Five years ago, Flathead Valley United began planning  to develope an indoor training facility. The land purchase was finalized in 2021 and the soccer club is moving forward with development. The planned 16,800-square-foot indoor sporting facility will be located in Evergreen, where it will be located next to Evergreen Middle School. The indoor facility space will be maximized to allow for a 7v7 or 9v9 field, with a mezzanine seating area.

Owner Kyle Pemberton formed the idea of Man of the Woods after making house calls to cut clients’ hair. The mobile barbershop, Man of the Woods, is the first in the state of Montana. This year, they cut hair in temperatures as low as 30 below zero. Man of the Woods operates seven days a week in Big Sky and around Bozeman

“The Amenity Trap: How high-amenity communities can avoid being loved to death,” focuses on four broad categories in which tourism destinations increasingly struggle: housing, infrastructure and public services, fiscal policy, and natural disasters. The report was produced by Headwaters Economics of Bozeman. The report examines how increasing levels of outdoor-recreation tourism can become stressors in those areas, and how some communities have addressed the challenges .

Wade Fellin  is owner of the Big Hole Lodge in Wise River Montana and fishing guide. For years, trout in the Big Hole and other area rivers have seen population declines, with some sections reporting less than 1,000 trout per mile. The declines prompted Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks to issue emergency angling restrictions on the Big Hole, Ruby, and Beaverhead Rivers this June. FWP has acknowledged that low stream flows and high-water temperatures are stressing fish to the point of population decline. Fellin and other Montana anglers and outfitting businesses created the Save Wild Trout Campaign this June. The campaign aims to raise at least $500,000 in its first year to hire a team of private and independent scientists to study the fish declines.

The Bookshelf in downtown Kalispell was purchased by Stephanie Pius in June of this year. When Stephanie, a lover of books herself, bought the business on Main Street, she said it never occurred to change the store away from a bookstore. Pius looks forward to making the store her own .

The Gaul family recently began a “glamping” business.Bridger and Annie Gaul, have opened a luxurious form of camping on property they own on Flathead River near Paradise.

A long-awaited grant of $30.5 million for a road construction project on U.S. Highway 93 south of Ninepipe Reservoir in the Mission Valley has gained momentum. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes will receive the funding as part of a larger pot of $130.5 million disbursed by the Federal Highway Administration. The 3 mile project includes a multi-span bridge over Post Creek with an uphill passing lane, and a multi-use bike and walking path. It will also include infrastructure to reduce wildlife collisions and other safety improvements         .

The Missoula Urban Transportation District was selected to receive $39.1 million through FTA’s FY 23 Low- or No-Emission Vehicle Program and Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program. The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration, which recently announced 130 awards totaling nearly $1.7 billion from the Infrastructure Law for transit projects in 46 states and territories

The Whitefish City Council is considering holding a public hearing in August to ask voters to reallocating a portion of the city’s resort tax toward funding affordable community housing development and programs. Any change to resort tax allocations would require voter approval, with the council having the final say on whether to ask voters to weigh in at the ballot box during this fall’s elections.

Sun Mountain Lumber, Deer Lodge, has purchased the R-Y Timber mill in Livingston and plan to reopen the facility

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) and KLE Construction Inc. have substantially completed the Hardin-South project. The Hardin-South project was a roadway reconstruction project?focused on?improving State Secondary Highway 313 (S 313) by addressing wear and tear and improving the service life of the roadway. Additionally, there is a new structure?over?Williams Coulee, and the Two?Leggins?Canal structure has been updated with new guardrail. 

After being acquired by the Young Automotive Group, Flanagan Motors Mazda has become Young Mazda of Missoula. Paul Byron is Young Mazda Missoula’s new general manager, Founded in 1925 by Jack Olsen, the Young Automotive Group has 29 locations across northern Utah and southern Idaho. Young Mazda Missoula will be their first Montana dealership. Flanagan Motors Mazda opened 47 years ago.Once the acquisition is completed, current owner Shannon Flanagan will take on a new role as the community service representative manager.

