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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Page One News at a Glance

Stevi School gets major grant

Ludington earns RMC President’s Cup winner

Stevi sewer rates to go up

Sheriff recommends no charges in shooting incident

Stevi looks into unaccounted-for airport funds

Stevi School gets major grant

By Michael Howell

Finally, parents of Stevensville band and choir students will be able to breathe a little easier when they send their students to class. The issue of substandard, even unsafe, music classrooms has been a problem in the district for a number of years.

Now the Stevensville School District has received a grant from the Department of Commerce for $828,000 for the construction of band and choir facilities as well as a new multi-purpose room and kitchen. The construction of the facilities is being integrated into the current plans for construction of a new 4th to 8th building.

Voters approved a $9 million bond for construction of the new elementary school building last November but turned down a request for an $860,000 bond to pay for the high school’s share of the proposed band, choir, multi-purpose room and kitchen.

Superintendent Kent Kultgen said that competition for the grant money was intense. He said that the Department of Commerce received 135 applications for the funds but only 32 of the projects were funded.

“Due to the work we did to place the bonds on the ballot, we were able to demonstrate the need as well as the safety issues involved and show that we were project-ready,” said Kultgen.

The Department of Commerce funds must be spent within a year of being awarded. As a result, Kultgen said, the project will be integrated into the current elementary school building project. That project calls for the demolition of the current 4th to 6th grade building, junior high shop and junior high building, as well as the re-location of the pre-school building.

Kultgen said that the new speeded up construction scenario was going to mean the temporary displacement of students using the junior high building as well as a disruption in the school lunch program for a few months next spring. He said a catering service would probably need to be hired to serve the school lunches next spring as the schedule for demolition of the junior high building would have to be accelerated. This will leave the school without a kitchen and will leave several 7th and 8th grade classes without a classroom in April and May of 2011.

The use of a catering service would be an easy fix to get through the two months without a kitchen, according to Kultgen, but finding classroom space for the displaced students for two months was a more formidable task. Several options are being considered including using private facilities in town and shuttling the students from and back to the school campus. Exploration of options is continuing.

Kultgen said that, including the grant for the additional construction, the taxpayers were getting a $9.7 million building project for an actual cost to the taxpayers in the district of only $5.6 million. Bids on Phase I of the building project will close on May 22 and the construction site preparation will begin in the week of June 14. Demolition of the junior high shop building is scheduled to begin around July 1.

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Ludington earns RMC President’s Cup winner

Rachel Ludington had several good reasons to come to Rocky Mountain College. A great-grandfather attended RMC when it was called Billings Polytechnic Institute; a grandfather, Edwin Ludington, graduated from Rocky in 1956; and her parents, Paul and Julie (Longbottom) Ludington of Stevensville, graduated in 1982. Despite the legacy, Rachel still thought she’d rather go out of state and to a bigger college. That was her plan before she agreed to at least visit the RMC campus.

“That one visit changed my mind,” the senior music education major said. “It felt like I fit. The people were friendly. I knew I had found a home.”

After four years, the Stevensville native has established a notable record, never missing making the dean’s list each semester, performing in all four RMC music groups – concert band, jazz band, concert choir, and chamber singers – and capturing the 2010 President’s Cup, the highest award given to a graduating senior.

She will graduate summa cum laude on May 8 during the college’s 128th commencement.

Along the way, Rachel received the outstanding music major award during the annual academic awards banquet and was named Student Employee of the Year for the tutoring assistance she provided the Services for Academic Success. Rachel served as the music department’s work-study student and resident tutor, while also tutoring math and writing with the Services for Academic Success program.

She performed one of the most unique programs for her senior music recital in March, which was half voice and half piano, even though, in the concert band, she plays oboe and, in the jazz band, clarinet.

“That is extraordinary,” said Dr. Sam Hamm, one of her music professors. “Everything she does, she does well, and that is due to her discipline and work ethic. She has a promising future as a music educator.”

She could not have accomplished as much at a bigger school, she said. At Rocky, all her music professors collaborated to help her achieve her goals.

“Rachel combines three components necessary for successful students majoring in music; a bright intellect, advanced musical experience and preparation, and high -level organizational leadership skills,” said Dr. Steven Hart, music professor and director of the RMC Concert Choir.

Rachel also presented her honors project – “Cross-Curricular and Interdisciplinary: The Pedagogical Connections between Music and Math” -- a curriculum she developed which provides a nexus for math and music.

Anthony Hammond, RMC director of bands, said it is a project he is confident will be as exceptional as Rachel.

“She is such a bright student, I know it will be comprehensive and well done,” Professor Hammond noted.

Explaining the project is complicated, but Rachel said it basically involves a curriculum designed for fourth grade level, when kids first learn fractions and play the recorder. She thinks her honors project will open a new avenue for teaching those subjects.

