Sanders County: The Year in Review (Part 1)

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  • Several big events for the Plains Day celebration the first weekend of June included the parade, Turtle Races and the Lions Dunk Tank. (CFVP file photo)

  • 1

    Jace Russell, pictured with his dad, Plains-Paradise Rural Fire Department chief, smiles after eating a homemade cookie during a fundraiser for the Junior Firefighter Scholarship Fund. (CFVP file photo)

  • 2

    This is an aerial view of the Plains wastewater treatment lagoons that are under siege due to a Clark Fork River erosion issue. (Photo courtesy of Plains-Paradise Ruran Fire Department)

  • 3

    Kids young and old hunted for eggs the Old Paradise School in Paradise (now the Paradise Center) on Easter Sunday. Above, the Easter bunny draws a door prize winner during the event. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Peterson)

  • 4

    From left, Jenny Scrivner, Rubin Samson, Justin Salmi and Tyler Carr sit in the background as loved ones take turns reading their eulogies to the assembly at the Ghost Out event at Hot Springs High School in late-February. The event was a focus on how to learn good judgment when faced with peer pressure. (Courtesy photo)

  • 5

    The Sanders County Arts Council teamed up with Clark Fork Valley Hospital to help young artists showcase their artwork in the halls of the hospital in January 2018. (CFVP file photo)

  • 6

    Outgoing Mayor Greg Eitelberg handed over the reins of Plains to newly sworn in Mayor Danny Rowan. (CFVP file photo)

  • 7

    The Heron Store in Heron is completely engulfed in flames during a fire that occurred on Sunday, March 18, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Jim Hudson)

  • 8

    Plains fifth-grader Kaitlyn Ducept was the overall champion at the 2018 Sanders County Spelling Bee held at the courthouse in Thompson Falls. The winning word she spelled correctly was “retrospective.” (CFVP file photo)

  • 9

    Long-distance runner Elena McAllister will represent her home town of Hot Springs and county in Australia this coming summer. (CFVP file photo)

  • 10

    Sanders and Mineral residents found themselves digging out from an extreme winter storm dubbed the “Pineapple Express” with Pacific moisture moved into western Montana, accompanied by an anarctic air mass at the turn of the new year. (Kathleen Woodford/Mineral Independent)

  • Several big events for the Plains Day celebration the first weekend of June included the parade, Turtle Races and the Lions Dunk Tank. (CFVP file photo)

  • 1

    Jace Russell, pictured with his dad, Plains-Paradise Rural Fire Department chief, smiles after eating a homemade cookie during a fundraiser for the Junior Firefighter Scholarship Fund. (CFVP file photo)

  • 2

    This is an aerial view of the Plains wastewater treatment lagoons that are under siege due to a Clark Fork River erosion issue. (Photo courtesy of Plains-Paradise Ruran Fire Department)

  • 3

    Kids young and old hunted for eggs the Old Paradise School in Paradise (now the Paradise Center) on Easter Sunday. Above, the Easter bunny draws a door prize winner during the event. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Peterson)

  • 4

    From left, Jenny Scrivner, Rubin Samson, Justin Salmi and Tyler Carr sit in the background as loved ones take turns reading their eulogies to the assembly at the Ghost Out event at Hot Springs High School in late-February. The event was a focus on how to learn good judgment when faced with peer pressure. (Courtesy photo)

  • 5

    The Sanders County Arts Council teamed up with Clark Fork Valley Hospital to help young artists showcase their artwork in the halls of the hospital in January 2018. (CFVP file photo)

  • 6

    Outgoing Mayor Greg Eitelberg handed over the reins of Plains to newly sworn in Mayor Danny Rowan. (CFVP file photo)

  • 7

    The Heron Store in Heron is completely engulfed in flames during a fire that occurred on Sunday, March 18, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Jim Hudson)

  • 8

    Plains fifth-grader Kaitlyn Ducept was the overall champion at the 2018 Sanders County Spelling Bee held at the courthouse in Thompson Falls. The winning word she spelled correctly was “retrospective.” (CFVP file photo)

  • 9

    Long-distance runner Elena McAllister will represent her home town of Hot Springs and county in Australia this coming summer. (CFVP file photo)

  • 10

    Sanders and Mineral residents found themselves digging out from an extreme winter storm dubbed the “Pineapple Express” with Pacific moisture moved into western Montana, accompanied by an anarctic air mass at the turn of the new year. (Kathleen Woodford/Mineral Independent)

It was a year filled with a variety of local news in Sanders County in 2018, beginning with Dan Rowan being sworn in as mayor of Plains and pre-Christmas activities.