As part of a federal effort to build resilient supply chains, the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center at Montana State University has been awarded $400,000 to offer increased services and resources to manufacturers in the state.

The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 authorized $20 million that’s being distributed through the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a nationwide network of outreach centers like MMEC that receive federal funding to enhance U.S. manufacturing, according to Jenni West, MMEC’s associate director.

The funding has allowed MMEC to hire a full-time supply chain project manager, Jeff Peterson, and will enable MMEC to offer a variety of trainings and services to help Montana manufacturers more easily access parts and materials from domestic suppliers, West said. The effort comes in the wake of supply chain disruptions related to the pandemic that have been challenging for manufacturers in the state, she said.

“This is going to allow us to expand our work with Montana manufacturers to help them build supply chains that are more reliable because they’re based around other manufacturers like them in the U.S.,” West said. The effort could also open new market opportunities for Montana companies as they provide goods that other manufacturers in the U.S. need, she added.

MMEC has an existing supplier scouting program that helps Montana manufacturers locate parts and goods that are difficult to source. It also connects them with opportunities to respond to the supply needs of other manufacturers and federal agencies. Within the new federal effort, called MEP’s National Supply Chain Optimization and Intelligence Network, or SCOIN, that work will be expanded as part of a national framework that helps connect small suppliers to more opportunities in the supply chain, West explained.

“A lot of it will depend on our outreach to Montana manufacturers and the connections and relationships we form,” West said.

MMEC, which is housed in MSU’s Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering, is a statewide manufacturing outreach and assistance center that provides solutions to help Montana manufacturers grow, innovate and enhance their businesses. Since 2002, MMEC’s clients have reported $1.5 billion in new and retained sales, more than 7,000 new and retained jobs, $364 million in new investments and $184 million in cost savings.

The Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) for the Billings MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) is going through the final steps of being fully approved by the City of Billings, Yellowstone County, the Planning Board and the PCC (Policy Planning Committee which serves as the local MPO). The LRTP lays out the immediate and long term – –  20 years —  transportation projects that are considered important by the community, and prioritizes them.

The estimated cost of the proposed and recommended projects for the Billings MPO total, from 2024-33, $443,062,726. From 2034-45 they total $491,140,675. The estimated available revenue ($1.251 billion) is greater than the estimated total costs ($934.2 million) to implement the committed and recommended projects for the 2023 LRTP, which means the plan is fiscally responsible.

The Draft 2023 LRTP, which was presented to, and approved by Yellowstone County Commissioners, last week, includes  updates  to current transportation conditions, forecasts future population impact on the transportation system, models future traffic volumes through to 2045, and includes transportation project priorities. It was prepared for the City of Billings by Kittelson & Assoc. and DOWL.

The lion’s share of the 416 projects included in the 20-year Billings MPO plan are for multi-use trails and bicycle trails with 86 multi-use trails  and 124 bicycle trails. The next largest category is 81 roadway projects, which includes widening, reconstruction, space allocation, pavement preservation, signage, bridge rehabilitation, railroad crossings, pavement of gravel roads, etc.;  followed by 56 intersection projects, which includes safety studies, new stop signs new traffic signals, new roundabout, turn lanes, ADA upgrades and interchange layouts. Fifteen Congestion Management projects are included, which involve signal timing signal equipment, signs and warning systems. There are 22 Safe Route to School projects which involve projects identified in the 2022 school plan update; followed by 18 transit projects with include transit facilities, improvement, bus replacements, electric vehicle charging stations, and other upgrades.

Of the 416 projects in the plan, 63 are committed projects which are already included as existing projects in the Montana STIP, the MPO TIP, or the City of Billings CIP. Projects prioritized as “recommended” are those expected to be fully funded by year 2045. Illustrative projects are not expected to be funded by 2045 due to fiscal constraint but could be included in the adopted Long Range Transportation Plan if additional resources become available.

