,300, has asked the commission to keep the power plant running, even if doing so presented risks to the utility’s 374,000 Montana customers.

“I seem to feel right now like I’m in favor of this bill and what it's trying to do,” O’Donnell said. “If we don’t consider some of those economic consequences, and they are major consequences to the areas that these plants would be in, who’s going to do it? I think they do need to be addressed. So if not us, who?”

The commission chose to monitor the bill for now. Pinocci suggested giving all generating assets economic evaluation if it helped the bill's chances.

Valley County Community Foundation Announces Deadlines For This Year's Grants And Scholarships

Wednesday, February 10th 2021

The Valley County Community Foundation Board of Directors has announced deadlines for this year’s grants and scholarships.

First up is March 19, the deadline for grant applications. Applications must carry that date or earlier on the postmark, said board Chair Doris Leader of Nashua. VCCF provides grants to organizations within Valley County with the 501(c) 3 charitable IRS designation, along with local governments and educational institutions. Groups with projects expected to be completed by Oct. 1, 2021 are welcome to apply.

VCCF awards grants in five areas: arts and culture, basic human needs, economic development, education, and natural resources and conservation. The board discourages applications for annual or capital campaigns, endowment funds, debt retirement, and religious activities.

Applications with a postmark on or before April 16 will be accepted for the Feda Scholarship for the Trades. All applicants must be residents of Valley County. High school graduates this year, students receiving a home school certificate or a GED with plans to attend a trade school are encouraged to apply. In addition, students who received Feda Scholarships in the past may apply for a second scholarship, providing they have successfully completed one semester of study. Applicable course work includes, but is not limited to, plumbing, electrical, drafting, mechanics, welding, carpentry, medical technology, computer technology, or criminal justice.

College and trade school students from Valley County who have completed one year of post-high school study are encouraged to apply for the Clarence and Charlotte Fuhrman Memorial Scholarship. Applicants must have attended a Valley County High School consecutively for three years and received their diploma from a Valley County High School. Or, applicant may present a Home School Certificate or GED while residing in Valley County for a period of three years leading up to receiving these academic achievements. These applications must be postmarked by June 18.

Applications, along with this year’s requirements, are found on the VCCF website: www.valleycountycf.net. VCCF board members are happy to provide information on grants and scholarships. Along with Leader in Nashua, contact Jean Carlson in Fort Peck, Jeff Sanders in Richland/Glasgow, Maggan Walstad and Darla Larson in Opheim/Glasgow; and in Glasgow, contact Ken Jansa, Cindy Markle, Whitney Tatafu or Gary Wageman or Sam Waters.

Attorneys General Write President Biden Regarding Keystone Pipeline

Wednesday, February 10th 2021

HELENA - Montana’s Attorney General Austin Knudsen led a coalition of 14 attorneys general today calling on President Joe Biden to reconsider his unilateral revocation of the 2019 Presidential Permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and advised him that states are reviewing available legal options to protect their citizens and interests.

In letter to Biden, Knudsen and the attorneys general coalition reiterate the harms Biden’s decision will inflict on Americans: thousands of displaced workers, increased reliance on energy produced in Russia and the Middle East, and lost economic activity and opportunity.

“Your decision will result in devastating damage to many of our states and local communities. Even those states outside the path of the Keystone XL pipeline—indeed all Americans—will suffer serious, detrimental consequences,” Knudsen led the attorneys general in writing to Biden. “In Montana for instance, killing Keystone XL will likely cost the state approximately $58 million in annual tax revenue. Montana will lose the benefits of future easements and leases, and several local counties will lose their single-biggest property taxpayer. The loss of Keystone XL’s economic activity and tax revenues are especially devastating as five of the six impacted counties are designated high-poverty areas.”

The pipeline would run 285 miles through Montana crossing through six counties. Montana businesses, local governments, and utilities have made substantial investments in preparation for the pipeline, which are now rendered lost by Biden’s action. As a result, energy bills for some Montanans’ are likely to increase and schools and local governments in eastern Montana will lose out on much needed revenue.

Knudsen criticized Biden for failing to consult the State of Montana on the costs to consumers and economic impacts, setting a dangerous precedent for other permits and projects, and “virtue signaling to special interests.”

“Please be aware that the states are reviewing available legal options to protect our residents and sovereign interests. In the meantime, we urge you to reconsider your decision to impose crippling economic injuries on states, communities, families, and workers across the country,” Knudsen and the attorneys general wrote.

The letter was also signed by attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia.

Glasgow School District Searching For New Irle School Principal

Tuesday, February 9th 2021

The Glasgow School Board will be asked to approve the retirement of long time Irle School Principal Rachel Erickson during their regular board meeting on February 10th.

Erickson will retire at the end of this school year. According to Glasgow School Superintendent Wade Sundby, the principal position has been opened up to current staff and the general public.

Sundby told Kltz/Mix-93 that there are currently 3 applicants and the deadline to apply is February 19th. The School Board will form a hiring committee and conduct interviews February 22-26.

COVID-19 Vaccine Numbers For Montana And Valley County

Monday, February 8th 2021

Montana continues to provide updates on the amount of the COVID-19 Vaccine that is being administered to eligible residents in the state.

As of 2/8, Montana has administered 140,070 doses of the vaccine and 38,444 residents in Montana have been fully immunized.

Here are the totals as of 2/8 for Valley County and the surrounding area:

Valley County
Total Doses Administered: 827
Fully Immunized: 178
Doses per 1,000 people: 139.8

Phillips County
Total Doses Administered: 589
Fully Immunized: 115
Doses per 1000 people: 189.2

Roosevelt County
Total Doses Administered: 1188
Fully Immunized: 216
Doses per 1000 people: 154.9

Daniels County
Total Doses Administered: 296
Fully Immunized: 70
Doses per 1000 people: 214.5

Sheridan County
Total Doses Administered: 691
Fully Immunized: 221
Doses per 1000 people: 258.1

Valley County Voted Board Vacancies For FY 2021

Monday, February 8th 2021


Glasgow Irrigation District 1 - Three-year position

Hinsdale Rural Fire District 1 - Three-year position

St. Marie Rural Fire District 2 - Three-year positions

St. Marie Rural Fire District 1- One-year position filling term until election date 2022

Valley View Home Hospital District 1 - Three-year position

Nominations close February 8, 2021

Election date will be May 4, 2021.

Please contact the Valley County Clerk and Recorder, Marie Pippin at 228-6226 for information on running for a board position.

Fifty Yellowstone National Park Bison Transferred To Fort Peck Tribes On Friday

Saturday, February 6th 2021

Fifty more Yellowstone National Park bison were transferred to the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes on Friday.

The animals had been under quarantine by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, located just north of the park in the Gardiner Basin.

This fifth transfer since April 2019 brings the total number of bison moved from the park to the reservation to 154. The relocations are meant to divert disease-free Yellowstone bison from slaughter to tribal-led restoration efforts.

“We are grateful to our tribal partners for their collaboration as we help return these bison to tribal lands on the prairie," said Chamois Andersen, senior Rockies and Plains representative for Defenders of Wildlife, which partnered with the tribe. "As a keystone species, bison are critical to the health of the ecosystem as well as to other species that inhabit grasslands. Thanks to these efforts, more than 16 tribes have started cultural herds with animals from Yellowstone, descendants of the wild bison that once roamed the prairie in the millions.”

Another 64 females and 25 male bison remain under quarantine in Yellowstone's facilities at Stephens Creek. Later this month, corrals at the same location will be used to gather bison that will be shipped to slaughter. The meat is given to participating tribes.

The quarantine and slaughter programs, along with hunting outside the park, are used to reduce bison populations. The different means of culling were established by partners involved in the Interagency Bison Management Plan.

COVID-19 Safe Hi-Line Sportsmen Banquet Set For February 27th

Friday, February 5th 2021

The Hi-Line Sportsmen will hold their 5th annual banquet on Saturday evening, Feb. 27, at Glasgow’s St. Raphael’s Parish Center gymnasium. Limited numbers of tickets go on sale today, Feb. 5.

Because COVID restrictions mandate precautions, including limiting attendance and some traditional raffles, this year’s banquet will be smaller in size and more limited in scope than in previous years.

“As a committee, we had a vigorous debate about whether to hold our traditional banquet at this time,” says Jack Medlicott, Hi-Line Sportsmen president, “but we determined that, with county health department approval, we are capable of conducting a safe, enjoyable event. With the right safeguards, we are excited to be able to give the community a night out in support of conservation.”

Those safeguards include limiting attendance to 160 people, designating seating with family members and close friends, discouraging interaction between groups, and applying approved sanitation practices. HLS volunteers will require attendees to adhere to CDC guidelines and county health department recommendations.

Because seating will be limited to 20 tables of 8 people apiece, tickets are capped at 160. Price is $35, which includes admission, a prime-rib dinner with all the fixings, and opportunities to participate in gun raffles and a live auction. Unlike most years, when the banquet features as many as two dozen guns, four guns will be raffled at this year’s event. Other highlights include presentation of Barb Marsh/Mark Jackson Memorial Scholarships. The banquet will include a live auction that will culminate in the auction of this year’s scholarship gun, which will raise funds for next year’s scholars.

Funds raised at the Feb. 27 banquet will be distributed to the community through Hi-Line Sportsmen’s grants, which fund projects that enhance outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat, landowner-sportsman relations, and community infrastructure.

For tickets and more banquet details, call or visit with Jenn Jackson (406-263-7339) or Medlicott (425-760-5828) or see Hi-Line Sportsmen’s Facebook page.

“We hope the community understands our twin interests in holding a fun event and keeping everyone safe,” says Jackson. “But we ask you to do your part. If you are feeling ill, have been in the company of someone who is sick, or are at high risk of COVID, please stay away. Please understand that some of our safeguards will limit activity, but we think we can show the community that we can come together, be healthy, and return to some semblance of normalcy.”

Missouri River Runoff Expected To Be Below Average

Friday, February 5th 2021

The updated 2021 calendar year runoff forecast for the Missouri River Basin above Sioux City, Iowa, continues to be below average.

“Despite runoff being slightly above average in January, we expect 2021 runoff to be below average,” said John Remus, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’, Missouri River Basin Water Management Division. “Both plains snowpack and mountain snowpack continue to lag behind seasonal averages, and soil moisture continues to be much drier-than-normal.”

January 2021 runoff in the Missouri River Basin above Sioux City was 1.1 million acre-feet, 141% of average. The above-average January runoff was primarily due to above-normal temperatures melting any accumulated plains snowpack and inhibiting river ice formation.

The 2021 calendar year runoff forecast above Sioux City is 22.9 MAF, 89% of average. The runoff forecast is based on soil moisture conditions, plains snowpack, mountain snowpack, and long-term precipitation and temperature outlooks.

Gavins Point releases will be maintained at the winter release rate of 17,000 cubic feet per second but will be adjusted if needed in response to ice formation on the Missouri River below Gavins Point Dam.

“System storage remains slightly below the base of the annual flood control zone. The System is in good position to serve all Congressionally authorized purposes including flood control, navigation, and water supply during 2021,” Remus added.


Current studies indicate that flow support for Missouri River navigation will be at the full service level for the first half of the 2021 season, which begins April 1 at the mouth in St. Louis, Missouri. The actual service level will be based on the total volume of water stored in the System on March 15, in accordance with the guidelines in the Master Manual. Flow support for the second half of the navigation season, as well as navigation season length, will be based on the actual July 1 System storage.

Ice Conditions:

River ice conditions below all System projects will be closely monitored throughout the winter season. The Missouri River froze in at Bismarck, N.D. near the end of January. Garrison releases are gradually being increased from 16,000 cfs to 22,000 cfs. Garrison releases are typically increased following the formation of a stable ice cover to benefit winter hydropower generation.

Basin and river conditions continue to be monitored, including plains and mountain snow accumulation, and System regulation will be adjusted based on the most up-to-date information. The river ice report is available at: http://go.usa.gov/xARQc.

Mountain and Plains Snowpack:

Mountain snowpack in the upper Basin is accumulating at below-average rates. The Jan. 31 mountain snowpack in the Fort Peck reach was 78% of average, while the mountain snowpack in the Fort Peck to Garrison reach was 79% of average. By February 1, about 60% of the total mountain snowpack has typically accumulated. Mountain snowpack normally peaks near April 15. The mountain snowpack graphics can be viewed at: http://go.usa.gov/xARQC. Currently, plains snowpack in the upper Basin is light.

Fort Peck Dam
Average releases past month – 10,500 cfs
Current release rate – 10,500 cfs
Forecast average release rate – 10,000 cfs
End-of-January reservoir level – 2234.3 feet
Forecast end-of-February reservoir level – 2233.5 feet
Notes: Releases will remain at 10,000 cfs in February.


The six mainstem power plants generated 618 million kWh of electricity in January. Typical energy generation for January is 715 million kWh. The power plants are expected to generate 9.2 billion kWh this year, compared to the long-term average of 9.4 billion kWh.

Home Run Pond Receives New Fishing Pier

Friday, February 5th 2021

The “new” Home Run Pond fishing pier is in!

Several community groups came together with funding and time to help update, stabilize, and improve the existing platform structure of the fishing pier on the Home Run Pond kids fishing pond adjacent to Sullivan Park in Glasgow.

New stabilizing helical piers were augured into the lower substrate by a company out of Kalispell, “Montana Helical Piers,” that ideally will keep the structure from sagging in the future.

The City of Glasgow also put in a lot of time on improving the pier itself, including a new coat of paint and welding on an upgraded ADA accessible ramp.

Contributions to the project included:

Hi-Line Sportsmen - $1,000
Glasgow/Fort Peck Walleyes Unlimited - $1,000
FWP Community Pond grant- $2,500
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks-Region 6- $1,000
City of Glasgow-labor and time

Glasgow School District Now With 5 Active COVID-19 Cases

Thursday, February 4th 2021

Glasgow School Superintendent Wade Sundby announced today that a student at GHS has tested positive for COVID-19. Sundby also announced that a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19 at the Glasgow Middle School.

Sundby said neither GHS or GMS would be closed down due to the positive cases. School officials will continue to monitor the situation and will provide further information if and when it becomes available.

Currently, the Glasgow School District has 5 active cases and 22 students and staff in quarantine. There have been 84 positive cases during the school year and a total of 226 students and staff that had to be in quarantine during the school year.

