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Fairview City Council votes to keep gaming hours

Those in Fairview wanting gaming hours to be extended will have to wait.

Supporters who wanted those hours expanded showed up to the Fairview City Council meeting August 12 to make their case. Ultimately, the council voted against Ordinance 341, which would have expanded gambling hours to continue until 8 a.m., instead of the current 2 a.m. ending time each night.

The council had many different opinions to consider for the decision, ultimately deciding with a majority of opinions from a survey that the ordinance should not pass.

Residents responded to a survey sent out, asking if extending the gaming hours was a good idea or not.

An overwhelming majority of Fairview residents said they did not want gaming hours extended.

“Basically the survey that we sent out, for the public to throw their input in, it was 90 percent negative,” said Fairview Mayor Brian Bieber. “That’s why the council chose to do the survey rather than just take it upon ourselves to do that.”

Local business people who operate gambling sites and machines showed up for the public discussion to give their reasoning for why the ordinance would be good if passed.

They said it would give Fairview more publicity, possibly attracting more people to the town to have fun there. It could also help some of those businesses hurt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the business people who petitioned for the hours to be extended said she did not do it to line her own pockets, but did it to help improve Fairview. Just the people coming to the town alone is good PR, she added.

A concern for safety was brought up, the argument being that if people are able to stay out longer and drink longer, it could lead to drunk driving or “riff-raff.”

The business people assured the council and public who showed up that there are precautions that could be taken to assure that players cannot drink all night. On top of that, they said most clientele who come in and gamble do not drink much alcohol, if any; a lot of them drink soda, or something else.

Fairview Police Chief Cal Seadeek reassured this point, saying that he sees a lot of players drinking non-alcoholic beverages, too.

It was also argued that longer gaming hours could lead to more money coming to the city. However, City Clerk Faye Carlson said the city only gets a percentage of the licensing on the gaming machines, and last year, the town only got $9,550 off the gambling machines.

“We do not make any money whatsoever, other than a portion of the licensing fee, so this all-night poker table will give us $150 for the entire year,” she said.

When asked what the general consensus was among those in the survey who were against it, council member Brian Renville said most people basically said that nothing good happens after midnight.

Other comments read aloud by various council members reinforced the idea there is already enough time for people to game as it is. Others reiterated the safety concerns. Among them: There are not enough police staff to handle any problems that may arise.

There was also a suggestion by some that there is a religious component to the side against extending the hours, because gambling is viewed as a sin.

Some of the council members made it known they support the hours being extended, but through a different way. Council member Keith Bieber said he thinks the ordinance would help the businesses hurt during COVID-19’s spread and the shut down.

Ultimately, though, council members advised the business people that the best way to get the hours extended would be to get enough signatures and put on next year’s town election ballot.

Harvest getting underway in Montana, North Dakota

Early harvest reports suggest a good-quality crop is coming off the fields and going into the bins in North Dakota and Montana, with good test weights, no falling numbers, and no widespread reports of fusaraium, according to early samples.

Early yield reports look like they are on track with average figures — but some producers are reporting well below average, due to moisture and heat stress in June. Areas with later planted wheat, meanwhile, are reporting better crop conditions, with more favorable yield prospects — but these fields could face pressure from late season weeds and variable crop maturity in the same field, as well as increased disease pressure if there is more rain.

North Dakota advanced its harvest 7 percent and Montana 14 percent over the past week. They will likely make more significant progress over the coming days, with only a little rain forecast.

“If we get some rain tonight, that will slow things down a little, but with highs predicted in the 80s and 90s in the coming days, and lots of sunshine, it shouldn’t really set us back any,” said cropping specialist Dr. Clair Keene. “I expect those harvesting would be back at it by Saturday or Sunday as it will likely dry out quickly.”

The hot weather is drying out peas and lentils as well as wheat, Keene added.

“I don’t have a good sense of how many have started harvesting spring cereals, but it is not a huge number, maybe 10 percent of farmers,” she said. “I expect this will ramp up a lot more next week.”

Nationwide, the spring wheat crop is now 15 percent harvested, according to USDA’s weekly Crop Progress report. That’s up from 5 percent the previous week. It is well ahead of last year’s 6 percent, but it’s well behind the five-year 25 percent average.

All the main wheat states are reporting percentages that are ahead of last year’s progress.

Crop conditions in North Dakota for spring wheat fell to 63 percent in North Dakota, down from 68 percent last week, due to continued dry weather. In Montana, crop conditions dropped a percentage point from 80 to 79 percent good to excellent, however the amount rated excellent did rise from 15 percent to 20.

The durum harvest, meanwhile, is just beginning to get underway with 2 percent harvested in North Dakota, ahead of last year’s 1 percent. Coloring is at 86 percent, ahead of both last year’s 77 percent and the five-year 84 percent average. Mature is 25 percent. That’s behind 33 percent last year.

Montana is a little further ahead, with 8 percent of the crop harvested, primarily in the far western durum production region. This pace is slightly behind the 5-year 15 percent average. Sixty-eight percent of the crop is turning color, which is behind last year’s 72 percent, and the five-year 84 percent average.