Funding comes from a combination of sources including federal, state and local revenues. The report explains “As transportation technologies continue to evolve, funding sources that were once lucrative, such as gas taxes, may become less relevant. To supplement and eventually replace obsolete funding sources, there are several funding sources that are emerging, including congestion pricing, mileage-based fees, variable parking fees, and electric vehicle charging taxes.”

Charging tolls is an option for heavily used roadways to reduce demand and to raise revenue.

Another future source for more funding is Mileage-Based Fees — also known as “Vehicle Miles Traveled” (VMT) fees. This funding source charges drivers directly for each mile traveled, either through odometer readings at annual vehicle registrations or GPS-based systems. Oregon and California have piloted mileage-based systems since the 2000’s, and other states are considering them.

Variable Parking Fees are similar to congestion pricing, charging fees for vehicular parking based on location, availability, and the time of day.

Electric Vehicle Charging Tax is emerging as a funding source. It levies a tax on electricity delivered to public electric vehicle charging stations. The Montana State Legislature passed a kilowatt hours tax in 2023. The state is researching replacements for the gas tax. At present, the gas tax is the primary source of non-federal funding for roads.

The current annual allocation for the Billings#-Yellowstone County MPO is $65,587,858. The 22-year revenue projection is $1,251,530,000. Using the 22-year revenue projection, the average annual allocation is estimated at $56,880,000. The report stated that the average annual revenue projection is anticipated to increase due to changes in federal funding programs. “However, it is important to note that federal earmarks, which were a previous revenue source, are no longer expected.”

Among some of the significant projects likely to emerge in the nxt few years:

Roadway Projects:

—Downtown 2 Way Conversion of 2 way streets. The one way to two?way conversion moves toward a consistent network of two?way streets within downtown Billings. 2028, $7,400,000

— 21st Street Underpass Improvements. The 21st Street Underpass has a low clearance of only 8.5 feet, limiting the vehicles that can pass through this route. With the congestion of 27th nearby, the City will increase the clearance to standard minimum of 14 feet to provide a route for emergency vehicles or larger commercial vehicles, especially during train crossings on 27th. 2028, $11,850

—90 Incident Management will install variable message signs and road closure gates on Interstate 90 from Billings to Three Forks – will aid in communicating road conditions, accidents, or other important information about the roadway ahead. 2028, $5,600,000

— Wicks Lane – Main to Bitteroot design for the reconstruction of Wicks Lane and construction of sidewalks. Wicks Lane is an arterial that carries a volume of traffic that would be more efficient and safe if the road was reconstructed as a three lane section with multimodal facilities. 2028, $2,200,000

— Billings Bypass – Five Mile Road to US87 Construction of connection from Five Mile Road to US87, 2028, $16,207,400

— Inner Belt Loop Road Construction, 2028, $14,620,400

— 1st Avenue N – 9th to RR Crossing Major Reconstruction, 2028, $15,209,100

—Billings Bypass – Johnson Lane Interchange to RR Overpass Construction of connection from interchange to railroad overpass, 2028,$9,252,800

— Billings Bypass – Railroad Overpass Construction of new bridge over railroad, 2028, $5,301,800

Intersection Projects:

—Billings Bypass – Johnson Lane Interchange Reconstruction of existing interchange, 2028, $45,204,600

— Exposition Drive and 1st Avenue N. Intersection improvements, 2028, $10,221,500

— Zoo Drive Improvements – Safety improvements, 2028, $5,238,300

— Airport Road and Main Street – Billings Intersection improvements, 2028, $10,968,100

— Rimrock & 62nd St W Intersection Improvements – Roundabout, 2028, $7,545,300

— Lockwood Interchange – Billings Reconstruction of existing interchange to a diverging diamond design, 2045, $45,000,000

— West Billings Interchange Construct additional EB and WB mainline lanes through interchange, modify vertical curve, reconstruct bridge segments (Laurel Rd and Mullowney) and restripe WB off-ramp at West Billings Interchange, 2045, $26 million.