Andrew McKean Reflects On Serving On Montana's Fish, Wildlife And Parks Commission

Thursday, February 4th 2021

Glasgow resident Andrew McKean was appointed by former Governor Steve Bullock to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission last year and has enjoyed his short time on the commission. Andrew was a guest on Live Under the Big Sky on Wednesday and noted that his status is uncertain on the commission. Governor Greg Gianforte has not informed McKean whether he will nominate him to continue to serve on the commission and the Montana Senate has not scheduled a confirmation hearing for his nomination.

McKean reflects on his brief time serving on the commission and his uncertain future:


Glasgow Public Works Director Explains New Snow Removal Ordinance In City Of Glasgow

Wednesday, February 3rd 2021

In 2020 the Glasgow City Council passed a new ordinance pertaining to the removal of snow from residential areas in the City of Glasgow. Robert Kompel is the Director of Public Works for the City of Glasgow and he explains the new ordinance.


Valley County Administers 677 COVID Vaccine Doses And 155 People Fully Immunized In Valley County

Wednesday, February 3rd 2021

Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Tuesday he received federal approval to redirect 19,500 unused COVID-19 vaccine doses to vulnerable Montanans.

The 19,500 doses identified by the state were originally provided to CVS and Walgreens under contract by the federal government to vaccinate residents and staff in long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities, according to a news release from the governor's office.

With the redirection of the unused doses, nearly 10,000 more Montanans in Phase 1B will be fully vaccinated.

The State of Montana reports that 677 doses of the COVID Vaccine have been given in Valley County with 155 people fully immunized. 471 doses have been administered in Phillips County, 713 doses in Roosevelt County, 233 doses in Daniels County and 567 doses in Sheridan County.

Gianforte said at a news conference in Helena that doses will be released to hospitals across Montana in the coming days. DPHHS will coordinate with local partners and hospitals to help set up community clinics to serve as many Montanans as possible.

On Jan. 19, Montana moved into Phase 1B of the state’s vaccine distribution plan, which includes 70 years of age and older, 16 years of age and older with a high-risk underlying medical condition, and Native Americans and other persons of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications are eligible to receive the vaccine.

Montana's Congressional Delegation Asks President Biden To Reconsider Cancelling Keystone XL Pipeline Permit

Wednesday, February 3rd 2021

Story credit to [L]www.billingsgazette.com[EL}

Montana’s congressional delegation is asking President Joe Biden to reconsider cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline permit.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester wrote Biden on Tuesday asking him to reconsider Keystone XL, calling the pipeline “a powerful economic driver for Montana.”

This project has the potential to support thousands of well-paying jobs, increase tax revenue in local communities, and support a safer, more efficient alternative to transporting fossil fuel by truck or railroad, Tester said in his letter.

Previously, Republican Sen. Steve Daines joined other lawmakers in asking for a meeting with Biden. Tuesday, Daines and Rosendale announced support for the “Keystone XL Pipeline Construction and Jobs Act,” a two-page, Daines-sponsored bill that allows Keystone to be built without a permit. An identical version of the bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Kelly Armstrong, a Republican from North Dakota. Rosendale was one of 85 co-sponsors of the Armstrong bill.

There have been at least eight bills attempting to force approval of Keystone, now in its 13th year. None of the bills were attempted during former President Donald Trump’s tenure, during which time pipeline supporters expected the former president to see Keystone XL permitted and built, as he promised as a candidate in 2016.

Biden revoked the Keystone XL permit on his first day in office over climate change concerns.

Trump’s State Department issued a permit for the pipeline in 2017, but didn’t meet the environmental review requirements for construction. In November 2018, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris suspended the permit until a supplemental environmental review was completed.

Trump then issued yet another permit for Keystone XL in 2019, but time ran out, setting up Biden to rescind the Keystone XL permit as he promised he would as a candidate.

“Americans are already struggling to make ends meet and keep food on the table because of the pandemic. Yet with the stroke of a pen, President Biden killed thousands of energy and union jobs, eliminated tax revenue for impoverished communities, raised energy costs for Americans, and put our national security and energy independence at risk,” Daines stated. “We must reverse Biden's disastrous decision and send a clear message that supporting American workers is more important than supporting Saudi Arabia and allowing radical environmentalists to cash in on campaign promises.”

The pipeline was strongly opposed by the American Indian tribes along its route, including the Assiniboine and Sioux of Fort Peck Reservation and the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre of Fort Belknap reservation. Keystone’s route skirts the Fort Peck Reservation, but comes close to the water supply intake for the reservation and much of Northeast Montana. The route also crosses land that’s culturally significant to Native Americans from both reservations.

Neither Daines, nor Rosendale mentioned the tribes’ concerns about Keystone XL, but referenced the support of “stakeholders” further south, like the Carter County Commission, for whom Keystone XL’s property taxes would be significant. State estimates of the property taxes Keystone would generate have varied widely. At one point, former Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s administration put Keystone’s taxes at $80 million for the first year. Later estimates put the amount at $63 million.

The Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association and the Southeastern Montana Development Corporation were recognized as stakeholders, as well.

“This executive order has really hurt Montana. During this time of economic uncertainty, ending American jobs and energy independence should not be President Biden’s top priority,” Rosendale said in a press release. “The Keystone XL Pipeline provides good, high paying jobs and is a source of added revenue for our rural communities.”

Tester acknowledged the tribes’ concerns in his letter to Biden, but told the president that adjustments could be made to protect tribal interests.

“Montana’s Native communities have reached out directly to me, and to TC Energy, to express their concerns with the current route, and related community safety and water quality concerns,” Tester said in his letter. “With a straightforward conversation and commonsense safeguards, I believe we can make adjustments to the proposed projects that will provide even stronger protections for people and clear water, while still supporting jobs and economic development along the pipeline route.”

Glasgow School District Announces Staff Member Tests Positive For COVID

Wednesday, February 3rd 2021

On February 2, 2021, the Glasgow School District was notified that a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19. The positive test was confirmed on February 2, 2021. According to the Valley County Health Department, the District’s staff and students were in contact with the students during the period of possible exposure.

However, the staff member last attended in-class or had person-to-person contact with fellow students/staff at Irle, on February 1, 2021. Working with the Valley County Health Department, we do not need to close down the school at this time. We will continue to monitor the situation. The classroom affected will begin remote learning tomorrow February 3, 2021.

If there are any questions about the remote learning please contact Rachel Erickson at 406.228.2419. If there are any questions please contact Wade Sundby at the central office at 406.228.2406.Currently, we have 3 active cases, 78 recovered for a total of 81. Contacts of positive cases are 204 released and 20 not released from quarantine for a total of 224.

National Weather Service Reports On January Weather

Tuesday, February 2nd 2021

January 2021 was REALLY warm & dry in NE MT.

Some highlights:

2nd warmest Jan on record (average temperature: 27.3 degrees), behind 2006.

9th driest Jan on record (0.07" of precipitation, fell on 1/3 & 18)

* 7th least snowiest Jan on record (0.2" of snow, all on 1/18)

Proposal To Increase Starting-Teacher Pay In Montana Passes First Vote In State House

Tuesday, February 2nd 2021

Story from www.ktvq.com

HELENA — A proposal to increase starting-teacher pay in Montana won overwhelming endorsement from the state House Monday.

Members voted 97-3 to advance House Bill 143, which would create state incentives for public school districts across Montana to increase starting base pay for teachers to at least $34,000 a year, for their first three years on the job.

One of the 3 members of the House of Representatives who voted against the bill was State Representative Rhonda Knudsen of Culbertson.

“Nothing dictatorial about this bill – just an incentive package to incentivize an increase in the beginning teacher pay,” said its sponsor, Rep. Llew Jones, R-Conrad. “Thus, hopefully more folks will enter the teaching field, and those that do enter the teaching field will stay in Montana.”

The measure, part of Gov. Greg Gianforte’s proposed state budget, now heads to the House Appropriations Committee, where members will review how it fits into overall state spending.

The plan is estimated to cost the state about $3 million a year, once fully implemented.

Jones said median teacher pay in Montana ranks near the middle among the states, but that pay for starting teachers is “dead last.”

Negotiation for contracts is carried out by school districts and experienced teachers, who appear to be better at bargaining pay levels for veteran educators rather than those just starting out, he said.

The bill offers to double the state “quality educator payment” of approximately $3,400 to any school district that pegs starting teacher pay at least 10 times that amount. That payment increases by inflation each year.

Larger school districts – those with at least 6,500 students – would have to pay starting teachers at least 70 percent of the district’s median teacher salary to get the incentive.

“Now, (school districts) don’t have to do anything,” Jones said. “But if they wish to receive the incentive, they would need to do this. … If we wish to have beginning teachers say home, we need to consider this type of approach.”

Glasgow City Council To Meet Monday

Sunday, January 31st 2021

Public Health Boards Under Scrutiny At Montana Legislature

Sunday, January 31st 2021

By Austin Amestoy
UM Legislative News Service
University of Montana School of Journalism

HELENA -- The COVID-19 pandemic brought a flood of new orders and guidelines from local health departments for businesses across Montana, including particularly tricky ones for owners and employees on mask use. Jim Edwards, the owner of Pattee Creek Market in Missoula said his business adapted, putting up plastic screens and increasing cleaning. But, he said ordering his employees to enforce a mask mandate for his customers crossed a line.

“It’s not a $12-per-hour checker’s job to be the mask police,” Edwards said in a phone call. “The bottom line is the health department can’t dictate our lives.”

That’s part of the reason why Edwards joined his business with five others and one individual in a lawsuit against the Missoula City-County Board of Health and Ellen Leahy, the Missoula Public Health Officer.

This January, newly-elected Governor Greg Gianforte almost immediately rescinded most of the statewide orders issued by former Gov. Steve Bullock that limited capacity and operating hours for businesses. However, local boards of health are still allowed to issue their own orders, and Missoula County maintained restrictions on businesses.

“I’m not really in a fight with them,” said Edwards, who also says he doubts the scope and severity of COVID-19 and claims health leaders are withholding information about the pandemic. “I’m part of the lawsuit to bring out a conversation on why things happened the way they did. There’s no accountability on the health boards; they can do whatever they want.”

As local public health agencies continue to wrestle with a crisis unlike any in over a century, the Montana Legislature is considering a package of bills that would strap new limitations on their powers. The legislation comes after multiple cases of conflict between local public health and individuals and businesses across the state. Supporters of the measures, many of whom share Edwards’s skepticism of the pandemic, tout the legislation’s promise of accountability. But, some opponents worry that without independent experts guiding responses to health emergencies, public health may become even more politicized.

Lora Weir has been the executive director of the Montana Public Health Association since 2006, coordinating the organization’s more than 300 local health officials, medical experts and state health department employees. In her experience, public boards of health had always operated out of the spotlight, until COVID-19 dragged them to the forefront of public discourse.

“Normally, we fly underneath the radar,” Weir said in an interview. “The things that we did didn’t create so much emphasis.”

Montana’s local health boards are separate from the state government in their functions and powers, providing a degree of “local autonomy,” Weir said. Three kinds of health boards can be found across the state: 37 county boards of health, 12 city-county boards and one district board. Members are appointed by the boards’ governing bodies -- county commissions or city councils, for instance -- and often include members of those governing bodies themselves.
House Bill 121

Rep. David Bedey, R-Hamilton, believes accountability to voters must go further than elected officials being able to make appointments to a board. His House Bill 121, which would revise the powers of health boards, drew a spirited hearing in the House Local Government committee on Jan. 14.

Under current law, the mandates and orders issued by public boards of health cannot be altered by local governments. HB 121 seeks to change that by allowing elected officials to change or reverse public health orders during states of emergency.

In an interview, Bedey said his bill came from concern over a “disconnect” between citizens and their government due to the mandates issued by health boards. He sees HB 121 as a middle ground between preserving the authority and expertise of boards of health and providing accountability by having their decisions approved by elected officials.

“It’s less about the specific actions of boards of public health and commissioners and more about restoring our citizens' sense of trust in their institutions,” Bedey said.

The House Local Government committee provided some amendments to Bedey’s bill, including one that would require that local governments hold a public meeting prior to voting to change an order from their board of health. The bill passed out of the committee 16-1, though some members said their votes were reluctant. Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, said she expected one of the health board bills would advance to the House, and that this one would be the “least harmful” in the long run.

“This chips away at public health; the others would destroy it entirely,” Dunwell said.

House Bill 145

Rep. Paul Fielder, R-Thompson Falls, sponsored House Bill 145, which was also introduced in the House Local Government Committee. While Fielder said his bill also seeks accountability for local health boards, it takes a much broader approach -- one that drew a great deal of criticism during its first hearing, and led to it being tabled in a 17-0 vote. Unless revived, it will not move further in the Legislature.

Fielder’s bill would have removed the ability of local boards of health to give any orders at all, instead allowing them to issue “recommendations” for adoption by the local government.

Fielder said he understands the use of orders by health boards during an initial emergency, but that voters ought to have a voice in the process.

“You can’t have an emergency for a year and a half,” Fielder said in an interview. “After that, it becomes something you’re living and dealing with.”

However, Fielder’s bill would likely have unintended consequences for health boards, both during a pandemic and beyond.

Weir said public boards of health must already hold public hearings and allow comments before issuing orders, and governing bodies would do the same when approving the boards’ recommendations. She said that redundancy would consume valuable time the boards need to respond to imminent threats, like an outbreak of foodborne illness in a restaurant or a sewage leak.

“This just lessens the efficiency of the process,” Weir said.

In Montana, 21 county boards of health already have all three county commissioners serving on the board, and Weir said all boards of health in the state allow commissioners a seat at the table. In her eyes, accountability is already built into the system: elected officials appoint members on each board, can serve on the boards themselves and can remove any member, too.
House Bill 236

But, a widespread sentiment among Republican lawmakers that local governments must have more direct control over their health officials led to the introduction of a third bill in the House Judiciary Committee, House Bill 236, sponsored by Rep. Matt Regier, R-Kalispell.

Neither Bedey, Fielder, nor Regier said they had collaborated with any other legislators in the drafting of their bills, and had a general awareness that other bills like theirs were in the works.

Of the three, Regier’s bill offers the most drastic changes to the powers of local health boards. HB 236 would remove the ability of public health officials to issue criminal charges to those who intentionally ignore mandates, instead opting for a $25 fine for individuals and $2,500 for businesses.

The bill also changes the definition of “quarantine” to mean the same as “isolation,” meaning boards of health could no longer order individuals to stay home if they came into contact with a dangerous communicable disease, only once they receive a positive test result.

