Officials to declare March 25-29 as Travis W. Atkins Week in Bozeman, Gallatin County

Officials in Bozeman and Gallatin County will join the nation in honoring and recognizing the sacrifice of a Montana soldier who will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor next week.

The Bozeman City Commission and the Gallatin County Commission will adopt proclamations declaring the week of March 25-29 as Staff Sergeant Travis W. Atkins Week in Bozeman and Gallatin County.

Atkins, of Bozeman, was killed on June 1, 2007 when he tackled a suicide bomber who detonated his vest. Atkins’ actions saved the lives of three of his fellow soldiers.

At a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday, March 27, President Trump will present Atkins’ family with the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest honor.

In their proclamations, commissioners from Bozeman and Gallatin County recognize the valor of Atkins’ actions that day, and throughout his time in the U.S. Army. They hope the recognition is a small way to show their gratitude for Atkins and their sincere appreciation for his ultimate sacrifice.

“Staff Sergeant Travis Atkins’ selfless acts deserve to be recognized and honored by all citizens of Gallatin County, Montana and the nation. We are humbled by his service to our country,” said Gallatin County Commissioner Don Seifert.

“Sergeant Atkins gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Not only do we honor Sergeant Atkins this week, we are proud to write his life story into the history of Bozeman. His legacy is great and will not be forgotten,” said Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus.

The Bozeman City Commission will make its proclamation at its weekly public meeting on Monday, March 25 at 6 p.m. in the City Commission Room at City Hall, 121 N. Rouse Ave. (Agenda here.)

The Gallatin County Commission will then make its proclamation at its weekly public meeting on Tuesday, March 26 at 9 a.m. at the Gallatin County Courthouse Community Room, 311 W. Main St. in Bozeman. (Agenda here.) The Montana State University ROTC Color Guard will also be helping pay respects to Atkins by presenting the colors at the Gallatin County Commission’s Tuesday meeting.

(Photos courtesy of the Atkins family.)

 

 

Belgrade VFW to present donation to Gallatin County Treatment Court

This Friday, the Belgrade VFW Post will present Gallatin County Treatment Court and the Friends of the Treatment Court (FOTC) with its largest single donation in the programs’ history.

Jim Matters, Jr., Commander of the VFW Nicholas Bloem Post 12112 in Belgrade, will attend the bi-weekly Treatment Court session on Friday, March 15 where he will present a $1,100 donation to Treatment Court’s FOTC program.

Friends of the Treatment Court is a group of volunteers who donate time and funding to help participants in the Treatment Court program.

Gallatin County Treatment Court is an 18-month voluntary program that can be an alternative to incarceration for adult offenders whose crimes were motivated by substance abuse.

Among a number of things, participants are required to attend addictions counseling, mental health therapy and support groups, as well as submit to frequent drug and alcohol testing and report weekly to a case manager.

The five core values Treatment Court attempts to instill in the participants are honesty, integrity, responsibility, sobriety and service.

Friends of the Treatment Court was formed nearly 20 years ago to support the program’s participants. Over the years, that support has ranged from donating furniture and kitchenware to participants moving into a new home, to buying gifts for participants, birthday cards and Christmas gifts.

“Just little things to make them feel appreciated and a part of the community,” explained Steve Ette, Treatment Court coordinator.

The donation will be presented during Treatment Court’s regularly scheduled meeting on Friday, March 15 at 10:30 a.m. in Gallatin County District Court Judge John Brown’s courtroom at the Law and Justice Center, located at 615 S. 16th Ave. in Bozeman.

Media contact:
Steve Ette, Treatment Court coordinator
582-3706

Verizon 911 issues in Gallatin County resolved

The issues between telecommunication companies that were causing 911 calls from Verizon Wireless phones in Gallatin County to go to nonemergency lines have been resolved.

Emergency calls from Verizon phones are now going to the correct emergency lines at the Gallatin County 911 Center.

Due to an issue between Verizon Wireless, CenturyLink and Zayo, telecom companies that provide services for the Gallatin County 911 Center, 911 calls from Verizon phones were being diverted to the center’s nonemergency lines.

