“Online. With four kids and one income I’m going to have to.”
- Brook Nilsen
“I guess go without. Or probably go to Williston to go to Walmart.”
- Georgia Hopfauf
“I’ll have to try to stick to Main Street, it’s hard to get to Williston all the time.”
- Mary Spaabeck
“I guess out of town. I try to stay in town as much as I can.”
- Jennifer Dore
“I mostly buy everything here (Reynolds) but if I have to go somewhere else I go to Walmart in Miles City. It’s nice and stocked.”
- April Johnson
Richland County Commissioners, Sidney City Council, elected state officials and Montana-Dakota Utilities (MDU) representatives will be conducting a roundtable discussion Monday, July 15, at 3 p.m., at the Richland County Extention office. All parties are expecting to discuss the closure of the Lewis and Clark Station.
“At this meeting I hope we can tell the importance of trying to keep MDU open and what role we as commissioners can do working together going forward,” Richland County Commissioner Shane Gorder said. “I think this meeting should of taken place sometime ago to help the public be aware of the changes that are taken place.”
MDU’s senior public relations representative Mark Hanson said he hopes the roundtable discussion will move relationships forward between the elected officials and MDU.
“We also would like to get an understanding from them what kind of steps are they considering moving forward as we transition from our retired coal plants and can Montana Dakota assist with any of that,” Hanson said. “We are looking at this meeting as the beginning of what we hope is open communication with the elected officials in the area.”
At the end of May, Richland County Commissioners and Sidney City Council each issued public statements opposing the application of Montana-Dakota Utilities (MDU) to increase rates for services. The statements, drafted by civil attorney Tom Halvorson, were made as both political entities and individual rate payers.
Commissioner Gorder said in May he and his fellow commissioners felt compelled to take a stance on the topic not only to raise public awareness, but because of the direct local impact.
“It’s a big thing to our county. The rates are getting increased due to a wind farm in Hettinger, North Dakota, when knowing the future plans were already addressed to close our coal fire MDU plant,” Gorder said. “We could sit back and not comment and let the rate increase take place, but I think it’s important for people to know.”
MDU recently filed a new integrate resource plan (IRP) and Hanson said some of those details will be shared at the meeting. He also emphasized the closure of the Lewis and Clark plant and rate increases were not related.
“That’s what we want to do is share some of those details and hard numbers in that plan to show here’s how we got to our decision,” Hanson said. “Within the IRP is what drives our decisions. Wind expansion is separate from this, but I understand that they didn’t feel it was fair to pay for the expansion without knowing how the [Lewis and Clark] retirement situation fits in. ”
After the discussion, elected officials and MDU reps will remain for a Q&A with the public, scheduled for 4 p.m. A barbecue at MDU’s new office location will be hosted at 5 p.m., at 1260 East Main Street in Sidney and is open to the community.
Saturday, July 13, will be a full day in Sidney and the area. Take a look at all the events coming up.
1 Sunrise of the Arts Festival, Veterans Park, Sidney, 8 a.m. — 4 p.m. The day is full of entertainment, vendors, food and much more. Check with the Sidney Chamber for a full schedule of events.
2 Sherry and Janae Softball Tournament, South Meadow Softball Complex. Cost is $100/team, dance to follow at 8 p.m. at the Event Center. For more information, follow Facebook page “Sherry & Janae’s Softball Tournament” or call Tammy at 489-0451.
3 Classic Wheels Car Show, 9:30 a.m. — 6 p.m., Moose Park, Sidney, hosted by Richland County Sportsmen’s Club. Award presentation at 4 p.m.
4 Back Yard Community BBQ, Meadowlark Public House, 5 — 10 p.m. A few neighborhood businesses are teaming up for an outdoor evening celebration with food vendors, music, drinks, shopping and outdoor games.
5 For something a little out of town, try the Fort Buford Encampment. Event will be all day long, featuring demonstrations of soldier life on the frontier at Fort Buford during the 1870s. Including rifle drills, cannon drill and firing demonstration at 2 p.m., telegraphy, early communications, recruitment of new members. All events are free.