In his opening testimony, Regier echoed Bedey and Fielder’s comments about “accountability.” But after fiery testimony from many of the bill’s supporters who slammed the actions of local health officials as “a power grab” and said they were reminiscent of Nazi Germany, the lawmaker acknowledged that anger may be driving some of legislation.

“I do think some of the proponents, and thousands of Montanans out there, they are rightfully upset,” Regier said. “Hundreds of thousands of upset Montanans can’t go watch their kids play sports because of an unelected official’s decision.”

The bill passed out of the committee on a party line, 12-7 vote, with Republicans in favor and Democrats against.

One bill adjacent to the health board measures would also remove an element of Montana law called “outdated” by proponents.

Senate Bill 67, sponsored by Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, would remove potential criminal penalties faced by law enforcement if they don’t enforce public health mandates.

The bill got broad bipartisan support and passed the Senate 44-4. It is now heading to the House. Fitzpatrick said the bill “just made sense,” because an elected sheriff shouldn’t be punished for not doing what an appointed health officer wants them to do.

The sheriff of Fitzpatrick’s own county, Jesse Slaughter, suggested the bill to the senator.

“As a law enforcement officer, the community not only expects us to, but expects us to use discretion,” Slaughter said.

Dylan Klapmeier, a spokesperson for the House Republicans, said it’s not uncommon for duplicate bills to surface during the session, but those bills are often consolidated by the majority leader before they reach committee. The differences between these bills, however, will now have to be worked out by committees and, potentially, members of the full House.

But with Republicans in firm control of the Legislature and the governor’s office, committee members acknowledged one of these bills is likely to pass in one form or another.

Back in Bedey’s district, Jeff Burrows serves as the chair of the Ravalli County Board of Commissioners, the body responsible for appointing members to the local board of health. Burrows has also served as the chair of the board of health since 2013, giving him a unique perspective on the issue of limiting health boards’ powers.

Burrows said he sees both sides, understanding the concerns people have over boards of health shutting down businesses and hurting the economy, but he also worries that legislation like House Bills 121, 145 and 236 could further politicize public health.

“I guess it’s a double-edged sword,” Burrows said in an interview.

Austin Amestoy is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation. He can be reached at austin.amestoy@umontana.edu.

Blaine County Woman Incarcerated In Valley County Detention Center Facing Numerous Criminal Charges

Friday, January 29th 2021

A Blaine County woman who was arrested on Thursday after taking her 3 children illegally is now incarcerated in the Valley County Detention Center. A Missing Endangered Person Advisory was issued for Sierra, Kira and Brea Skjold—ages 7, 6, and 3 years old—out of Fort Belknap on January 27th.

Authorities said the children were taken by their non-custodial mother, Valene Wing-Skjold, and were possibly headed to Billings. Authorities cancelled the advisory on Thursday and said the children were found safe but no other details were released.

Wing-Skjold is 36 years old and is facing numerous charges including failing to register as a sexual or violent offender, failure to give notice of change of address by sexual or violent offender, partner or family member assault and contempt of court.

Blaine County houses their prisoners in the Valley County Detention Center.

#Update# Nashua School Moving To Distance Learning February 1st-5th

Friday, January 29th 2021

The Nashua School has learned of new positive COVID-19 cases in our student population and staff.
Valley County Health will be reaching out to anyone considered to be in direct contact with these individuals during the period of possible exposure. It is recommended that any individual who is feeling sick or ill seek out your medical provider for specific instructions.

In trying to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff and to help limit the spread of the virus in our school we will be moving to distance learning for the entire week of February 1st-5th. Friday February 5th is our regularly scheduled distance learning day for February.

If you have any questions, please email Mr. Russell at the Nashua School at jrussell@nashua.k12.mt.us or call 406-746-3411.

Thank you.

Wolf Point Man Convicted Of Rape And Assault

Friday, January 29th 2021

Story credit to www.billingsgazette.com

A federal jury convicted a Wolf Point man with a history of violence Thursday of the rape and assault of a woman near Poplar.

Luke John Scott Sr. 33, was found guilty following a three-day trial of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of misdemeanor assault stemming from an indictment filed in 2017. The conviction carries with it a possible sentence of life in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years of supervised release, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Scott poses a clear danger to women in the community. Violence, including sexual violence, faced by Native American women must stop,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson.

Scott, who is set to be sentenced March 24, previously pleaded guilty in 2010 to assaulting a woman in Poplar, according to court documents. A federal court sentenced Scott to 33 months in prison and supervised release. Documents filed with the court say he consistently violated the terms of his supervised release, starting in 2012.

In Nov. 2020, a federal jury also convicted Scott of felony assault and child abuse spanning the summer of 2018 through the spring of 2019. Charging documents say the abuse involved a woman in Wolf Point under age 18.

During his most recent trial for rape and assault, prosecutors showed evidence that Scott approached the assault survivor and coaxed her into coming with him to a nearby river, according to the statement from the Department of Justice. It was at the river that Scott said someone had “paid him to get rid of her.”

Scott then choked and sexually assaulted the woman, who reported the crime to law enforcement and was taken to a hospital in Poplar. The FBI and Fort Peck Tribal Law Enforcement investigated the case.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided over the trial, and set sentencing on the same day that Scott will be sentenced for the assault and child abuse conviction.

Glasgow School District Staff Member Tests Positive For COVID-19

Friday, January 29th 2021

On January 29, 2021, the Glasgow School District was notified that a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19.

The positive test was confirmed on January 29, 2021. According to the Valley County Health Department, the District’s staff and students were not in contact with the students during the period of possible exposure. However, the staff member last attended in-class or had person-to-person contact with fellow students/staff at GHS, on January 23, 2021.

Working with the Valley County Health Department, we do not need to close down the school at this time. We will continue to monitor the situation.

If there are any questions please contact Wade Sundby at the central office at 406.228.2406.
Currently, we have 2 active cases, 78 recovered for a total of 80. Contacts of positive cases are 204 released and 2 not released from quarantine for a total of 206.

First Doses Of COVID-19 Vaccine Given To Community Members On Wednesday

Thursday, January 28th 2021

The first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 Immunization was given to 100 community members on Wednesday!

Thanks to the hard work of the Valley County Health Department, generosity of St. Raphael's, and time donated by many volunteers the vaccination event was held seamlessly.

Message from the Valley County Health Department:

Yesterday DPHHS notified all counties in Montana that their expected doses should increase weekly by a small number. Because the vaccine comes in a minimum of 100 doses, I expect that we will receive only 100 doses per week for the next several weeks with a surprise 200 doses at some point in the future. We are informed weekly, usually on Saturday, if and the number of vaccine doses we will receive.

Phase 1B for COVID-19 vaccine recipients - Montanans 70 years of age and older, 16 to 69 years of age with a high-risk medical condition, and Native Americans and other persons of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications – DOES NOT mean that one of these categories is given priority over another category within Phase 1B. Some counties are doing this and they are allowed to do so.

DPHHS staff have specifically and several times confirmed that the data supports that each of these three (3) categories in 1B are equally susceptible to becoming infected with COVID-19, becoming severely ill from COVID-19, permanent long-term side effects from COVID-19, and death from COVID-19.

People are upset about the “lottery” selection process. That came about because people were calling to get on our vaccine list before we were in 1B, before we had a vaccine commitment to arrive from DPHHS, and before we had a list started. All of our six (6) staff were taking names separately for about one week. I feel that because we had all collected names and that many people did not know to call and assert their placement on a list, it was UNFAIR to give the vaccine according to who called first.

We still have 600 people on our current list to vaccinate; let’s call it the January 2021 list. Now that this information has been publicized for two full weeks, we will begin a new list on 2/1/2021 – the February 2021 list. We will call everyone on the January 2021 list before we begin calling the February 2021 list.

I hope that people have heard about the incredible first COVID-19 vaccine clinic at St. Rapheal’s Parish Center yesterday, January 27. Kyla Burns and Taylor Zerbe planned the layout and logistics, Rick Seiler and Joleen Cotton from Valley County managed the parking lot and assistance into the building, Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital, Valley County Health Department staff, and community volunteers saw 100 people through registration, screening, vaccination, and observation in less than two (2) hours. It was very well planned and organized!

We are planning to do this vaccination clinic every Wednesday as long as we have vaccine and people who want the vaccine. If we hope to get past this time of masks and social distancing, we need everyone to get the vaccine. Even if you think that you don’t need it, everyone else needs YOU to get it.

Please be patient with the vaccination process. Please know that every person is valued and equally deserving of this vaccine. With the help of our partners, we will get Valley County vaccinated! Keep wearing the masks – yes, even you at the basketball games. Keep your circle small. Sit separately with only household members at an event. Don’t gather together to warm up at the hockey game. Do everything that you can do to keep Valley County healthy - Lynn

American Prairie Reserve And Phillips County Resolve Long Standing Dispute

Thursday, January 28th 2021

Story Credit to Daily Montanan


A dispute between the American Prairie Reserve and officials in Phillips County has been resolved after more than four years of legal wrangling.

The conflict began when the American Prairie Reserve announced controversial plans for a 3.5-million acre complex in the northern Montana county that would allow free-roaming bison to be reintroduced.

In the end, the Reserve, the Phillips County Conservation District and the Montana Livestock Association agreed to a 10-year deal that would require strict bison testing protocol, vaccination standards, procedures for escaped bison, and a public reporting and communication aspect.

The agreement was approved last week by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s Board of Adjustment unanimously as all parties recommend the deal to the board.

The battle between the groups has been ongoing for years, at times acrimoniously. Signs dot the central Montana landscape that read, “Save the Cowboy, Stop the APR.” The Reserve’s plan to allow free-roaming bison to be reintroduced sparked fear in ranching and agricultural circles about the bacterial disease, brucellosis, which can cause elk, bison and cattle to abort fetuses. Ranching communities were concerned that contact with the bison by cattle could cause the disease to spread in an area that has been declared brucellosis-free.

Furthermore, livestock operators worried that reintroducing the bison would bring brucellosis because many of the herds in places like Yellowstone Park routinely had positive tests.

However, compromise and negotiation won out last week as the three parties came to an agreement that will live into the 2030s. Details include:

Disease testing for a total of 325 animals for the first five years
Information sharing openly with all parties
If there’s no disease detected in the first five years, testing will be reduced to 150 animals during the remaining five years of the agreement
All tested bison will be tagged
Protocols for any escaped animals, including quarantining and testing
Mandatory brucellosis vaccinations for any pre-yearling heifers

“In this time of so much division and acrimony — particularly in this issue and this proceeding — that the parties can come together and reach an agreement they can all live with will provide an opportunity to bridge the gap,” said attorney Timothy Preso, who represented American Prairie Reserve.

Beth Saboe, senior media and government relations manager for APR, said these provisions will cost the organization money, but will also establish trust in the communities.

“That’s not cheap. Everything we agreed to had a cost, and we want to be transparent and we want to be good neighbors,” Saboe said.

Pete Geddes, American Prairie Reserve vice president of external relations, said the biggest issue separating the sides was the number of animals the Reserve would test yearly. He estimates the testing cost to be more than $15,000 annually.

For more on this story visit the Daily Montanan

Superintendent Sundby Announces Additonal COVID Positive Case In Glasgow School District

Thursday, January 28th 2021

On January 26, 2021, the Glasgow School District was notified that a student had tested positive for COVID-19. The positive test was confirmed on January 26, 2021. According to the Valley County Health Department, the District’s staff and students were in contact with the student during the period of possible exposure. However, the student last attended in-class or had person-to-person contact with fellow students/staff at GMS on January 20, 2021.

Working with the Valley County Health Department, we do not need to close down the school at this time. We will continue to monitor the situation.

If any staff or students are at risk of exposure, the Valley County Health Department will be in contact with that person to determine a safe and appropriate course of action. It is still recommended that any person who feels sick or ill, seek out their medical provider for specific instructions. The School District is in contact with the Health Department and reviewing the Centers for Disease Control guidance to complete cleaning the school and other related facilities. The other steps taken by the School District include temp checks, handwashing stations, sanitization of classrooms, and a deep clean of the room(s). Contact Wade Sundby for details about these measures. School officials
will continue to monitor the situation and will provide further information if and when it becomes available.

At this time we will not be closing the school or the district. The students involved will begin remote learning on Wednesday, January 26, 2021. If there are any questions concerning remote learning, Mr. Zoanni, at GMS at 406.228.8268. If there are any other questions please contact Wade Sundby at
the central office at 406.228.2406.

Currently, we have 1 active case, 78 recovered for a total of 79. Contacts of positive cases are 202 released and 3 not released from quarantine for a total of 205.

Katrina Mills Charged With Sexual Intercourse Without Consent After Investigation By Glasgow Police Department

Wednesday, January 27th 2021

Press Release From Glasgow Police Department:

Katrina Mills 23, arrested for Violating an order of Protection, Violating Conditions of Release and Sexual Intercourse Without Consent.

On January 21, 2021, Officers with the Glasgow Police Department conducted an investigation involving Mills and a juvenile female being involved in a relationship. Over the course of an undisclosed amount of time, the relationship between Mills and the juvenile female became intimate.

Through the investigation, Officers discovered that during visits to Mills’ residence, that Mills and the juvenile female would engage in sexual intercourse.

Upon being interviewed, Mills confessed to the allegations.

Mills was arrested and remanded to the Valley County Detention Center for Violating an Order of Protection, Violating her Conditions of Release and Sexual Intercourse Without Consent.

Valley County To Begin Vaccinations For COVID Phase 1B

Tuesday, January 26th 2021

Montana has moved into Phase 1B for COVID-19 vaccine distribution for Montanans 70 years of age and older, 16 to 69 years of age with a high-risk medical condition, and Native Americans and other persons of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications.

If you have already called Valley County Health Department to get on our Phase 1B list, please do NOT call again and do NOT fill out this link.

If you qualify for Phase 1B and have not called VCHD, please call us at 228-6261 OR fill out the link below -- DO NOT DO BOTH:


Montana will receive a very limited number of COVID-19 vaccine doses and thus Valley County will receive a severely limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine. The current estimation is 100 doses of COVID-19 a week for the next weeks to months. Valley County’s persons who are in the 1B category for COVID-19 vaccine are estimated to be 2600 people. As you can see, 100 doses a week will not get us vaccinated very quickly.

We need everyone to be patient. VCHD staff will call to schedule 1B persons through a RANDOM, COMPUTER GENERATED selection of persons who are on our list. Many people called our office to be placed on this list prior to publication or advertising of the need to call. Several of our office personnel answer phone calls and take names at the same time. Every person is important to us and is deserving of a vaccine. We are distributing this vaccine as quickly and as fairly as possible.