Congestion Management

—27th Street RRXing ITS Signage and Advanced Warning System, Implement a signage and advanced warning system on 27th Street to inform transportation users of crossing delays due to incoming and stopped trains, 2033, $671,958


—a pedestrian grade separated crossing across Exposition Drive between 1st Avenue North and 6th Avenue North in 2028, $4 million.

— Sidewalk on Old Hardin Rd between Becraft Ln and Dickie Rd, 2033, $1.9 million

— Highway 3 Pedestrian/ Bicycle Underpasses as needed for multi-use trail connection across Zimmerman Trail, and north-south connections across Highway 3 for future development. 2045, $2.2 million

Bicycle Trails:

— Terry Ave/ Howard Ave/ 24th St W. neighborhood bikeway, 2028, $240,000

— 1st Avenue N. Bicycle Lane from N 13th St. to N. 36th St, 2033, $111,229

— Minnesota/ 1st Ave S Bicycle Lane from N 13th St to State Ave., 2033, $198,127

— Montana Ave. Bicycle Lane from N 18th St to Division St., 2033, $115,574

— Jellison Rd Bicycle Lane from Blue Creek Rd to Aldona Rd, 2033, $68,649

Trail Projects:

—Skyline Trail Multi Use Path, 2028, $4,121,400

—Stagecoach Trail is an 8?foot wide shared use pathway approximately 5,300 lineal feet that will run on the east side of Zimmerman Trail from Rimrock Road to Highway 3. This trail is an essential part of the Marathon Loop and will provide a connection from the top of the Rimrocks to the valley. 2028, $3,500,000

—6th Ave N Multiuse Trail will add a trail on 6th Ave North from Exposition Drive to N 13th. 2028, $500,000

— 25th Street Pedestrian Bridge over the Railroad Tracks at 25th Street between Montana and Minnesota Avenues. 2028, $1,250,000

— Coburn Rd Multi-use Trail from Old Hardin Rd to South extent of Coburn Rd; spot improvement at Old Hardin Rd and at Rosebud Lane, 2045, $3,816,648

Transit Projects

—Metroplex expansion/ interior remodel, 2028, $1,600,000

— MET Transit Rollingstock/ Buses Replacement Vehicles, 2028, $4,045,600

— Fixed Route Redesign to provide a better rider experience across the service area without requiring more funding. The redesigned network would achieve this by revising parts of the current route network so that buses spend more time on corridors with high demand, by reducing or eliminating loops, and by providing improved connectivity between transit-oriented land uses

By Evelyn Pyburn

The news recently held a report that fossil fuels are not good for human life.

One has to wonder, how simple-minded one must be, not to realize the absurdity of that statement. Look around you – wherever you are at – point to something that isn’t dependent upon fossil fuels, in one way or another, to be in existence. 

One might be concerned about the impact of carbon dioxide on the climate but it is beyond absurd not to know that other than water and oxygen – nothing has benefited human life more than the discovery and broad use of fossil fuels.

The reason so many people have a skewed negative perception about fossil fuels is that in discussions about them there is ZERO consideration given to any positive data. There is no balancing of the pros and cons about the use of fossil fuels. All we hear is the possible negatives – that aren’t really even substantiated. Almost all are theoretical. There is no interjection of positive benefits as a counter point — positives that are provable, without doubt, and which so exceed any nebulous negatives that it is astounding.

Nothing has been such a miracle to the human race as fossil fuels. Without them, chances are great that you and I would not be here, and for those humans who may have survived the whims of the planet, their lives would be grueling beyond belief, and stupefyingly boring!