The issue began intermittently over the weekend, then all calls from Verizon phones were being sent to the nonemergency lines starting on Tuesday.

Jim Anderson, director of Gallatin County 911, reported that on Wednesday afternoon the issues had been resolved and calls were going to the correct lines. He thanks Gallatin County 911 Center dispatchers and staff for their diligence in efficiently working around these issues the last few days.

 

Issues with Verizon calls to the Gallatin County 911 Center

Due to issues with telecom companies that provide services for the Gallatin County 911 Center, calls to 911 in Gallatin County from Verizon Wireless phones are currently being re-routed to the center’s non-emergency lines.

This is not due to any technical issues at the 911 center, but rather it is a telecommunications company issue between Verizon Wireless, CenturyLink and Zayo. Regardless, Gallatin County dispatch is doing all it can to mitigate the problems.

These issues began intermittently over the weekend, but now all calls to 911 from Verizon phones are being re-routed to the center’s two administrative lines.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  • Until further notice, if you have an emergency and call 911 from a Verizon phone, be ready to IMMEDIATELY tell dispatch that it’s an emergency AND provide a location as calls to the non-emergency lines don’t provide location data.
  • Because there are only two administrative lines, the center can only take two calls from Verizon phones simultaneously. If you get a busy signal, hang up and try again until your call is answered.
  • There is no time frame as to when these issues will be resolved.

The staff at the Gallatin County 911 Center is working diligently to work around these issues as efficiently as possible.

Media contact:
Whitney Bermes, Gallatin County Communications Coordinator
595-8963
whitney.bermes@gallatin.mt.gov

New security screening process at Law and Justice Center starting next week

After three weeks of practicing, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office personnel will begin a new screening process at the Law and Justice Center starting Monday, Feb. 25.

To increase safety for everyone who uses the Law and Justice Center, there will now be one entrance for the public coming into the building, located at 615 S. 16th Ave., where people will be screened for weapons, which are not allowed in the facility.

The list of prohibited weapons includes:

  • Firearms – with or without a permit, and including ammunition or replica firearms
  • Sharp objects – knives, scissors, cutting tools or arrows
  • Tools – including all construction tools
  • Disabling chemicals – mace or pepper spray
  • Stun devices – Tasers or stun guns
  • Club-like items – Billy clubs, baseball bats or batons

That entrance will be on the southwest side of the building. There, people will be greeted at a window by security, staffed by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office. Bags will be put through a scanner, and people will walk through a metal detector.

Folks unable to use the stairs will be screened at the building’s north entrance.

The main entrance will be staffed Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. For anyone wishing to come to the Law and Justice Center after hours, on weekends or on holidays, they can push a button at the entrance and someone will come screen them.

Signs have been posted around the building to remind people of these new protocols.

People are encouraged to get to the Law and Justice Center at least 10 minutes early to be screened. Around 8 a.m. is the busiest time at the building, so if possible, the public is also asked to try to find alternate times to visit the facility.

Sheriff Brian Gootkin said the new process is bound to include some growing pains and inconveniences at first.

But, the sheriff said, “Most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.”

Gootkin said the new security measures have been a team effort between the sheriff’s office, the Gallatin County Attorney’s Office and the Gallatin County Commission.

There have been serious security incidents in the building in the past, and this new screening process will hopefully keep similar or worse incidents from happening in the future, the sheriff said.

“We’re being preventative,” Gootkin said.

In addition to the new screening process, additional electronic surveillance has been added throughout the Law and Justice Center.

The Law and Justice Center is the only county courthouse in Montana with this level of security.

 

Annual Gallatin County Spelling Bee to be held Feb. 23

The 2019 Gallatin County Spelling Bee will be held on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 9 a.m. in the Hager Auditorium of the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.

One of the oldest academic competitions in the area, the bee features the top spellers in grades 4 through 8 from all public and non-public schools in the county, representing a field of over 6,000 contestants.

