Jail overcrowding risks, consequences highlighted ahead of bond request Roger Dey Supporters of the renovation and expansion of the Lewis and Clark County Detention center are concerned that the issue of jail overcrowding at the facility has reached a tipping point. After voters shot down a 2015 bond for a new facility, the county put forth a pair of revised bond requests last year. The first funded conversion of all three floors of the existing Lewis and Clark County Law Enforcement Center into a detention facility. The second covered the cost of operations, maintenance and pretrial services. The measure to fund the renovation passed, but the required operational bond came up short by more than 4,600 votes, keeping the whole project in limbo. The operational and maintenance bond, which includes funding for pre-trial services, will hit ballots again this year. At a press conference at the Lewis and Clark County Law Enforcement Center Monday morning, law enforcement officers and community members discussed the safety issues created by jail overcrowding and how they extend beyond the facilities walls. Alan Hughes, captain of the Detention Center, kicked off the comments by noting there were 99 people housed in the detention facility that day. He said the overcrowded conditions in the facility, which was originally designed to hold about 50 prisoners, have led to physical confrontations between guards and inmates 30 times in the last year. “Tazers have been drawn at least seven times and we’ve had to deploy those tazers at least three times on three different inmates,” he said. In the last year detention officers have also been assaulted on eight different occasions where charges were filed, and there have been more than 40 cases of inmate-to-inmate assault, he added. A walk through the detention center on the second floor of the Law Enforcement Center reveals a surprisingly small facility that a person would be generous to call cramped on a good day. At roughly double the intended capacity, detention officers have resorted to housing prisoners in hallways, the library and other unconventional spaces. The crowded conditions amplify the cramped feeling and officers are often forced to leave themselves vulnerable to assault when they have to step over prisoners lying on mattresses on the floor. With the increase in altercations, the need for medical attention is also on the rise. A room off the library, once used for video appearances before a judge, has been re-purposed as a medical exam room, but that also presents risks to staff. “Now we’ve got the nurses station and the exam room, so doctors are asked to go back and forth through the library, where prisoners are housed,” Detention Sgt. Scott Ferguson said during the tour. “We’ve got solid men and women working up in the jail who are hard workers, making the best of the conditions they’re working in, but the conditions are very unsafe,” Undersheriff Jason Grimmis said. “Time and space is what protects officers and that time and space is what's shrinking around the officers.” That lack of room at the jail has already led to the specter that the facility could be shut down for not meeting national standards. In 2015, before voters voted down an entirely new jail, the Helena Independent Record reported that Niki Zupanic, public policy director for the ACLU of Montana, toured the jail and said she was “rocked on my heels.” The cramped conditions of the facility led her to conclude the facility couldn’t be maintained and wasn’t safe. Marshall Gingery, who has served on the Planning Board and the Helena Citizens' Council, and spoke as a private citizen described the jail overcrowding as a dark cloud hanging over the county. Beyond the wall of the jail, the overcrowding conditions are having a ripple effect with the courts and law enforcement. Montana District Court Judge Mike Menehan explained that due to overcrowding, he must consider the risk each person who comes before him poses to the community, and decide whether he or she can be put back out on the street. Generally speaking, it comes down to felonies. “The County Attorney’s office is prosecuting approximately 500 felonies every year,” he said. “With a jail census of about 100, about half of those people are awaiting trial. The other half are people who were given suspended sentences (and) continued to violate the judges court orders, which puts them back into the jail.” He said most of the inmates in the jail have committed violent crimes such as assault. “I would just like to make the point the proposal that’s before the voters now is the absolute cheapest way to go about solving a significant problem in our community,” Menehan said. In addition to helping the overcrowding, the upgraded 160-bed facility would relieve the need to house prisoners in other counties. “Currently if our transport (officers) are moving inmates across the state, we are without local transport service,” Hughes said. “We rely on our patrol division to assist in those local transfers, which means we take them away from working on the streets.” Grimmis explained that calls take longer to resolve due to the jail situation. “(Deputies) are trying to figure out creative ways of handling a call where somebody doesn’t have to come to jail,” he said. Although the jail is often seen as a Helena issue, Sheriff Leo Dutton told the BVD Lincoln residents would also see the benefit of a new facility. “Disturbing the peace, causing unrest, which is a misdemeanor … we don’t; have room for those,” he said. “Other than write them a citation and let them go, we could actually bring them to the detention center. We could bring them to jail for corrective action.” Gingery urges voters to educate themselves on the problems at the detention center and to support the operation bond. “The route we’re going is going to be more expensive down the road, “ he said. “ I hope you really think about what’s going on, that you step forward and we’ll look forward to what takes place”
Rain, snow and a sigh of relief Roger Dey A lightning strike July 14 started Lincoln’s fire season. Exactly two months later, rain and snow brought it - almost - to a screeching halt. In less than 24 hours, the storm system that swept in out of the northwest nearly dealt a knockout blow to fires in the area that just a couple weeks ago had the term ‘no end in sight’ assigned to them. “I think there was a collective sigh of relief last Thursday when that weather moved in,” Lincoln District Ranger Michael Stansberry said. The storm system brought them much needed rain, cooler temperatures and, most importantly, increased humidity, that has helped firefighting efforts across Montana. But it was the fires in the Lincoln area that seemed to see the biggest benefit. “It was kind of an interesting system,” said Brian Harris, a public information officer with the Alice Creek Fire. “It ended up just parking itself right here. It stayed over this area for about a three-day time frame before it moved out. If it hadn’t done that it would have been a quick little rainstorm and gone, but with it sitting here for that amount of time, it put down some moisture for sure.” Between Sept. 14 and Sept. 16, the system dropped more than two inches of precipitation in the form of rain and snow across the Alice Creek Fire straddling the Continental Divide. Just the day before, the area had seen an active fire day that consumed nearly 1300 additional acres and destroyed private logging equipment and a contract fire engine in the Silver King Ranch area. The Park Creek Fire north of Lincoln saw between a half an inch to an inch of moisture that included snow in the higher elevations, which stopped the fire activity around Arrastra Peak cold. “Before the rain, the fire added about 40 acres around Arrastra Peak,” Park Creek Fire PIO Carissa Silvis said. “It tried making one last push to the west before the cloud cover came in, and it was pretty impressive because there was a column coming up that Wednesday.” The column, though impressive, proved short lived. By the time Silvis climbed the hill behind the rodeo grounds for a look, cloud cover had already dampened it. “It was kind of like putting a cap on the fire saying, ‘No, you’re done.’” Although some areas, including the Rice Ridge Fire, saw less precipitation, the lower temperatures and increased humidity helped diminish fire behavior and aided firefighting efforts. Though the fire season appeared interminable not long ago (the Farmer’s Almanac even forecasted no significant moisture through January), Stansberry said some of the long-time Lincoln residents were spot on when they told him that a storm system reliably moves into the area every year within a day or two of Sept. 14. With the fire laying down and sudden cold weather raising concerns about hypothermia, managers on both fires pulled firefighters off the lines and focused on recovering equipment, hoses and pumps. Muddy conditions were also a limiting factor, due to efforts to prevent additional ruts and damage that would require additional rehabilitation. “It’s just mostly trying to get equipment in,” said Silvis. They were still patrolling the southern perimeters last weekend to make sure fire didn’t cross the containment lines, she said. Although a warm up in October may allow the fires to flare up, they’re unlikely to return to the level of intensity seen over the summer. “If we just got this one system, it would take anywhere from five to eight days to dry everything back out to get to the condition we were before the weather system came through,” Harris said Sunday. “That’s not in the forecast though. The forecast shows another cold front is coming in.” However, Stanberry is sticking with his assessment that the storm was a season slowing, rather than season ending event, particularly on the Park Creek fire. “It seems like there is still some heat over there,” he said. “There’s still some firefighting work to be done over there.” He said the possibility of the fires flaring back up is “on the radar.” “I would expect we’re going to get some interior burning and we’re going to still see smoke in October,” he said. With persistent moisture and a favorable forecast came the decision to demobilize both the North Idaho Type 3 incident management team, which has handled the Park Creek fire for the last four weeks, and the Great Basin Team 2, which had managed the Alice Creek Fire. Dave Hamilton, fire management officer for the Montana Department of Natural Resource Central Land Office, took command of the Alice Creek incident Monday and management of the Park Creek Fire returned to the Lincoln Ranger District yesterday. The moisture also prompted Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton to lift the evacuation orders in the Alice Creek Fire area late last week. Road closures were still in effect Tuesday for Alice Creek Road, Copper Creek Road at the Landers Fork Road junction and McDonough Road, but will be re-evaluated after the next weather system passes. Stansberry is working on lifting the closure on Beaver Creek Road this week, and adjusting the area closures. “What I’ll probably end up doing is putting the closure around the fire perimeter for both fires,” he said. The 418 hiking trail to Stonewall and the Arrastra Creek trail leading into Meadow Creek will also remain closed. Stansberry wants to make sure people understand that, if the closure is lifted, the fire is still up against the Beaver Creek Road. People may see smoke rising in the area, but he said the District is monitoring it. People also need to remember that higher humidity and fuel moistures that have increased sharply in the heavier fuels doesn’t mean the threat is gone. Harris pointed out grasses and fine fuels dry quickly. That fact was proven Sunday when a person in Helena sparked a 93-acre grass fire after deciding the rain had made it safe to burn. At press time, Lewis and Clark County was still under enhanced Stage I fire restrictions and Powell County remained under Stage II restrictions. The National Weather Service forecast Tuesday afternoon predicted additional snow and rain for the Lincoln Ranger District, throughout the remainder of the week, with high temperatures from the upper 30s to the lower 50s.