Valley County Unemployment Rate At 3.8%

Tuesday, January 26th 2021

HELENA, Mont. – Montana’s unemployment rate declined to 4.4% in December, down from 4.6% in November. Montana’s rate remains lower than the national rate of 6.7% in December.

“While we’re encouraged that Montana’s unemployment rate remains lower than the national rate, we have work to do to get our economy going again, get Montana open for business, and get Montanans back to work in good-paying jobs,” Governor Greg Gianforte said.

Payroll employment added 400 jobs over the last month, with job gains in construction, retail trade, and healthcare. Total employment, which includes payroll, agricultural, and self-employed workers, fell by 1,180 jobs in December, the first contraction since April. Total employment gains for the 4th quarter remained strong, adding roughly 4,800 jobs. The labor force contracted by 2,382 in December.

The unemployment rate for Valley County in December was 3.8% compared to 3.4% in December of 2019. There were 3,810 people employed in Valley County in December which is a decrease of 91 compared to December of 2019.

Message From Phillips County Health Department Regarding COVID-19 Vaccine

Monday, January 25th 2021

Update on Covid-19 vaccine distribution:
We have currently moved into phase 1B! This is for individuals 70+, 18-69 years with a high risk medical condition, and Native Americans and other persons of color who may be at risk.

We have received very limited amounts of vaccine...100 doses for this phase so far. We are committed to getting the vaccine out every week! These 100 doses are already scheduled out and we are currently giving. These are not amounts that warrant a mass clinic at this time.

We are scheduling people in our office based on our waiting list we had started. We are opening up the list again so give us a call at 654-2521 to get on our waiting list IF you meet the above criteria. We are not placing people on our waiting list that are not in phase 1B. Please refrain from calling to check if you are still on the list or to see where you are on the list unless it has been 2-3 weeks before hearing from us.

This is going to take some time to vaccinate our county!!! Please be patient and understand the barriers we are all facing. This is out of our control and constantly calling or questioning the way we are vaccinating just hinders our day to day processes. Aside from the vaccine we’ve received, we don’t know how much or when we will receive more. It is a week by week process.

Thank you all and we appreciate your support so much.

As a Valentine’s Day fundraiser for Chayten Pippin and Family,
Pam L. Veis and Andy Meyers to perform LOVE LETTERS

Monday, January 25th 2021

Pam L. Veis and Andy Meyers will perform AR Gurney’s comedy, LOVE LETTERS, a unique and imaginative theatre piece which is presented, as suggested by the playwright, with scripts in hand. It is comprised of letters, frequently funny and touching, exchanged over a lifetime between two people who grew up together, went their separate ways, but continued to share confidences. Admission is FREE, but donations will be collected, to go directly to Chayten Pippin and family.

An energetic and valued member of the Fort Peck Theatre family, Chayten Pippin has desmoplastic round cell tumor, a rare sarcoma cancer of the abdomen. While a trial treatment of radiography therapy in New York City is a possibility, Chayten’s currently treatment plan continues chemotherapy in Denver.

Meyers is the Artistic Director for Fort Peck Summer Theatre, and Veis is an audience favorite with the company, who starred in Driving Miss Daisy, Always...Patsy Cline and On Golden Pond. Alicia Bullock-Muth serves as director and vocal soloist.

Love Letters recently enjoyed a revival on Broadway, starring a rotating cast including Carol Burnett, Alan Alda, Candance Bergen and Martin Sheen.

Social distancing will be strictly observed, and masks required. In accordance with Valley County Health Department protocol, seating capacity is also limited, so please arrive in plenty of time to purchase some concessions and safely find a seat. Doors will open 1 hour prior to showtime.


VALLEY CINEMA: 600 Second Ave S in Glasgow, Montana
Sunday, February 14 @ 1:00pm
Monday, February 15 @ 7:00pm

Governor Gianforte Seeks More COVID-19 Vaccines As Montana Enters Phase 1B

Monday, January 25th 2021

Story from www.ktvq.com

HELENA — Governor Greg Gianforte said Friday that Montana has made progress getting people vaccinated for COVID-19, but that they’re still hoping for more supply from the federal level. “We want to do more, and we can do more,” he said during a news conference. “We are ready and prepared to administer more vaccinations. We just need more doses.”

Gianforte said about 73,000 doses of COVID vaccines have already been administered across the state, and 14,000 Montanans have received both doses to be fully immunized.

Most frontline health care workers have received their first dose of the vaccine, and the state has started “Phase 1B” of its vaccination plan – where doses are available to those 70 and older and people with underlying health conditions.

“That we are in Phase 1B of our vaccine distribution is great news,” Gianforte said. “Unfortunately, not everyone in Phase 1B can get vaccinated as quickly as we would like.”

Gianforte said federal leaders have promised to provide Montana at least 13,000 new first doses each week, but that they hope that number will soon increase.

Gen. Matthew Quinn, executive director of the governor’s COVID-19 task force, said all but one county in Montana has shifted into Phase 1B. In addition, Gianforte said people in almost all long-term care facilities in the state will have received their first dose by the end of January, and about 13% of tribal communities have been vaccinated.

State leaders said vaccine “uptake” – the percentage of eligible people choosing to get vaccinated – has been strong. They estimated 75% to 80% of health care workers and around 50% of the general population is currently opting for the vaccine. Gianforte said they expect that number to increase as more people receive the shot and don’t experience any serious side effects.

“I think as confidence builds, uptake will increase,” he said.

Gianforte said he’s pleased that the state’s hospitalization rate has gone down, as has the average daily number of new COVID cases. However, he asked Montanans to continue taking precautions like wearing masks. “We are making great strides to save lives,” he said. “The light at the end of the tunnel continues to get brighter. But as I said before, we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Also during his news conference, Gianforte thanked local and national law enforcement for helping maintain the peace in the days and weeks after the January 6 rioting at the U.S. Capitol. He credited agencies like the Montana Highway Patrol, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Helena Police Department and the University of Montana Police Department.

“Thanks to them, all was quiet and peaceful in Helena and our state Capitol this past week,” he said.

President Biden Signs Executive Order Directing U.S. Officials To Develop Plan To Reopen Borders With Canada And Mexico

Monday, January 25th 2021

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Leaving the United States by land for Americans for non-essential purposes hasn't been permitted for nearly a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the Biden administration in Washington is looking to change that.

In his first few days in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing the U.S. to collaborate with the Canadian and Mexican governments to develop a health and safety measure to reopen the borders.

“The relationship between Canada and the United States took a major hit over the past eleven months,” remarked Congressman Brian Higgins who serves as co-chair of the Congressional Northern Border Caucus.

Higgins said the order could finally create a solution to safely reopening the U.S.-Canada border.

The order calls on the U.S. Secretary of State, Defense Department and Homeland Security to start dialogue with the Canadian and Mexican governments.

But Canadian Prime Minister suggested this week that if anything, he is looking to increase border restrictions.

"People should not be planning non-essential travel or vacation travel outside of the country, particularly because, as I said a few days ago, we could be bringing in new measures that significantly impede your ability to return to Canada at any given moment without warning," Trudeau told Canadians thinking about returning to the country.

But Trudeau said now is “not the time to travel” with a growing number of COVID-19 cases in Canada.

Trudeau said people need to “hunker down” to prevent a second wave of the virus.

Higgins said he's not worried Trudeau's comments will stop Biden's executive order to create a plan.

“Give us the opportunity to look a new at either expanding the category of who is an essential traveler or open the border all together, but that's our goal and we just have to keep trying,” said Higgins.

Montana Public Service Commission To Hold Listening Sessions On Proposed Rate Increase For MDU Natural Gas Customers

Friday, January 22nd 2021

HELENA, Montana — The Montana Public Service Commission will hold two listening session on Montana-Dakota Utilities Co.’s request for authority to increase its rates for natural gas distribution by $8.56 million. The rates would affect 86,435 customers and cause the natural gas bill for an average residential customer to increase by $8.24 a month, or 19.83%.

WHEN:Thursday, January 28, 2021, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., and
Friday, January 29, 2021, from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: By audio-only conference (Zoom), which will be streamed live on the Commission’s website: http://psc.mt.gov/livestream.

MDU filed its application for a rate increase in June 2020, after which the Montana Consumer Counsel intervened to represent the interests of customers. An evidentiary hearing for MDU and the Consumer Counsel to present witness testimony is scheduled to begin February 2, 2021.

On January 14, 2021, the Commission voted 4 to 1 to approve an interim rate increase, which will take effect on February 1. The interim rate allows MDU to charge the average residential customer about $3.29 more per month until the Commission issues a final order on MDU’s request. If the Commission determines after the hearing that the interim rates were too high, the Commission can order a refund for customers, with interest.

In total, MDU’s rates are designed to raise the utility company’s annual revenue in Montana by 13.42%. According to MDU’s application, the additional revenue will fund the utility’s continued investment in distribution facilities to improve safety and reliability. As part of the application review process, the Commission will evaluate the prudency of the utility’s recent investments and planned future investments in its distribution facilities

The Commission regulates private investor-owned natural gas, electric, telephone, water, and sewer companies, certain motor carriers, and oversees natural gas pipeline safety and intrastate railroad safety.

Montana Legislature Considers Legislation To Continue Work Of Missing And Murdered Indigenous Persons Task Force

Friday, January 22nd 2021

HELENA -- Three bills that would continue the work of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Task Force had their first hearing in the House Judiciary Committee Thursday.

Proponents came from both inside of and outside of tribal communities. There were no opponents to the bills, all of them sponsored by Rep. Sharon Stewart Peregoy, D-Crow Agency.

Jason Butterfly was one of the proponents. He lost his aunt in 2013, and the case went cold.

“She don’t deserve this,” Butterfly said. “She deserves justice. If it was one of your people, you would do the same thing.”

House Bill 98 re-authorizes the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Task Force, which was formed by 2019 legislation, and the Looping In Native Communities or LINC grant fund for two years.

The LINC grant fund was sent to Blackfeet Community College to create a database of every missing indigenous person in Montana. It also funded a Montana Department of Justice study that produced a report on how many indigenous people disappear every year.

House Bills 35 and 36 establish a commission to look into cold cold cases involving missing Indigenous people, and to provide training for teams searching for missing people.

Sen. Jason Small, R-Busby, emphasized the importance of the bills Thursday. He also noted his annoyance at the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“What we’re dealing with right here in this room with the legislation we have is probably the best we can do without the federal government doing their jobs,” Small said.

Small is also sponsoring a bill in the Senate that would re-authorize the MMIP Task Force, but would not re-authorize the LINC grant fund. In an interview with UM Legislative News Service reporter Austin Amestoy, he said he and Stewart Peregoy had opted for a two-bill approach in case funding for the grant fund became an issue.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Legislation Introduced To End Same Day Voter Registration In Montana

Friday, January 22nd 2021

Story credit to www.ktvq.com

Montana lawmakers heard testimony Thursday on a bill that would eliminate same-day voter registration.

The House State Administration Committee held a hearing on House Bill 176, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Greef, a Republican from Florence.

Currently, Montana residents can still register to vote at county election offices on the morning before Election Day and on Election Day. HB 176 would end the late registration period at 5 p.m. the preceding Friday.

Supporters said same-day registration puts too much burden on county election officials. They argued making this change would reduce the chance of mistakes and ensure people have confidence in the election system.

“It’s extremely hard to put the information of all of the voters into the system, get their ballots counted and keep the numbers correct while you’re still registering people to vote the same day you’re having an election,” said Doug Ellis, Broadwater County’s treasurer-clerk-superintendent of schools and election administrator.

Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen said HB 176 was one of five main “election integrity” measures her office will be supporting during the legislative session. Dana Corson, her elections director, said they receive frequent complaints about the long lines Election Day registration can create at election offices.

Opponents said they don’t believe HB 176 is necessary, arguing same-day registration has worked as intended since Montana authorized it in 2005.

“Same-day registration has functioned well and has allowed for the increasingly high percentage of registered voters who are actually voting in our elections,” said Jon Ellingson, a former state senator who sponsored the bill allowing voters to register on Election Day. “It has not caused fraud; it has not caused errors. We hear often about allegations of fraud or errors, but very rarely do we hear actual cases of that.”

They said removing the option to register on Election Day would disproportionally impact groups like Native Americans, college students, those who live far from their county seat and those with disabilities or receiving long-term care.

Opponents also noted that, in 2014, Montana voters rejected a ballot measure that would have made the same change, 57% to 43%.

Leaders said about 60,000 people have registered on Election Day from 2006 to 2018. The Secretary of State’s Office has not yet completed its statistics for 2020.

The committee took no action on the bill.

Biden Administration Suspends New Oil And Gas Leasing And Drilling Permits For U.S. Lands And Waters For 60 Days

Friday, January 22nd 2021

The Biden administration announced Thursday the suspension of new oil and gas leasing and drilling permits for U.S. lands and waters for 60 days as part a broad review of programs at the Department of Interior.

The move follows President Joe Biden's campaign pledge to halt new drilling on federal lands and end the leasing of publicly owned energy reserves as part of his plan to address climate change.

The suspension went into effect immediately under an order signed Wednesday by Acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega. The order did not limit existing oil and gas operations under valid leases, meaning oil and gas activity won't come to a sudden halt on the millions of acres of lands in the West and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico where much drilling is concentrated.

The order also blocks the approval of new mining plans, land sales or exchanges and the hiring of senior-level staff at the agency.

The administration's announcement drew a quick backlash from the oil industry's main trade group, the American Petroleum Institute, which said limiting access to publicly owned energy resources would mean more foreign oil imports, lost jobs and fewer tax revenues.

“Impeding American energy will only serve to hurt local communities and hamper America's economic recovery,” petroleum institute President Mike Sommers said in a statement.

National Wildlife Federation Vice President Tracy Stone-Manning welcomed the move and said she expected Biden to make good on his campaign promises and end leasing altogether or at the least impose a long-term moratorium on any new issuances.

“The Biden administration has made a commitment to driving down carbon emissions. It makes sense starting with the land that we all own,” she said.

But the impact could be blunted by companies that stockpiled drilling permits in the closing months of the Trump administration.

Officials approved almost 1,400 permits on federal lands, primarily in Wyoming and New Mexico, over a three-month period that included the election. Those permits, which remain valid, will allow companies to continue drilling for years, potentially undercutting Biden’s climate agenda.

