Join your Western News as we take a look back at the second half of 2018 and a few of the moments that stood out in the news. Check out this feature online to see links to the original and related stories.
7/3 Joe Wade’s final fireworks show in the Yaak
After over 20 years of doing the annual fireworks show at the Yaak River Tavern and Mercantile, Joe Wade lit his final fuses June 30.
Wade said he first started making fireworks when he was 11 years old, and that he’s still a kid at heart when it comes to his favorite activity.
“I’m an artist also, I paint,” he said. “But this is big — a big canvas up there. And that’s the way I look at it.”
7/10 Loggers hold alumni trophy ‘til next year
The Libby Loggers alumni team swept a doubleheader against the Strathmore Reds alumni July 6 at Lee Gehring Field, winning 15-2 and 13-8 in games that threatened to stretch into the morning, before the second game was called in the sixth inning.
The win of what some are now calling the “Border War” alumni game entitles Libby to hold onto the trophy until next year.
Scott Foss, who is well-known in the community for his dedication to Lee Gehring Field, said the night of the alumni game is the only time he really gets to play on the field.
“I played here in 1989, and it did not look like this. It was all dirt infield. All dandelion outfield,” he said. “ I just vowed to myself that if I ever got back here, that we’re gonna change this and make it a place that people want to come and play, and people enjoy watching a ballgame here.”
7/13 Teamwork promises improved mental health resources
When Missoula-based Western Montana Mental Health Center closed offices in Libby and Dillon at the start of 2018 following steep budget cuts by the state, a county-led mental health coalition was formed.
They set out to determine how to replace the ER response, and what to do for the center’s clients who would soon be without therapy, prescription and other mental health care services.
By the end of June, they established a behavioral health network managed by the county. The network is comprised of mental health professionals who are paid a stipend for each ER visit.
7/13 Advisory board forms to unify approach to EMS
With a critical lack of volunteers and growing legal requirements and pressures on all sides, first responders and health care providers in Lincoln County are partnering for the sake of public.
After a discussion facilitated through the Lincoln County Commission, stakeholders agreed to form an eight-member EMS advisory board that will work to improve communication among the various entities.
Early into the first meeting, County Commissioner Mark Peck said the legal and logistical requirements and waning community involvement were the problems everyone faced.
“That’s the enemy, not the people in this room,” he said.
8/3 Ambulances need community’s best
For the southern portion of the Lincoln County, every medical 911 call and most of the transports to other hospitals are handled by 16 volunteers in Libby and another 16 in Troy, and most are close to retirement age.
LVA makes over 800 runs a year and TVA makes over 500.
TVA volunteer Roger Gilligan said he’d like the community to understand one thing more than any other about the volunteer ambulance service:
“That it’s likely to disappear,” he said.
If someone doesn’t step up to stand in the gap, it is only a matter of time before there is no one left to answer the calls, he said.
8/3 County declares fire emergency
The Lincoln County Commission on Aug. 1 declared a state of emergency due to fire conditions and activity.
Since July 26, Lincoln County had more than 20 fires caused by lightning, most in remote areas. Many ranged from one-tenth to one-quarter of an acre in size.
A handful of larger fires were keeping Forest Service firefighting resources busy. These included the Davis fire at approximately 215 acres, the Ten mile fire at 40 acres and the Porcupine fire at 12 acres, according to figures the Forest Service provided Aug. 1.
8/7 Troy Mine reclamation has revised schedule, same end date
Hecla Mining Company paused some reclamation work at Troy Mine while it awaited the next step in its legal fight with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.
Despite the move, Hecla remains “fully committed” both to meeting its reclamation obligations at the mine and to developing two new mines in the Libby area, Luke Russell, Hecla vice president of external affairs, said.
Because the reclamation work at Troy Mine is done under the same type of permit Hecla seeks for two other mines, “it’s unclear what the legal status is of those permits until the bad actor situation is resolved,” Russell said.
The decision put out of work a contract crew of 25 to 30 people that had been covering 303 acres of tailings with topsoil. Russell said stopping the work early this year “may have a bit of an impact” on the reclamation schedule, “but not significant.”
The work is expected to take another two to three years. Hecla so far has spent two years and $6 million dollars on reclamation, Russell said.