Crop ratings have declined in both Montana and North Dakota, dropping to 66 percent good to excellent in North Dakota and to 50 percent in Montana from 64 percent.

Expanding dryness across the durum-producing region is the cause for this drop, as hot temperatures continue to stress crops and accelerate maturities.

Winter wheat, meanwhile, is 57 percent good to excellent with 87 percent of the crop mature in North Dakota. Just over half of it has been harvested, which is near the five-year 50 percent average.

Similarly, Montana has harvested 45 percent of its winter wheat, which is rated 82 percent good to excellent.

Here’s a look at how other crops are faring:

North Dakota Soybeans are 92 percent in bloom, near last year and five-year averages, and 71 percent have set pods, which is about average. The condition is rated 67 percent good to excellent.

North Dakota corn is 73 percent good to excellent with 92 percent silking out, which is close to the five-year average. Dough is at 20 percent, ahead of 5 percent last year, but behind the five-year 27 percent average.

Corn in Montana, meanwhile is rated 82 percent good to excellent. No crop progress was listed in the weekly report.

North Dakota canola is rated 73 percent good to excellent with 64 percent of the crop coloring and 1 percent harvested. That’s well behind the five-year 81 percent average for coloring, but equal to last year for harvest.

Montana canola is further ahead with 83 percent turning color and 19 percent harvested.

Montana sugarbeets, meanwhile, are rated 85 percent good to excellent, while North Dakota sugarbeets are 93 percent good to excellent.

North Dakota oats are 63 percent good to excellent with 86 percent coloring. That’s ahead of last year’s 80 percent, but behind the five-year 92 percent average. About 48 percent of the crop is mature, ahead of 33 percent last year, and the harvest is at 17 percent, which is ahead of 4 percent last year, but behind the five-year 29 percent average.

Oats in Montana are 44 percent good to average with 74 percent turning color and 15 percent harvested, well behind the five-year 29 percent for harvest.

North Dakota barley is 63 percent good to excellent, with coloring at 91 percent and mature at 49 percent. The harvest is at 13 percent, which is behind the five-year 30 percent average.

In Montana, barley is 95 percent turning color and 10 percent harvested, with crop conditions at 82 percent good to excellent.

Dry edible peas in North Dakota are 71 percent good to excellent with 85 percent dropping leaves and the harvest at 24 percent. That’s ahead of 17 percent last year, but well behind the five-year 43 percent average.

In Montana, dry edible peas are at 45 percent harvested, also well behind the five-year 60 percent average, with a crop condition rating of 63 percent good to excellent.

North Dakota sunflowers are 71 percent good to excellent, with blooms at 78 percent, near the five-year average 77 percent. Ray flowers dry is at 2 percent.

Montana safflowers are 80 percent in bloom, with 35 percent turning color, which is close to five year averages for both numbers.

North Dakota flaxseed is 70 percent good to excellent with 60 percent turning color. That’s behind the five-year 75 percent average for turning color. Harvest is at 1 percent.

In Montana, flaxseed is 50 percent turning color and 5 percent harvested.

Montana lentils, meanwhile, are 31 percent harvested, behind the five year 45 percent average, with a condition rating of 64 percent good to excellent, while North Dakota lentils are 3 percent harvested, near 1 percent last year.

Montana mustard seed, meanwhile, is 88 percent turning color.

North Dakota potatoes are 75 percent good to excellent with 86 percent of the rows closed, just behind the five-year 91 percent average. Vines dry is 2 percent, near last year’s 1 percent and the five-year 5 percent average.

Dry edible beans in North Dakota are 64 percent good to excellent with 87 percent in bloom and 66 percent setting pods. Dropping leaves is 4 percent. These figures are all a little behind the five-year averages.

In Montana, harvest of dry edible beans has started, with 5 percent in the bin.

Alfalfa is rated 50 percent good to excellent and the second cutting in North Dakota is at 72 percent ahead of the five-year 66 percent average.

Pasture and range in North Dakota, is 45 percent good to excellent and stock water supples are 77 percent adequate to surplus.

In Montana, alfalfa’s second cutting is at 34 percent. Pasture and range are rated 54 percent good to excellent, however, dryness has prompted producers to move an estimated 1 percent of cattle and sheep from the pasture early.

Fairview road work nears completion ahead of schedule

Road striping work began on Monday, Aug. 10., leaving the road reconstruction project of MT 200 (Ellery Ave.) nearly complete. Crews are installing signs, and new grass is being seeded as well.

The traffic light at the 6th Street intersection is scheduled to be turned on Wednesday, August 26. There will be some additional “clean-up” items to attend to, but the bulk of the project has been completed — six to seven weeks ahead of schedule.

Traffic Impacts

There are no additional traffic impacts planned for motorists traveling through the area and traffic will continue flowing. Traffic will remain reduced to two-lane, two-way, but the highway will remain open during construction. The traveling public is reminded to slow down and watch for work crews and equipment in the construction zone.