Here is a recap of what stories and photos made news in 2018 from January through June in the county. We’ll have a look back on July through December 2018 in the Jan. 2 issue of the Clark Fork Valley Press.

JANUARY

Rowan sworn in as Plains mayor

As the New Year was about to clock over, former Mayor Greg Eitelberg handed over the reins of Plains to newly sworn in Mayor Danny Rowan.

The official proceedings took place on Dec. 27, 2017.

When all the celebrations settled, Rowan said there were a couple of agenda items he was keen to kick off and get going straight away.

First off the rank, he said would be the streets.

With the formalizing of the sewer lagoons and street work looking to take place at the next town meeting, Plains looks to have another enthusiastic local sitting in the top spot.

“I hope we get a good roll on these projects so we can continue to keep the town looking and working great,” said Rowan.

‘Pineapple Express’ hits Sanders County

A winter storm blowing through the northwest was being called the “Pineapple Express” and consisted of Pacific moisture moving across the area. This moisture teamed up with a very cold Arctic air mass, which developed across the Continental Divide according to National Weather Service reports.

The two distinctly different air masses were reported to have a crippling effect on the area especially north of Interstate 90. The warmer coastal air caused light to moderate snowfall, which changed to freezing rain in some areas.

By Saturday, temperatures were reported to reach 32 degrees, causing the snow to be heavy and wet, with the West Central Montana Avalanche Center cautioning backcountry sportsmen to use extreme care as there was an increasing danger for avalanches. The Forest Service Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center also reported an avalanche warning for the St. Regis Basin area with travel in the area not recommended as of Friday, Dec. 29.

Two Sanders County deputies sworn in

The Sanders County Sheriff’s Office has welcomed two new deputies to the department.

Deputies Roy Scott and Eric Elliot both say they are thrilled to be serving Sanders County as part of the Sanders County. Both deputies not only love the area and have spent plenty of time in Sanders County over the years, but say there is something about this part of Montana that has continued to bring them back.

Art on the Wall at Clark Fork Valley Hospital

The Sanders County Arts Council teamed up once again with Clark Fork Valley Hospital to help young artists showcase their art work in the halls of the hospital.

The annual event is open for students from kindergarten through 12th grade to hone in on their inner creative talents.

“The art show is open to any student in the county. Home school or public, we want to support them all,” said Sanders County Arts Council’s Joy Nelson.

This years event saw five home schoolers, one entrant from Hot Springs accompanied with a bevy of entrants from the Plains Schools.

Sanders County hazmat funding cut

Hazmat incidents aren’t things that regional residents usually think of; however with the state government scrapping the funding for regional hazmat, there are more then a few questions left unanswered.

The Valley Press reporter (like most residents that live in rural Montana) was unaware of this particular budget cut; and its potential to put first responders at risk.

Recently the Plains Volunteer Fire Department along with the Plains-Paradise Rural Fire District started the first of a two day Hazmat Operational level training to be correctly educated should a hazmat incident occur.

Hot Springs runner to compete in Australia

Hot Springs cross country runner Elena McAllister is getting set to represent her home town and county in Australia this coming summer.

The high school student was selected last year to represent the USA for cross country in Australia but was able to roll over her trip to this year.

Mindy Ferrell honored for outdoor ed work

Trout Creek resident Mindy Ferrell has been recognize for her big impacts in the community.

Ferrell was recently given the Montana Wilderness Association’s Brass Lantern Award for continued volunteer service promoting public lands, wild spaces and outdoor education. Ferrell combined her love for education and the outdoors by taking kids to the outdoors for more than just a standard education.

The former Noxon Schools teacher of 23 years focused her instruction in the elementary school and retired in 2012.

FEBRUARY

Bison Range conservation plan

Federal wildlife officials have agreed to prepare a conservation plan for Montana’s National Bison Range as part of a settlement in a lawsuit brought by an environmental group.

The settlement filed last week in U.S. District Court resolves a 2016 complaint from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, an advocacy group based near Washington, D.C.

It requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete the conservation plan by 2023. The government also agreed to pay PEER $50,000 for its legal expenses.

The 29-square-mile refuge within the Flathead Indian Reservation is home to about 350 bison.

Frank, Uhli capture state wrestling titles

Last weekend saw two Sanders County wrestling teams head to Billings to battle it out with a couple hundred fellow wrestlers to see who would be crowned a state champion.