While awaiting the court’s decision, a three-person crew will continue to maintain the Troy Mine site and do the monitoring and reporting necessary to comply with permitting obligations, Russell said.
8/10 Libby passes chicken ordinance
The Libby City Council unanimously approved Ordinance 1922 on Aug. 6, allowing residents to have chicken within city limits, which went into effect 30 days later.
The ordinance permits city residents to keep up to five chickens, providing that certain conditions such as yard and coop space are met.
Roosters older than three months are not allowed.
8/10 Troy city, schools consider resource officer
The Troy City Council discussed during its monthly, non-voting work meeting Aug. 8 the possibility of working with Troy Public Schools to create a school resource officer position.
Under a draft Memorandum of Agreement, the school and city would share costs for the additional officer, who would officially be a member of the Troy Police Department.
When school is out over the summer, the officer would serve with the Troy Police Department, and during the summer could help reduce current overtime costs for the city, Troy Police Chief Katie Davis said.
Troy Schools Superintendent Jacob Francom said that the school would be willing to work with the city on related costs, such as uniforms and equipment.
8/10 Driver killed in high-speed crash in downtown Libby
Montana Highway Patrol was investigating whether a medical emergency contributed to a high-speed crash that killed a Missoula man in downtown Libby Aug. 9.
Taylor Ray Alford, 31, died when his car crashed into an overhead traffic light post at the intersection of Highway 2 and Idaho Avenue in Libby.
Moments before, Alford reportedly had accelerated to about 100 mph in the 25-mph zone in front of Rosauers before crossing into the opposite lanes of traffic and then swerving to the right across all four lanes before striking the light post and catching fire, wrote MHP Capt. Duane K. Bowers in a news release.
8/21 Skinner gets 10 years, no parole in Yaak murder trial
Ezra Skinner was sentenced in Montana 19th Judicial District Court, Aug. 20, to 10 years without parole for tampering or fabricating physical evidence in connection with the January 2017 death of Travis Gillett.
Skinner pleaded guilty to the charge on March 12 after coming forward to accuse his wife, Sarah Carpenter, of shooting Gillett to death in the Yaak on Jan. 14, 2017. Skinner and Carpenter conspired to conceal and later to sell the murder weapon — Skinner’s .40 caliber Glock handgun — to a relative of Carpenter while at a wedding in Texas.
8/24 Libby, Troy Schools seek to improve safety, not just security
Both Libby and Troy schools made changes over the summer as part of efforts to improve student safety.
Libby Public Schools Superintendent Craig Barringer said that improvements at both the elementary and middle-high schools were in response to a safety audit that looked at everything from how easy it was for people to gain entry to the school unchallenged to blind spots staff may not regularly have an eye on.
Troy recently underwent a safety audit as well, said Troy Public Schools Superintendent Jacob Francom.
Some of the Troy improvements are to areas that have also been discussed during meetings of the Troy Public Schools Board of Trustees.
Both school districts made improvements to entry security, communication and visibility.
“I know the focus is on school security and all those things, but statistics say we have a far more likely chance that a child in our schools is going to do harm to themselves,” Barringer said. “And that is scary.”
In response to that concern, both schools have programs for helping staff to identify signs of a child in need, and for getting them that help.
8/28 One-year cancer free, Jenkins family reflects
After Kiye Jenkins, the young man who local residents rallied around when he was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma in August 2016, reached a year of being considered cancer free, the overwhelming emotion his family described was gratitude.
Eryn Jenkins still remembers after the “Team Kiye” effort began in Libby, the first night driving into Libby on their way home from Spokane and seeing a business on the edge of town with the “Go Team Kiye” sign.
“And then as we drove through town, it was everywhere,” she said.
The financial help from the community made a big difference, and as a result the family didn’t need to take help from Wings or even Ronald McDonald House, they said. But the moral support couldn’t be quantified.
“You feel that, you feel that and know that everything’s going to be alright — everything’s going to be alright,” Dan Jenkins said.
Going into his sophomore year in high school, Kiye doesn’t have any set plans for what he will do after high school yet, but he said that what he went through and the response he received from the community has made him more aware of looking for ways he can help others.
8/31 Return of Crazy Days has crazy-great reception
The Libby Area Business Association brought back Crazy Days to Libby Aug. 24 and 25, and businesses that participated expressed enthusiasm for the return.