Sixty spellers from over 40 public, private and home schools will compete for the top three places and a chance to represent Gallatin County at the Treasure State Spelling Bee to be held in March in Billings.

Local radio and newspaper columnist Chrysti “The Wordsmith” Smith will be pronouncing and numerous prizes will be awarded. Judges include Bozeman Daily Chronicle Arts and Culture Editor Rachel Hergett, Gallatin County Treasurer Jennifer Blossom, and Belgrade School District Trustee Mary Ellen Fitzgerald.

The Gallatin County Spelling Bee is sponsored by Bozeman Bowl, Bozeman Amateur Hockey Association, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Dairy Queen, Edible Arrangements, MacKenzie River Pizza, and U-Swirl. The public is invited to attend. For more information, contact Gallatin County Superintendent of Schools Matthew Henry at (406) 582-3090 or by email at superintendentofschools@gallatin.mt.gov.

Photo courtesy Gallatin County Superintended of Schools:
Gallatin County Superintendent of Schools Matthew Henry, left, is joined by the top five finishers at the 2019 Gallatin County Selling Bee and Chrysti “The Wordsmith” Smith, far right.

Gallatin County Commission to consider agreement settling Bear Canyon Road lawsuit

Next week, the Gallatin County Commission will consider an agreement that settles years-old litigation between the county and the state surrounding portions of Bear Canyon Road.

If the commission votes to approve the proposed settlement, a roughly 1.5-mile stretch of Bear Canyon Road can be formalized as a county road.

The settlement proposes that the county’s claims against the state be dismissed with prejudice, and that no monetary damages be paid by either party, and that each party pay their own attorney fees and court costs.

“This is a resolution that recognizes and legally formalizes the county’s interest in Bear Canyon Road,” said Chris Gray, the attorney representing Gallatin County in the case.

Commissioners will consider approving the proposed settlement agreement at their public meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 9 a.m. at the Gallatin County Courthouse.

The settlement would resolve a lawsuit Gallatin County filed against the Montana Department of Resource and Conservation in 2012 in Gallatin County District Court, in which the county sought recognition that a portion of Bear Canyon Road was a county road as well as damages for trespass.

The dispute began in 2007 when the county learned that the U.S. Forest Service and the state had obliterated Bear Canyon Road where it enters state land. In the effort to reroute the Forest Service trail in the area, the state and federal governments made portions of the road near Bear Creek impassible for some recreational users and claimed the county never had any interest or jurisdiction.  The county never gave up on its claims for the road from the mouth of Bear Canyon all the way to the intersection of the Park County line and eventually filed suit.

Gallatin County remains in litigation with the United States government, which it also sued in 2012 over another section of Bear Canyon Road. That federal case has been stayed on the condition that the state case is resolved. Negotiations in the federal case will continue.

Maps courtesy: Gallatin County GIS

To see the entire proposed settlement agreement, click here: Proposed Bear Canyon Road lawsuit settlement

Commissioners support effort to add fourth District Court judge to serve Gallatin County

On Feb. 1, Bozeman Senator JP Pomnichowski introduced a bill requesting the Montana State Legislature create a position for a fourth District Court Judge in the 18th Judicial District, which serves Gallatin County.

Senate Bill 203 is co-sponsored by a majority of the Gallatin County state legislators. If approved by the Legislature, the new judge would be elected during the general election in November 2020 and begin a six-year term starting January 1, 2021.

The Gallatin County Commissioners voted unanimously to support SB 203 at a public meeting on Feb. 6. The commissioners noted Gallatin County is the fastest growing area in the state, and a fourth District Court judge is necessary to address and serve the public’s needs. The three current District Court judges were in attendance, and stated their appreciation for the Commission’s support.

SB 203 is scheduled for its first hearing on Thursday, Feb. 14 before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Capitol in Helena at 9 a.m.

Approval of the position would include state funding for the judge and three support staff positions. The county would be responsible for housing the judge, which would be done by sharing space in the current Law and Justice Center and in any future facility.