Officials begin preliminary planning for possible Lincoln evacuation Roger Dey - Sept. 8, 2017 Member of the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office, area fire chiefs and representatives of the incident management teams for the Park Creek and Alice Creek fires met at the Lincoln Fire Hall This morning to begin planning for a possible evacuation of the Lincoln Valley, should the Rice Ridge Fire continue to grow eastward and reach Lincoln. The Rice Ridge Fire is listed at five percent contained today, and now covers more than 122,000 acres. It grew by about 3000 acres yesterday but windy conditions related to a front moving into the area are in the forecast. “This is a preliminary planning for the worst case,” Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said. “It may never happen, but we want to have that plan. We want to have those options if it does.” Dutton said the meeting arose after a call from the Forest Service advised him to look seriously at an evacuation plan for the area. “They wanted to give us as much notice as they possibly could about having a safety plan and getting the message out, number one to avoid panic and two, to (provide) some knowledge about what is available and where people can go,” he said. “Nobody should panic but everyone should remain vigilant,” Lewis and Clark County Commissioner Susan Good Geise said during the meeting. Although the Elk Meadows/Evergreen subdivision east of Roger’s Pass is under mandatory evacuation and Landers Fork, Elk Trail Park and Alice Creek are under a pre-evacuation notice, there are no additional pre-evacuation warnings or evacuation orders in the Lincoln area, as of Friday morning. Officials recommended that residents sign up for the emergency notification systems in both Lewis and Clark and Powell Counties. *For Lewis and Clark County alerts to your cell phone and e-mail, go to the Lewis and Clark County Home page at www.lccounty.gov . Under ‘Whats New’ look for RAVE Alert Mobile Safety. Once on the RAVE page you can go to https://www.getrave.com/login/lccountymt to register. Landlines are automatically alerted under the system *Powell county uses CODERED for their mass notification system. Go to www.powellcounty.mt.gov and click on the ‘Sheriff’ link. Once on the Sheriff’s page, click on the CODERED icon to register. If you have a cell phone but no access to a computer, you can go to the Lincoln branch Library and use the computers there to access the county website. If the Rice Ridge and Park Creek Fires do merge, the Incident Management Team at Lincoln will remain in place as a Branch of the Rice Ridge Type 1 Team and will still be an information source that’savailable locally. During the meeting, Captain Brent Colbert with the LCSO said the last Lincoln Evacuation plan was in 2010 and they’ve been updating that. Colbert discussed the management action points that could prompt pre-evacuation warnings or evacuation orders for the Lincoln Springs area and Lincoln itself, if the fire behavior is such that they feel it is necessary. If fire reaches Lincoln Springs, the LCSO will order an evacuation for the Lincoln Valley. There are also management action points established for east of Lincoln prepared in the event the Alice Creek Fire moves south and west toward Lincoln. Dutton said now is the time to prepare, both for evacuation and for the defensibility of homes. “You should have your house prepared,” he said. “We have to triage residences’ (to defend against fire.)” We can say ‘we can defend that’ or ‘no way.’” Dutton said people should be prepared to be self-sustaining for 72 to 90-plus hours. Geise urged everyone to make a grab and go bag containing important documents, medication, insurance information, passports, and so forth. She also advised planning for pets and livestock. “Don’t wait until the last minute to do that. It’s already gonna be hectic enough.” “Stay tuned to something. Have some kind of communication, some kind of radio, or computer to check websites,” Dutton said. Dutton said the plan is to give people at least two hours to get ready for an evacuation. Getting information out has been problematic and planners are hoping residents understand that conditions can change very suddenly and that they will be patient with the firefighters. “The wind changes, the message changes,” said Bob Drak, chief of the Tri-lakes Fire Department. “if we put something out this hour and (conditions) change in an hour, we’re sorry. It changed. Mother Nature happens to be in control right now.” The unusual conditions this year include dry conditions in which the dew point hasn’t been reached at night, which means the fires don’t lay down as predictably at night as they have in past years. of something happens on the west side, in a worst-case scenario, there is a plan to work on protecting structures in the Lincoln Springs, Lincoln Gulch area. Everthing is based on keeping it west of Beaver Creek road, Lincoln fire chief Zach Muse said. “With any luck, winds are gonna push it north, it’s gonna go into the wilderness and wait til Christmas and it’ll go out.” Another issue on the west side of town is the Dalton Mountain bridge, if there is a new start in that area or if the Rice Ridge Fire reaches the Lone Point area and jumps south of Highway 200. The current estimated timeframe to open the Dalton Mountain Bridge to one lane of passenger vehicle traffic, with a weight limit of three tons, is near the end of next week, but in the event of an emergency, the county has agreed to open it early, with the same weight limitations. Although there have been inquiries into the using military bridging capabilities, from the Montana Army National Guard, the issue is the length of the bridge, which has a longer span than anytng that might be readily available. Unfortunately, the bridge won’t be able to accommodate large trucks, RVs or horse trailers, which will still have to use the detour, which raises concerns about how to get fire equipment into that area if needed. If fire does go that way, Muse said the plan is to work with the Park Creek Fire to hit it with air resources initially, and he said they may have to rely on the Sheriff’s office to block traffic to allow fire equipment to get through on Herrin Lake Road. Due to the threat on the north side of the highway, Muse said most of the local fire-fighting equipment is pre-positioned in the Park Creek and Alice Creek areas. “There’s nothing left to preposition and resources are so short I couldn’t ask somebody to come in from another town or county.” Dutton said people in that area, and throughout the valley, need to be vigilant and pay attention to what the weather is doing. Daily updates on fires are available at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/27/ or at the Red Fire Information boards located around Lincoln. Daily fire information updates are also distributed at most Lincoln businesses.
Lincoln Heritage Alliance recognized for Matt King House preservation efforts
Hope QuayIn recognition of their efforts to save the historic Matt King house, The Lincoln Heritage Alliance were recent recipients of a 2017 Historic Preservation Award Bestowed by the Lewis and Clark County Heritage Preservation and Tourism Development Council, the award recognizes people who have done extraordinary things for historic preservation. “One of our tourism council members made the nomination out of respect for what the Lincoln Heritage Alliance had done and achieved,” said Lewis & Clark County Heritage Preservation Officer Pam Attardo, who said once a year the Council entertains nominations that are then voted on by the board of directors, usually awarding around a half a dozen awards. A local organization dedicated to the acquisition and preservation of endangered historic buildings, the LHA formed in the spring of 2015 as an effort to save the Matt King house, thought to be the valley’s oldest ranch house. In the fall of 2015 the LHA acquired the house, which had been disassembled and moved from its original site on the former Grosfield ranch. Since then, they have been working to secure a lot in town on which to erect the house, where they hope it will someday stand alongside several other historic cabins maintained by the Upper Blackfoot Valley Historical Society that are on leased property outside of town. Earlier this year the UBVHS became the fiscal sponsor for the LHA. Both organizations plan for the Matt King house to serve as the focal point of a museum and interpretive center in the center of town, preserving and showcasing the area’s history for locals and visitors alike. “It’s a beautiful piece of history,” said LHA Chairperson Erin Dey. “Old buildings have more character, more stories…when they were going to tear it down, I almost cried. I was like, ‘that needs to stay here.’ We don’t have very many beautiful historic buildings…it would have been a shame for it to leave.” According to Attardo, the vote to award the LHA was unanimous. “This one’s unusual,” she said of the Matt King project. “A lot of times we see individuals…who do work on their own homes, so it’s their own money and it’s something they’re living in. This was…a historic asset that had been there for a while and it was in danger of disappearing, even though it was in fairly good shape. We thought it was a done deal, until the Deys approached the seller and they worked a deal, basically. It (is) really unusual to take an older building and take it apart piece by piece and move it someplace…there were so many things that went into it that were above and beyond the usual, that we acknowledge.” Attardo said the creativity and consistency of the LHA’s fundraising efforts were a big factor in the board’s decision. “They’re…refreshing things and getting it out there and it’s always something,” she said. “They’re really including community, which is great. The Matt King house is not just for the Lincoln Heritage Alliance, it’s for the entire community.” Dey and LHA Treasurer Julie Zarske were on hand to accept the award in a ceremony conducted at the Commission Chambers in Helena on Wednesday, June 16. Dey and her husband Roger also received an award in recognition of their efforts on behalf of the Matt King project. “They see the work we’ve been doing,” said Dey. “Pam’s really involved in it. I go to her when I need something, and she’ll give me the answer.” Though work on saving the Matt King house is far from done, Attardo said she hopes the recognition and support of the Heritage Tourism Council will help move the LHA’s efforts forward. “There are things that we can do…maybe assist them with grants or applying for money,” she said. “We can certainly get it out there at our meetings. We can help them advertise fundraising that they’re doing, we can acknowledge them. This award basically gives them acknowledgement and public recognition for all of the work that they’ve done.” Dey appreciates the honor, but looks forward to a day when their efforts will show more visible results. “It feels good, but it’ll feel a whole lot better when we get land and that building is reconstructed,” she said. “It will be a great attraction for the community.”
Fire restrictions and more at the Lincoln Government Day meeting Roger Dey BVD Editor Lewis and Clark County commissioners hosted a productive Government Day in Lincoln Friday, Sept. 2. Although the ever-changing fire situation was a major part of the meeting, they discussed several other items as well. Amended Stage 1 restrictions Lewis and Clark County commissioners approved a resolution Sept. 1 to amend the Stage 1 Fire Restrictions already in effect throughout the county. Sheriff Leo Dutton explained that the original Stage 1 proclamation had allowed campfires in specific locations, such as approved campfire rings. Dutton explained that since Lincoln is classified forest land, they were prohibited here early on . The proclamation last Friday amended the restriction to prohibit campfires throughout the county entirely. Factors that played into the decision included not only the Labor Day weekend, when many people go camping, but also the start of bow hunting season Sept. 2. Dutton said there had been a discussion about going to Stage II Restrictions. Those restrictions prohibit campfires, smoking outdoors and implement ‘Hoot Owl’ hours, which prohibit the use of internal combustion engines such as farm equipment and chainsaws between 1 p.m. and 1 a.m. Since much of the Central Land Area, of which the county is a part, includes significant agricultural areas, Dutton said they couldn’t get come to a consensus. They chose instead to amend Stage 1 restriction by prohibiting campfires entirely, including on private land and on classified forest land The amended restrictions went in to effect at 12:01 am Saturday, Sept. 2 Burglaries Dutton also reminded people to keep an eye on their neighbor’s property. He related how tw individuals were arrested noear Helena mid-burglary because a neighbor reported suspicious activity. Deputy Chris Joyce said burglaries are back in the Lincoln area. “We didn’t have any burglaries in the last six or seven months. All of a sudden I’ve had five in the last two weeks,” he said. “ Joyce said all the burglaries were on Stemple Pass. “When you see something weird, that’s out of the ordinary…call me. It allows me to go up and look,” he said. Joyce said it was the report of a downed fence that allowed him to go check on a property, where he discovered the two buildings had been broken into. “I believe it’s all tied in with methamphetamine use. The guys in town are running everywhere for thefts (related to) methamphetamine,” he said. Joyce said people who report suspicious activity can remain anonymous, but the request to check on something or someone allows him to do so without having to wait to see something himself that he can use as probable cause. He also said calling his cell phone isn’t the best bet for a rapid response. “The best way is to call 447 8293. If I’m working or if the other north deputy is working, or if we have a fill in deputy who’s up here, they’ll give it to the right guy,” he said. “I know it might seem like it’s faster to call me, but it’s not.” He explained that if he’s out of cellphone range, dispatch can reach him by radio. Joyce also asked that anyone who may see Justin Mooney, who absconded from bail after being charged with eight felony burglaries across several states and was reportedly seen in the Lincoln area, to call him and report it. Dalton Bridge County Public works director Eric Griffin was on hand to provide an update on the Dalton Mountain Bridge, which is anticipated to open to one lane traffic around Sept. 14. Much of the discussion revolved around the safety of the detour on Herrin Lakes Road, particularly in the area of the blind corner near the west end of the lake. Pat Hagen asked if there was any way to install corner mirrors to help limit the chance of a collision. Griffin agreed to look into it. Hagen also noted that the dust abatement that was applied has been wearing off, and that the road has developed significant wash boarding. Ted Winderl voiced concerns about Sunny Slope cattle trucks being forced to use the detour as well, due to that corner, which he said they can’t navigate. Both Joyce and Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Jessica Knaff offered to help flag traffic for people who need to haul long loads down Herrin Lake road, if they’re available. Winderl also asked if there was any way to fast track the replacement of the entire bridge, which has been planned for 2020, so residents don’t have to go deal with the same issues again in three years. “The biggest thing is we’re short a million bucks,” Griffin said. “For right now, we’re looking at the 14th.” Hooper Restroom Roger Baltz, the county administrator, said the county has sent a certified letter to UBC Precast of Blackfoot Idaho, the company awarded the contract to fabricate the restroom facility for Hooper Park, declaring them in breach of that contract. As of last Friday, he said they hadn’t had any communication from the company for three weeks. “We’re gonna pursue getting our money back, all legal remedies to get our money back,” Baltz said. The possibility remains that UBC could complete and deliver the structure, but if not the county will have to start the contracting process anew, beginning with a request for proposals. “We also have a grant thats at play here for a little over $60,000,” Baltz said. The county has contacted the granting agency about the delay in an effort to make sure they don’t lose the money, which is needed for the facility. “It’s a completely unsatisfactory experience of course for all of us, but that’s where we stand today,” he said.