Next year, they would like to have music to help keep things lively during any lulls, , said LABA president Gail Burger. She even flirted with the idea of a karaoke contest.
Though the sidewalk art contest was a success, Burger said that the LABA members have discussed expanding on the theme, and some local artists have already expressed interest in being involved.
Burger said they are also considering ways to offer more activities for children, such as a bounce house or climbing wall.
9/21 Troy City Council approves dispensary in city limits
The Troy City Council Sept. 19 heard public comment and discussed permitting the medical marijuana dispensary Alternative ReLeaf to receive a business license, ultimately approving the license with a 2-1 vote, with Councilor Shawna Kelsey absent.
Both members who voted in favor of the license — Crystal Denton and Chuck Ekstedt — expressed support for allowing the business to operate in Troy, though they encouraged the owners to avoid locating near neighbors who would be upset by being next to the medical marijuana dispensary.
Though Council Member TJ Boswell voted against the motion, he did not express opposition to the business locating in Troy. Early in the meeting, Boswell noted the city has an ordinance prohibiting a business license to a business in violation of federal law. Federal law does not allow for medical use of marijuana.
9/25 Chainsaw events draw world class talent, camaraderie to Libby
Between the Kootenai Country Montana Chainsaw Carving Championship and the Ron Adamson’s “The Libby Chainsaw Event,” Libby was revved up for some world-class art and even international exchange over the Sept. 25 weekend.
From artists who discovered power tools — such as Alex Pricob who studied art at university in his homeland of Moldova — to power tool users who discovered art — John Hayes, from Ireland, said he began as a carpenter watching chainsaw carving videos online — there was no single path to chainsaw carving that the artists shared.
A common sentiment among the artists at both events was that they’d love to come back. Pricob said that he found the people here friendly and genuinely interested in the art. And it didn’t hurt that his art sold well.
9/28 Commissioner Peck receives award
Lincoln County Commissioner Mark Peck was left “almost speechless” when handed a “Communicator of the Year” award earlier this month.
“I was extremely humbled,” said Peck, who was recognized by the Montana Wood Products Association at its 46th annual convention in Missoula. “I did not expect it at all.”
Peck was praised for encouraging collaboration among the numerous stakeholders whose interests in the uses of forest lands are at times at odds, and for being “a good if not somewhat unconventional spokesperson for the benefits of active [forest] management.”
10/2 Johnston wins 4th state title, Bradeen makes all-state
In the cold and wind of the State ‘A’ Championship golf tournament in Hamilton, Libby High School senior Ryggs Johnston became only the second golfer in Montana high school golf history with four state wins.
Ryggs was joined as a medalist by fellow senior Sammee Bradeen, who achieved her goal for this year by making all-state.
10/9 Police ID students behind threat at Libby Middle/High School
Law enforcement determined there was no danger to the community following the discovery Oct. 4 of a violent threat written on a wall in a Libby Middle/High School boys room stall.
“This was a successful attempt by a small group of students to disrupt the school,” Libby Police Chief Scott Kessel wrote Oct. 8 in a news release.
Though they took the threat seriously, officials did not believe it warranted closing the school, canceling homecoming activities or notifying parents.
An Oct. 7 Facebook post generated hundreds of comments, many from parents who said they were angry they hadn’t been told about the threat and planned to keep their kids home from school on Monday, Oct. 8.
Though not publicly known at the time of the Facebook discussion, the message suggested a shooting would occur at the school on Oct. 10.
Barringer said he understood parents’ concern and supported them doing what they believe is in their children’s best interest, but said that the school district would never put students or staff in a position of harm.
10/12 More than a fan: Local man supported athletes with own time, money
Since the 1970s, Harvey Frederickson has been a devoted fan and follower, a booster and a man ready to help Libby’s Greenchain wherever he could.
Over the years, he made sure Libby wrestlers had a ride to tournaments or new shirts to wrestle in, said his wife, Dolores. Through news clippings and on the road, he has followed their wrestling careers from an age when they toddled onto the mat all the way to state championships.
“It always made ‘em happy that I noticed ‘em and maybe bought them a T-shirt or sweatshirt or something,” he said. “Just knowing I was there, I think probably helped some of them kids, ‘cause I took an interest in ‘em, you know, and how they were progressing. It was a lot of fun, following them.”