To think that fossil fuels are not good for human life is almost as absurd as believing that “nature is our friend.” You can love nature. Enjoy it as much and in as many ways as you like. Manipulate it to your benefit. Marvel at its grandeur and beauty. But the moment you forget how treacherous it can be, is the moment it will snuff you out.

The abundant and cheap fuel that comes of oil, gas and coal is without doubt the reason that human life exists in the numbers it does today – or even exists at all. More than once in the history of human beings the species came near to extinction – in large part because of the climate – because it was too cold – too cold to keep from freezing, too cold to get adequate food, too cold to advance the well-being of the species.

Here’s a graph that in terms of life expectancy for human beings throughout the world, shows the mind-boggling increase in life expectancy that happened almost from the very instant we started using fossil fuels. Average life expectancy barely exceeded 30 years for most of human existence.  It was less than 200 years ago, that fossil fuels came into use by human beings, and during that time it’s been an almost perpendicular climb to an average life expectancy of over 70 years old. How can one look at that and declare that fossil fuels have been bad news for human beings?

The graph comes from Alex Epstein’s book, “Fossil Future”, in which Epstein explains the reason we have benefitted so mightily from fossil fuels. The benefit of fossil fuels “are the ultra-cost-effective machine labor, enormous amounts of freed-up mental labor, and materials that radically increase humanity’s productive ability and therefore make our naturally deficient, dangerous, low-opportunity, stagnant planet into an unnaturally nourishing, safe, opportunity-filled, progressing world.”

Oh yes – people point to solar and wind energy as alternatives but they are not alternatives. Those energy sources depend on fossil fuels to be even remotely viable. Those industries have been propped up because of subsidies that are generated by taxpayers using fossil fuels to earn the money from which the taxes are paid. There is also little mention of the fact that most of the materials used in building wind mills and solar units is mined, manufactured and transported almost completely through the use of fossil fuels.  And, what was the source of power that got the equipment and material transported to generating sites? 

The fact is neither “alternative” could even be discussed as possibly viable without fossil fuels – and for all the subsidies and market “favors” they have received, the alternatives still fall egregiously short of meeting even ten percent of anyone’s energy needs. Perhaps some day they, or something else, will, but not today.

If we are to eradicate fossil fuels and if you want to continue the existence of human beings then someone must come up with a rational plan of how to replace fossil fuels – or most of us will die. A plan! That’s all I am waiting for.

But perhaps that is the plan. There have been global warming alarmists who have very clearly and forthrightly stated that to eliminate the number of human beings is exactly what they hope to achieve. I have a couple ideas on how they can get a jump on that without threatening my life; but, one must at least give these people credit for being honest, because the death of millions of people is exactly what the results will be of eliminating the use of fossil fuels.

In fact, the current strategy of governments around the world in reducing the use of fossil fuels, of increasing the costs of using them and prohibiting the acquisition of more, has already resulted in untold deaths.  People freezing to death because of rolling black outs, or because they can’t afford the escalating cost of producing foods or medicines. When they can’t obtain necessities to sustain their lives – that is what most threatens human life.

Fossil fuels are very much so– very good for human life!

During a three-day swing through eastern Montana on his 56 County Tour, Governor Greg Gianforte visited new and expanding small businesses in Custer, Rosebud, and Treasure counties.

“Thanks to hardworking Montanans, we’ve seen a record number of new businesses created in our state in the last two years,” Gov. Gianforte said. “We’ll continue to foster a climate where businesses can thrive and create greater prosperity for more Montanans.”

In Rosebud County, the governor visited Wandering Acres, a farm and floral business growing flowers for weddings, special events, and floral subscription services.

This spring, owner Tamara Robertson partnered with a local business to open The Flower Bar in Forsyth, offering fresh flowers on-the-go for customers. Robertson also hosts groups to the farm to build their own bouquets.

“On their fourth-generation ranch, Tamara combined her love for flowers and her knack for customer service to create Wandering Acres,” Gov. Gianforte said. “Now, she’s expanding her young business to town, adding vibrancy to Forsyth.”

