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4-H Hog Champs

Cooper McNally of Sidney won 2020 Grand Champion and Becca Deming of Fairview took home 2020 Reserve Champion for the Market Hog categories during the 4-H show at the Richland County fairgrounds.

BLM posts notice for upcoming oil & gas leases

The Bureau of Land Management’s September oil and gas lease sale will have 38 parcels of land totaling 17,302 acres of land in Montana and North Dakota.

The sale includes tracts in Williams, Mckenzie, and Richland counties, and will take place September 22 online at www.energynet.com.

The sale notice, environmental review documents, and additional information, including protest instructions are online at https://eplanning.blm.gov. Search using the NEPA number DOI-BLM-MT-0000-2020-004-EA.

The sale notice starts a 30-day protest period that closes at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 2. Protests must be as specific and substantive as possible. Opinions or preferences will not receive a formal response, but may be considered in the BLM decision-making process.

To submit a protest, visit https://eplaanning.blm.gov or mail to BLM Montana/Dakotas State Office, 5001, Southgate Drive, Billings MT 59101. Protests may also be faxed to 406-896-5292.

All comments, including personal identifying information, are considered to be a public record and may be made publicly available at any time. Requests to withhold personal identifying information from public review can be submitted, but BLM cannot make any guarantee it will be able to do that.

Additional information is available on oil and gas leasing in Montana/Dakotas by calling Samantha Iron Shirt at 406-896-5060. Those using a telecommunications device for the deaf my call the Federal Relay Service 24-7 at 1-800-877-8339 to leave a message for Iron Shirt. Replies will only be provided during regular working hours.

Leasing is the first step in the process of developing federal oil and gas resources. Before development operations can begin, an operator must submit an application for permit to drill detailing their plans. These are reviewed by BLM, then posted for public review. BLM’s review includes an environmental analysis, and the agency coordinates with the state partners and stakeholders involved.

Reynolds displays 4-H 'Best of Show' art winners

Reynolds Market partnered with Richland County Schools to display “Best of Show” 4-H art winners at its Sidney store.

Sidney public schools stay on track, no major changes

Sidney Schools will start the 2020 school year on August 19 with full staff and full student body. The school system will follow the district calendar established earlier this year with the 4-day school week.

The current plans were announced during a Facebook Live session this week, open to all participants with access.

Superintendent Brent Sukut announced a four-phase plan to guide the district if an uptick in the coronavirus pandemic occurs. The Sidney Public Schools board has given the administration authority to move between phases as they deem appropriate.

Phases Explained

Phase 1 of the plan will be put in place if there is a large uptick or communal spread of COVID-19. Phase 1 will also be implemented if Gov. Steve Bullock issues a stay-at-home order. Precautions of Phase 1 include off-site learning for all students and restricted access to school property. The school is prepared to issue all students a Google Chromebook, compatible with the teaching platform utilized for distance learning (see “Sidney School Board agrees to purchase Chromebooks” article online at www.sidneyherald.com/).

Phases 2 or 3 will be implemented in the event of a significant increase in COVID-19 cases within the school or community. Phase 2 calls for in-person instruction focused on students identified as struggling with coursework or falling behind in proficiency. Other students could be provided off-site learning through a web-based platform if necessary.

Phase 3 limits the number of students receiving in-person instruction at one time, reducing by 50% the number of students within a school building at any given time.

Phase 4 — the phase Sidney Schools currently is in — provides on-site instruction for all students.

Limited Exposure

Students will navigate their school days in cohorts (groups of students that consistently start and end school together). This will limit exposure of any COVID-19 cases. It also aids with any contact tracing for which the Richland County Health Department is responsible.

To enable social distancing, alternative bell schedules will be implemented at Sidney Middle School and Sidney High School.

Masks will be required in situations where social distancing is not possible. Teachers are ultimately responsible for deciding whether masks are required in each situation.

Up to 23 students can utilize a classroom and still safely social distance, thereby eliminating the mask requirement in some cases, Sukut explained. The number is based on estimated square footage of an average classroom.

An option is available for some students to opt out of returning to in-person instruction. Those students who choose to opt out will be provided a computer for off-site learning. However, if a student chooses to opt out of in-person instruction, they will not be permitted to return to in-person instruction for the remainder of the semester. Students who opt out of in-person instruction will not be permitted to participate in extracurricular activities.

Mask Coverage

Each student will receive two reusable masks. Students and parents are responsible for cleaning the masks. Students will also be allowed to wear their own appropriate masks. Medical conditions preventing the use of masks will be accommodated.

Students and staff are asked to bring a note from their medical provider if they have a medical condition preventing the use of a mask. Sukut stated the district is providing clear masks and is looking into face shields to accommodate hearing-impaired students and staff that depend on lip reading.

Students riding buses will be required to wear a mask. There may be additional buses utilized for routes to allow for social distancing; however, buses are expected to operate as usual at this time.


Daily temperature checks will be implemented for all students and staff. Anyone with a temperature exceeding 100.4 will be sent home. There will be a designated waiting area for students awaiting the arrival of parents or guardians in this situation. The school will advise the symptomatic person to see a medical provider or visit a walk-in clinic.

The student must provide a medical note to return to school or they will be required to stay home for 72 hours. If a student or staff member refuses a COVID-19 test requested by the health department, that individual will not be allowed on school property until 14 days after they are symptom free. Currently, no asymptomatic testing is being implemented.

Sukut explained that all details of the COVID-19 precautions will be finalized and published on the Sidney Schools website.