District Court judges handle a wide range of cases, including felony criminal cases, involuntary commitments, child abuse and neglect cases, probates, family law matters, appeals from the courts of limited jurisdiction, and an array of civil matters.

In the last decade, the overall caseload in the 18th Judicial District has increased 40 percent. According to the Montana Judicial Branch’s workload review, Gallatin County is in need of 2.36 additional judges to handle the increasing number of cases.

“My concern is truly for the citizens of the County and to make sure they’re served,” said Commissioner Don Seifert at the Feb. 6 meeting.

Commissioner Scott MacFarlane said another judge would be extremely beneficial to the public, observing that the backlog of cases causes a cumulative stress to a community that depends on judges’ decisions.

Commission Chair Joe Skinner said in a growing area like Gallatin County, services have to expand to meet the community’s needs. “This is just something we have to do,” Skinner said.

The legislation is also supported by Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert and Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin.

(Photos courtesy: Gallatin County)

Media contact:
Whitney Bermes, Gallatin County communications coordinator
Office: 406-582-3008
Cell: 406-595-8963
whitney.bermes@gallatin.mt.gov

 

Gallatin County 911 working through big changes

It has been a year of change at the Gallatin County 911 Dispatch Center, including brand new dispatching, paging and phone systems, among many other improvements.

Couple growing pains from adopting new systems with a shortage of dispatchers, however, and that has made for some struggles. But staff is optimistic, saying they are making big strides in improving service to the community as well as to the agencies the center works with.

“It’s been challenging, but we are moving in the right direction,” said Jim Anderson, interim 911 communications director. “Dispatchers have been fantastic and really working on all cylinders through all of the changes. They’re the backbone of this system and I cannot say enough about how proud I am of their dedication and professionalism.”

Some of the biggest upgrades and changes in the last year include:

  • Gallatin County 911 implemented a new Computer Aided Dispatching, or CAD, which is used to dispatch calls to law enforcement, fire and medical. The new program by Zuercher Technologies was part of a joint project with other agencies, including the Bozeman Police Department, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office and area fire departments, which also included a new records management system for law enforcement.
  • A radio system upgrade as the first phase of a comprehensive radio communication improvement plan upgraded the City of Bozeman police and fire departments to an 800 MHz frequency system, the first 800 MHz trunked site in Montana. What that means for those first responders is better radio coverage in places where they couldn’t communicate prior to the upgrade. It also included other special features, like radio ID with the user’s car or badge number showing on portable radios to an emergency button that with one tap alerts dispatchers to a problem. The Montana State University Police Department also opted to join the 800 MHz system.
  • The paging system was also upgraded, converted to an IP system, that has improved reliability in paging, mainly to area fire departments
  • A new phone system was installed for dispatchers.
  • Gallatin County 911 received money from the Big Sky Resort Tax Board for a Big Sky public safety communications upgrade that will improve emergency communications in that area.

This year also saw a number of IT upgrades, like new computers for dispatchers, replacement of outdated servers and a storage cluster, and resolving phone issues.

At the center’s front desk is Lacy Moore, administrative assistant, has picked up new duties to include helping with the department’s budget and cross training to assist dispatchers when needed, among others.

Moore praised Anderson, saying when he came on board as Interim Director in August of 2017, he jumped into changing life in the department for employees for the better.

“He’s an amazing leader. He’s definitely changing the culture here,” she said.

Staff agree that the department is headed in a positive direction, by both implementing new systems to better communicate with emergency services and the public, as well as promoting a healthier and happier environment within the dispatch center.

But those changes don’t come without their issues, they emphasized. There are trainings to do, kinks to work out, and ongoing maintenance that take time.

The center is also dealing with short staffing. The department, which is authorized for 19 full-time dispatchers, is currently down to nine. However, five are currently in training and hiring efforts are continuing.

Michèle Blais, training manager, has been working to build a new training program that cuts down the training time from up to eight months, down to three or four months. Blais also said, while many of the skills dispatchers will need can be taught, they are putting a renewed focus on getting the right personalities for the dispatch center to help with overall culture and retention in the building.