LOR Foundation awards $100,000 grant to support Lincoln community Roger Dey An application made by the Blackfoot Challenge to a community grant pilot program has led to the award of a $100,000 grant to help Lincoln improve its economic outlook. The funding, coming closely on the heels of the Economic Development Report for Lincoln created by Headwaters Economics, will likely be used to implement or further develop some of the suggested actions outlined in that document. Although Blackfoot Challenge Executive Director Gary Burnett submitted the original application to the pilot program, the grant that came through for Lincoln came as something of a surprise since it was substantially larger than the original request, and came directly from the LOR Foundation. In January, Burnett submitted a grant application for Lincoln to the Intermountain West Community Land and Water program, a pilot program with community-based land and water conservation and community development in mind. The program was led by the Trust for Public Lands and funded by the LOR Foundation, an organization focused on quality of life issues in rural communities near public lands. The original application sought a $20,000 local capacity grant to fund a part-time community coordinator for two years and, separately, access to TPL’s services and expertise in creative planning, finance and resource protection. Lincoln had remained in the running as TPL evaluated 15 communities that applied to the program, but by May the collaboration between TPL and LOR had changed. In a May 19 letter to Burnett, Amy Wyss, co-founder of the LOR Foundation and the foundation’s board chair, explained that TPL and LOR had agreed to conclude the pilot program. However, LOR was still committed to supporting Lincoln and awarded a one year, $100,000 grant to help the community develop a sustainable economy. After receiving word of the award, Burnett spoke to Ben Alexander, the chief program officer for LOR, about the grant’s sideboards. Burnett said he was told not to overthink it, go back to the community member committee identified in the original grant application and come up with a budget within a month. The committee, which includes local community members who have been active in helping Lincoln pursue economic development, including, among others, Erin Dey, Paul Roos, Bill Cyr and Michael Stansberry, met May 31 to begin discussing priorities. “I think it’s pretty fair to say right now we're looking very strongly to the Headwaters Economic Report for Lincoln and using that as our framework.” Burnett said. “What can we get done within that framework and what do we need to do more work on to deliver those things?” Exactly how the money will be utilized has yet to be finalized, but as in the original application, hiring Karyn Good as community coordinator topped the list. Good has taken a leading role in community and economic development concerns through her activity with the Base Camp group and as the community liaison for The Wilderness Society. The grant will initially fund her position one day a week as a Blackfoot Challenge employee tasked with working with local community organizations. Some of the funding is also likely to go toward additional planning and development of projects included in the Headwaters report, as well as toward pursing still more grant funding for the community. Nearly everyone on the committee agreed, however, that the town needs to see some tangible results from the grant funding as well. Based on the Headwaters framework, that potentially could include brochures and recreation access maps, coordinated community marketing efforts, improved trail access or main street beautification projects. “It’s a really exciting opportunity. Not only is there tremendous momentum that’s already occurred, this really helps us to support that momentum and get things done that the communtiy is really excited about getting done,” Burnett said. “Hopefully it will just be the first step . . . to really bring a lot of those assets together to let people know what the availability of those are.” The committee met again June 13 to further refine budget priorities, but details of that meeting weren’t available at press time. While its possible LOR might impose some limitations on the use of the grant once the budget is submitted, Burnett is hopeful that any parameters will remain flexible enough to allow for a variety of project options. “Right now, (Ben Alexander) is saying whatever you want to do to use it to empower the community vision, go ahead and do it.”
Lincoln High School senior wins prestigious college scholarship Connie McCafferty Carroll College is waiting for Orrin Dailey. Come August 24, the Lincoln senior will walk through the doors of O’Connell Hall and join the freshman class of Carroll College, a prestigious private school that US News has rated one of the top colleges in the West, attracting students from around the world. Armed with a $64,000 Trustee Merit Endowment from Carroll College, Orrin has the majority of his four-year financial commitment paid in advance. Additional assistance will come from federal PELL and FASFA grants already received and other smaller scholarships. Dailey plans to major in chemical engineering at Carroll College. His Chemistry teacher, Mr. Pierce said he has no doubt that Orrin will ace college. “He’s got everything he needs, brains, motivation and an amazing work ethic.” Orrin smiles when he admits that chemistry comes easily to him. “I love it. And Mr. Pierce has been a great inspiration,” he said. Carroll College has given Orrin a work-study job in the Science Department to earn money while attending classes. Dailey is accumulating honors in Lincoln before he leaves. On May 16, he was awarded the 2017 Outstanding Math Student certificate by his teacher, Travis Williams. This accolade was followed by the presentation of the 2017 Outstanding Science Student award by his teacher and mentor Mr. George Pierce. Even though his three brothers, Harley, Cody and Clay, think of Orrin as the intellectual nerd of the family, a “well-rounded, happy soul” might be the better description of him. “I like people. I’m non-judgmental and I enjoy all kinds of people. I’m looking forward to meeting lots of new friends at college and living in the dorms,” Orrin said. Not just a math/science techie, some of Orrin’s leisure pursuits also include reading, hunting and working with animals. And he cleans up pretty well, too, looking sharp in a tux as he escorted his date through the promenade at the Lincoln School Prom in April at Cane Ridge West. Orrin credits much of his success to his parents, Jen and Shawn Dailey, long time Lincoln residents and active members of the snowmobile and hunting community. “My parents have been tremendous,” Orrin said. The family moved to Winnett in 2015 for an employment opportunity, but returned to Lincoln amid the cold and snow last December. Unable to find immediate housing upon their return, the family has been living in their RV while a house search continues. The tight quarters were a bit small for the whole Dailey family, so Orrin accepted an invitation from the Wiederhold’s east of town to bunk with them until graduation. When asked what his long-range plans are, Orrin grinned and replied, “I want to succeed. I want to achieve my goals and be a success in life.”
Volunteers helps Skijor Lincoln Make its mark Laurie Richards, president of the Lincoln Valley Chamber of Commerce described the last two weeks as a roller coaster ride, as members of the committee tasked with getting a skijoring event off the ground found themselves adrift, without the guidance and support they’d been promised in November after organizer Kurt Algard was involved in a vehicle accident. “We had no idea,” Richards said of their knowledge of what went into putting on this event. She pointed out that, for a while, all they knew about skijoring came from the few videos they’d seen. In the end, the Chamber committee took the bull by the horns and contacted Skijoring America directors Matt Crossett and Scott Ping, who worked with the LVCC to get them up to speed on everything they needed to do. That led to some late nights, and even some sleepless nights, once they got the lowdown on it all. “And if anybody knows me, I like my jammies on early,” Richards said. In the end, Richards credits the people from the community who stepped forward to help the Chamber pull the event together. “The volunteers were amazing, who came together,” Richards said. “We were having people ask us, ‘what do you want us to do?’” “The volunteers who came out of the woodwork this weekend was amazing,” skijoring committee member Bill Frisbee said. “People that we have not seen volunteer for an event…they stepped out of their comfort zone and said ‘yes, I’m gonna be part of this, and it’s a great thing.’” Lincoln community members were joined by competitors like Richard Weber III, who drove up from Colorado and got to work helping to shape jumps and put up fences as soon as he arrived, to make sure Skijor Lincoln happened. Despite a delay in finalizing the contract for the use of the Rodeo Grounds - which led to unfortunate rumors around town that the event was going to be cancelled - Frisbee said the Rodeo Club went above and beyond what the contract called for. “Our contract said they would not turn on the water. They turned on the water,” he said. “They gave us access to facilities that normally they wouldn’t and they saw that we, as a Chamber, wanted to work together with another organization to do something we needed as a community.” “That’s what’s so unique about skijoring, we just all pull together to make it happen,” Ping said, and explained that finding a place like Lincoln, with lots of volunteers who will pitch in, is instrumental. “I pull into towns and there’s no one to help. They say ‘OK, you got it,’(but) there were lots of volunteers here. Everybody pitched in,” he said. “It was a wonderful race and it’s going to continue and lots of people are going to want to come here and race here, and it’ll get bigger and bigger every year.” Skijor Lincoln had 66 teams sign up for the race, which was lower than some of the more optimistic estimates, but nevertheless was considered an excellent turnout for an inaugural event. Additionally, the Lincoln Volunteer Ambulance manned the gate as a fundraiser and brought in $4851. In terms of attendance, that means the event drew an estimated 1300 to 1500 spectators. So far feedback on the races from spectators, comptitors and locals has been positive, despite some miscommunication and a few hiccups over the weekend, Richards said. “I’ve talked to people and they said they had the best time they’ve had,” Ping said. “They’ve been to a lot of skijoring races and this is their favorite.” Planning for next year’s Skijor Lincoln is already underway and Richards, who has seen and heard firsthand the contempt some people seem to hold for the LVCC, hopes this will help change the perception of the organization and prompt people o be more willing to work together. “We have a handful of people who are very negative. I, myself, am going to try to stay away from that. Think of the positive things we can do when we work together and pull together as a community, instead of the negative,” she said. “I’ve lived in Lincoln my whole life. I want nothing more than to see Lincoln flourish. We have too many closed downtown businesses, and I don’t want to see any more close.”