With the most recent Legislature session ending, Rep. Joel Krautter spoke at a Kiwanis meeting about all the bills he sponsored. One of those bills being HB 405, also knowns as the “Catch and Keep” bill.
With a further look into HB 405, Krautter took the time to explain in depth what the bill is, what they hope to achieve from the bill and what he plans to do to get it passed in the next Legislature session. The Catch and Keep bill is aimed toward incentivizing skilled young professionals to live and work in rural areas.
“I think young people, college students, they go off to college towns. After graduating, those towns are full of young people and that lifestyle is something that draws young people in,” Krautter said.
Krautter said he’s spent some time talking with college students and a lot of them would like to get back to rural areas. He also said across the country, millennials are tending to leave rural areas for urban areas.
“It’s a complex situation. There’s a lot of reasons that lead them to urban areas,” Krautter said.
Krautter said that the Chamber of Commerce is going to be doing an economic outlook for the state of Montana this summer in July and August.
Krautter also talked about the demographic changes and the fact that baby boomers are reaching retirement and there aren’t a lot of young professionals to fill those vacancies in rural America.
Krautter feels with rural America declining, there tends to be more consolidation. An example he used was Brady, Montana, and the high school there closing down. Because of that, students now have to travel to Dutton to go to school.
“When a town is in decline, when a town is dying, it becomes harder to recruit to that community,” Krautter said. “Who wants to move to a town that’s dying?”
While HB 405 died, Krautter said he plans to fine tune the bill and try again next session. HB 405 had the support of CPA Association of Montana, the state bar, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, schools, students, the farmers union, Montant retail association and many more.
“We had a coalition of about a dozen people supporting this bill,” Krautter said.
Krautter said he feels they encouraged the bill well and raised awareness of the situation. On the up side, he said that Sidney is doing better than most rural areas of Montana.
HB 405 states “rural Montana is in desperate need for skilled professionals to ensure continued sustainability and survival.”
Krautter added to that saying people rely on doctors, nurses, teachers, CPA’s, attorneys and many other professions. With the lack of skilled young professionals, it raises the question of who will fill these vacancies.
“It’s all those professions that make our community what we are,” Krautter said. “We depend on people with trade degrees.”
If there isn’t anyone to fill those spots, that’s when small towns start losing schools and local hospitals, creating a negative impact on a town.
“We see a lot of people at or around retirement and not many people coming up behind them to take the position,” Krautter said.
HB 405 states the recipients of the grants under the program can utilize grant money the best way they see fit. Some options of how the grant money can be used are things like payments on student loans, house down payments, relocation expenses, business startup expenses or other debt reduction or living costs.
“We wrote it that way, no strings attached, because we realize not everyone is in the same position. Not everyone has student loan debt,” Krautter said.
The way that HB 405 is written, county commissioners must pass a resolution to participate in the program and become a qualifying county. The state will provide 50 percent of the funding, the county commissioners would be responsible for 25 percent and another organization such as economic development would put up the remaining 25 percent.
The pilot program would have allowed for $500,000 to be set aside for the Catch and Keep program funding. In order to receive funding, a person would have to commit to living and working in their chosen rural area for five years.
Krautter said this bill is based on one from Kansas that seems to be working well for them. He’s modeled this bill after theirs. In Kansas, through the program 56 percent stayed for the full five years. Of the 56 percent that stayed, 100 percent of them were still in the county in year six.
The bill also talks about filling priority professions. Krautter gave examples of them such as health care professionals and teachers.
If someone were to leave before their five years were up, they would be responsible for paying the state back half of what they would have received had they stayed.
Krautter said they aren’t too worried about having a large number of people not follow through and finish out their five year commitment.
“People who go to college and get degrees are generally responsible people. The chances of them skipping out and not paying the state back are lower than if it were just a random person,” Krautter said.
Another incentive is that after the third year, participants in the program qualify for property tax credit.
“We want to encourage people to invest in the community where they’re living and buy a house,” Krautter said. “The whole purpose is not to get them to stay just for five years but to get to know the community and build relationships. We want to make them want to stay beyond that five year period.”
Krautter said that if anyone has questions or ideas on HB 405 he’s always happy to have input. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 406-560-5952.