Work Zone Safety

Road crews are working hard to keep the community safe; it’s up to the public to help keep them safe, too. Remember the Three S’s of Work Zone Safety:

1. Manage your Speed

2. Manage your Space

3. Manage your Stress

COVID-19 and Construction

The Montana Department of Transportation and its construction contracting partners continue to take the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously.

Construction projects on Montana’s roads and bridges are considered an “essential” operation and will continue moving forward as scheduled in 2020. Construction workers will continue several measures to help keep employees, contractors and the public safe during the construction season.

Some of the measures include following social distancing and good hygiene guidelines, and not reporting to work if showing symptoms of illness.

For more information visit covid19.mt.gov.

Questions? Call Rainier Butler: (425) 647-9599; rainierb@strategies360.com

Westmoreland Mining donates $26K to Savage schools

A $26,000 check from Westmoreland Mining to the Savage Public School District will help the schools in more ways than can be put into words, Superintendent Martha Potter said.

Westmoreland Mining presented the check to the school district Aug. 7, and Diane Miller, the school district clerk, said the schools have already benefited from the donation.

She and Potter said the check will be used to purchase and install UV lights in all the classrooms at the elementary and high school, including the necessary amenities to disinfect classrooms and equipment.

“(The donation) helped because we had to split (the lights and amenities) between what we could afford and what they gave us,” Miller said.

Potter emphasized that the donation was crucial to the district for it to meet its needs to reopen the schools. She added that the district had some of the funding from the state to use but could not pay for everything.

The donation from Westmoreland Mining was a generous act to help out the district, Potter said.

Potter said it was great to receive the donation because the school district will no longer be able to receive coal gross proceeds tax funding, since the nearby mine is closing.

Over the past 10 years, the district received about $125,000 per year in funding from the coal gross proceeds tax, and that sort of funding will not be available in that capacity anymore, Potter said.

She said the district is working on finding other ways to get funding, including grants, but the mine closing will have a big impact on the district and community.

The biggest benefit from the $26,000 donation, though, is the UV lights, Potter and Miller said.

Potter said the lights will be in every room. Because the district does not have enough staff to clean, these lights will help the cleaning process, she said.

Once the lights are on and start emitting their beams, they can help a room be disinfected and cleaned within an hour-and-a-half, which will be more efficient, Potter said.

She added that the district was able to get UV wands, which can be used to disinfect other objects — from sports equipment to school busses.

Both the elementary and high school benefitted from the new lights, Potter said.

“This was huge for us, absolutely huge,” Potter said.

Even though the district will be missing the capacity of funding the coal gross proceeds tax brought in, the donation solved a very important short-term issue the district was facing, and Potter could not be more joyous about that.

Sidney rancher raises concerns about irrigation flows

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) intends to test the flows coming from Fort Peck Dam in hopes it will benefit pallid sturgeon recruitment.

The proposal originates from required Endangered Species Act consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which issued a “no jeopardy” biological opinion in April 2018 on the condition that the Corps pursues the test flow.

To comply with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements, however, the Corps must draft an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) outlining their proposals and the respective economic and environmental impacts of each.

The Draft EIS was scheduled to be released in May and involved raising the river flow to approximately 35,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) in June and then substantially lowering the river flow to approximately 8,000 cfs by July 1. The first test flow would occur in 2022.

“This is incredibly concerning from an irrigation standpoint,” said Liv Stavick, coordinator for the Missouri River Conservation District Council (MRCDC). “Approximately 160 pumps located downstream from Fort Peck Dam, provide irrigation for 70,000 acres of cropland between Richland, Roosevelt, Valley and McCone counties as well as the Fort Peck Tribes.

“Beyond the benefit to cropland, the rural communities in this area depend heavily on the increased tax base irrigated land provides to their local economies,” Stavick continued.

Sidney Concerns

Dick Iversen, a rancher from Sidney and MRCDC board member, described some of the problems this could cause for irrigators:

“Raising the river that high could flood pumps, electrical boxes, the roads to access pumps, and in some cases, flood cropland itself; while the low flow will leave many irrigators unable to access water at all,” Iversen said.

The Sidney rancher explained the impact caused by high flows dropping significantly in such a short amount of time is equally, if not more concerning.

“When those high flows drop, it expedites the process of erosion and deposits mass amounts of sediment into the river,” Iversen said. “This will require dredging and extensive trench work in order to get pumps back up and running…all during prime irrigation season.”

With help from the Missouri River Conservation Districts Council, local conservation districts were able to convince the Corps that the information they were using to assess the economic impact to irrigators was both inadequate and outdated. As a result, the Corps agreed to postpone release of the Draft EIS until after they had completed a thorough pump site survey and economic analysis.

The Corps is currently collecting that information; 60 total pumps were surveyed between July 8-15 and another 60 are expected to be surveyed by the end of August. The updated Draft EIS is scheduled to be released in December after this information has been reviewed, which will initiate a 60-day public comment period.

“It’s imperative that irrigators and community members participate in the public comment process,” Stavick concluded. “While we won’t know what the formal proposal looks like until December, northeastern Montana stands a lot to lose if it’s anything like the proposal we saw this spring.”

Contact MRCDC Coordinator Liv Stavick: mrcdc@macdnet.org or call 406-454-0056.