Lincoln's first skijoring event expected to draw large crowd, national media
Hope Quay In just a couple of weeks Lincoln will host two days of daredevil winter-time fun, drawing national media and crowds of competitors and spectators for an event uniquely suited to the town’s location, personality and interests.The Lincoln Valley Chamber of Commerce, working with Ski Joring America, Wild Horse Stables Skijoring of Helena and the Lincoln Rodeo Club, is helping to organize the debut of skijoring in Lincoln. Reputedly the oldest horse sport in the world, equestrian skijoring originated in Scandinavia as a mode of travel, and was promoted in the 1928 winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Ski Joring America holds western-style equine ski joring competitions in which a horse and rider tow a skier who navigates a series of jumps and obstacles in a timed event. LVCC Treasurer Erin Dey said the idea to bring skijoring to Lincoln was born a couple of years ago, when the chamber received an e-mail from a person involved in skijoring who thought Lincoln might be an ideal site. Although nothing came of it initially, idea was revisited in 2016 and Kurt Algard, owner of Wild Horse Stables Skijoring in Helena, secured Lincoln as the site for the January race. Dey said the LVCC thought skijoring would be a good fit for Lincoln because of the comparatively few community events scheduled during winter months. The LVCC contracted with the Lincoln Rodeo Club to provide the venue for the event, scheduled for Jan. 20 – 22. Algard said he was surprised no one else had already taken that slot, since it is one of the best weekends on the circuit. Though Algard was involved in a serious automobile accident in December, Ski Joring America board member Matt Crossett, based in Colorado, collaborated with other board members to bring the Lincoln event together. The Lincoln race will be the third member race in Montana on Skijoring America’s 2017 calendar. In addition to up to 85 two-person teams, it is estimated the event could bring up to 1000 spectators per day to Lincoln. “If as many people show up as are expected, Lincoln should be on par with rodeo weekend,” Dey said. “At the event a couple of weekends ago in Lakeside, they had about 68 teams and about 2000 spectators.” The event kicks off with Friday night registration held at a local business, followed by about four hours of races beginning at noon on Saturday. Saturday night’s Calcutta auction at the Lincoln Community Hall, where teams will be auctioned off, will raise money for a local non-profit. The winning bidder can win back part of the Calcutta money based on how the team performs Sunday. Money raised during the Calcutta is shared between the non-profit and the winning bidders for the top three fastest teams in each division. Following Sunday’s races, there will be an awards ceremony and payout for Calcutta and event winners. Crossett said Montana has the most Ski Joring America member races, but races take place from New Mexico to Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and, most recently, Wisconsin. He expects at least eight new sanctioned races next year. “It’s really grown quite a bit, just in this last year, and I have a feeling it’s going to maybe even double next year,” he said. “When people see it, they want to do it, and when towns see it they say ‘that’s a great way for us to get some money in our shoulder season and bring people to town,’ and that’s generally what happens,” Crossett told the BVD. “This usually ends up being in pretty small towns.” Looking toward the future, the LVCC hopes this year’s fledgling event will help secure Lincoln as a permanent stop on the circuit for this fast-growing, adrenaline-filled winter sport with a distinctly western feel. “Lincoln is a central location for many Montana skijoring competitors so that puts us in a great spot for future events,” Dey said. As far as attendance, Crossett said, this first year will set the stage for future expectations. “It’s pretty hard to say until we see the first-time event…and how well it’s marketed. In terms of competitors, it’s all about the money. If you have a big prize pot, you get a lot of competitors,” he said. “I would say you could probably expect maybe 1500 people, if they know about it.” Ski Joring America assists in everything from marketing to track design, race registration and organization, and attracts competitors and food and beverage vendors. Crossett said said the Today Show will be present for the Lincoln race, something he made widely known to competitors and which he expects will be a draw for both teams and spectators. “I think we’ll have some vendors out there with food and drink, and we plan on having a bunch of fire pits around there because it always gets really cold,” Crossett said. “It’s a very exciting time, it’s a lot of fun for spectators.” Crossett noted their biggest priority is safety, with an emphasis on horse safety and making sure track conditions are right for the animals. “We clearly mark all of the jumps, because we’ve learned through experience that if things aren’t clearly marked, horses will come down that course and we’ve had horses go over jumps before…every once in a while a horse will get bucking…It’s like a rodeo, you know, but it’s the winter,” he said. “It’s a great event. People have a lot of fun.” Dey said everything is coming together, though she expects that, as with any new event, there will inevitably be hiccups. “Everyone that is volunteering, it’s a new event to them,” she said. “We now have a great team with Ski Joring America and Matt Crossett, and with Kurt Algard with Wild Horse Skijoring. Even if everything doesn’t go smoothly this first year, we all will know how to improve on it for following years.” “Our biggest concern is lack of lodging for spectators and competitors,” she said. “Hopefully every available room will be taken. We want spectators to be able to spend the night so they don’t have to drive the winter roads. I’m excited for a new event, with huge potential to boost the economy of Lincoln.” Dey said volunteers are needed as always, and the LVCC’s main job is to have between 20 and 25 volunteers for both days. “The more the better, if you want to help please contact the Chamber,” Dey said. Volunteers can email the LVCC at email@example.com, call 362-4949, or stop by and visit Laurie Richards at The Wheel Inn, Jill Frisbee at the Pit Stop or Erin Dey at the BVD.
Five Valleys Land Trust completes purchase of Lincoln Community River Park property after county commissioners fund acquisition costs Roger Dey Five Valleys Land Trust closed on the purchase of 9.5 acres of land along the Blackfoot River just east of the Stemple Pass Road Bridge Tuesday, paving the way for the formal creation of the Lincoln Community River Park, which will be managed for benefit of the public. In November, the Lewis and Clark County Commission approved spending $85,000 from the county’s open lands bond to pay the appraised value of the property, but questions arose about whether the county could legally use those same bond funds to pay for ancillary costs, such as surveys, appraisals and closing costs. Such costs are typically included in similar purchases in other counties that have similar open land bonds, but the county attorney’s office issued an opinion saying they county couldn’t legally use such funding for those costs in this case, since they were in addition to the appraised value. However, Dorsey Whitney, the firm that acts as bond counsel for Lewis and Clark County and that wrote the bond language, said such costs were in fact authorized. “The county attorneys’ office takes a conservative view of these things, so they were looking at the exact language, saying it doesn’t specifically say you can do transactions costs,” Commissioner Andy Hunthausen said, “but the bond counsel came back and said it’s implied because you can’t do a transaction and buy a piece of property without having these costs incurred, so we believe it was part of the deal or you wouldn’t be able to get these deals done.” Despite the kerfuffle, the commissioners approved the payment of those costs up to $17,887 at their Dec. 13 meeting. Although they didn’t specify whether the funds would come from the open lands bond or the general fund, Hunthausen said he’s sure the open lands bond will most likely be the funding source. Hunthausen said the commissioners see the value of the river park project both for the community and for public access, which is not always something that results from other projects funded with open lands money.“It’s not publicly owned, but it’s owned by a land trust that is essentially turning it over to the public, so it’s equivalent in some ways to public ownership. We thought that was a really valuable thing.” Paul Roos, who has been a key player in the working group that developed the river park idea and who purchased the property in 2015 to secure it for use as a site for the park, has high hopes for the future of the project “Having the park come to fruition is truly a win for the Lincoln community,” he said Vickie Edwards, the Conservation Project Manager for Five Valleys Land Trust, said they were extremely excited that Lewis and Clark County chose to cover both the appraised value and the related acquisition costs. The commissioners decision came only a week before the closing date on the property sale. “It really made a difference on seeing this project completed as scheduled,” she said. “To be able to have that open space bond funding for these projects is critical in ensuring they come to fruition.” Looking at the next steps, Edwards said “This is where the work starts.” She said sometime around mid-winter they will get together with the informal working group that helped develop the project and which includes a lot of folks who started out with the project more than three years ago. “We will reconvene and talk about next steps and talk about immediate funding needs,” Edwards said. “There are some things that may need to be done to the property before the summer to ensure the management and use also protects the conservation values associated with that property.” High on the list, and in keeping with the management plan approved by Five Valleys in October, is improving the delineation of the makeshift parking area Roos created and the installation of signs. According to the management plan, Five Valleys will also create a more formal Lincoln Community River Park Advisory Committee to advise the land trust on infrastructure, development, an educational program and the creation of a maintenance plan for the park. Generally, the management plan emphasizes protection of the river park’s conservation values, with relatively limited improvements to the property, most of which focus on public access, recreational use, education and restoration. The plan does allow for the construction of maintenance buildings, toilets, picnic tables and shelters, and structures related to education, but Edwards sees such improvements as being limited since most of the property is in the floodplain, which impacts what they can place on the property. “With any sort of development there is a lot of cost associated with that and there is a lot of upkeep as well, from a management perspective,” Edwards said. “We really do see this as a very minimally developed public park for folks to be able to use it as they are now.” Roos, who thanks Lincoln for its support and thanks the members of the working group that helped put everything together, sees the future success of the park ultimately resting in the hands of the community. “We’re gonna have to, as a community, invest now in seeing that this becomes what it has the potential to become,” he said. “The potential of it is yet to be written. It is a footprint on the river with stream access that allows at least foot access within the high-water mark and it gives us an outdoor classroom to do things with kids and community members.” Although the park currently sits under more than a foot of snow, that also gives Roos hope for the future. “I’m hopeful this is a sign we’re gonna have flushing flows that clean our streams and rivers, and refresh them and give corridors to wild trout that run up and down in order to procreate. They’ll be going right by our new River Park,” he said. “It’s an extremely wonderful thing in my mind to see this happening for Lincoln.” When asked if he was referring to the park or the snow, his answer was “all of the above.”
Filling well-known shoes, new county coroner working to modernize office
Hope Quay After the death of longtime Lewis and Clark County Coroner Mickey Nelson in September, the County Commission appointed deputy coroner Bryan Backeberg to complete the term. Backeberg, who was appointed September 27, has plans to streamline and update the records management system. “My goals would be…bringing in the 21st century and bringing in some technology to the office, to modernize it and bring it up to speed,” he said. Backeberg said Nelson, who had been coroner for 42 years at the time of his death, relied on meticulous paperwork rather than technology. “῾Details, details, details’ was his slogan and I can see why, but there are multiple ways to change a light bulb,” he said. Though he was known for his honesty, compassion and commitment to his job, not long before his death the 71-year-old Nelson met with criticism for falling behind on updating death certificates, and being disorganized. According to Lincoln Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Zach Muse, Backeberg has been active in emergency services for the last decade. “He will do a great job,” Muse told the BVD shortly after Backeberg received the appointment. “He has been working with Mickey off and on for the past couple of years...I don’t see anything but positive coming out of this, and I know Mickey would rest easy knowing his office is in good hands.” The county hired deputy coroner Tim Wong to fill Backeberg’s old position in November. Backeberg said he hopes to keep the post, and plans to run in the next election. “I’m doing everything possible that I can to keep the office moving forward,” he said.
Trustees agree to ask voters for seperate levy increase for LRFD Roger Dey BVD LINCOLN - It’s been 41 years since the Lincoln Rural Fire District asked Lincoln tax payers for an increase to the mill levy that funds fire services, but next May they will be putting forth two separate and distinct increase requests before Lincoln area voters. The fire district board of trustees approved a measure at their Dec. 1 board meeting to ask voters to approve an increase of 10.26 mills for fire district operations. The mill levy increase requested is separate from an requested increase in the same amount for emergency medical services approved by the LRFD trustees in October. Since 1975 Lincoln homeowners have been taxed at 18.13 mills for fire district operations. That equated to $24.48 per $100,000 in home value in 2015. The increase would add less than $14 per year for every $100,000 in value, and generate an additional $30,000. The LRFD trustees recognize they are taking a gamble asking for two separate increases to the district mill levy, and discussed both the need for an increase for district operations and the manner in which it should be requested, at a special meeting Nov. 9. The trustees and Fire Chief Zach Muse all agreed that requesting an increase to the fire district operating mill levy was necessary to cover the gap between the current tax base income and the district’s actual operating costs and, keeping long-term needs in mind, to establish a capital improvement fund. The trustees considered asking for both the EMS and district operations increase in a single, combined request, but approved a motion to keep the two requests separate. The trustees tabled a decision on the size of the requested increase until the Dec. 1 meeting. Last year, the LRFD brought in about $51,500 from the existing mill levy, but the annual budget averages around $64,000. “We are operating even or in the red, just to turn on the lights and respond to calls,” Muse said. “That’s not replacing anything, that’s not getting new tires, upgrading turnouts, SCBAs (or) saving for a new building or new technology. Those kinds of things, we would have no money for.” The difference has been made up through donations and money earned by the fire department in wildland fire fighting, neither of which is a guaranteed, stable source of income for the district. LRFD Chairman Bill Frisbee also felt an increase will be needed if they want any chance of establishing a spending plan that can address both the current and future needs of the district. “Eventually we’re going to have to replace some facilities,” he said. “The taxpayer is going to say ‘OK, why are you guys coming to us for a million dollars right now?’ We could have been starting to pay for 10-20-30,000 dollars per year and putting whatever you have left away into a capital improvement fund.” Trustee Gary Weisner kicked off the Dec. 1 discussion by suggesting a $20,000 per year request. Dick Birkholz felt few people would balk at that number, but there was concern that it would only be enough to act as a stop gap and not allow for the development of a capital improvement fund for the future. Frisbee and Muse both felt it would be best to ask for $30,000, the same amount as requested for the EMS contract levy. Frisbee said that would allow them to put $20,000 toward operating costs and $10,000 into a capital improvement fund. It will also help ensure the district isn’t forced to return to the voters to ask for an increase for several more years. In the end, Weisner made the motion to request the 10.26 mill increase, which was approved by trustees present. Although Trustee Mike Wiederhold wasn’t at the December meeting, it will be up to the voters to answer a question he posed Nov. 9: “What level of service does the community expect and what level of service are they willing to pay for?” If both the EMS and fire district mill levies are approved by voters, property owners will be taxed a total of 38.66 mills, or approximately $52 per year per $100,00 in home value, to support both fire and ambulance service for the area.