In Miles City, Gov. Gianforte visited Troggy’s Trailer Repair, owned by U.S. Navy veteran Tyler Trogden. Trogden secured a loan to purchase the trailer repair shop last year.

“The thing I love about entrepreneurs like Tyler is that they’re willing to take a risk,” Gov. Gianforte said. “He’s already paying down his debt and hired two employees to work in his shop.”

Troggy’s Trailer Repair is one of 53,000 new businesses created in Montana in 2022, a record for the state. In the governor’s first year in office, Montanans created 51,500 new businesses, eclipsing previous records by more than 12,000 businesses.

In Treasure County, the governor visited the Ogren Ranch, owned and operated by the Ogren family. Partnering with a local meat processor, the fourth-generation ranchers bring hormone-free beef to market on their online storefront, launched this spring.

“It’s no secret – Montana beef is the best beef in the world,” Gov. Gianforte said. “It’s great to see ranchers like the Ogrens bring pasture to plate right here in Treasure County, supporting jobs and strengthening our economy.”

To help small businesses, farms, and ranches, the state legislature increased the business equipment tax exemption from $100,000 in 2021 to $1 million, eliminating the tax burden for 5,000 Montana businesses.

Creating a better climate for business development and job creation, including cutting taxes, overhauling regulations, and encouraging entrepreneurship, is a central element of Governor Gianforte’s Montana Comeback Plan.

It’s almost time for Dig It Days! The fun-filled event of big construction machines will once again top-off Montana Fair on its last two days, Friday and Saturday, August 18 and 19.

Sponsors are being lined up in three levels this year, filling more booths and displays than ever before. Any construction or family related business interested in being part of Dig It Days is urged to contact Jonathan McNiven (406 672-5941).

Dig It Days is an opportunity for kids to explore, climb on, “drive”, take pictures and fantasize about every kind of dirt-moving, heavy equipment imaginable. A production of Yellowstone Family and sponsored by equipment dealers, contractors and others involved in the construction industry, the event is aimed at introducing youngsters to the construction industry. It’s also a fundraiser for scholarships.

Dig It Days gives kids of all ages an opportunity to operate back hoes and excavators, under supervision of experienced operators  — and some of those kids are “oldsters” who have always wanted to try their hand at operating one of the big machines. 

Also, a very popular feature is “Sand Mountain,” where kids can play and dig in the sand to their heart’s content. They never want to leave.

The Dig It Days board has set new fundraising goals and added new beneficiaries for the proceeds. Besides the event’s primary focus of providing scholarships that support the future workers and leadership of the construction industry, donations will also be made to a local law enforcement group, a mental health /suicide prevention fund, Veterans Navigation Network, Yellowstone Boys and Girls Club, and KOA Kids Camp.

Dig It Days will give out 750 t-shirts each day, construction hats and stickers, on a first-come bases. And, it’s all free (after paying fair admission).

Part of the events include what has grown to be a popular contest in which operators employed by many of the sponsors compete to see who can pick up and move eggs with a backhoe shovel without breaking any eggs. The winner gets $500. It is important to note that it is primarily the employees of the sponsors who volunteer to monitor and oversee the displays and activities bringing their expertise and experience to make sure all goes smoothly and safely.

Get more information at

Dig It Days was launched in 2019 by Yellowstone Family, Yellowstone County News’ non-profit foundation, with the goal of providing wholesome, fun, family entertainment and education, while supporting worthwhile programs for youth.

Billings-based First Interstate Bank has been named MoFi’s Montana Lender Partner of the Year for 2022, referring more businesses to MoFi than any other lending institution in the state. MoFi presents the award annually to its most prolific commercial lending partner, an institution that has demonstrated outstanding commitment to meeting the needs of small-business owners and entrepreneurs across Montana.