Oil and gas extracted from public lands and waters account for about a quarter of annual U.S. production. Extracting and burning those fuels generates the equivalent of almost 550 million tons (500 metric tons) of greenhouse gases annually, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a 2018 study.

Glasgow Police Department Investigates Vandalism

Thursday, January 21st 2021

Over the past couple of days, the Glasgow Police Department has taken several reports of vandalism being done to vehicles in and around the Glasgow area.

Upon completing an investigation, four (4) juveniles were identified and cited for throwing eggs at parked vehicles.

If you had any vandalism done to your vehicle or property, please do not hesitate to report it to Valley County Dispatch at (406)228-4333, option #2.

The GPD thanks the community for their assistance in the matter and remember a few spoiled eggs doesn’t ruin the whole batch.

President Biden Rescinds Keystone XL Pipeline Permit

Thursday, January 21st 2021

Among President Joe Biden’s first-day flurry of executive orders Wednesday was one revoking the construction permit of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The 1,700-mile pipeline was to run through much of Eastern Montana and carry roughly 800,000 barrels of oil from Alberta, Canada across the border to the Texas Gulf Coast.

The on-again, off-again, $8 billion project was expected to create thousands of jobs in Montana and dump millions into the economy.

Montanans give swift response to Biden plan canceling Keystone XL
Biden’s cancellation of the permit drew swift condemnation from Montana’s Republican congressional delegation and state Republican leaders including Gov. Greg Gianforte.

In a note to Biden, Gianforte said, “A symbolic gesture for your fledgling, hours-old administration, this decision has real and devastating consequences in Montana. With your executive order, gone are the thousands of good-paying American jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to support our local communities and schools, the opportunity to advance America’s green energy infrastructure, and America’s energy security.”

Republican Sen. Steve Daines also bemoaned the loss of Montana jobs and said the pipeline would provide the safest, most environmentally friendly method of transporting oil cross-country.

“It’s only day one, and with the stroke of a pen, Biden has already taken steps to kill American energy projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline, which is critical to energy producing states like Montana,” Daines said.

Rep. Matt Rosendale called the pipeline a matter of national security, saying it would help make the U.S. energy independent.

Even Democratic Montana Sen. Jon Tester has supported the pipeline, with some conditions.

First proposed in 2008, the pipeline has become emblematic of the tensions between economic development and curbing the fossil fuel emissions that are causing climate change. The Obama administration rejected it, but President Donald Trump revived it and has been a strong supporter. Construction already started.

Kirsten Hillman, Canada's ambassador to the United States, said Canada needs to move on now that Biden has made a decision.

"Of course we're disappointed. We worked hard over the past number of months trying to make the case for Keystone XL," Hillman told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. "He had made a commitment during his campaign and he lived up to that commitment. I think we have to accept that and move forward."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised Keystone XL as a top priority when he spoke with Biden in a phone call in November. The project is meant to expand critical oil exports for Canada, which has the third-largest oil reserves in the world.

Jason Kenney, premier of the oil-rich province of Alberta, said late Tuesday he urged Trudeau to tell Biden that "rescinding the Keystone XL border crossing permit would damage the Canada-US bilateral relationship."

Hank Worsech Selected By Governor Gianforte To Lead Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Thursday, January 21st 2021

Governor Greg Gianforte Wednesday announced his nomination of Henry “Hank” Worsech to lead the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP).

“Protecting our public lands and conserving wildlife is a shared priority of landowners, hunters, anglers, and all Montanans who cherish our outdoor heritage. It’s part of what defines our Montana way of life,” Governor Gianforte said. “With nearly two decades of experience with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Hank understands the importance of this tradition and is committed to strengthening it.”

A public servant for nearly three decades, Worsech most recently served as a license bureau chief for the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

Over his 17 years with the department, Worsech helped foster landowner and sportsmen relations, worked closely with department management over two administrations, and oversaw department licensing to advance FWP’s mission.

“It’s a true honor to be selected as the Director of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, and I look forward to working alongside the great employees once again. I am excited to work with such a proven leader as Governor Gianforte and his team to provide improved citizen services, expand access opportunities, and build strong landowner-sportsmen relationships. We’ll deliver on the governor’s call to reach our full potential by providing the citizens of Montana unsurpassed outdoor experiences,” said Hank Worsech, Gianforte’s nominee to lead the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

A Marine Corps veteran, Worsech settled in Montana over 30 years ago after being discharged from his duties as an administrative and legal chief for the service.

Gianforte’s appointment of Worsech received widespread support among stakeholders.

Rob Arnaud, president of the Montana Hunting Company: “I have known Hank for many years and have always been impressed with his ability to think beyond the obvious. He is quick-on-his-feet and easy to like. He has the ability to reason with anyone. These are talents of true leaders. I truly believe Hank can make the necessary decisions to usher FWP into a new era.”

Ed Beall, owner of Capital Sports & Western; bowhunter ed instructor: “I am excited to know that Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks will be led by a person with a very broad understanding of the many challenges we face with our incredible wildlife, habitats and relationships. Importantly, Hank Worsech has shown the fortitude to gather the information and the partners together to bring positive results. I have worked with Hank on licensing, funding, legislative, hunter access and landowner relations and I can tell you he is very dedicated to our wildlife and the people of our great state who cherish our hunting, fishing, working lands and conservation heritage. He knows the mission, the history and the people. I know Hank will listen to all his customers and do his best on our behalf.”

Matt Lumley, vice president of the National Trappers Association: “I’m very excited about the appointment of Hank Worsech as the director of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. Hank will bring a dirt under the fingernails, man of the people sound wildlife management philosophy, as well as a culture of customer service that has been missing at the department.”

Noah Marion, state director of the Montana Wilderness Association: “We’re pleased that Gov. Gianforte has nominated Hank Worsech to lead the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Hank has deep knowledge of the department and the issues facing landowners, recreationists, and wildlife in Montana. We’re confident that he will bring diverse interests to the table and work to build lasting solutions that will safeguard our parks, trails, and access to wildlife and wild places for all Montanans. We look forward to working with him in this new position.”

Glenn Marx, executive director of Montana Association of Land Trusts: “It’s good to see the governor selected someone who fully understands the importance of fish and wildlife management, and understands the importance of land and wildlife conservation. Hank knows FWP issues, the department’s constituency, Montana and Montanans, and is a FWP veteran. FWP and its mission are essential to Montana’s economy and outdoor recreational experiences, and we in the land trust community look forward to working with Hank and FWP on projects and efforts that benefit conservation and outdoor recreation.”

Jim Steinbeisser, president of Montana Stockgrowers Association: “Hank Worsech brings an array of experience and skills needed to lead FWP. He has a strong background of working with landowners, which will allow for a balanced approach in wildlife management moving into the future.”

Kyle Weaver, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: “The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation congratulates Hank Worsech on his selection to be the next director of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. RMEF has had the pleasure of successfully working with Hank in the past, particularly around the issues of elk and hunter access. Hank fills a position vitally important to RMEF members in Montana and we look forward to continuing our close working relationship.”

Former Glasgow Superintendent Receives Severance Package From Bozeman School District

Thursday, January 21st 2021

Story Credit to www.bozemandailychronicle

The Bozeman School Board approved a severance package worth over $290,000 for its superintendent during a brief special board meeting Wednesday evening.

The trustees voted unanimously to approve the severance for Superintendent Bob Connors, who was placed on administrative leave for an alleged policy violation pending a performance review in early November.

The meeting lasted about 10 minutes, and no new details about why Connors was placed on leave were shared.

The severance agreement, which was reached by lawyers representing the school board and Connors, says “certain disputes and disagreements have arisen” between the district and Connors over his job duties.

“The bottom line is both parties have agreed to move on,” Chairperson Sandy Wilson said during the meeting.

The severance payment includes the money Connors would have made if he had remained employed with the school district from Feb. 1 until his contract was scheduled to end on June 30, 2022. It also includes vacation and unused sick leave, according to the agreement.

“The proposed settlement only pays out compensation that is owed under that contract. It does not assign fault or blame and therefore does not include damages or attorney fees for both parties,” Wilson said.

The agreement states Connors will receive the payment, which will come from the district’s general funds, no later than Jan. 31. The document also provides for a seven-day rescission period, during which the agreement can be canceled.

A district administrator told the Chronicle this weekend that the district would begin searching for a new superintendent immediately after the agreement was finalized.

Before taking Bozeman’s superintendent job in 2019, Connors served seven years as the superintendent at Glasgow Public Schools in northeast Montana. During the board meeting to confirm his hiring, Trustee Wendy Tage was the lone no vote.

At the beginning of 2020, trustees praised Connors’ work in the district. During his tenure, Connors directed the 7,000-student district during the pandemic. He also oversaw the opening of Bozeman’s second high school, Gallatin High.

Connors was placed on paid administrative leave on Nov. 2 after a seven-hour closed board meeting. Trustees cited an alleged policy violation but didn’t provide details.

Two weeks later, the board reaffirmed its decision to keep Connors on administrative leave at a second closed meeting.

During Connors’ absence, deputy superintendents Marilyn King and Casey Bertram were named co-superintendents.

On Nov. 20, the Chronicle filed a lawsuit in Gallatin County District Court against the school district to try to secure records related to the board’s decision to place Connors on leave.

The lawsuit argues that the public’s right to know exceeds matters of individual privacy included in the documents requested of the district.

No documents have been released, and the suit is still ongoing.

Wednesday’s meeting was scheduled and announced to the public this past Saturday. The only agenda item was considering Connors’ severance package.

Wilson opened the meeting by saying transparency remained a top priority for the district but Montana law also places a high value in an individual’s right to privacy.

“This requires a constant balance to ensure we are transparent in our operations while protecting the privacy and the right of privacy of individuals,” she said.

The severance agreement between the district and Connors includes language acknowledging that the district’s compliance with any court orders to provide documents is not in violation of the agreement.

No members of the public or trustees provided comment during Wednesday’s board meeting.

“The board of trustees intends to preserve the historically strong and open relationship the district has built with the Bozeman community, district voters and the media,” Wilson said.

Paycheck Protection Program Now Open To All Businesses In U.S.A

Thursday, January 21st 2021

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced that it has approved approximately 60,000 PPP loan applications submitted by nearly 3,000 lenders, for over $5 billion, between the program’s re-opening on Monday, Jan. 11, at 9 a.m. ET through to Sunday, Jan. 17. Last week, the PPP provided dedicated access to community financial institutions that specialize in serving underserved communities, including minority-, women- and veteran-owned small businesses from Monday through Thursday, joined Friday by smaller lenders.

As of Jan. 19, the Paycheck Protection Program is open to all participating lenders.

“The SBA continues to help small businesses across the nation access vital funds through the Paycheck Protection Program. Data from our first week, which first allowed hundreds of community financial institutions to submit applications, then opened wider to small banks, demonstrate that we have helped tens of thousands of businesses,” said SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza.

“The PPP is off to another great start helping our nation’s economy. With PPP re-opening today for all First and Second Draw loan applications, the SBA remains committed to keeping small business workers on payroll and their doors open during this challenging time. Moreover, the SBA over-performed operationally, issuing guidance and rules in advance and in alignment with the new law’s requirements,” Carranza added.

First Draw PPP loans are for those borrowers who have not received a PPP loan before August 8, 2020. The first two PPP rounds open between March and August 2020 were a historic success helping 5.2 million small businesses keep 51 million American workers employed.

Second Draw PPP loans are for eligible small businesses with 300 employees or less and that previously received a First Draw PPP loan. These borrowers will have to use or had used the full amount of their First Draw loan only for authorized uses and demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in gross receipts between comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020. The maximum amount of a Second Draw PPP loan is $2 million.

The Paycheck Protection Program remains open for First and Second Draw PPP loans until March 31, 2021, as set forth in the Economic Aid Act, or until Congressionally-appropriated funding is exhausted.

Montana Legislators Hear Testimony On Legislation To Restrict Abortion In Montana

Wednesday, January 20th 2021

HELENA -- For three hours Tuesday morning, lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee heard emotionally charged testimony about two controversial bills that limit access to abortion in the state.

The first, House Bill 136, would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of emergency.

Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway, R-Great Falls, sponsored the bill. She said during her opening remarks that legislators should focus on the unborn fetus’ rights, rather than those of the parents.

“Stay focused on the testimonies that talk about the main issue of this bill: the child in the womb, and the ability to feel pain,” Sheldon-Galloway said. “And not so much on the father and the mother’s rights.”

Opponents said the bill would set a dangerous precedent for Montana.

Alanna Wulf spoke on behalf of Big Sky 55+, which advocates for Montanans 55 and older and future generations.

“Attempts to undermine Roe v. Wade harm women,” Wulf said, “and take away their bodily autonomy and self actualization.”

The bill drew 17 proponents and 8 opponents.

Some supporters of the bill said it is too weak. Carolyn Truscott, a member of Pro-Life Helena, asked legislators to be less cautious.

“I believe any legal restriction could - and should - be used to circumvent an abortion,” Truscott said. “Abortion should be unthinkable.”

Jeff Laszloffy, the president of the Montana Family Foundation, said that the bill would signal to the Supreme Court that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

“But until it does, we’ll continue to chip around the edges to save the lives of as many women and children as possible,” Laszloffy said.

The bill’s opponents were equally as charged.

Laurel Hesse spoke on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, and started her testimony by acknowledging how difficult speaking before legislators about a subject like abortion can be.

“I have it easy. I just have to talk about the law,” she said.

Hesse said the ACLU has concerns about the constitutionality of HB 136. Namely, their argument hinges on the sections of the Montana constitution dealing with privacy and bodily autonomy.

“The Montana Supreme Court, in Armstrong v. State, held that the constitutional right to privacy in Montana ‘broadly guarantees each individual the right to make medical judgements affecting her or his bodily integrity and health,” Hesse said.

She also pointed out that every abortion ban that has reached the circuit courts has been struck down.

The second bill before the House Judiciary Committee was House Bill 171, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Greef, R-Florence. The bill would restrict access to abortion-inducing drugs.

Women seeking a chemical abortion would be required to visit a doctor in-person to receive a review, and would have to go to follow-up visits. Abortion-inducing drugs would also not be allowed in schools, including on college campuses.

Greef said the bill is not an attempt to criminalize abortion, but rather to protect women from what she says are dangerous drugs.

Opponents to the bill pointed out that the rate of complications from chemical abortions is lower than that of surgical abortions.