Ambulance directors discuss reasons for requested mill levy
Roger Dey BVD LINCOLN - At a public meeting that drew about 35 Lincoln-area residents Dec. 1, members of the Lincoln Volunteer Ambulance board of directors laid out the reasons they hope local taxpayers will approve a mill levy in next may’s election that will help keep the ambulance service in business. Faced with existing financial shortfalls that threaten its future and expenses looming just over the horizon, the Lincoln Volunteer Ambulance hosted three meetings earlier this year to discuss the mill levy issue with members of the Lincoln community, but this was the first to draw a large crowd. It was also the first such meeting since the Lincoln Rural Fire District trustees agreed in October to help support the Lincoln Volunteer Ambulance by asking taxpayers for an annual property tax increase of 10.26 mils, which would raise $30,000 to fund an emergency medical services contract with the ambulance service. A provision in state law that says fire chiefs are responsible for providing emergency service, which can include ambulance service, allows the fire district to ask for public funding to support such a contract with the Lincoln Volunteer Ambulance. “The big picture is, it costs a lot to keep an ambulance service going and we don’t have a lot of money. We’ve been trying the last two years to come up with every option to find funds for the ambulance. The mill levy came down as a last resort., Ambulance board President Aaron Birkholz told the crowd. He pointed out that the billing system in the medical world is such that the people who pay their bills ultimately pay for the people who don’t. “That’s just the society we live in., this is the last thing we want to do, but we’re at that point. If Lincoln wants a community ambulance, they’ve got to help pay for it.” Several factors have taken a toll on the ambulance finances. Birkholz said a few years ago the LVA had about $120,000 in savings from donations. Matching funds for the grant that funded the new ambulance and construction of the ambulance barn nearly wiped out those savings. During the meeting, the ambulance board members discussed in some detail the cost of the equipment they use, as well as the monthly cost of insurance, utilities, medical supplies and equipment, among others. LVA operating costs average about $3500 per month if they never respond to an emergency, ambulance billing specialist Laura Nicolai said, but can run as high as $8000 during a busy month, due in part to the new building and equipment. Coupled with an increase in the number of patients who don’t pay their ambulance bills, the service has had to get by month to month, with minimal savings. Nicolai said average ambulance runs to Helena are billed out at $1300 to $1500, and those to Great Falls or Missoula average $1700 to $1800, depending on the supplies that are used. “That may seem like a lot, but when you look at our insurance and you look at everything, that’s what it costs us. We’re not out to make any money,” Birkholz said. The LVA writes off about $50,000 per year due to bad debt, patients with no insurance or patients who are underinsured, Nicolai said. This year, the ambulance has billed out $125,502. Of that, $68,093 has gone unpaid. “That shows a lot was billed out and a lot went to collections,” he said. “When we say it went to collections, we’re saying we’re never gonna see it.” Birkholz said collection agencies take half and they only see on average about $15-20 a month from those efforts. Currently the ambulance has about $12,000 in checking and another $20,000 in savings. Due to the issue with nonpayment, ambulance vice president Chris Castagne said they are sometimes asked why they don’t simply refuse to respond to the addresses of people they know won’t pay their bill. “People will ask ‘why do you go to those, why do you just not respond?’ It gets a little sketchy playing God in a few of these things.” He said, and pointed out that while such calls can be pointless, they can also be a serious, legitimate medical problem. There is no way of knowing until they arrive. “I’ve been on calls at a known address that was a problem address, for an unknown injury. Turned out it was an officer who was hurt.” The LVA board members explained that cost cutting isn’t really an option, either. From training to equipment replacement and maintenance schedules, the regulations and licensing requirements the ambulance service has to meet don’t really leave any wiggle room in that respect. The idea of bringing in a paid ambulance service in lieu of the LVA was also discussed briefly. Birkholz said it would never be cost effective. He said the bare minimum for a paid advanced EMT service, staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, would cost nearly $435,000 per year. Ambulance runs in the Lincoln area only generate about $70,000 worth of income per year. “You’re not going to get a private service that will come in here and eat $350,000 to $400,000 per year and stay here,” he said. The money provided to the Lincoln Volunteer Ambulance through the contract with the Fire District would be used primarily to fund needed training for ambulance crews, and to build up savings to cover emergency equipment repair or replacement and as matching funds for grants the LVA depends on for new equipment. It would also provide a dependable, annual source of income for the service and allow for more accurate budgeting, something that has been problematic due to the unpredictable nature of both ambulance calls and income from patient billing, Although the requested funding for the contract for the LVA would come from property owners within the Lincoln Fire District, Birkholz said they wouldn’t restrict their responses strictly to the district boundaries. “If we were to just say we’re going to stay in the Lincoln Fire District, that stops at the Powell county border which is . . . five miles out of town. Say you’re a Lincoln resident and you wreck just outside that in Powell county. You’re stuck in that wreck with no medical.” The LVA currently covers about 1300 square miles from east of Rogers Pass west to Monture Creek and south to the Nevada Creek reservoir. The board is also working on a non-paying contract with the County Ambulance Board that will increase their area of responsibility somewhat, but will also specify St. Peters as Lincoln’s backup ambulance, which would require them to respond here if Lincoln Ambulance cannot, which is something they've never had a specific obligation to do in the past. Birkholz explained that mill levy language will include a stipulation that if the Lincoln Volunteer Ambulance were to ever go away, the mill levy would also cease to exist. He said its sole purpose is for the contract with the LVA and couldn’t be kept in effect and used for a different purpose.
Local group meets to share sewing, quilting techniques
Hope Quay BVD LINCOLN - Since last January, an informal group of Lincoln ladies have been meeting once a week in the Lincoln Library conference room to sew, socialize and exchange ideas and expertise. Local women Darlene Templeton and Jesse Sallin first conceived of the group as a way for Sallin to share her wealth of quilting knowledge. “Jesse and I were talking about how I wanted to learn to quilt,” said Templeton, who has been sewing since she was in the sixth grade, “and it just went from there.” Templeton invited Rosaire Hoffman to join them, and soon a group of three to five was meeting regularly. With Sallin’s help, Templeton and Hoffman have both since completed quilts – a skill that has a special meaning for Hoffman, who came to the group knowing little more than how to sew on buttons, and has now completed two quilts using her late mother’s fabric. “My mom had actually done all of these squares and they were just in a zip-loc bag and I found them when she passed away. So Jesse and Darlene taught me how to make a quilt out of them,” Hoffman said. “I just thought to honor mom’s memory.” Hoffman used her mother’s squares to make her first quilt, which she gifted to her sister, then went on to make a queen sized quilt for her daughter, also from her mother’s fabric. Though the group evolved from Templeton’s request that Sallin teach her to quilt, it is more of a fun social gathering than a structured lesson environment, with lots of room for creativity. “One lady is doing a granny square afghan, and Rosaire’s doing a quilt and I’m doing a quilt and you never know what Jesse’s doing,” Templeton said. “Sometimes its potholders and sometimes it’s quilts and we had one lady that learned to knit. So it’s just whatever kind of crafty thing you want to do.” Sallin still sews on her grandmother’s 1936 Singer sewing machine, which she brings with her to the group’s Monday meetings. “She paid three dollars a month for it,” Sallin said of the machine. “It works wonderful. You can’t beat it, and she sewed a lot on it. I think it was probably the only one she ever had and she sewed wedding dresses and…whatever needed to be sewn, she sewed.” Despite the history behind her sewing machine, Sallin said she is mostly a self-taught seamstress who, like Templeton, started sewing between the ages of 10 and 12. “You know, Jesse, she’s just got more information in that little head than anybody I know,” Templeton said. “Jesse teaches the quilting, and she’s teaching another lady how to crochet,” said Hoffman. The group meets from 8-4 on Mondays, and usually breaks for lunch from a local restaurant. Sallin said they enjoy the space, and the occasional visitor who notices them working through the library window and drops in to say hello. “[Librarians] Sherri and Eleanor have been so gracious with us being here,” said Hoffman. “They’ve been just great.” Sallin is happy to share her knowledge, and the group welcomes newcomers free of charge. “Bring what you want to do, and we work on it,” she said. “We just have a good time and act silly, tell stories on ourselves. Whoever wants to come is certainly welcome. If they want to learn something, we can usually teach them what they want to learn.”