10/16 Sarah Carpenter sentenced for Jan. 2017 murder of Travis Gillett
Sarah Carpenter was sentenced in Montana 19th Judicial District Court Oct. 15 to life without eligibility for parole for the homicide of Travis Gillett in January 2017.
She was also given 10 years with no parole restrictions for tampering with evidence. The sentences will run concurrently, and Carpenter also must pay $2,491 in restitution.
Lincoln County Attorney Marcia Boris outlined the actions Sarah Carpenter took leading up to the moment she shot Gillett to death along the side of the road in the Yaak.
“She has shown no remorse. She has taken no accountability,” Boris said.
10/19 Troy 1 of 6 Gov. picks for project
Lt. Governor Mike Cooney met with Troy area residents Oct. 12 at the Silver Spur as one of six communities chosen for a new initiative of the Main Street Montana Project.
“Troy has been identified as a community where you’ve done quite a bit of good work bringing people together and, basically, building a vision of what you’d like to do and see in this community,” Cooney said.
10/23 Libby beats Whitefish 28-24 in final game
The Libby High School football team beat the Whitefish Bulldogs 28-24 in their final game of the season Oct. 19, but the Loggers didn’t go to the playoffs due to a new point system that placed Whitefish in the playoffs.
After the Loggers’ performance this season, they should be going to the playoffs, said Libby Head Coach Neil Fuller.
“It’s not about being good at the beginning of the season, it’s about getting better, because these guys are peaking right at the right time, and they could make some noise in the playoffs,” he said.
10/26 County Attorney ‘thrilled’ with new probation officer
Lincoln County Attorney Marcia Boris is “absolutely thrilled” with the out-of-the-gate performance of the county’s first probation officer, she told the County Commission Oct. 24.
Vanessa Williams, of Troy, was sworn in Aug. 31 to provide pretrial supervision and probation services to misdemeanor offenders, a move the county made in part to ease jail overcrowding, enhance public safety and encourage them to be productive members of the community.
In October, Williams was monitoring seven people who had been released pending trial. Boris offered evidence of the value of their release: two returned to the jobs they held before they were arrested and jailed, four have found work and one is enrolled in a high school equivalency program.
“Instead of sitting in jail,” said Commissioner Mark Peck.
11/6 ACLU suit: sheriff illegally detaining immigrant
The American Civil Liberties Union sued Lincoln County Sheriff Roby Bowe, claiming he illegally detained a man at the request of federal officials.
Bowe maintained that the Sheriff’s Office routinely detains suspects at the request of federal agencies.
The lawsuit filed Oct. 31 in Lincoln County District Court claims the sheriff has no legal right to hold Augustin Ramon, 32, of Eureka.
Court documents indicate that Ramon has been in the Lincoln County Jail since Aug. 3, when Eureka Police Officer Grigori Neils arrested him on suspicion of burglary.
The same day of Ramon’s arrest, the jail received a U.S. Department of Homeland Security immigration detainer from the U.S. Border Patrol in Eureka, asking the Sheriff’s Office to hold Ramon.
11/16 Troy vote final: 2nd Street sale defeated
With all Lincoln County votes counted and tallied, the west end of Second Street in Troy that intersects with Highway 2 will not be sold to Town Pump, after the ballot initiative was defeated by three votes.
There is no chance of a recount, said Lincoln County Election Administrator Leigh Riggleman. She confirmed with the Montana Secretary of State’s Office that the vote is not eligible for a recount.
11/20 CARD Clinic, Foundation due $57,441, judge rules
Flathead District Judge Amy Eddy ordered that the Center for Asbestos Related Disease Clinic and Foundation be reimbursed for costs both incurred responding to subpoenas from defense attorneys in Asbestos Claims Court cases. Neither Libby nonprofit is a party to any case being tried in the court.
Eddy found that the CARD Clinic is due $57,384.98 and the CARD Foundation $56, according to a court order filed Nov. 15.
The subpoenas have been a focus of attorneys for BNSF Railway Company, one of the defendants in many of the hundreds of asbestos settlement cases that have been consolidated in an asbestos claims court the Montana Supreme Court created in Kalispell last December.
The subpoenas have compelled a number of former and current staffers of both the CARD Clinic and CARD Foundation to testify in depositions — some more than once — and sought what has amounted to over 30,000 documents.