Susan Liebel spoke in support of the bill on behalf of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion political lobby. She warned the committee of allowing “DIY abortions” on college campuses, and said that the bill would protect women.

“The reality is that the dorm bathroom is the new abortion clinic,” Liebel said.

Kelsen Young is the executive director of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She strongly disagreed with the idea that the bill protects women. She said it would strip women of autonomy over their own bodies.

“House Bill 171 measures up to be one of the most offensive and hurtful pieces of anti-choice legislation I have seen,” Young said. “And I have been in the Montana State Capitol for almost 20 years.”

The committee is expected to vote on these bills and other controversial bills dealing with transgender youth Friday.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Valley County Health Department Releases Information Regarding COVID-Vaccine

Wednesday, January 20th 2021

Message from Valley County Health Department

Governor Gianforte has announced that Montana entered into Phase 1B for COVID-19 vaccination Monday.

In Phase 1B, COVID-19 vaccines are available to Montanans 70 years of age and older, 16 to 69 years of age with a high-risk medical condition, and Native Americans and other persons of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications.

If you have already called Valley County Health Department to get on our Phase 1B list, please do NOT call again and do NOT fill out this link.

If you qualify for Phase 1B and have not called VCHD at 228-6261, please fill out the link below OR call us.

We do not have COVID-19 vaccine in stock at this time, but we are planning vaccination clinics as soon as we do have it!


January 2021 Starts Out As One Of Warmest On Record

Tuesday, January 19th 2021

January has been very warm so far but colder temperatures are coming later in the week with highs that will be near near normal for late January which is upper 10s north to upper 20s south.

Petroleum County Sheriff's Office Reports Drowning In Fort Peck Reservoir (Name Of Drowning Victim Released)

Tuesday, January 19th 2021

The Petroleum County Sheriff's Office reported Saturday night at around 7pm four fisherman were involved in an incident on Fort Peck lake near Crooked Creek Marina north of Winnett MT.

These men were driving on the ice in two UTV's headed back to the marina when they drifted off course and found themselves on unsafe ice. One of the UTV's fell through the ice and quickly became submerged with two men onboard. One of the men was able to escape and the other group was able to pull him out of the water and to safety. The second man was not able to get out and drowned as a result.

A rescue effort was launched a short time later to recover the second man. Winnett Fire, US Fish and Wildlife service, Winnett Ambulance, and Petroleum County Sheriff's Office participated in the recovery along with several fellow sportsman.

The deceased driver has been identified as Roger F. Schaad, 72, of Rexford, formerly of Shepherd, Petroleum County Coroner R.J. "Dick" Brown said. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday in Billings with the state Medical Examiner. The investigation is ongoing by the Petroleum County Sheriff and Coroner.

At approximately 11:30 pm the recue team was able to recover the body of the second fisherman after a very dangerous mission. The PCSO wants to warn all sportsman who plan to icefish on Fort Peck to be very careful of the ice conditions. The PCSO also want to thank all the responders who assisted in Saturday nights rescue. Without all of the brave men and women who answered the call last night this could have turned out much worse than it did.

Lawmakers Hear Testimony On Legislation That Would Limit How Transgender Youth Access Healthcare Or Participate In Sports

Tuesday, January 19th 2021

HELENA -- Lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee heard more than four hours of at times emotionally charged public testimony Monday on two bills that would limit how transgender youth access healthcare or participate in sports.

Rep. John Fuller, R-Kalispell, sponsored House Bills 112 and 113. HB 112 would prevent trangender women and girls from competing in women’s sports. HB 113 would prevent doctors from providing gender-affirming healthcare to minors.

Fuller said although the bills he sponsored are controversial, all sides of the argument stand on some common ground.

“Each and every one of us that has testified here today, or has sat here today, desires that our children be given the best possible care,” Fuller said.

SK Rossi spoke on behalf of the cities of Bozeman and Missoula, and said the bills were an overreach of the government.

“These bills are divisive,” Rossi said “They’re cruel, and Missoula and Bozeman will not stand by while our residents, especially our kids, are put in the crosshair of state policy.”

The committee is expected to vote on the bills Friday.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Governor Gianforte Announces Montana Is Moving Into Phase 1B Of COVID-19 Vaccination Plan

Tuesday, January 19th 2021

HELENA, Mont. – Governor Greg Gianforte today announced that Montana is moving into Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.

In Phase 1B, COVID-19 vaccines are available to Montanans 70 years of age and older, 16 to 69 years of age with a high-risk medical condition, and Native Americans and other persons of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications.

“Focusing on the most vulnerable Montanans in our vaccine distribution will save lives. Thanks to the hard work of our local health jurisdictions and health care workers, Montana’s most vulnerable now have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines,” Governor Gianforte said.

On his second full day in office, Governor Gianforte changed the state’s vaccine distribution plan to prioritize and protect Montanans most at-risk of complications from COVID-19. Montana health care and seniors groups praised Gianforte’s improvement of the state’s vaccine distribution plan. About a week after the governor’s changes, the federal government recommended similar modifications.

National data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to show Montana among states leading the nation in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine.

To date, 57,221 doses have been administered in Montana, and 9,408 Montanans have been fully immunized.

Montana’s COVID-19 vaccine supply continues to depend on federal supply and allocations.

Individuals in Phase 1B are encouraged to contact their local county or tribal health departments to check on vaccination availability and scheduling. More information can be found at dphhs.mt.gov.

Biden Expected To Cancel Permit For Keystone XL Pipeline

Monday, January 18th 2021

Story credit to www.billingsgazette.com

President-elect Joe Biden may fulfill a pledge to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit via executive action on his first day in office, CBC News reported, citing people it didn’t identify.

The words “Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit” appeared on transition briefing note for Jan. 20 — Inauguration Day — circulated by Biden’s transition team over the weekend, according to the Canadian report.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in a tweet and a lengthy statement that was “deeply concerned” about the report that Biden may repeal the permit, although such a move had been widely expected if Biden was elected.

“Doing so would kill jobs on both sides of the border, weaken the critically important Canada-U.S. relationship, and undermine U.S. national security,” Kenney said.

In May, Biden campaign policy adviser Stef Feldman said in a statement that the candidate had strongly opposed the pipeline during the Obama administration “and will proudly stand in the Roosevelt Room again as President and stop it for good by rescinding the Keystone XL pipeline permit.”

The Keystone XL pipeline has been controversial since first proposed more than a decade ago.

Opponents argue it will stimulate oil sands development, contributing to climate change. Canada’s oil industry argues the project is needed to supply heavy crude to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, who need the oil to replace declining volumes from Latin America.

GHS Educational Trust Awards Scholarships

Monday, January 18th 2021

As a new year and a new semester begin, eight Glasgow High School alumni who are attending trade school or college will benefit from the financial aid recently awarded to them by the Glasgow High School Educational Trust. These students are in addition to the 34 students who received awards from the trust last summer to help cover expenses for both semesters of the Fall 2020 – Spring 2021 academic year.

All Glasgow High School graduates who have completed one semester of trade school or one year of college and are in good academic standing (generally a 2.5 cumulative grade point average or higher) and enrolled as full-time students (12 credits per semester or more) either online or on campus are eligible to apply if they meet all of the additional requirements. The application lists these requirements clearly, and it is available on the trust’s website at www.ghsedutrust.org. Students may apply for both semesters of the academic year or for one semester only. The application must be complete and submitted on time. Deadlines are July 1st and October 15th of each year.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the trust will allow applicants to complete certain requirements through online and electronic signature transmittal. If an applicant has any questions, she/he should contact Danielle Anderson at (406) 228-4203.

The Glasgow High School Educational Trust was established by the GHS Class of 1938 in 1964 to assist GHS graduates in their pursuit of higher education. Since its inception, gifts of cash, stock, and real estate from hundreds of faithful donors have built the corpus of the trust to over $9.5 million. The earnings on that corpus are given to eligible students through a semi-annual application process administered by the trustees. Financial need has always been a primary consideration; therefore, the trust has established levels of giving to meet students’ different needs, and it distributes the funds available accordingly. To date, the trust has awarded $2,551,000.00 to 756 different students in very diverse disciplines attending schools across the country. Students may reapply for additional aid for a total of eight semesters if they continue to meet all of the eligibility requirements. Many students have received multiple awards from the trust over their courses of study.

The trust also purchases equipment and programs for Glasgow High School which cannot be financed within the school’s regular budget. Every department of GHS has received gifts over the years, which have, thereby, enhanced the experiences of every student. The community at large also benefits when it attends events at the school or uses the school’s facilities. The dollar value of these gifts totals $250,629.06.

Gifts to both the students and the school are always given in honor, memory, or recognition of an individual(s), family, organization, or event based on donations made to the trust. There are two naming opportunities. The first, an outright donation of cash or other revenue source of $500 or more, is eligible for a one-time naming. The second, an outright or cumulative donation of cash, or other revenue source of $10,000 or more, is eligible for an ongoing naming opportunity on a regular basis. All donations are tax deductible, and no gift is too small.

The Glasgow High School Educational Trust is pleased to announce awards to the following eight students for the Spring -2021 semester in honor, recognition, or memory or the name(s) that follow(s) theirs:

First-time recipients: Lylie Foster, Williston State College, IMO Stan and Eva Kalinski; Bryce Hanshew, MSU-Northern, IMO Glen Mahugh; Hayley Nybakken, Univeristy of Montana, IMO Dr. F.M. and Bernice Knierim; Natosha Sand, Dickinson State University, IMO James “Jim” A. Parke; Trevor Shipp, Mitchell Technical Institute, IHO Bill and Peggy Pattison Endowment; Kobe Sibley, Mitchell Technical Institute, IRO Paul and Joyce Ruffcorn Jacobson; Amari Zeluff, Minot State University, IMO Donald “Don” J. Baker.

Third-time recipient: Des’Rea Dible, Arizona State University, IMO Gary and Idella Mott.

Additional information about the trust including how to donate, contact trustees, articles featuring recent donors, and historical photos are all posted on the trust’s website at www.ghsedutrust.org.

Bozeman School Board To Vote On Severance Agreement With Superintendent Bob Connors

Sunday, January 17th 2021

Story Credit to www.bozemandailychronicle.com

The Bozeman School Board is planning to vote on a severance agreement with Superintendent Bob Connors at a virtual meeting Wednesday.

Board members will decide whether to pay more than $290,000 in severance to Connors, who was placed on administrative leave for an alleged policy violation pending a performance review in November. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday over Zoom.

The proposed severance agreement says “certain disputes and disagreements have arisen” between the school district and Connors over the superintendent’s job duties, and both parties want to “avoid the expense and distraction of potential litigation.”

If the agreement is approved, Connors will stay on paid administrative leave through the end of January. The severance payment covers the pay Connors would have earned had he remained employed from Feb. 1 through June 30, 2022, including some added vacation and unused sick leave, according to the proposed agreement.

Attorneys representing the board’s leadership team and Conners worked to negotiate the agreement, said Mike Waterman, the district’s director of business services. If the agreement is approved, a seven-day rescission period — during which the agreement can be canceled — will occur before the district issues Connors a check.

Then “the district and Superintendent Connors will go our separate ways,” Waterman said.

Connors served as superintendent at Glasgow Public Schools in northeast Montana for seven years before he landed the superintendent job in Bozeman in 2019. Trustees praised Connors’ work leading the district at the beginning of 2020, before the superintendent was tasked with directing the 7,000-student district during a pandemic. He also oversaw the opening of Gallatin High, Bozeman’s second high school.

On Nov. 2, the school board voted to place Connors on paid administrative leave after a seven-hour closed session. They cited an alleged policy violation but didn’t provide details.

At a second closed meeting two weeks later, the board reaffirmed its decision to keep Connors on administrative leave, again opting not to share information about the alleged policy violation.

On Nov. 20, the Chronicle filed a lawsuit against the district in Gallatin County District Court in an attempt to secure records related to the board’s decision to put Connors on leave.

The lawsuit asserts that the public’s right to know exceeds matters of individual privacy included in the documents requested of Bozeman Public Schools. The Chronicle argues it has a right to examine any public information held by a governmental entity.

No documents have yet been released, and the suit is ongoing.

During Connors’ extended absence, the district’s deputy superintendents took over. Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Marilyn King and Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Technology Casey Bertram are serving as interim co-superintendents.

Waterman said if the agreement is finalized on Wednesday, a search for a new superintendent will begin immediately.

Montana Legislators Consider Bill That Would Add New Way For Couples In Montana To Divorce

Saturday, January 16th 2021

HELENA -- Lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee got their first look at a bill Friday that would add a new way for couples in Montana to divorce.

Senate Bill 104 would allow Montanans to conduct divorce proceedings in private arbitration rather than in mediation or in district court.

The bill’s proponents told the committee that adding another option for families going through a divorce would help to unburden overtaxed Montana district court judges.

Katie Mazurek operates a law firm specializing in family law, and spoke in support of the bill.

“In our public court system, we have significant time constraints and lack of resources … that make it hard if not impossible to invest in these cases on the level that they deserve,” Mazurek said.

One opponent to the bill raised concerns that allowing private arbitration would give domestic abusers an undue amount of power, but withdrew their opposition upon learning that arbitrators would have the authority to send the case to district court if they felt it was necessary.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Montana Lawmakers Consider Legislation Giving Elected Officials Authority To Review Orders From Local Boards Of Health And Health Officers

Saturday, January 16th 2021

Story credit to www.ktvh.com

HELENA — Montana lawmakers heard extensive testimony Thursday on a bill that seeks to give elected officials authority to review orders from local boards of health and health officers.

The House Local Government Committee held a hearing on House Bill 121, sponsored by Rep. David Bedey, a Republican from Hamilton. It would allow a county commission or a city council or commission that oversees a health board to amend or remove the directives and orders they make in response to a declaration of emergency.

HB 121 would also require an elected governing body to approve when a health board proposes regulations for controlling communicable diseases.

The bill is one of a number lawmakers have already heard that came up as responses to health orders during COVID-19. Supporters said many members of the public have had questions about how and why health officers and boards of health made those decisions. They said giving the elected leaders a say would give those orders greater legitimacy, and give people greater recourse if they have concerns about the orders.

“This bill does not eliminate the board of health, it doesn’t strip the board of health of any powers, nor does it limit the needed expertise of the members who sit on the board of health,” said Cascade County Attorney Josh Racki. “Rather, the bill simply gives the citizens the voice they deserve in these important matters.”

Bedey argued that, in most cases, the governing bodies will listen to the advice of the appointed health officials, but they will also be more accountabie to the public.