River park property purchase approved;transaction costs remain in question
Roger Dey BVD Editor LINCOLN - Lincoln’s community river park is one step closer to becoming a reality after the Lewis and Clark County Commission approved $85,000 in Open Lands Progam bond funding to pay the appraised value of the 9.45-acre property just east of the Stemple Road bridge. The Nov. 10 decision to fund the property purchase price came about after Five Valleys Land Trust, the project sponsor, split the original $103,000 request by separating out roughly $13,000 in transition costs associated with acquiring the property. Five Valleys was prompted to modify their request following questions about the legality of paying transaction costs with bond funds became a sticking point during the Oct 25 open lands board hearing in Helena. In a Nov. 6 letter, Deputy County Attorney Katie Jerstad responded to the commissioner’s request for a legal opinion on the subject and said it was her opinion that the county could not spend open land bond funds to pay the transaction costs of the sponsor. “Realizing that the county had concerns, and (with) the recently released legal opinion of the Lewis and Clark County attorney’s office, we requested at the last public hearing that they separate out their motions,” Five Valleys Program Manager Vickie Edwards said. “One to vote on spending bond funds on the acquisition of the river park property from Paul (Roos), and a second motion to evaluate transaction costs and table that until they had an opportunity to evaluate the county attorney’s legal opinion.” Roos, who had been working with a group of locals and both Five Valleys and Prickly Pear Land Trusts to develop a river front park, purchased the property in 2015 to secure it until the land trusts could find the funding to acquire it for use as a public park. “I’m happy that they saw the wisdom to support the actual purchase of the property,” Roos said, adding he hopes the county will choose to cover the transaction costs being footed by Five Valleys Land Trust. “No matter what the law says, it seems like the logical intent would be that the transaction costs would be involved as well.” Glenn Marx, Executive Director of the Montana Association of Land Trusts, said they plan to look at how the bond language may have been interpreted in the past and how the four other counties in Montana with open lands bonds have worded and interpreted their bond language as they prepare a response for the Nov. 29 county commissioner’s meeting in Helena. The project has drawn the support of the county commissioners, who see the access, conservation, economic and safety benefits the park will provide Lincoln. Money from the Open Lands bond, approved by county voters in 2008, is most often used for conservation easements, but can be used to provide funding for land purchases by other entities, such as land trusts if the commissioners feel it addresses the public’s interests and a landowner’s needs. “I can assure you that the Lewis and Clark County Commissioners are 100 percent in agreement. This is the poster child of all of the best in that open space bond; this is what it was intended to do. it is the perfect project,” Lewis and Clark county Commissioner Susan Good Geise said during a visit with the BVD. “This serves every economic strata. I mean swimming, picnicking, fishing are some of the cheapest things a family can do for recreation and it’ll be right there, and it’s for everybody. You can be a Rockefeller or you can be barely scraping by and enjoy that parcel.” Geise explained the crux of the argument as she understands it. “They maintain that if it is not specifically enumerated in the bond language, it is not an allowable expense to be paid for out of the open space bond,” she said. Since the bond language doesn’t specifically state it will pay acquisitions costs incurred by a project sponsor, the county attorney’s office believes they can’t pay for them using Open Lands bond money. According to Jerstad’s opinion, the county can’t pay the transaction costs because they are over and above the appraised value of the property and under state law, counties are forbidden from paying more than the appraised value for property. Jerstad’s letter showed that the county has, on two past projects, approved more than the requested amount and covered the transaction costs, but she said it was able to do so because the funding request and transactional costs together amounted to less than the property’s appraised value. “It does seem to be inconsistent with how other counties approach these decisions,” Marx said. Marx said Missoula County’s open land bond language was written specifically to cover transaction costs, while Lewis and Clark county’s bond is entirely silent on the subject. All the (open land) bond measures are consistent, but not identical.” he said. The bond language says the county can provide funds “to acquire conservation easement or other property interests from willing sellers and to pay costs associated with the sale and issuance of bonds,” but in Jerstad’s opinion it doesn’t include costs incurred by the project sponsors or applicants. Giese indicated the commissioners feel it should be interpreted more openly, and that covering transactions costs would be within the intent of the Open Land Bond. Marx also thinks the bond language may be open to interpretation and believes the county commission has the latitude to pay transactions costs using bond funding. “We say there are many things that are not articulated that are in (the bond language),” Geise said. “If it’s not specifically forbidden, then we think we can do it.” Jerstad, however, argues that transaction costs were specifically omitted from the open space ballot, possibly due to the suggestion that Lewis and Clark County voters wouldn’t have supported the bond if the language were broader. Although the dispute has the potential to go into the court system for a final decision, Edwards and Marks don’t anticipate that happening. “I can’t imagining a scenario where the land trust community would sue anyone,” Marx said. Edwards explained they try to avoid litigation as part their effort to maintain their good relationships with landowners and project partners. “We really appreciate Lewis and Clark County as a partner, not only on this project, but future projects as well,” she said. “If for some reason it falls through and the county cannot help us cover those transaction costs, we will continue with our fundraising efforts to ensure the community’s vision becomes a reality,” Edwards said. “We’re not giving up on it. we’ll continue to fundraise and we are committed to the project and making sure this happens.” At the Nov. 4 Lincoln Government Day meeting Commissioner Mike Murray encouraged Lincoln residents to support the project with “a few shekels.” “It would help the project along if we had more partners who could kick in five or ten bucks or a hundred bucks, or whatever’s appropriate to you as an individual,” he said. About $2600 has already been donated to support the project. Edwards said anyone wishing to make a tax deductible donation to the project, can contact Five Valleys Land Trust at 406-549-0755 or go to their website www.fvlt.org, navigate through the donations page and type in Lincoln park in the comment section.
Lincoln Fire Station One demolished due to structural weakness, new station in works
Roger Dey BVD Editor
LINCOLN - Structural damage to the Lincoln Rural Fire District Station One, located next door to the Lincoln Community Hall, led to its demolition Monday, Nov. 7. The station will be replaced with a new building funded by a fire district insurance policy. Lincoln Fire Chief Zach Muse said the new stick-built structure will be set on a new concrete foundation and be somewhat larger than the original. If everything stays on schedule, construction is expected to be finished near the beginning of December. Muse said the original building, which housed the LRFD’s two brush trucks, had seen some damage from vehicles hitting it over the years, but appeared to have been hit again recently. He discovered the additional damage earlier this year while preparing for a repainting project. The station, which dated to the 1950s and was originally a single-vehicle structure that served as the Lincoln Volunteer Fire Department’s first fire hall, sat on an old, degraded concrete footing, Muse said. On top of the footing, cinder blocks served as the foundation for the walls. On the east side, damage from the apparent vehicle impact had cracked the cinder blocks and pushed them inward. He said the remaining cinder blocks all the way around the building were also shattered. The new damage led the LRFD to bring in an engineer and an appraiser who went through the building to evaluate the structure and estimate the cost of replacing it. “When they did that they also looked at it to see what it would cost to lift the building and replace the foundation, but. . . the last time it was hit it twisted the whole building,” Muse said. “It is in such disrepair that when the structural engineer looked at it, he told us, Zach and I, that he would be very,very concerned about it even holding up this winter with snow load,” said Bill Frisbee, Chairman of the LRFD Board of Trustees. “When you've got... probably $75,000 worth of vehicles in there, we just can’t take the chance of it doing that. The only other place to store those vehicles we would have to rent.” Instead, the insurance company approved the new building. “If nobody would have ever run into the building, we wouldn’t have a problem,” Frisbee said. “I think the big thing is that insurance is taking care of it. District funds are not taking care of it.” He credited earlier leadership of the fire district for having the foresight to insure the LRFD buildings. “We are very thankful that prior chiefs and prior trustees had the foresight to say 'we need to make sure these are insured so that they are sound structures,’ so we can store . . . the community’s assets,” Frisbee said. Stalnaker Construction handled the demolition of the old building. Precision Enterprises is expected to pour the new foundation in a few days and Bent Nail Construction will handle the new building construction. Muse said the donation of some portions of the job by the contractors should save the Fire District enough money to allow them to install larger doors in the new station, which will accommodate larger vehicles if needed. He said they also hope to install a heater at some point, which will let them keep the brush trucks filled with water and readily available during the shoulder seasons. In the old, unheated building they would have to be drained to ensure freezing in the spring and autumn didn’t damage the pumps and fittings. Station One is located on property owned by the Sportsman Motel. The LRFD has a perpetual easement on the property for as long as they use it as the location of a fire station. “If in 15 or 20 years we build a new fire hall and don't have a use for it, it would go back to the Sportsman,” Muse said.
Major works: Launch of new installations highlights signif icance of artwork works at BPSW
About 50 people trailed along behind Chris Drury as he made his way down the path toward his “Ponderosa Whirlpool.” As they gathered around the edge of the piece, he spoke about the forces of nature and the spiraling shape of the vortex that can be found in everything from strands of DNA to the structure of galaxies. “I’ve admired this man for many years and to get Chris Drury here has been just absolutely wonderful and he’s put an incredibly inspiring piece into our landscape,” Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild Artistic Director Kevin O’Dwyer told the crowd before they headed out to see the new artwork at the sculpture park. “The piece just ties in beautifully; it’s a really wonderful piece to have on site.” BPSW officially unveiled Drury’s whirlpool and University of Montana Emerging Artist Tyler Nansen’’ “Bat Beacons,” to the public Saturday Oct. 1, with presentations by the artists. Drury has been a major player in the environmental art movement for more than 40 years and his involvement with BPSW further highlights the significance of the work that has been created at Sculpture in the Wild. Drury is known for designs using a whirlpool or vortex motif and he told the group “Ponderosa Whirlpool” is the largest such design he’s ever built. “I don’t know if the people of Lincoln understand what’s happening here,” artist Steven Siegel said. “But if this develops at the rate it has been for a couple more years, you’re gonna have a little economic engine I think. I’m thrilled.” Two years ago, Siegel was one of the first five artists to create artwork for Sculpture in the Wild. His massive sculpture “Hill and Valley,” remains one of the anchor pieces at the sculpture park, despite concerns by some that the sculpture would blow apart in the wind and spread newspaper scraps around the valley. He returned this year as a member of the BPSW board of directors for the launch of the newest installations at the sculpture park and was impressed by the strides made in such a short time. “I was blown away when I walked through here this morning. I couldn’t believe it. I think Kevin and everybody who’s been involved have done a fantastic job and this is becoming a destination. I certainly will be telling everybody I know about it.” In addition to being the first sculpture park dedicated to entirely site-specific, monumental environmental sculpture, it is home to some of the largest and most significant work created by the artists who have come here. Siegel’s “Hill and Valley” ranks as his largest - and last – piece created out of newspaper overruns. After two year’s its scale actually caught him off guard. “It’s so huge. It actually surprised me when I went up to it because I haven’t seen it,” Siegel said. The mirror-like “House of Sky’ has the distinction of being Alan Counihan’s tallest creation, while Dutch artist Jorn Ronnau’s “Gateway of Change’ is also among his largest creations, and the Delany Mill Teepee Burner is largest piece of industrial architecture repurposed as artwork by O’Dwyer. Next year, Sculpture in the Wild will also be home to not one, but two Jaako Pernu creations, the only two in the United States at this point. The Finnish artist completed “Portrait” in 2014, which was is his first work in the US and the only one to incorporate a frame, and next year he is slated to return to create a gateway sculpture for the sculpture park. This year also marks the first year of the University of Montana Emerging artist program, which has the potential to serve as a launching pad by giving for the next generation of environment artists a place to create their first major work. “I think now that we have this collaboration with the University of Montana it’s also going to bring in young artists to get that opportunity to work with the artists that are established,” O’Dwyer said. Tyler Nansen, who aid he went on a road trip to look at the land art pieces created in the 60s and 70s as part of his master’s thesis, is the first emerging artist to take part and he set the bar with his “Bat Beacon,” sixteen raw lodgepoles set in a grid and topped with 40-inch tall, black bat houses that can hold up to 3,600 brown bats during the summer. Nansen, whose interest lies in exploring how people view landscape through the window of architecture, said it didn’t start with an interest in bats. “This piece started with a spatial interest and from there it grew into (something) functional… form is very secondary,” Nansen explained when asked by Siegel how he’d feel if people simply responded to the form, without any knowledge it dealt with bat habitat. “Its been great to have such a strong project from an emerging artist,” O’Dwyer said. This is a great opportunity for any of us who’ve gone through the mill; for a young artist to do a major piece and to have the expertise around him…I think Tyler would be the first to say it’s a learning curve.” With both established and up-and-coming artists coming to Lincoln to create artwork, Siegel sees the potential for Sculpture in the Wild to become something more than people may appreciate at the moment. “Look at this, you’ve got this right here in town. You’ve got music in there, you can have stuff happening. I think it’s terrific,” he said. “For public art, this is one of the few instances where it just really works. The whole program works.”
