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A brief refresher on uncontrolled intersections

Driving becomes second nature to many people and the rules of the road sometimes go lax. In Sidney, this problem is all too prevalent at the many uncontrolled intersections around town, both in residential and business districts. Sidney Police Department Capt. Mark Kraft said it’s a topic they are all too aware of.

“We don’t generally issue a lot of tickets for a right-of-way violation at uncontrolled intersections unless there is a collision,” Kraft said. “That rule everyone learns in drivers training and I’m sure it’s tested on when you get your drivers license, but remembering you need to yield to the vehicle on the right at an uncontrolled intersection is a rule a lot people forget about.”

Kraft said essentially, vehicles need to yield to traffic on the right if it’s close enough to constitute a hazard. That language is clearly state in Montana Code Annotated 61-8-339.

A common misconception of uncontrolled intersections is the first to arrive is the first to go and that is not how the law is written. The vehicle to the right has the right-of-way.

“If somebody is a block down the road to the right of you heading your direction and you have to safely get through the intersection, then go ahead,” Kraft said. “I just urge everybody to drive defensively.”

Driving defensively means be extra cautious, don’t anticipate other driver’s will obey traffic laws and to be aware. Kraft said even in instances when he does have the right-of-way, he keeps his eye on what’s going on and his foot ready to brake if needed.

“If it doesn’t look like they’re going to stop, then I’ll stop. The little bit of delay certainly beats the big delay of dealing with a damaged vehicle,” he said.

Another misconception that comes up in Sidney is people perceiving busier or more heavily-used residential streets qualify as a “through street,” which also isn’t the case.

“Watch the signs if the intersecting road does not have a yield signs or stop signs. Even if it feels like they should probably be stopping, this is a little busier thoroughfare, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re on a through street,” Kraft said.

Mostly, drivers need to pay more attention. First to arrive is not first to go and busier side streets do no constitute a thoroughfare. Vehicles must yield to the right at uncontrolled intersections.

5 things to know

1Ceramic gnome painting class will be at the MonDak Heritage Center on Thursday, Oct. 10, at 6 p.m. Each participant will get to paint their own pair of ceramic gnomes. All ages welcome. Tuition is $30 for non-members and $25 for MDHC members.

2Saturday, Oct. 12, is the grand opening of Emersyn Lane, a children’s boutique above Meraki, from 10 a.m. — 4 p.m.

3Also on Saturday, Oct. 12, is a MedSpa Fall Social at the Meadowlark Public House in the upper room from 10 a.m. — 12 p.m. Dr. Shari Twigg, board certified in aesthetic medicine, will be discussing the benefits of micro-needling including live demonstrations. Stop by and enjoy a morning of exclusive offers on treatments, spectacular specials on skincare products, and a chance to win fabulous door prizes. Hot beverages, pastries and fresh fruit will be served.

4Community day of service with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will be Saturday, Oct. 12, 9 a.m. — 12 p.m. Members of the Sidney Ward invite the community to join with them in a Day of Service to the City of Sidney, followed by a soup potluck at the church. Bret and Lorraine Allen have been working with George Bieble and the Parks & Recreation board to come up with a list of various projects around the city that community residents can help with.

5Williston also has fun activities going on Saturday, Oct. 12. Williston Brewfest is in the Hedderich’s lot downtown beginning at 3 p.m. for the 21 and over crowd. Mondak Animal Rescue is hosting a Howl-o-Ween party from 12-4 p.m.

Meet Peach: Just a rat about town

Peach the hairless rat has a small but growing fan club in Sidney thanks to her owner Valerie Butler rarely leaving home without her naked friend. Peach catches many people off guard, but most react warmly to her sweet demeanor.

“The vast majority think she’s cute which is surprising because I always think a lot of people don’t like rodents,” Butler said. “My first rat it was the other way around. So either we’re very lucky or less of the population doesn’t like rats than I thought.”Peach brings a lot of smiles wherever she goes, often seen peeking out from under her mom’s scarf or the arm of her sweatshirt. Butler said either people are getting more used to the idea of rats as pets or they simply have better things to be upset about than seeing Peach riding on her shoulder. She takes a minute to warm up to new people, but once she does, Peach is all about spreading the love.

“They’re weirdly loyal,” Butler said. “They are really attached to their person. You’d think if they got out in your house you’d lose them. But they don’t want to be away from you.”

One of Butler’s favorite things about owning rats is how small and transportable they are.

“That and I love their tiny little hands. I love how they hold stuff.”

In total, Butler is the proud mom to four rats, two Great Danes and one Yorkie — all female. While Butler and her two “bonus kids” enjoy the tiny company, Butler’s husband has yet to dive into the rat life.

“He’s warmed up a little, but he’s not very fond of rats,” Butler said with a laugh. “We call the newest one the baby because it’ll be our last rat. I’m not sure where we would live if I came home with another one.”

The rats, named Noodles, Kiwi, Peach and Baby, live in a large four-story cage that’s almost as tall as Butler. A couple of them were saved from being snake food. Peach happened to be a gift from a friend who knew Butler owned a hairless rat years ago.