Opponents of the bill, including representatives from a number of health care organizations, said health boards and health officers had greater expertise than elected officials, and the responsibility for making these decisions should remain with them.

“The legislation is divorcing the responsibility for protecting public health, which would still rest with local boards of health, from the authority to take important actions to do that,” said Gallatin city-county health officer Matt Kelley, representing the Association of Montana Public Health Officials. “That separation from that enormous responsibility from the authority to do anything about it is simply bad management, and it’s asking for big problems.”

Opponents said they were concerned if governing bodies made the decisions, the issues would become further politicized. They also said health boards are already accountable to elected leaders, who appoint many of their members.

Bedey is also sponsoring HB 122, which had its first hearing on Tuesday. That bill would put limits on the governor’s declarations of emergency and give the legislature a greater role in extended emergencies.

There are still likely to be more bills introduced on this subject. During Thursday’s meeting, Henry Kriegel, representing the group Americans for Prosperity, said he was opposing HB 121, but only because he preferred what he called a “more comprehensive bill” addressing health boards’ authority that has requested by Republican Rep. Matt Regier of Columbia Falls.

Governor Gianforte Sending 150 Army National Guard Soldiers To Nation's Capital Including Soldiers From Unit In Glasgow

Friday, January 15th 2021

Montana is sending 150 Army National Guard soldiers to the nation's capital to help provide security for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden next week, Gov. Greg Gianforte said Thursday.

"I’m grateful to our selfless soldiers who are answering the call of duty again today to help ensure a peaceful transfer of power, a bedrock of our republic,” said Gianforte.

As a member of the U.S. House in December, Gianforte offered his support to a failed Texas lawsuit that asked the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the results of the presidential election in four states won by Biden. A day after insurrectionists interrupted Congress' counting of the electoral college votes on Jan. 6, Gianforte said he was glad that the U.S. House and U.S. Senate reconvened that night and ratified the election. “It's time to move on,” he said.

The National Guard Bureau and federal authorities requested the security help in Washington, Gianforte said Thursday.

Soldiers from several Montana cities will join more than 20,000 Guard members from dozens of other states to support the Washington D.C. National Guard and federal law enforcement agencies, officials said.

Soldiers are being combined from the 484th Military Police Co., located in Billings, Malta and Glasgow; 143rd Military Police Co., based in Lewistown and the 1-163rd Combined Arms Battalion based in Belgrade.

Gianforte Names Three Nominees To Montana Fish And Wildlife Commission

Friday, January 15th 2021

Story credit to www.billingsgazette.com

Gov. Greg Gianforte has announced three nominees to one of Montana’s most closely watched public bodies, the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The nominees and the regions they represent are: Patrick Tabor, Whitefish, owner and founder of Swan Mountain Outfitters; K.C. Walsh, Martinsdale, executive chairman of Simms Fishing Products in the Gallatin Valley; and Brian Cebull, Billings, owner and president of Nance Resources, Inc., a private oil and gas exploration and production company.

The three nominees must be confirmed by the Senate Fish and Game Committee. No hearing date has been set. The committee will also consider the nomination of Andrew McKean, of Glasgow, who was appointed by then-Gov. Steve Bullock this fall to fill out the term of Logan Brower, who stepped down after moving.

It’s unclear whether Gianforte supports McKean or not, because the governor did not nominate anyone to replace him. McKean worked six years for FWP as the information and education manager in Glasgow. He is now the hunting editor for Outdoor Life magazine, an organization where he was previously the editor-in-chief.

Cebull, who owns the 20,000 acre Grove Creek Ranch, is the nominee chosen to fill the slot as the commissioner with experience in breeding and managing domestic livestock.

Much of the work done by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks is funneled through the five-member commission for approval, including such controversial items as hunting seasons, conservation easements and fishing regulations.

Tabor’s business group includes guest ranching, snowmobiling and consulting. His company’s website touts him as a “new generation outfitter” who brings “ingenuity and business savvy to the outdoor recreation and trail ride industry."

Walsh bought Simms Fishing Products, based at Four Corners west of Bozeman, in 1992. The company has actively promoted conservation. Walsh editorialized against permitting a new copper mine on the headwaters of the Smith River. He is also the vice-chair of the board of directors for the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, the nation’s largest private conservation grant-maker.

Walsh was also appointed by Gianforte to serve on the search committee for a new Fish, Wildlife & Parks director. The governor has not yet announced a replacement for Martha Williams. In the interim Dustin Temple, FWP’s chief of Administration and Technology, has been serving as acting director.

In addition to his work in oil and gas exploration, Cebull was one of three founders of GTUIT, which manufactures gas capturing equipment for well sites. An avid hunter and Montana native, Cebull is on the board of directors for the Montana Chapter of Safari Club International.

Commission members serve staggered four-year terms. In two years Gianforte will nominate candidates to fill the positions of current commissioners Pat Byorth, of Bozeman, and McKean, if he is approved by the Senate committee.

State Parks Board:

Jody Loomis, Russ Kipp and Kathy McLane have been nominated by Gov. Greg Gianforte as new State Parks and Recreation Board members.

The five-member board helps guide management of Montana’s 54 state parks, which have become increasingly popular as more people are recreating outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Loomis, of Helena, is president of Precision Crankshaft Inc., a crankshaft machining and engine balancing company. Loomis also serves on the Montana State Parks Off Highway grant program advisory board.

Kipp, of Polaris, is the owner of Montana High Country outfitting which provides fishing, hunting and snowmobiling opportunities in southwest Montana. He has served on several Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks resource advisory committees.

McLane, of Glendive, serves on the Southeast Montana Tourism Council and has also worked with the Montana Chamber of Commerce Board. She also worked as state director of constituent services for U.S. Rep. Rick Hill and as case work director for U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns.

Loomis would replace Angie Grove, who was the board’s chairwoman. Kipp would serve in the position previously occupied by Erica Lighthiser, of Livingston. McLane would serve in the seat formerly held by Betty Stone, of Glasgow.

The two board members remaining are Scott Brown, of Billings, and Mary Moe, of Great Falls. Their terms will expire in two years.

Record Wind Gust For January Set At Glasgow

Thursday, January 14th 2021

A peak wind gust of 79 mph was reported January 13th at Glasgow breaking the record for highest wind gust for the month of January. The old record for peak wind in January was 72 mph set on January 11th, 2009.

It was also the second highest wind gust ever recorded in Glasgow. The highest peak wind for Glasgow was 82 mph set on July 3rd, 2000.

A High Wind Warning continues for northeast Montana through tonight at 9pm. The winds will gust to around 60mph today and up to 45 mph tonight. The winds will decrease to light and variable by Friday.

Local Little Christmas Winners Announced

Thursday, January 14th 2021

The Glasgow Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture announced the winners of the Local Little Christmas Promotion this morning on Live Under the Big Sky. Lisa Koski told Stan and Haylie that 3186 tickets were in the promotion totaling $316,800 spent at participating businesses from November 10th through December 31st. Prize winners can pick up their certificates and Chamber Big Bucks at the Chamber Office.

Grand Prize- Red Sillerud
Tammy Kummerfeldt
Shelly George
George Knierim
Jan Dix
Deb Waarvik
Maureen Piersak
Katie Padden
Betty Coleman
Jamie Mix
Heather Hooper
Jan Fockler
Bonnie Kemp
Penny Murch
Dorothy Crandell
Betty Jo Bense
Sandy Swenson
Dale Hall
Katie Potter
Kristin Waarvik

Governor Gianforte Issues New Directives In Fight Against COVID-19

Wednesday, January 13th 2021

Governor Gianforte issued new directives in the fight against COVID-19 at a press conference on Wednesday. The Governor basically repealed two directives issued by former Governor Steve Bullock that put restrictions on certain businesses including restriction of hours of operation and capacity limits.

Governor Gianforte explains his actions:


Montana Legislature Considers Extending Statewide Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force

Wednesday, January 13th 2021

Proponents of extending the statewide Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday the task force has more work to do to address the still escalating cases of missing and murdered indigenous people, most of whom are minors.

There were no public opponents to Senate Bill 4, which would continue funding the task force, which was started in 2019.

Joan Kresich spoke on behalf of the Northern Plains Resource Council, and provided context for why she says an inter-agency response is still necessary.

“Much of that violence and trafficking on reservations is committed by non-native people,” Kresich said. “In other words, this is our problem. We all need to play a part in addressing this crisis and working toward a solution.”

Census data shows that Indigenous people make up 6.7% of Montana’s population, but make up almost 26% of missing persons cases according to data from the Montana Department of Justice.

The bill would cost $10,000 per year, paid out of the state’s general fund, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

Senator Bob Brown, R-Thompson Falls, was one of several committee members who expressed support for the bill.

“As we’re going through this testimony, I sit here and I think about my grandkids, and things like that, and I don’t know where I would be at,” Brown said. “This rips my heart up just even thinking about it.”

Committee Chair Keith Regier, a R-Kalispell, raised questions about whether the task force would help find non-Indigenous missing people.

Regeir said he hopes to have the committee vote on the bill by Friday.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Opheim Elementary And Junior High Students To Go To Remote Learning Effective Immediately

Wednesday, January 13th 2021

Opheim Elementary and Junior High Students will go to remote learning effective immediately.
This will be in effect through Thursday, January 22.

This is for precautionary measure ONLY. No students have been knowingly exposed at school.
The High School will operate as normal.

If you have any question please call the school office at 762-3213
Thank you for your cooperation and support.

Superintendent of Opheim School
Jennifer McAllister

Public Asked To Keep A Look-out For Dead/Dying Bats This Winter

Wednesday, January 13th 2021

HELENA – Samples taken in six eastern Montana counties this past summer have tested positive for the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome (WNS) disease in bats. The presence of the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) does not necessarily confirm the presence of the disease, but biologists are closely monitoring the situation and further sampling and testing will be conducted. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff is asking the public to report any dead or dying bats they observe this winter and spring to their local FWP office.

“We are disappointed but not at all surprised at this finding,” said FWP’s Wildlife Division Bureaus Coordinator Lauri Hanauska-Brown. “As the fungus and this deadly disease have moved across the states, we knew it was only a matter of time before it reached Montana. Now, we have to work together to help understand and combat this disease.”

Pd is a powdery white fungus that grows on the skin of hibernating bats, often on the face – hence the name “white nose.” The fungus causes several problems, one of which is that it irritates bats, causing them to arouse early from hibernation and search for water and food. Food is obviously scarce in winter, and this early arousal can exhaust fat stores that bats need to survive the winter. WNS is not known to affect humans, pets, livestock or other wildlife.

In May 2020, North Dakota Game and Fish Department reported a cluster of bat deaths from WNS just over the Montana border. This put FWP staff on full alert, and sampling efforts became more crucial.

FWP temporarily prohibited the capture of all live bats due to unknown risks of COVID-19-infected humans inadvertently transferring the virus to bats. To substitute for sampling of live bats, biologists collected bat droppings at eastern Montana roosts in May and June. During this effort, no unusual mortalities were observed that were associated with WNS, but summer is not the typical season to find bats sick with this disease.

Mid-to-late winter is when bats infected with this disease tend to become sick or die, due to the tendency of the fungus to rouse them out of hibernation. Therefore, biologists will want to investigate unusual bat activity such as seeing bats out during the cold and sick or dead bats found on the ground. This is where FWP needs the public’s help: by being on the lookout.

WNS has been in North America since at least 2006, killing an estimated 6.7 million bats. It has been confirmed in 35 states and seven Canadian provinces. It can wipe out entire colonies of bats and has caused dramatic population declines in eastern states.

In some cases, WNS has been unintentionally transferred to different bat roost sites by human activity, as the microscopic Pd fungal spores can easily be transported on clothing and equipment. FWP asks that anyone that has been in or around caves and other roost sites to be extremely proactive about cleaning their equipment and clothing to prevent further spread of this disease. Recommendations for decontaminating gear can be found at: https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/static-page/decontamination-information.

Over the last several years, FWP has been using acoustic-recording equipment to help identify populations, species and distributions of bats across the state. This will hopefully give biologists a good baseline to see how Pd, or WNS, may affect current and future populations.

FWP staff asks anyone who sees a sick or recently deceased bat or group of bats not to handle them but to notify health officials or state biologists, who can provide further guidance. Callers can reach the FWP Wildlife Health Lab in Bozeman at 406-577-7882, or they can contact a biologist at their local FWP office.
For more information, please visit https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/.

Additional Glasgow School District Staff Member Tests Positive For COVID-19

Tuesday, January 12th 2021

On January 12, 2021, the Glasgow School District was notified that a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19. The positive test was confirmed on January 12, 2021. According to the Valley County Health Department, the District’s staff and students were not in contact with the students during the period of possible exposure.

However, the staff member last attended in-class or had person-to-person contact with fellow students/staff at GHS, on January 5, 2021. Working with the Valley County Health Department, we do not need to close down the school at this time. We will continue to monitor the situation.

Currently, we have 8 active cases, 68 recovered for a total of 76. Contacts of positive cases are 170 released and 29 not released from quarantine for a total of 199.

Wade Sundby

Glasgow School District Considers 4-Day School Week For 2021-2022 School Year

Tuesday, January 12th 2021

Glasgow School Superintendent Wade Sundby was a guest on Live Under the Big Sky on Tuesday and talked about the possibility of Glasgow School District going to a 4-day school week for the next school year. Glasgow is currently using a modified 4-day school week due to COVID-19 but Sundby said the School Board will made a decision next month on plans for the 2021-2022 school year.


Montana Alcohol Sales Increased In 2020 Compared To 2019

Tuesday, January 12th 2021

Alcohol Sales in Montana surged in 2020 during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Comparing 2020 to 2019 showed substantial increases in alcohol sales according to Montana Department of Revenue.

Data from Montana Department of Revenue comparing retail alcohol sales March through November of 2020 to the same period in 2019 show:

Gross liquor sales are up $17.5 million (14.7%) and 100,857 (14.9%) more cases of liquor have been shipped from the Department of Revenue to agency liquor stores.

The money collected from beer tax is up $140,745 (4.3%), and 27,906 (3.4%) more beer barrels were sold.

Federal Checks Salvage Otherwise Dreadful 2020 For US farms

Tuesday, January 12th 2021


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Thanks to the government paying nearly 40% of their income, U.S. farmers are expected to end 2020 with higher profit than 2019 and the best net income in seven years, the Department of Agriculture said in its latest farm income forecast.

