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Year in Review: September-December 2008

by Brad FuquaWestern News
| January 5, 2009 11:00 PM

(Editor’s note: This is the final of three stories reviewing Libby and Troy news of the past year. In this issue, read about events from September through December 2008. In the Dec. 31 edition, January through April was reviewed followed by May through August in the Jan. 2 issue. Also, take note of the list of names that accompany this series. They are the friends, neighbors and relatives that we lost over the year).

SEPTEMBER

• During a Sept. 3 meeting, Lincoln County commissioner Rita Windom rescinded her resignation following a disagreement on who would be appointed to her seat. Windom said she would serve until Nov. 15. Tony Berget, who won the Republican primary for the seat, was a candidate along with Jerry Okonski, who was running for the position in the November election as a write-in candidate.

• An open house on the Bonneville Power Administration Libby-to-Troy transmission line rebuild occurred on Sept. 4. One of the biggest issues involved residents who had concerns living near a 115-kilovolt transmission line.

• Kathleen Stephens of Troy was named U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

• The Libby City Council accepted a recommendation to postpone the Mineral Avenue Streetscape project until next spring.

• Plum Creek Timber Co. and U.S. Forest Service officials went over proposed changes with Lincoln County commissioners during a meeting on Sept. 3. The primary issue revolved around easements as Plum Creek’s transition from strictly timber to real estate continues to evolve.

• The EPA worked on cleanup operations on the banks of Granite Creek and Flower Creek in Libby, and Callahan Creek in Troy.

• Libby Nordicfest was staged for the 24th year with a variety of events ranging from horse shows to arm wrestling.

• St. John’s Lutheran Hospital CEO Bill Patten met with the community about plans for the future. Patten said a site for the future hospital had not been finalized.

• Dog owner Barbara Turner told the City of Libby that one of her dogs previously identified as a pit bull was actually an American bulldog. The other dog that she owned had cancer and was euthanized. The city told Turner that it was her responsibility to prove her dog’s breed to avoid a citation. The case was scheduled to go to court in December.

• Libby Public Schools reported a drop in enrollment from 1,336 last year to 1,295 this year.

• Lincoln County reported finishing in the black for the fiscal year and issued across-the-board raises of 5.3 percent. The raises were tied in to Sheriff’s Office union contracts.

• Heritage Museum in Libby staged its chili cook-off on Sept. 20. Karen Naulty, Bob Castaneda, Cathy Campos and Wanda Breeding were winners in three categories.

• Lincoln County commissioners approved a $50 increase to the annual refuse fee.

• U.S. Sen. Max Baucus chaired a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing in Washington in a fight to declare Libby as a public health emergency. Lincoln County commissioner Marianne Roose and Dr. Brad Black were among those who testified.

OCTOBER

• Although it wasn’t served, Lincoln County justice of the peace Gary Hicks filed a lawsuit on Oct. 2 alleging that Lincoln County commissioners persecuted and harassed him over a five-week period. The Montana Judicial Standards Commission reviewing Hicks’ sexual misconduct case had not yet reached a decision.

• Libby High School crowned Justin Graham and Rachel Cernick as homecoming king and queen.

• County and school officials breathed a sigh of relief with passage of Secure Rural Schools funding. The SRS tax extender was included in the historic Emergency Economic Stabilization Act passed on Oct. 3. Lincoln County’s share came in at $26 million.

• Alltel confirmed that a cell phone tower would be constructed in Troy. The community had previously not had cell phone service.

• Troy High School crowned Seth Jones and Molly Harpole as homecoming king and queen.

• Libby High School junior Jackie Mee placed seventh at the Class A state golf tournament at Polson. Zach Watson missed placing by one stroke in the boys’ competition.

• A bidder paid $920,000 at auction for an historic Colt Walker revolver owned by Libby-area resident John McBride. The price paid for the gun garnered nationwide attention.

• A late-night dynamite explosion shook Libby residents on Oct. 18. Dynamite had been discovered at a Libby home and explosives experts determined that it should be detonated immediately.

• Fire engulfed a camper trailer on Oct. 18 in Libby and killed 53-year-old Roger Renshaw.

• The Montana Judicial Standards Commission recommended that Lincoln County justice of the peace Gary Hicks be removed from office following allegations of inappropriate sexual advances toward female defendants. Hicks was placed on suspension pending a final decision by the Montana Supreme Court.

• Libby resident Brian Sherry was asked to remove an eBay auction item by the EPA. Sherry was selling vermiculite extracted from the W.R. Grace mine.

• The Troy High School football team defeated Thompson Falls, 22-14, to qualify for the state playoffs for the first time since 1992. The Trojans lost to Loyola Sacred Heart 14-6 in the first round on Oct. 31.

• The Libby High School girls soccer team reached the state semifinals but fell to Billings Central, 3-2, in overtime.

• Libby High School quarterback Joel Fuller wrapped up his high school career with 6,399 passing yards and 69 touchdowns and 1,000 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. His passing yardage totals rank him fifth all-time in Montana history. His passing TD total ranks him third all-time.