Butler’s owned various rats the last 15 years. Her longest living one was a blonde rat who was almost 5 when she had to be put down due to tumors. Typically, most live only a few years, so a 5-year-old is considered to have had a long life. Peach is currently around six to seven months old. Throughout her rodent ownership, Butler said they’ve each had their own personalities.

“They’re like weird little rat people,” she said. “There’s the shy one and the outgoing one. They’re really fun.”

Their diet is comprised mostly of nutrient packed pellets and small treats or scraps from their owner.

“Rats get fat really fast,” she said. “You have to be careful. They can’t have a lot of salt or sugar. Mine are spoiled. They generally eat part of whatever I’m eating. They’ll eat just about anything. They are pretty omnivorous.”

Pet rats are loyal, cuddly, attentive and intelligent. They’re also obsessively clean, often stopping to groom themselves after a bit of activity. Butler’s rats enjoy playing with cat toys or picking on one another like siblings. One of the bigger challenges of owning a hairless rat is keeping them warm. Butler enjoys crafting and her rats are all fully equipped with handmade hides, burrito beds and hammocks to keep cozy. She also makes her own special scarves with zipper pockets to transport Peach around during the colder months.

For the most part, Peach has been a big hit around town since Noodles, Kiwi and Baby are less social and prefer to be left at home. But for people who get to visit the Butlers, it’s generally about one thing.

“Everyone comes over and opens the rat cage and rubs rats on their faces,” Butler said. “They love it.”

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the state of Montana?

“Friendly people.”

Bart Stevens

“Winter and cold.”

Shelly Maise

“Probably the wide open plains.”

John Kanoop

“It’s beautiful, it’s breathtaking.”

Leslie Watts

“Sugar beets.”

Sherry Qunell

TBID approves funds for Eagle Invitational, Bakken Brew Fest

Sidney’s Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) committee held its regular meeting Wednesday, Oct. 2, and opened with an application from Chris Lee, activities director at Sidney High School. Lee was requesting 35 hotel rooms for six teams and five officials for the Sidney Eagle Wrestling Invitation scheduled for Dec. 6-7.

The request exceeds last year’s application, which was 25 rooms. Lee said that was because they are expecting more teams this year, with 29 currently confirmed. While the request was originally for 35 rooms, Lee told TBID they could settle for 30 and fund officials’ rooms themselves.

“We like to see growth in something like this, year after year,” TBID officer Aliza Hunter said. “That’s exactly what we’re here for.”

TBID officer Brandon Taylor agreed. He said the TBID criteria for funding is events that grow or at least stay steady. When events start seeing lower numbers, that’s when funding is pulled back. The committee agree to to fund the Eagle Invitational with 30 rooms at $70 plus tax per night for two night in December, to be split among five hotels.

Bakken Brew Fest

The discussion on funding events that grow came into play again during the meeting, this time when TBID fielded an application from the Bakken Brew Fest committee in the amount of $5,000 for marketing purposes. That same amount was requested and granted for the 2018 brew fest.

This year’s micro-brew festival is set for April 11, falling again on Easter weekend as it did last year. TBID members expressed concern about the timing, with some hotel managers noting they received many cancellations because of the holiday last year. Elaine Stedman, who presented the application on behalf of the brew fest committee, said it just happened to work out to the same weekend again this year due to other events happening on surrounding weekends.

Currently there are four confirmed breweries and local band Valley Cash booked for the event. Last year boasted 16 breweries, but that number was down from previous years, as was attendance.

“We gave $5,000 last year, but there was a decrease of people attending event,” Hunter said.

“Significant decrease,” TBID trustee Jaimie Dishon said.

Stedman said last year the festival was right at 500 people and estimated the year before was in the 600s. Bill Vander Weele, chamber executive director, said it’s difficult to talk brewers from western Montana into coming all the way to Sidney, especially on Easter weekend, but the feedback they receive overall still prefers spring instead of summer.

During discussion about the application later in the meeting, TBID members discussed the consequences of providing less funding.

“We don’t want to fracture the relationship we have with the chamber and I know this is a big yearly event, but the thing is if we’re not seeing gain year after year, it’s hard for us to give that $5,000. Especially if we’re not seeing the return in room nights,” Hunter said.

TBID ultimately approved funding for the Bakken Brew Fest marketing in the amount of $2,500.

In other news

A grant to Damon McLaughlin hockey tournament was paid for $13,000.

TBID approved a motion to roll over an Edward Jones CD for a three-year term in the amount of $19,000.

Photos by Amy Efta 

Best of Richland County awards banquet

ABOVE: The Best of Richland County awards banquet was held Thursday, Oct. 3, at the Sidney Country Club. After receiving more than 30,000 votes, the Sidney Herald presented the awards in 75 categories. Some of the top winners are, from left, Judd and Chris Entzel, owner of Sidney Mercantile, Best New Business; Marci Cundiff, owner of MT Bare Cave, Best Customer Service; Angie and John Olson, owners of Olson Roustabout, Best Place to Work. Other top award winners not pictured are Franz Construction, Best Oilfield Service Company; Anna Reynolds, Best Co-Worker; Peifer’s General Store, Best Local Business; Abbi’s Unique Boutique, Best Place to Shop.