“Both math and music have a basis in mathematical foundations, such as fractions,” she said.

For Rachel, the future holds teaching music in a small school district, one where she can continue to help others, like those who helped her.

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Stevi sewer rates to go up

By Michael Howell

The Stevensville Town Council approved sewer rate hikes at its May 10 meeting which, according to a few letters received in public comment, will put the squeeze on senior citizens trying to survive on fixed incomes. The bulk of rate increases are scheduled to take place starting in July 2010 and will be followed by much smaller annual increases over the next four years.

According to engineers from Professional Consultants Incorporated (PCI) who helped develop the rate hike plan, the large initial jump in rates is required to keep the overall total increases over the four year schedule to a minimum and to cover the cost of immediate upgrades to the system required by DNRC permit requirements.

At the current rates the average residential user pays about $105.27 per quarter for sewer use. Those charges will jump by $24.75 on July 1, 2010 to a quarterly total of $130.02. Those charges will increase by another $3.75 per quarter in 2011 and again by $3.75 in 2012. Increases of $2.55 per quarter are scheduled to go into place in 2013 and again in 2014.

Not yet adopted, but certainly on the horizon, are planned increases for water services as well, to cover the cost of the massive water system improvements already under way. The current base rates for water use in town are $51.31 per quarter for non-metered and $43.96 per quarter for metered.

In other business the Town Council:

• accepted the resignation of Municipal Judge Barbara “Skip” Kohn. Kohn also served as the Darby Municipal Judge. Her house, which has been on the market for a few years, recently sold and Kohn plans to move to Detroit to be near her family;

• approved sending a letter of support for the establishment of the St. Mary’s Mission Historic District;

• approved the waiver of water and sewer connection fees for the Stevensville School District’s new building project.

• approved permits required for holding Western Heritage Days.

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Sheriff recommends no charges in shooting incident

By Michael Howell

No charges have yet been filed in the shooting incident that occurred in the home of sheriff’s candidate Wayne Kelly.

According to information released by the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office, on May 6, at approximately 8 a.m., deputies responded to Kelly’s residence near the end of Little Sleeping Child Road, on a reported gunshot wound.

Deputies learned that there had been a dispute between two neighbors. Initial information indicates that one man entered the home of his neighbor without invitation and a scuffle ensued. During this scuffle, Kelly, the homeowner, shot and wounded the other man.

The wounded man was transported to a Missoula hospital by helicopter ambulance. Unofficial reports received by the Sheriff’s Office indicated that the wounded man would recover from his wounds.

Sheriff Chris Hoffman said on Monday, May 10 that his office has forwarded their completed investigation into the May 6 shooting to the Ravalli County Attorney’s Office. Hoffman said that it would be inappropriate to release all of the details surrounding the shooting before the County Attorney had a chance to review the matter. However, Sheriff Hoffman did say that the investigation had concluded that Mr. Kelly had acted in self-defense. Hoffman said that his office would not be recommending charges of any kind against Kelly.

Kelly is the Libertarian candidate for Ravalli County Sheriff and in November will face the winner of the primary election involving Republican candidates Sheriff Chris Hoffman and Joede Vanek.

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Stevi looks into unaccounted-for airport funds

By Michael Howell

A few Stevensville Town Councilors met with Airport Board members last Saturday morning in an effort to resolve the issue of $15,000 in unaccounted for funds.

The issue dates back to a 2008 grant from the Montana Aeronautics Division to the Stevensville Airport. The money was to be used to pay for work done at the airport by Stelling Engineering.

In April of 2008, Stelling Engineering put in a request for reimbursement for the work that was done. The mayor at the time directed the request to the Federal Aviation Administration as required. The FAA sent payment of their portion which was then deposited in Rocky Mountain Bank. According to information compiled by the Airport Board, “it would appear that $15,096.85 was withdrawn from the airport funds for Stelling, but there is no indication that the FAA payment was ever used to pay the bill. Furthermore, there is no indication of where the approximately $15,000 went.” Grant money from the Montana Aeronautics Division is required to be used for airport activities rather than being in the Town’s General Fund.

Councilor Clayton Floyd said that it did not make sense at this point to pay for an audit to try and reconstruct the deal.

Former Town Clerk Nancy Lowell, who attended the meeting, said that she had gone over the Town’s records starting with the beginning balance in 2007 and comparing revenues and expenses and the airport fund comes up in the negative. She said the money is almost certainly in the General Fund, but it is not possible to say exactly where it would be in that account.

As a result the councilors present decided it would probably be best simply to place an existing CD for $15,000 into the Airport Fund and, in the future, take measures to ensure that airport monies are accurately accounted for. Those measures would include the Town getting Airport Board approval before any payments are made relating to airport activities.

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