11/27 Stabbing suspect pleads not guilty
Michael Anthony Borchardt-Robertson of Yakima, Washington, pleaded not guilty in Montana 19th Judicial District Court Nov. 26 to charges of attempted deliberate homicide and use of a weapon in commission of a crime in the stabbing of Doug Crum of Libby on the afternoon of Nov. 11.
Crum was stabbed at least 10 times and suffered two collapsed lungs in the attack, which occurred while Crum was walking on the path that extends beyond the end of Kootenai River Road in Libby.
According to his wife, Dolly, Crum continued to show the same resilience in his recovery that helped him to survive the attack. The Crums expressed their gratitude for the outpouring of support from the community.
11/27 Libby to Carnegie Hall with a song
Out of 18,000 high school students from around the entire world who auditioned, a student from Libby is heading to Carnegie Hall in February as one of 200 selected for the 2019 High School Honors Performance Series.
Between representing Libby on an international stage and the support she has received from her friends and neighbors, Lee acknowledged she does feel the significance beyond herself of her performance.
The Libby senior who auditioned with a prayer for pity and grace for the sinners of the world said that whatever she does, she wants it to be about more than herself.
“I also want to help people, whether that’s being a teacher and helping high schoolers, or being in the medical field and helping people who are injured, or even being a chemist and developing new drugs,” she said.
11/27 Libby volleyball at State A Tournament; Ostrem-Johnston retiring
For their second year in a row, the Libby High School volleyball team came away from the State ‘A’ Tournament with fourth place.
Reflecting on the overall tournament effort from Libby, Libby Head Coach Cindy Ostrem-Johnston said that though they fell short of their goal of a state championship title, it was not from lack of effort or wanting it.
It was the final volleyball tournament for Ostrem-Johnston, who is retiring from coaching and teaching.
“There’s been adversities. There’s been disappointments. But I’m glad I’ve been a part of it, and for the most part have really enjoyed the journey and the ride,” she said.
11/30 EPA, County Commission discuss future of Superfund site
As the Environmental Protection Agency winds down the operational phase of the Libby Superfund site, Regional Administrator Doug Benevento assured the Lincoln County Commission that future abatement will not come at a cost to home and business owners, during a meeting Nov. 29.
In addition, Benevento said that the EPA would support keeping the public health emergency designation in place, though ultimate authority on that decision will lie with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Benevento said that there is no discussion at this time of removing the public health emergency.
County Commissioner Mark Peck and Benevento expressed agreement throughout the meeting that it is important that all arrangements for future funding are set down in writing.
12/04 Loggers dedicate plaque to voice of Libby basketball
Libby High School unveiled a new plaque high in the Ralph Tate Memorial Gym Dec. 1 to Jim England, who spent almost 40 years calling Logger basketball from the KLCB booth that hangs above the bleachers
“Jim loved basketball,” said fellow broadcaster Jim Mee. “He watched more basketball games than anybody I know.”
“There was no nicer guy in the world then Jim England,” Mee said. “He was just a super guy. Just one of those people that — just a good guy.”
12/11 Flathead Co-op offers resource officer grant
Flathead Electric reached out to Lincoln County Sheriff-elect Darren Short and Flathead County Sheriff-elect Brian Heino about helping to fund two officers in Flathead County and one in Libby.
The agreement that the cooperative offered is estimated to pay for 30 percent of the wages and benefits for a school resource officer in Lincoln County, according to a data sheet supplied by FEC Public Relations Officer Wendy Ostrom-Price.
12/14 Law enforcement coordinate for drug crackdown
A coordinated set of raids Dec. 10 by local law enforcement netted arrests and charges for drug and paraphernalia possession relating to four Troy residents.
Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and Troy Police Department personnel simultaneously executed search warrants at 311 East Spokane Avenue and 120 Yaak Avenue around 4:55 p.m., Dec. 10, according to County Justice Court documents.
“I think the biggest thing is just how much of a team effort it was,” Troy Police Chief Katie Davis said.
Lincoln County Undersheriff Brian Griffeth said that with a large geographic area, dispersed population and limited law enforcement resources, every chip has to be in play to deal with something so widespread.
“It really and truly takes every single agency — Highway Patrol, Fish and Game, the county, all the cities — in order to make some of these things occur,” he said.