• U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy said he expected the federal criminal case against W.R. Grace & Co. to go to trial in February 2009. Grace and six present and former executives face charges that they knowingly endangered the lives of Libby-area residents through exposure to asbestos.

• Lincoln County hired Terry Utter of Eureka to serve as temporary justice of the peace in place of the suspended Gary Hicks.

• An air quality alert went into effect from Oct. 29-31 in the Libby area. Residents were told to not use wood-burning stoves as outlined by an ordinance and expressed outrage. A rally was held at the Lincoln County Courthouse and at the county annex building the following week.

• Libby residents show unity through their participation in Paint It Pink on Oct. 31. The event brought awareness to breast cancer.

NOVEMBER

• Libby High School’s boys soccer team won the Class A state championship with a 2-1 shootout victory over Billings Central. It was the first-ever state title in boys soccer since the Loggers implemented the program in 1998.

• A proposal outlined by Paul Rumelhart of the Kootenai River Development Council would bring an ethanol plant to Libby. A presentation by Rumelhart showed how a biomass plant could turn timber into fuel.

• Voters turned out in high numbers for the Nov. 4 election. Winners included Max Baucus (U.S. senator), Denny Rehberg (U.S. representative), Jerry Bennett (state representative, District 1), Chas Vincent (state representative, District 2) and Tony Berget (Lincoln County commissioner).

• In the Nov. 4 general election, Lincoln County voters gave John McCain the nod for president with 61.8 percent of the vote.

• Wildlife officials announced that both grizzly bears that had been relocated to the Cabinet Mountains earlier this year were dead. One bear was shot by a Noxon man behind his house and other was hit by a train along the Clark Fork River.

• A dedication ceremony for the Fred Brown Pavilion was staged on Nov. 1. Brown, who served as Libby mayor for 24 years, was in attendance.

• The EPA announced that Victor Ketellapper had been hired to replace Paul Peronard as Libby team leader. In addition, a unit under the direction of Russ Leclerc would now include Libby.

• The Libby Police Department battled a staff shortage. At one point, the department was down to two active officers.

• Tony Berget was sworn in as Lincoln County commissioner for District 1 on Nov. 12 to serve out the term of Rita Windom.

• Libby City Council members voted in Doug Roll as interim mayor to replace Tony Berget. Fellow council member Charlene Leckrone was also considered for the appointment.

• The Libby High School volleyball team got off to a strong start at the Class A state tournament and finished third overall.

• Brothers Wayne and Guy Waldron of Libby each received prison sentences on Nov. 21 as the result of guilty pleas they entered for their part in a stolen firearms operation in 2007.

DECEMBER

• Troy Mine’s parent company confirmed financial challenges that led to a 10-percent pay cut for employees. Company officials indicated that the mine could shut down if copper and silver prices do not rebound. The mine employs around 185.

• Potential environmental hazards forced the Montana Legacy Project to put its plans for Kootenai National Forest on the back burner. Potential buyers for 13,000 acres became hesitant after a recent study of wind patterns and asbestos levels in tree bark around the former Grace mine near Libby.

• Semitool announced a shutdown from Dec. 15-Jan. 5. The Libby plant manager called the shutdown temporary.

• In response to concern over air quality issues, Department of Environmental Quality officials along with representatives from other associated entities planned to meet with the public on Dec. 18. However, heavy snowfall kept DEQ officials in Missoula and the meeting had to be rescheduled.

• The EPA announced that it finished the year with 149 property cleanups.

• The Libby City Council met with EPA officials in mid-December to improve communication. In particular, the city council and EPA discussed proposals involving cleanup at Riverfront Park and the old export plant.

• Libby and Troy get hit hard with snowfall beginning in mid-December and through the holidays.

• The Libby High School wrestling squad won the Superior Invitational. Kyle Sweedman, Seth Wright, Justin Graham and Brandin Mills each won their respective weight classifications.

• A jury convicted 19-year-old Heather Henson on reduced charges of deliberate homicide. During the trial, Henson took the stand as well as 18-year-old Stephen Thomas, who is expected to go to trial on related charges this coming spring.

• The EPA conducted asbestos air monitoring at five Libby schools.

• Libby City Council on Dec. 16 appointed D.C. Orr to fill the seat vacated by Doug Roll when he was promoted to mayor.

• Libby Middle School students attended an assembly for teacher Tom Gallagher and nine of his fellow soldiers who will be deployed to Iraq.

• International Paper Co. agreed to pay the City of Libby $400,000 by the end of the month to offset the financial burden residents incurred by using their metered water to irrigate lawns.

• The EPA reported that Libby’s air quality falls below the federal 24-hour fine particle standard.

• Turner Mountain Ski Area opened on Dec. 29.

• Kolby Zugg of Libby allegedly shot his brother, Austin, during an altercation at the family’s residence.

• The Montana Supreme Court on Dec. 30 ruled to remove Lincoln County justice of the peace Gary Hicks from office.