The department is also in the process of hiring an assistant director, as well as a second radio technician. And later this spring, Gallatin County will be taking over dispatch for the MSU Police Department, which will move a number of new dispatchers into the center.

Due to the changes, as well as the short staff, Anderson said the department has struggled, but continues to push forward with what he says are positive steps.

County Administrator Jim Doar said he appreciates all the work and dedication the dispatchers are doing to meet the challenges. He added, “They care deeply about the community and their role in emergency services. They’ve persevered through some difficult transitions and we are asking them to dig even deeper; they’re rising to that challenge.”

Doar also noted that the progress made so far would not have been possible without Anderson’s leadership and is grateful that the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office was able to assign Anderson to 911 to help.

Echoing 911 staff, Doar also cautioned that the transition to new systems is always difficult and people need to be patient with the changes.

“911 is fundamentally changing the way they do business in order to better serve our fast growing county. Nothing will be perfect overnight,” he said.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin acknowledged frustrations with the changes and challenges 911 has been facing, but voiced optimism about the future of the center.

“We have to eat this elephant one bite at a time and focus on the big picture, otherwise we’ll be right back where we were, which no one wants,” Gootkin said. “We have incredible, dedicated people and that’s why I’m confident we will build a system that our first responders and citizens can count on for years to come.”

Gallatin County 911 Communications provides emergency dispatch services to the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, Bozeman, Belgrade, Manhattan and Three Forks police and fire, rural fire districts and areas, Gallatin County Search and Rescue, ambulance services and other emergency response units.

Media contact:
Jim Anderson – interim 911 director
582-2092

Photo courtesy: Gallatin County 911

 

 

 

Gallatin County finalizes Logan Landfill land exchange

After over a decade of work, a land swap between Gallatin County and the state has been finalized, giving the county ownership of the ground the Logan Landfill sits on, and increasing access to public lands for citizens and visitors.

On Tuesday, Dec. 18, Gallatin County Commission Chair Steve White signed closing documents finalizing a land exchange between Gallatin County and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. White was joined by Jim Simon, district manager of Gallatin Solid Waste Management District, and Mike Atwood and Craig Campbell of the DNRC to sign the paperwork at Security Title Company in Bozeman.

As part of the deal, Gallatin County received 636.12 acres of land from the state, and the state is getting 620.13 acres of agricultural land from the county. State land appraised for $647,000 while the county’s land appraised for $708,000.

Included in the state land were 80 acres for permanent landfill easement and 8.81 acres of commercial lease for the landfill’s scale house facility. The county’s land was about half agricultural land and half grazing land.

As per the deal, Gallatin County paid a one-time annuity payment of $18,037.73 to the state.

The Montana Board of Land Commissioners gave final approval for the exchange in October.

The county’s land, which abutted the western edge of the Logan Landfill, was purchased in 2009 with plans to eventually buy the rest of the land. Gallatin County has been renting a portion of the landfill from the state.

Now, rather than leasing state land, this critical exchange will put the Logan Landfill on county-owned ground and provide for future growth of the county’s landfill for decades to come.

And importantly, the exchange will also improve access to public lands, creating a contiguous and publicly accessible block of four sections of state-owned land in Gallatin County.

At a public hearing late last month, the commissioners praised Chairman White for his work on this project over the years.

“This may be one of his crowning moments,” said Commissioner Joe Skinner.

Commissioner Don Seifert said the move “brings a lot of certainty to the whole county.”

“Thanks to you, commissioner, for sticking with it,” he said.

White thanked his partners at the DNRC, the Gallatin Solid Waste Management District and the Gallatin County Attorney’s Office.

“This is a big deal,” White said.

The total cost of project for Gallatin County, which includes purchasing and improving the land, was $1.8 million. It was paid for with landfill operation funds and not taxpayer dollars. White noted that tipping fees at Logan Landfill have not been raised in more than 12 years.

And it will be business as usual in Logan as the exchange will not impact day-to-day operations at the Landfill.

Media Contact: Commission Chair Steve White, 582-3000