Richland Economic Development Corps (REDC) annual meeting hosted city and county officials, as well as community supporters on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Sidney Mayor Rick Norby addressed attendees about celebrating small victories this year and staying united in the face of controversy.
During the Legislative session, Norby made 12 trips to Helena in support of HB 656, sponsored by Rep. Joel Krautter, which eventually passed on May 9, bringing oil revenues back to Richland County.
“I couldn’t ask for any better support than from Joel,” Norby said. “He’s the perfect man for the job. It was a great session.”
Norby next addressed the Public Service Commission meeting that took place in Helena to about the closure of Lewis and Clark Station in Sidney.
“I was very impressed to show up there,” he said. The room was standing-room only, full of eastern Montana representation.
“The big thing I want to talk about tonight, something that really has blown me away in my time as mayor — this will be my sixth year — is the unity our community has. It’s a beautiful place to be.”
Norby took time to acknowledge the talk around town about the relationship between the newspaper and the city. He assured attendees the city and the paper are not operating in opposition of one another.
“It’s been a very trying, very long summer for us here at the city,” Norby said. “Believe it or not, I know there was a lot of talk around town about our summer, Amy [Efta]’s deal with the police. She was just doing her job. It’s made us very close, so I thank Amy for showing me that side. The paper and the City of Sidney still do get along.”
Fairview Mayor Brian Bieber spoke to the struggles area beet farmers have had with the weather this harvest, many of those being the same farmers who were victims to flooding last spring.
“They’ve had a really tough year,” Bieber said. “Some of them aren’t even in their own homes yet.”
As was the theme of the night, Bieber said they have nonetheless persevered through the year. The City of Fairview has many projects in the works, including an ongoing water line project.
“The weather has been an issue this year with 10 inches of rain last month,” Bieber said. “The guys have done everything they can do to keep the water flowing down the streets and not into people’s basements.”
Phase two of water project is underway, which includes the water tank replacement. Bieber said that is about five years overdue. Phase two will also bring about 1,400 feet of cast iron main line replacement.
“Next year, when they are paving the streets in town, the Ellery project is going to start,” Bieber said. “They’re putting in a storm drain system and we’ll get rid of the dips. Does anyone hate the dips?”
The crowd audibly agreed no one would miss the infamous Fairview dips.
Fairview is still working on a new ambulance barn for EMTs.
The city also was successful in getting all the streets dedicated back so they could continue to provide necessary services.
Richland County Commissioner Shane Gorder followed area mayors, echoing their same message of teamwork and togetherness.
“The partnership we have as the county and the City of Fairview and the City of Sidney — I know firsthand from when I travel around the state that there are a lot of cities and a lot of counties that would to have what we have taking place over here in eastern Montana,” Gorder said. “I think that is why we are able to be such a great team... If we’re not staying strong here in eastern Montana, we lose to the big cities and the western part of the state.”
Recent challenges for the county include the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s proposed rules for TENORM disposal. Two public hearings were held in Glendive and Helena, with county commissioners attending the latter.
A new issue facing the county comes out of Miles City.
“The BLM office in Miles City put out a plan of changing their rules on coal leasing on federal ground and it kind of got our attention and it also got the attention of a few other counties and county commissioners,” Gorder said. “We thought it was important we start talking about that.”
The commissioners signed a letter last week stating they would be challenging the BLM rule changes. Gorder said people will have to stay tuned for the resolution of the matter.
The county is also working on getting a dispatch city established for prevailing wages closer to the area, possibly Sidney or Miles City.
“Any government building we build, any school building that gets built in eastern Montana, even a hospital, the prevailing wage city is Billings. So the contractors that are right here in Sidney have to base their rates on Billings,” Gorder said. “We’re broke into four districts across the state of Montana. Most of the other districts have more than one city in their district and miles between them.”
Gorder said, once again, commissioners sent a public comment letter of protest to the department of labor on the prevailing wage. The public comment period has not yet closed on the matter.
It’s been a busy year for Leslie Messer, executive director of REDC. The organization has helped gather resources for Fairview for the new ambulance barn. REDC is working with Lambert to explore the potential for a senior living facility. They have helped Savage with updates to the community hall. REDC has also been involved with the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project, which is currently ongoing.
Messer gave an update on the revolving loan fund, which began as a $1 million gift in 2007. She announced the 16th and 17th loans had been awarded this year.
“As of Sept. 30, the total amount that we’ve leant out is $904,000. The remaining principle that’s due to us is over $322,000. The amount we still have available to lend as those payments are coming back it $765,000,” Messer said. “The total number of jobs that are tied to that are 131. The total investment back into Richland County is $5.5 million. The interest that has been made since 2007 is $64,000, spread around all of our banking institution partners.”
Messer thanked REDC members for their continued support.