Kaleb Frank, a Thompson Falls senior, took the state title in the 120-pound class.

Plains/Hot Springs senior wrestler Daniel Uli captured the 126-pound class crown.

Flemmer named CFVH Employee of the Year

Rhonda Flemmer was named the Clark Fork Valley Hospital employee of the year for 2017, and she has sure made an impact on her co-workers as well as her community.

Originally from Kansas, Flemmer entered the Marines in 1984. Now retired from the Marines, she worked in avionics as a tech and quality assurance inspector for an Air Wing squadron working on A-4s and F16s.

She met her husband, Paul, in Japan in 1988 before they moved to Montana in 1990, first being situated in the Bitterroot area before moving to Thompson Falls in 2006.

Together she and Paul have raised three kids and now have five grandchildren to dote on.

Flemmer was nominated by her colleagues at Clark Fork Valley Hospital for the 2017 employee of the year award.

Shooting victim was native of Plains

The 21-year-old woman who was shot to death Jan. 25 in Custer County has been identified as Shania Raymond, a native of Plains who later moved to Idaho.

Officials in Eastern Montana said the suspected shooter has been charged with deliberate homicide.

Custer County Justice of the Peace Donald Neese set bail at $500,000 for 21-year-old Travis Doss, who was charged lat week with killing Raymond at a residence southwest of Miles City.

APRIL

Several spring wolf sightings reported

Prior to 1990, there were very few people in Montana who may have heard the howl of a wolf. By 1925 the species was eradicated from the state and remained virtually extinct until recovery efforts began.

There are sightings of packs in Western Montana and there have been increasing reports of wolf sightings in both Mineral and Sanders County this spring.

Thompson Falls gets urban tree health check

A statewide tree inventory has recently taken place by the Department of Natural Resource Conservation gathering vital information on urban forests, including in Thompson Falls.

“Public trees are a vital component of the infrastructure and character of our communities,” said Jamie Kirby, manager of the Montana’s DNRC Urban and Community Forestry Program. “The statewide assessment provides a set of benchmarks to help cities and towns make management decisions and create long-term strategies for their urban forests.”

The report analyzes data on tree species, size, age, location, condition and other factors in 61 communities. It calculates the benefits provided by trees in each community, including energy savings from electricity and natural gas usage, atmospheric carbon reduction, property value, storm water runoff reduction and contributions to human and economic health.

MAY

Sanders County Torch Run successful

The 2018 Sanders County Law Enforcement Torch Run was another success for the statewide fundraiser that benefits Special Olympics.

Deputy Roy Scott of the Sanders County Sheriff’s Office took the lead to organize this year’s event.

He was able to get approximately 60 participants of all ages either walk, run, ride bike or carry the torch on horseback.

The route took place on Highway 200 starting at the Idaho line and went straight through to mile marker 76 in Plains.

Garrigus: All-American Trapshooting honors

Jackie Garrigus was recently selected to the 2018 Lady II All-American trapshooting first team.

The Amateur Trapshooting Association determined this year’s select. Garrigus was selected into the senior shooters division.

Plains wastewater lagoons at risk

A Declaration of Emergency was issued May 3 as the banks of the Clark Fork River behind the wastewater treatment lagoons in Plains began to cut away due to recent rain and snow melt.

Plains Mayor Danny Rowan said between April 27 and May 4, about 18 feet of riverbank was washed away, putting the sewage lagoons a great risk.

Rowan had said Friday that he had made a Declaration of Emergency for Plains, which was required for the U.S. Army Corps Engineers Northwestern Division to enable swift aid to prevent a catastrophic incident.

With the loss of the riverbank and more runoff expected, the water treatment lagoons are in jeopardy of leaching untreated water into the Clark Fork River.

Low reservoir level leads to concerns

Northwestern Energy are advising recreation water users to be cautious, remove docks and boats as reservoir levels at Thompson Falls are set to drop.

With very high Clark Fork River flow this spring it forced NorthWestern Energy to release a number of the removable steel spillway beams on its Thompson Falls Dam.

The replacement work is expected to take around two weeks and cannot begin until river flows drop below 20,000 cubic feet per second. The river flow was seen at 98,700 cubic feet per second on May 24.

JUNE

Hot Springs hosts Homesteader Days

Residents from throughout Sanders County and neighboring areas converged on Hot Springs for Homesteader Days the first weekend of June. Main Street was blocked off for the street party which saw vendors, live bands and a great kids’ parade.

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