The superintendent pointed out information is ever changing (also referred to as “fluid”). School administrators are working diligently with public health, local and state healthcare officials to ensure the health and safety of all students and staff.

Arrests made in 'Night of Vandalism' case

Two adults were arrested and charged with felonies related to a dozen vandalized businesses and private property during the night of July 15, the Sidney Police Department (SPD) reported on August 3. Both males are residents of Sidney.

Ashton C.B. Swenson, 19, and Isaiah J. Kester, 22, were each charged with “Criminal Mischief by a common scheme.” Because the crimes exceed $1,500 in damage, both adults were charged with felonies.

They reportedly committed what was described by Sidney Chief of Police Mark Kraft on July 15 as a “rash of vandalism” the night before.

An unidentified 15-year-old youth was also cited for committing “Criminal Mischief by a common scheme.” The juvenile suspect must appear in criminal youth court on the charges.

The case stems from a series of vandalisms throughout Sidney, believed to have occurred between 1 and 3 a.m. on July 15.

Video footage of the youths vandalizing an electronic sign in front of Sidney Middle School reportedly was helpful to the SPD. However, video footage from another area of downtown Sidney led to positive identification of the youth, Kraft said.

SPD officers questioned the 15-year-old on July 29 in the presence of a guardian because he is a juvenile, Kraft told the Sidney Herald.

“The officers were able to positively identify one suspect based on video footage obtained during the investigation,” said Kraft. “Subsequently, officers were able to identify two other suspects that were involved.”

The SPD chief declined to state whether the first suspect assisted Sidney police in identifying the alleged co-conspirators.

“It’s not law enforcement’s job to negotiate,” Kraft said. “That is outside the scope of our job. Our job is to enforce the law.”

The juvenile was cited for “Criminal Mischief by a common scheme,” said Kraft, who described a common scheme as a series of related, or interconnected crimes.

The youth’s full name is being withheld because he is a juvenile.

“He was not arrested,” Kraft said of the youth, because he is not considered a threat to public safety.

The police chief also noted that Sidney has no detention facility for juveniles charged with crimes, and that the suspect would have to be transported to Billings or another location within the state if he was taken into custody.

Instead, the juvenile was given a citation with a notice to appear in youth court, along with a mandate that a probation officer must be present at the specified date and time listed in the citation.

The youth admitted guilt at the time he was issued a citation, Kraft reported.

The SPD chief explained that, based on information obtained during the course of a more than two-week investigation, a police detective was able to obtain positive identifications of Swenson and Kester. The SPD then obtained arrest warrants signed by Sidney City Judge Luke Savage.

Case Facts

Kester was arrested at 11:15 a.m. on August 2. Swenson was arrested at 5:25 p.m. on August 2.

“Both Sidney residents,” Kraft said. “They know each other. It’s known to law enforcement that they know each other.”

Property damage, as of August 4, is estimated at more than $5,400. It consists mostly of broken building windows, vehicle windows, headlights and tail lamps. No property appears to have been stolen, according to the SPD.

“It’s suspected that there was some alcohol involved,” Kraft said.

However, the police chief did not go on record as stating the suspects were intoxicated at the time they are alleged to have committed the acts of vandalism.

Potential punishment for the two adults charged in the case comprise fines not to exceed $50,000 each, and/or imprisonment for a term not to exceed 10 years.

Near-identical complaints were filed in the City Court of Sidney, Richland County against Swenson and Kester. Both men are charged with the “offense of Criminal Mischief (more than $1,500) by common scheme, a felony, in violation of Montana Code.”

The adult defendants “knowingly caused approximately $5,452.50 dollars to various vehicles and properties across the City of Sidney,” each complaint states.

An Affidavit filed with the Sidney City Court states that, “During the investigation, surveillance footage was obtained and three suspects could be seen.”

One of the suspects — a youth identified only by the initials S.M. — “admitted to being present during the vandalism and admitted to participating in them,” according to the court Affidavit.

Had he been an adult, Kraft said the youth would have been arrested and charged with a felony.

The Affidavit states the youth “coberated that they damaged” the following:

• A street sign located at 2nd Ave. SW

• Tail lamps of a Ford F-250 truck belonging to Oasis Petroleum

• A digital sign belonging to Sidney Middle School

• The front window “at All That Safety”

• A residential window “on Cole Nesper’s house”

• Two windows at the Sidney pool

• The front windshield and passenger-side headlamp of The Rush Espresso “Van”

• Side windows “on a camper belonging to Bret Suko”

• The rear window of a “Dodge Caravan belonging to Roberta and Orlon Burkland”

• The front windshield of a side-by-side located at All Season Motor Sports

• Flower pots at Peifers General Store

• A red Chrysler vehicle “belonging to Marci D. Schiele”

• The driver-side front window of a “green Pontiac belonging to Avea N. Morley”

Bail was set at $50,000 for each adult defendant. Among the conditions for bail release for both Swenson and Kester are that they “avoid all contact with any alleged victim of the crime...refrain from possessing a firearm...maintain weekly contact with Public Defender.”

In addition, the court ordered Swenson and Kester to participate in “Supervision Services” that require each to wear a “GPS Bracelet Tracking” device.

None of the defendants are allowed to leave the county, per court-mandated orders.

Initial Appearance dates for Swenson and Kester were set for August 17, 2020.

As of August 4, neither Swenson nor Kester had admitted involvement in the crimes, according to public court documents. However, Chief Kraft told the Sidney Herald the evidence against them is solid.

“It’s a prosecutable case,” he said.