Not just for the birds: Trumpeter swan release a unique chance for Lincoln kids learn about Blackfoot Valley wildlife & ecology
When Lincoln teacher Gary Roberson left Lincoln in 2001, trumpeter swans weren’t to be found in the Blackfoot Valley. Fifteen years later years later, he found himself sitting in in a folding chair by Jones Lake near Ovando, holding tightly a nearly full grown cygnet. “I was told they were babies, so I was expecting a baby,” he said. Roberson, who joined Lincoln fourth grade teacher Stacy Mannix, teacher’s aide Vicki West and about 30 Lincoln grade school students for the Blackfoot Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program’s 12th Annual Swan Release, said he had the honor of releasing the swan because most of the other teachers had already done it, and it came down to him and West. “They were like ‘We think one of you two should do it,’ Vicki said ‘Well, I’d just as soon have Gary do it.’ So that was fine by me,” Roberson said. Roberson, who worked as the Lincoln High history teacher from 1992 to 2001 and returned this year as the school’s special education teacher, said he wasn’t aware at the outset that the swan release program got its start with Louie Bouma. “I hadn’t seen him in like 15 years. When I was sitting in the chair there and . . . I was making sure the bird didn’t get loose, then all of a sudden there’s Louie. It was really nice seeing him.” From a historical perspective, Roberson said it’s neat that the swan release is helping restore balance of wildlife in the valley, and providing an educational opportunity. “I think it’s just great. Not only for the swans themselves and get that balance back in the valley, get the numbers up where they belong, but ..just to have the kids become a part of that.” Unfortunately, the swan release may become a victim of it’s own success. Greg Neudecker, with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, told the crowd this year that the restoration effort has been successful enough that they may only do one or two more swan releases. For Mannix that’s a little saddening, because kids may not understand how significant the project really is. “I think it’s a great opportunity for kids to see a project...that started at a grass roots level,” she said. She’s hopeful that after the swan releases end, Lincoln kids will still have the chance to take part in field trips to observe the birds that return to nest in the valley every year, because one of her favorite parts of teaching is getting kids out into the ecosystem to see nature first hand. “It’s better than a text book … ‘turn to page 29’…” she said. After the cygnets were released into the lake, the Lincoln kids had the chance to get up close and personal with nature. Braving the stiff, chilly wind, they made the rounds to a number of learning stations set up on the hill above the lake. Their first stop was at a table covered with plastic bins full of water and weeds from the lake. They used pipettes to find and identify macro invertebrates bugs- living among the weeds as they learned what swans typically eat. Mannix told the students they had to name at least one of the bugs they found, and closed a well-worn loophole “And no, you can’t say his name was Fred,” she told them. For fourth grader Tahvo fattin, Thursday’s experience left an impression, particularly the sight of the young swans heading out into the lake, flapping their wings and running on the water. “It was really cool and just . . beautiful,” he said.
Fire Department well falls short of expectations
The Lincoln Volunteer Fire Department is hoping for a normal water year next year to test the volume of the new well completed in 2015. The well, located behind the BVD office, was designed to provide an easily accessible refill station for the departments water tenders and to act as a fire hydrant that could supply water to fires in downtown Lincoln within 1000 feet of the well. In addition to improved fire protection for much of the downtown area, the presence of the well was expected to lower fire insurance costs for homes and businesses within that radius. Dug in 2012 following four years of effort to find a site and procure an easement for the well and pump house, the well was expected to pump 1500 gallons per minute. Construction of the pump house and installation of a diesel-powered pump, originally slated for 2013, was completed in late 2015. When the cap on the well head was removed as part of the installation last year, members of the fire district involved in hooking up the pump were concerned by the low level of water at the bottom of the well. Indeed, the new well has only been capable of producing a steady flow of water at about 120 to 140 gallons per minute, less than 10 percent of the volume anticipated. The primary problem with the design of the well may simply be that it’s too shallow, particularly in dry years. The well, constructed of large diameter PVC with lateral pipes that extend horizontally outward, extend only about seven feet below the surface of the ground. It’s a depth that doesn’t provide much leeway. According to Montana Department of Environmental Quality well logs, the static water level in nearby monitoring wells was measured at between 5.6 and 6.12 feet in 1992. When asked about the status of the well at the August Lincoln Rural Fire District meeting, Fire Chief Zach Muse said it’s an issue that’s always on his mind. Although he didn’t have a role in the original design of the well, getting it operational has since become part of his responsibility. Muse pointed out that Lewis and Clark County has been in a fairly substantial drought for the last two years. Facing a winter that’s forecasted to see improved snowpack, he would like to wait until next year to see what the water flow from the pump will be like under more normal conditions, rather than making a hasty decision that could cost the Fire District still more money. An analysis of LRFD treasurers reports between September 2013 and December 2015 shows costs associated with construction of the pump house exceeded $14,000. However, since it’s likely that the full capabilities of the pump house will be crucial during drier years, Muse acknowledged something more may need to be done. He estimates the well needs to be about three to four feet deeper than it is to see a flow rate closer to what was originally expected. Unfortunately, with a concrete pad and building in place, the question of how to deepen the well is a thorny one. Ideas have ranged from digging an entirely new well next to the pump house and plumbing it into the pump, to lifting the building out of the way to make room for a drill rig that could deepen the existing well. With a relatively new Fire District board in place, the trustees haven’t tackled the issue yet, but when they do, Chairman Bill Frisbee says it will involve a discussion with residents on the community’s priorities. “I think it will have to be something we get community input on as to what to do,” he said.
Late night fire damages home on 3rd St. North
Lincoln volunteer firefighters responded to a structure fire that damaged a house on 3rd Street North early Friday morning. The fire was reported at about 1 a.m., after neighbors living on 2nd Street North noticed the fire burning in the home a block north. Lincoln Fire Chief Zach Muse said the neighbors climbed the fence onto the property and awakened the home owner Gary Dilree. “It was lucky for Gary they were around,” Muse said. The cause of the fire appeared to Muse to have been electrical, which he said agreed with what Dilree had told him. The fire apparently burned for some time, before it got hot enough to ignite the home’s propane line. Muse said the propane line going in to the house was metal, but he suspects the fire melted a section of non-metallic line where it came up out of the ground. “Once it got that then it was all over,” he said. Although he used four fire extinguishers on the flames, Muse said he was only able to knock the flames back long enough to get the propane shut off. He said the fire had already taken hold and was in the buildings rafters by that point. Nine firefighters responded to the fire, but Before they could begin to battle the blaze with their equipment, they had to wait for the power to be cut to the building or risk electrocution. Although he asked dispatch to contact the utility company, Muse said he also contacted local Northwestern Energy lineman Mike Campbell Campbell directly. “When he got there they were all ready to go. Everything was laid out and the hoses were charged,” Muse said. “The minute he said ‘it’s off,’ we were spraying water.” Although the fire had gotten in to the attic and had started spreading there, Muse said they were able to get it under control before the flames reached Dilree’s bedroom and laundry room. Muse credits Campbell’s quick response with helping the fire department get structure fires under control quickly, before they can spread to neighboring buildings. “Having Mike here and his extremely quick responses gives us a leg up on it. We may not be able to save the building, but we have been able to save many peoples belongings.” Last week’s fire is the fifth structure fire in the neighborhood on the north east side of Lincoln since March 2015. Of the five, three were believed to have been caused by the improper handling of fireplace ash and two appeared to have involved damage to propane lines.
Young black bear approaches kids in center of Lincoln
Story/photos by Roger Dey BVD Editor 8-25-16 A few Lincoln kids got a surprise Thursday afternoon when a young black bear came within about ten feet of them while they were playing near the field behind the old Montanan Steakhouse The bear, estimated to be two and a half to four years old, had apparently been hanging out in the tall grass behind the Montanan when it approached Damion Birkholz, his cousin Azreal and another friend. “We were sitting there and we were talking and Azrael was like, ‘hey there’s a deer,’ and I turned around and saw its ears right there and it scared me,” Damion said. “ I was like ‘That’s a bear’ and all us kids bolted back to the house.” The bear was apparently unconcerned by the kids presence and Damien said he’s not sure if the bear actually saw them. Nevertheless, the bear didn’t seem too worried by the presence of people, and his apparent lack of concern had Aaron Birkholz, Damien’s father, a bit concerned himself. The bear ultimately climbed about ten feet up a Ponderosa near his house, but it wasn’t people who spooked it, Birkholz said. It was the noise of a helicopter that flew overhead on its way to the Black Mountain Fire. Pat Shanley, the Lincoln Ranger District wildlife biologist, who showed up for a look at the bear, said it’s been a pretty quiet year in Lincoln for bears. “It’s been really good berry production,” he said. “Typically when we have good berry crops we don’t have nearly as many bears in town, so this is really the first I’ve been aware of.” Shanley said the bear was likely born in the area and that his mother got him familiar with the area. “He’s on his own, but he’s not a real big bear.” He said the bear could have been working around the periphery of town, but was surprised he hadn’t been reported before, given how casual he seemed to be around people. Lincoln Game Warden Ezra Schwalm, who happened to be in Lincoln at the time, received a call form a Lewis and Clark county Sheriff’s Office about the bear. He arrived to assess the situation. Although he initially considered tranquilizing the bear since it was low in the tree, he instead decided a live trap might be a better option. “Their reaction to being hit with a dart is to go higher,” he said. That in turn could have resulted in a fatal fall. However, before Schwalm could deploy the trap and get it baited, the bear climbed out of the tree, which in turn led Schwalm to Plan C, which was to get it to run it out of town to the north. “I had my doubts, with all the houses and fences that it would work out,” he admitted,”but it did.” With Shanley’s help, Schwalm followed the young bruin as it made its way east. Near Teresa G’s it turned north and the chase ultimately led to Lambkin Park, where the bear disappeared into the trees. Although Schwalm and Shanley looked for the bear they couldn’t find it and believe it continued on north. Schwalm said he expected to get a call about it returning to town, but so far that hasn’t happened. He said as far as he knows the bear wasn’t drawn to town by a food source and, despite its apparent lack of concern about people, he suspects it just wandered into town as area bears sometimes do. If someone does spot a bear in town, Schwalm advised calling it in and then leaving it alone. “These things always draw a crowd, and that’s not helpful,” he said. He said in most cases such bears will climb into a tree, wait for dark and then leave.