Farmers faced challenges throughout 2020 that included the impact of trade disputes; low prices that drove down cash receipts for corn, cotton, wheat, chicken, cattle and hogs; and weather difficulties such as drought in some areas and an unusual August wind storm stretching from South Dakota to Ohio that centered on Iowa.

Farm cash receipts are forecast to decrease nearly 1% to $366.5 billion, the lowest in more than a decade, measured in real dollars. Direct federal government payments saved farmers' bottom line: Farmers overall saw a 107% increase in direct payments from 2019, when a third of net income came directly from the government.

The impact of the money varies from one farm to another, depending on whether a farmer owns the land, has significant capital to draw from, has manageable debt and aggressively manages wide commodity price swings.

"The payment to one farm could be a matter of life and death of that farm and for another farm maybe just makes it not quite as bad of a year as it was going to be and everywhere in between," said Mike Paustian, a farmer who raises hogs and grows soybeans and corn near Walcott in eastern Iowa. "I've described it as: If you're drowning and somebody throws you a life preserver, you're not going to argue too much about grabbing ahold of it."

Excluding USDA loans and insurance indemnity payments made by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, farmers are expected to receive $46.5 billion from the government, the largest direct-to-farm payment ever. That includes $32.4 billion in assistance through coronavirus pandemic relief food assistance and Paycheck Protection Program payments to farmers. Additional support comes from more traditional revenue loss programs due to low commodity prices, compensation for trade disruptions resulting from tariff battles and conservation programs assistance.

Federal court bankruptcy data indicates 433 U.S. farms filed for reorganization as of Sept. 30, down from 454 during the same period the previous year.

Overall, net farm income in the United States is expected to increase 43% from 2019 to $119.6 billion, the USDA estimated. Farmers will see the highest level of net farm income, a broad measure of profitability, since 2013, the agency said.

One northeast Iowa farmer said without the federal money it would have been difficult to make ends meet this year but it began to feel like the government checks were motivated by politics from a president seeking support for reelection.

"At first it did help, but then we kept getting payments and I don't know that those were warranted," said Rick Juchems, 65, who grows corn and soybeans and custom raises hogs. "The markets had already recovered quite a bit and they're recovering yet more, so it helps some but it's one of those things that the second one was more than we needed."

In a late October campaign appearance in Omaha, Nebraska, President Donald Trump said he believed farmers were better off getting government payments than relying solely on their farming receipts.

"In fact, some people say our farmers do better now than when they actually had a farm," he said.

Many top farm states voted for again for Trump in November, including Iowa, Nebraska, Texas and Kansas. Several, however, left Trump to vote for Democrat Joe Biden, including Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia.

Bill Gordon, who with his father raises soybeans and corn in southwestern Minnesota, hopes for improved free trade agreements and a less confrontational approach under Biden in 2021.

"Volatility definitely causes volatility," he said. "And so if we can get these free trade agreements set up, that are better, and not as confrontational but still benefit both sides, that just benefits agriculture and rural America."

Five Students And One Staff Member Test Positive In Glasgow School District

Monday, January 11th 2021

Message from Glasgow Superintendent Wade Sundby:

On January 10, 2021, the Glasgow School District was notified that 5 students had tested positive for COVID-19. The positive test was confirmed on January 9, 2021. According to the Valley County Health Department, the District’s staff and students were in contact with the students during the period of possible exposure. However, the students last attended in-class or had person-to-person contact with fellow students/staff at Irle, GMS, and GHS on January 4, 2021. Working with the Valley County Health Department, we do not need to close down the school at this time.

On January 11, 2021, the Glasgow School District was notified that a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19. The positive test was confirmed on January 11, 2021.
The staff member last had person-to-person contact with fellow students/staff at GMS, on January 6, 2021. Working with the Valley County Health Department, we do not need to close down the school at this time.

If any staff or students are at risk of exposure, the Valley County Health Department will be in contact with that person to determine a safe and appropriate course of action. It is still recommended that any person who feels sick or ill, seek out their medical provider for specific instructions. The School District is in contact with the Health Department and reviewing the Centers for Disease Control guidance to complete cleaning the school and other related facilities. The other steps taken by the School District include temp checks, handwashing stations, sanitization of classrooms, and a deep clean of the room(s). Contact Wade Sundby for details about these measures. School officials will continue to monitor the situation and will provide further information if and when it becomes available.

Currently, we have 7 active cases, 68 recovered for a total of 75. Contacts of positive cases are 160 released and 33 not released from quarantine for a total of 193.

Wade Sundby

Montana Department Of Transportation Issues New Load Posting For Bridge Northeast Of Richland, MT

Sunday, January 10th 2021

Richland, Mont. –– The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) recently issued a new load posting for the West Fork Poplar River Bridge just northeast of Richland, in Valley County. The posting is part of a multi-year effort to update load ratings and postings on Montana bridges as mandated by the Federal Highway Administration?(FHWA).

The FHWA mandate is in response to changes in the trucking industry over the last decade. Truck manufacturers are building specialized hauling vehicles (SHVs), which are capable of legally carrying heavier loads than typical vehicles have in the past. SHVs are single-unit, short-wheelbase, multiple-axle trucks commonly used in the construction, waste management, bulk cargo and commodities hauling industries. Often times one or more axles can be raised or lowered as needed to comply with statutory weight limitations.

These SHV configurations concentrate heavy loads over a short length, and they have been found to overstress bridges beyond what was previously modeled by standard commercial vehicles. To account for their increasing presence and ensure safe operation, FHWA has determined that all states must include these new, short, heavy vehicles when evaluating the safe limits of bridge capacity.

To comply with the mandate, MDT is currently updating load ratings for 4,500 public bridges across the state, including approximately 2,500 owned and maintained by MDT. This effort is expected to take about four years to complete.

Bridge weight restrictions are required when the engineering analysis of a bridge, known as a load rating, indicates that it cannot carry standard, legal loads. Load ratings provide information about how much distributed weight can safely pass over a bridge. Load posting signs show maximum weight limits for different vehicle types, depending on their axle configuration. A posted bridge is safe to use, but the weight of certain vehicles must be limited accordingly.

The new posting on the West Fork Poplar River Bridge applies to SHVs; it limits the maximum gross vehicle weight of single-unit vehicles with 5, 6, or 7 axles to 21 tons.

Legislation Introduced To Limit Liability Due To COVID-19

Sunday, January 10th 2021

HELENA -- Lawmakers heard testimony Friday on a bill that would limit the liability of Montana businesses, health care workers and people providing personal protective products due to COVID-19.

Republican Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick of Great Falls presented the bill to the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee.

“Right now we kind of have an anything goes type of situation around the state,” Fitzpatrick said. This changes that.”

Senate Bill 65 would grant property owners protection from lawsuits unless they show gross negligence. Gross negligence is defined in several Montana cases as the failure to use “slight” care.

What that means in practice is that if a business or organization largely follows state, county and federal public health guidelines, they are protected from lawsuits if someone suspects they contract COVID-19 on the premises. The bill does allow lawsuits in the event of intentional harm or if the plaintiff is either hospitalized or dies due to COVID-19.

Current law says that property owners can be sued if someone suspects they contracted COVID-19 on their property, regardless of whether the property owner and their employees follow public health guidelines.

Representatives of all manner of businesses testified in favor of the bill, saying that liability protection was an important first step in re-opening Montana’s economy. There were 16 proponents representing more than 20 business associations. Three people represented opposition to the bill.

Gov. Greg Gianforte said in a written statement that he supports the bill, and previously said a bill like this was key to rescinding the state’s mask mandate. The committee is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Governor Gianforte Unveils State Budget

Friday, January 8th 2021

By James Bradley
Legislative News Service
UM School of Journalism

HELENA -- Governor Greg Gianforte’s proposed two-year state budget cuts $100 million from his predecessor’s, which he says is a win.

“This budget brings fiscal responsibility back to state government while providing essential services,” he said at a press conference Thursday.

The proposal asks for higher starting pay for new teachers, and increased funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment programs. The money for those substance abuse programs would come from cuts to proposed pre-K programs and as yet unseen revenue from marijuana taxes and money from the state’s tobacco settlement funds. More money would also be set aside to help low-income homeowners pay their property taxes.

The budget also calls for several tax cuts. The highest income tax bracket would be 6.75% under Gianforte’s budget, rather than 6.9%. Businesses would also be exempt from capital gains tax under specific circumstances. The budget would also double the cap for businesses to be exempt from equipment tax.

House and Senate Democrats released a joint statement in an email immediately following Gianforte’s conference, saying that they would work to prevent budget cuts to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy.

“Democrats are committed to creating jobs and opportunity for all Montanans, and that means holding the line on unnecessary cuts made on the backs of working families,” the statement read.

Senate Republicans said in an emailed statement that they “look forward to reviewing Governor Gianforte's budget proposal in detail and working with the governor to enact a conservative budget that includes Republican priorities."

House Republicans have not yet commented on the proposal.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Utah Man Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison For Trafficking Meth On Fort Peck Indian Reservation

Friday, January 8th 2021

Story from www.billingsgazette.com

A Utah man who trafficked meth from a camper parked on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Andrew Michael Gomez, a 33-year-old resident of Ogden, Utah, pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to possess meth with the intent to distribute. As part of his sentencing, which followed a plea agreement with prosecutors, court documents say Gomez will participate in a drug treatment program and serve five years of supervised released.

In August 2019, a Wolf Point police officer conducted a search of a camper parked within the reservation, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. After obtaining a tribal search warrant, the officer found Gomez and two others inside the camper, along with 6.5 ounces of meth, drug ledgers, receipts showing wire transfers to people in Utah and drug paraphernalia.

A grand jury indicted Gomez in February 2020 on charges of conspiring to possess meth with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute, documents say. Another one of the men in the camper, Jeffrey Allen Dabb, was charged as a co-defendant and sentenced in December to 51 months in prison.

Gomez attempted to continue trafficking meth while incarcerated, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, by urging others to find and sell the drugs that he thought still remained hidden in the camper.

The investigation into the case was conducted by members of the FBI, Fort Peck Law Enforcement Services, the Wolf Point Police Department and the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided over the case, which is one of several during the past few months involving meth trafficking in the Fort Peck area. A Wolf Point man admitted in September 2020 to selling meth in a casino on the reservation. Two men were sentenced for trafficking the drug during the past year after investigators found nearly two pounds of meth in a jar of peanut butter and a piñata in a package bound for Brockton.

Press Release From Glasgow School District Regarding Positive Covid Case At Irle School

Thursday, January 7th 2021

On January 7, 2021, the Glasgow School District was notified that a student had tested positive for COVID-19. The positive test was confirmed on January 7, 2021. According to the Valley County Health Department, the District’s staff and students were in contact with the student during the period of possible exposure. However, the student last attended in-class or had person-to-person contact with fellow students/staff at Irle on January 4, 2021. Working with the Valley County Health Department, we do not need to close down the school at this time. We will continue to monitor the situation.

At this time we will not be closing the school or the district. The students involved will begin remote learning on Thursday, January 7, 2021. If there are any questions concerning remote learning, Mrs. Erickson, at Irle at 406.228.2419. If there are any other questions please contact Wade Sundby
at the central office at 406.228.2406.

Currently, we have 1 active case, 68 recovered for a total of 69. Contacts of positive cases are 160 released and 2 not released from quarantine for a total of 162.

State Of Montana Releases New Coronavirus Vaccination Plan

Wednesday, January 6th 2021

As of January 5, 2021, over 23,000 Montana health care personnel have received their first dose vaccination since it first became available the week of December 14. This includes frontline healthcare workers all across Montana. So far, over 36,000 vaccine doses have been shipped to the state and we are slated to receive another 41,000 doses in the coming weeks.

In addition, vaccine distribution to long term care facilities (including nursing homes and assisted living facilities) has begun as well.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is working with local county and Tribal health departments, pharmacies, hospitals, and community health centers across Montana to distribute the vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccine distribution recommendations were updated on January 5, 2020. Here are the current recommendations.

Phase 1A Recipients (No Change)
• Frontline healthcare workers
• Long-term Care and Assisted Living Facilities (LTC/ALF)
• Healthcare workers with direct patient contact or virus exposure

Phase 1B Recipients
• Persons aged 70 years and older
• American Indians and other people of color who may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications
• Persons aged 16-69 with high-risk medical conditions. Qualifying medical conditions include:
o Cancer
o Chronic kidney disease
o COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
o Down Syndrome
o Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
o Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
o Severe Obesity (BMI ? 40 kg/m2)
o Sickle cell disease
o Type 1 & 2 Diabetes mellitus
o On a case by case basis, medical providers may include individuals with other conditions that place them at
elevated risk for COVID-19 related complications.

Phase 1C Recipients
• Frontline Essential Workers
• Persons aged 60 years and older
• Individuals residing in congregate care and correctional facilities
• Persons aged 16-59 with medical conditions not included in phase 1B that may have an elevated-risk of COVID19 complications, conditions include:
o Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
o Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
o Cystic fibrosis
o Hypertension or high blood pressure
o Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune
deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
o Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
o Liver disease
o Overweight (BMI > 25 kg/m2, but < 40 kg/m2)
o Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
o Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)

Phase 2 Recipients
• All remaining Montanans aged 16 or older

This new plan effectively bumps frontline essential workers, such as teachers, first responders and grocery store employees, along with those in congregate care and correctional facilities, to a later phase unless they have underlying health conditions.

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte says the changes mean between 250,000 and 300,000 people will be included in the next phase, as opposed to the original 90,000.

This new state plan differs from CDC guidelines, which place frontline workers next in line to receive the vaccine due to infection risks they face at work.

Montana Superintendent Of Public Instruction Announces $170,099,465 Headed To Montana For Public Education

Wednesday, January 6th 2021

HELENA- Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen received confirmation from the U.S. Department of Education announcing Montana will receive $170,099,465 from the December 2020 congressional funding bill that included Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER II). This new COVID relief funding is four times more than the $41,295,230 allocated for Montana schools in May 2020 through the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“I quickly worked last spring to make the original relief funding accessible to our local schools as they faced unprecedented safety needs,” Superintendent Arntzen said. “These new funds will address and mitigate any learning loss that our students may have experienced. I have continually reached out to Montanans as we collectively seek ways to support our teachers, parents, and students in maintaining a safe, high-quality learning environment.”

The Office of Public Instruction will allocate the new ESSER II funds consistent with the the original ESSER funds through the Title I formula that supports economically disadvantaged students. Montana will receive additional details of terms and conditions within the next three days.