Ellen Mulcare: A life lived in Lincoln
Hope Quay BVD 7-28-16 In the course of a long and colorful life, Ellen Mulcare has filled many roles. Throughout her 87 years on this earth she has been, amongst other things, a daughter, mother, wife, teacher, proprietress, book-keeper, adventurer, out-doorswoman and historian. Of those 87 eventful years, roughly 80 of them were spent right here in Lincoln, Montana. Ellen was born into one of Lincoln’s oldest and most recognizable families, the Lambkins. Her mother, Mary Preputin Lambkin, was from a family of Penn-sylvania coal miners who had come west in search of mining work and settled near Great Falls. Her fa-ther, Leonard Lambkin, was an English immigrant with aspirations of Western grandeur. “Dad came here to the states...in London he was working for the paper mills, and they sent him to Ontar-io Canada. He stayed there for a while and he really didn’t like it…He became aware that Elsie Didrickson, who was a first cousin, and her family lived in Great Falls. So he rode the train there. Elsie’s father owned a bar and gave my dad inter-est in it.” Charlie Russell was a fre-quent patron of that saloon, and it was he who told Len Lambkin about the Lincoln area. After making a visit, Len purchased a large sec-tion of property that includ-ed a store, post office, and log hotel with an adjoin-ing section of rooms, and moved his wife and infant son to Lincoln in 1919. The Lambkins leased the store and post office to their cousins Paul and Elsie Didricksen, and took up residence in the hotel, oper-ating a boarding house style establishment out of it while building additional guest cabins. Once the cabins were finished, the old hotel’s adjoining section was torn down in 1928 and construc-tion was started on a new log hotel. Now registered on the National Register of Historic Places, that log hotel still stands as Lincoln’s heart today. As they grew their busi-ness, the Lambkins were also growing their family. They had four children, of whom Ellen, born in 1929, was the youngest. “It seemed just about all of us kids were born in the winter,” Ellen said of her birth. “So, Dad took my mom to Silver City - the train came through Silver. He put her on the train. Her parents lived in Great Falls. She stayed there until it was time for me to be born and come home. I think he prob-ably had to take the horse and sleigh and go over the hill to pick us up. The roads weren’t kept open in the winter.” Growing up in Lincoln in the 30s and 40s wasn’t easy, Ellen remembered. Though the Lambkins were constantly working to improve their business and grow their assets they, like many others, suffered eco-nomically during the great depression. This was fol-lowed by personal tragedy when Ellen’s only brother, Leonard, was killed in World War II. Later, the Lambkins Bar and Restaurant was lost to a fire. “The one that burned was my dad’s bar and restau-rant,” she said. “A man by the name of Heinie Opp built and operated it. He began to lose ideas about it, so he sold it to my dad, and Dad rebuilt it…and the dance hall he turned into a big restaurant. Lovely, lovely place. It was December…terrible cold night, and my uncle-he tended bar and he stayed there at night - he woke up and smelled smoke. He opened his bedroom door and the place was full of smoke. So he called the hotel, got us up, said the bar was on fire. It was so cold…they did have pumps in the ground all over, but it was so cold they couldn’t pump the water. It froze in the hoses – froze in the ground. So they couldn’t do anything about it.” Lost in that fire were twelve original Charlie Rus-sell pencil sketches. “Charlie Russell used to come to my Dad’s to have a little drink now and then – toddy- but he never had any money. So Dad just put it on the tab. One day, Char-lie came in with his arms full of pencil sketches. Dad had them mounted, and he had just moved them from the old bar [in the old Hotel] into the new one that burned. Those pictures burned with it.” Ellen remembered the winters as particularly dif-ficult during her childhood. “As a small girl it was dang tough,” she said. “Our old hotel…was built in the late 1860s – a log building – and when we had a bad northeastern you’d get up in the morning and there was a snowdrift on the floor. The snow came right in…between the logs. The winters were terribly hard. To go to school, you put on everything you could and walked…times were tough. The winters were so long.” Ellen was educated through the eighth grade in Lincoln’s one room school house. She then attended high school in Helena, where students from Lin-coln would board with relatives, family friends and sometimes even strangers. “Whenever I’d get a chance to go home, I would,” she recalled of boarding in Helena. “But, Mother said ‘unless you have a ride to Lincoln and a ride so you’re back in Helena Sunday night, don’t you come home. She didn’t want me missing any classes Monday morning.” After graduating from Helena High School in 1947 she attended Holy Names Catholic College in Spokane, Wash., for one year. “I missed Lincoln,” she said of her time in Spokane. “Oh, God, I loved Lincoln.” While in Spokane, El-len received a letter from a friend who was also her former teacher. “She said ‘Ellen, I have been made aware that Mon-tana is hiring teachers on a special permit. You have to have one year of college and so many education credits.’ So, I talked to the Sisters and…that’s just what hap-pened.” Ellen returned to her be-loved Lincoln to teach. “When I started teaching there they had remod-eled the one little room and built a room on each end. I taught the first four grades.” “I did teach about five years, and I loved it - espe-cially with the little people. There were 24 students, four grades, and that kept me hopping. At night I’d go home and stay at the hotel and help my mother, and I always had papers to correct until midnight. But I loved it, it was a good life.” During this time, Ellen received a letter from the same friend, inviting her to visit her in Alaska, at the Army air base in Big Delta – now called Fairbanks. In June 1953 Ellen decided to make the trip with Afton Brown, the mother of a friend. They drove over-land on the Alcan Highway, which was little more than a dirt road at the time. “She said ‘I think you’d love this country,’ so I drove up,” Ellen remembered. “Going up there, the road was nothing but mud. It had rained hard – real hard. There’d be motor homes down in the ditch, rolled. I made it, except…I had a hole in the gas tank. Some-body said ‘Ellen, put some gum on it.’ That lasted for a while. ‘Put some soap on it’ was another suggestion. I put some soap on it. I made it back as far as the air base, and there they took my gas tank off and welded it, and I had them put inner tubes (I’d had some blowouts) underneath.” “We were going to stay just two weeks. But when it was time to turn around and come back they’d had so much heavy rain we got maybe twenty miles the first day. The bridge was washed out…the second day we tried it, the road was completely washed out. I said ‘enough of that,’ and I stopped the car.” “Afton says ‘Ellen, what are you stopping for, do we have a flat or are we out of gas,’ she remembered. I said, ‘no, Afton, I’ve always wanted to come to Alaska.
Plans for local river park move ahead; public comment sought
Hope Quay BVD 8-11-16
LINCOLN - The proposed Lincoln Community River Park project, located on the Blackfoot River adjacent to the Stemple Pass Road bridge and within walking distance of town, is moving forward thanks in part to the hard work of Lincoln community members and representatives of both Five Valleys Land Trust and Prickly Pear Land Trust. Funding for the park could be provided by the Lewis & Clark County Open Lands Program, funded by the $10 million Land, Water, and Wildlife bond measure approved by county voters in 2008. On August 2, Five Valleys Land Trust Conservation Project Manager Vickie Edwards and Andrea Silverman, Land Protection Coordinator for Prickly Pear Land Trust, presented the river park project to the Citizens Advisory Committee on Open Lands, a volunteer committee that makes recommendations on project applications for the bond program. The committee voted unanimously to recommend the county commissioners approve the bond request. On Tuesday, Edwards and Silverman met with the commissioners, who opened a 30-day public comment period to solicit public input on the expenditure. “We started to understand from our work in the Lincoln area…the need for some improved river access from town,” said Pelah Hoyt, Lands Director with Five Valleys Land Trust, “so that started the process of working with community members to try to find the right pieceof land that would meet that need…that’s when we came to understand how important this need was and how much interest by community members there was in trying to meet that need.” Last year, the 9.5- acre parcel of land was located and purchased by Lincoln resident Paul Roos, who was concerned about the lack of safe access to the river for Lincoln kids, with the intent it be transferred to Five Valleys once a management plan has been drafted and funding secured. “We actually had our first phone call about this project several years ago, back when several members of the Lincoln community…were looking to try and find some property that could potentially become a future park for the community of Lincoln,” said Silverman. “We re-engaged last year once Paul Roos had identified the current property…we were excited to be involved in this project. I’ve been going to the different community meetings and looking to get input from the community on what they wanted out of this, and just helping wherever we could with the process to try to get funding to ultimately get the parcel into Five Valleys Land Trust hands.” Though Roos currently allows access to the river through his property, funding for the park will mean that Five Valleys Land Trust will have the right to construct and maintain amenities related to public access, such as walkways, toilets, interpretive signs and picnic tables. They plan to solicit community input on trails, recreation-related infrastructure, and allowable uses of the property, which is intended not just for recreational use, but as an outdoor classroom for educational purposes. Representatives of both Five Valleys Land Trust and Prickly Pear Land Trust have already met with local teachers for on-site visits, and plan to help identify and reach out to potential educational partners. Although recreational access will be improved and construction of structures for maintenance and the environmental education of the public allowed, by and large the area will remain relatively natural, providing scenic views of the Blackfoot River and habitat for native plants, fish and wildlife. “Now it’s in the hands of the county commissioners and this would be a wonderful time for people to share their interest in this project with the county commissioners,” said Hoyt. “It would be a wonderful thing if the Lewis & Clark county commissioners want to support this project because then that would allow us to complete our purchase of the property before the end of this year, and the Lincoln Community River Park would officially come into existence after many, many years of work and just a ton of community interest.” “We will have a second hearing with the county commissioners and we’re hoping to have that hearing in Lincoln itself,” Silverman said. “The big question right now is to find out what they will ultimately decide and then if we are successful in getting funding then we would actually move towards closing, which would basically transfer the property from Paul Roos to Five Valleys Land Trust. That’s what we’re optimistically hoping for this fall.” Matt Heimel, Special Districts Planner with the Lewis & Clark County Planning Department, helps coordinate the open lands program and works closely with the county commissioners. “If it’s voted in, from there…if funding is secured the anticipated closing date is December 23,” he said. “If the funding is voted on in September or October, the closing date could possibly be sooner than that. From there it would be in ownership of Five Valleys Land Trust…they’re really stepping up to the plate to be the management agency for that because we don’t have a parks department in the county. I think their vision is to have it handled really locally.” Information on the Open Land Program can be found at www.lccountymt. gov/admin-finance/open-lands-program.html, and comments can be submitted to Heimel via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, faxed to 406 447 8398, or mailed to the Open Lands Program, 316 N. Park Ave, Room 240, Helena,MT. “Anyone from the whole greater Lincoln area that wants to submit a comment can,” said Silverman, “and we definitely encourage them to do so.”
2016 Sculpture in the Wild Artist pays Lincoln a visit
Roger Dey BVD Editor
Whirlpools of stone and log, chambers of heavy rock or delicate branches, designs in sand, grass and snow; all are hallmarks of British environmental artist Chris Drury, who creates unique works of art, both in the environment and in galleries, that aren’t reliant on a specific medium. Drury, the 2016 Blackfoot Pathways artist-in-\residence, is bringing his style to Lincoln this fall. Between Sept 12 and Oct. 1, he will create his “Rocky Mountain Whirlpool” at Sculpture in the Wild. Last month, Drury spent about a week in Lincoln for a site visit to the valley and to Sculpture in the Wild. Although he’s spent time in the western US before, he said it was his first visit to Montana, which he called “fantastically beautiful.” In his work, Drury examines concepts such as the connections between nature and culture or between microcosm and macrocosm and relies on the materials at hand, which he said he tries to fit into the place, context and culture. “I use different materials and all sorts of processes because the context is a site, a place. That’s the starting point. There needs to be a conversation…this is very specific.” he said. Although is work uses a variety of media, whirlpools and vortices are a recurring motif in Drury’s art and the installation he has planned for Sculpture in the Wild is in keeping with that. His whirlpool, to be created of local beetle-killed logs and river rock it, will slope inward to a depth of about nine feet, with logs darkened by charring as they near the center. Drury has something else in mind for the logs as well. “I’m going to carve them each,” he said.” Because it’s an energy work, each log gets energized by carving them with lines that go round. In a sense the log is spinning itself. The whole thing is spinning.” Drury said the time spent carving the logs may make the three-week residency a challenge, particularly since the nature of the work won’t really require a large volunteer force. However, with between 200 and 250 logs will need to be de-barked for the project ahead of time and Becky Garland, president of Sculpture in the Wild, said volunteers will be needed for that. Garland said she didn’t get to spend much time with Drury while he was here, but she thinks his installation is just the right fit for the sculpture park, conceptually and aesthetically. “It’s one of those things that make you scratch your head and say ‘hmm, that is so cool,’ she said. “It’s going to be such a really amazing piece.” Drury also believes his design will fit well with the existing work at Sculpture in the Wild, which he believes is off to a good start. “It’s very intimate and I think it’s wonderful addition to the town.” Drury said he knows Alan Counihan quite well, but hasn’t had the chance to work with most of the other artists who have created pieces here. He does appreciate the quality of their work,though. “I think it’s really good actually. I love Steven Siegel’s work. We’ve worked in a lot of the same places, but I’ve never met him,” Drury said. “I love Kevin’s Teepee Burner. I think it’s a brilliant first statement. I really like Alan’s. I think it’s very poetic. Hs a very poetic guy. It’s a very subtle, poetic (piece).” Drury did get to spend some time with 2017 BPSW artist in residence Patrick Dougherty, who also visited Lincoln to check out the site and to visit with board members and project donors. Dougherty, like Drury, is well known in environmental art circles for his fantastical and complex creation made of willow branches. BPSW is requesting that anyone interested in lending a hand can contact Becky Garland at 406-431-0325 or Steve Woodhouse at 406-793-4087.