Many successful Montana businesses struggle to get the financing they need to grow. First Interstate Bank has been recognized for helping connect small-business owners and entrepreneurs across the state with a resource to meet that need – flexible, responsible capital that sees them through short-term growth and prepares them for a longer-term bank loan. That capital comes from MoFi, a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution that provides financing and consulting services to small-business owners and entrepreneurs who are unable to receive a traditional bank loan.

The culture of connecting clients to the products and services they need is fostered by the leadership at First Interstate Bank across Montana. In 2022, First Interstate referred 42 nearly bankable businesses to MoFi, with 18 of them receiving a total of nearly $3.3 million in financing.

“First Interstate Bank is thrilled to be recognized as the leading bank in Montana identifying clients who can utilize the lending options that MoFi provides,” said Jocelyn Lane, Regional President, Montana, for First Interstate Bank. “We appreciate the partnership between our two organizations so we can provide these financial solutions to meet the needs of our clients.”

As a nonprofit community-based lender, MoFi provides flexible, responsible capital to businesses that fall outside of traditional “bankability” at a moment in time. Many of the organization’s clients are referred via commercial lenders when they are unable to provide financing, in whole or in part. MoFi works with clients to design tailored loan solutions, including loan size, type of loan structure and uses. The organization also provides a full suite of consulting services to clients to help them build successful businesses and transfer to a long-term bank relationship as quickly as possible.

“Working together, MoFi, banks and credit unions can ensure Montana entrepreneurs have access to the capital they need to build their businesses and better their communities,” said Dave Glaser, President of MoFi. “We’re greatly appreciative that First Interstate Bank and other lenders recognize the positive impact of our partnership in cities and towns across the state.”

In 2022, MoFi provided over $915 million in financing to over 4,800 small businesses across the Rocky Mountain West.

The budget for Yellowstone County is plagued with inflation woes, which is compounded by needs for additional staffing as well as the increased costs of obtaining and retaining staff.

The overall estimate for taxes levied for the new fiscal year budget is $62.5 million, an increase over last year’s $60 million budget.

“While Yellowstone County is in sound financial position, our preliminary fiscal year budget comes with some continued challenges, Jennifer Jones, County Director of Finance and Budget, explained to County Commissioners, last week, as they reviewed, with each county department head, their proposed budgets and needs for the coming year.

Yellowstone County is not predicting an increase to actual mills levied in FY 2024. “We have no new voter approved mills, however, property taxes will increase slightly by the statutorily allowed inflationary factor and estimated new growth rate,” said Jones.

The county’s annual review gives a broad picture of the operations of county government, as well as establishing a budget for fiscal year 2023-24, which determines the mills the county assesses. With taxpayers having recently received new property tax assessments, which were considerably higher than in years past, there has generally been great angst among taxpayers about what their tax bill will look like.  

Jones said that over 90 percent of requests for additional staff came from legal, law enforcement and detention center needs.

The budget continues to focus on long-term capital needs, including MetraPark, the Miller Building, the Detention Facility and eventually the extensive remodeling of the courthouse to accommodate court-related new growth including the possibility of new judges.

Whether Yellowstone County needs to expand its jail has been an issue of considerable interest by citizens. In looking at the costs and future revenue projections, Jones explained the realities that must be faced by the county in making that decision.

“Our recently expanded detention facility is potentially scheduled for additional review as to capacity. We continue to maintain that our issues are not solely related to our detention facility being too small, but rather to some issues outside Yellowstone County’s control. Some of those issues to consider before pursuing an expansion would be the pace of the judicial system, mental health programs available in the community, and most of all the failure to address the lack of detention space at the state level which adds to our facility’s numbers. If the eventual decision is made to expand the facility again, it will be nothing like our previous expansion completed in 2020. Both a material increase in the County’s mill levy and a significant debt obligation will need approval by our voters.”

Remodeling will also be necessary for the Miller Building, which the county purchased to accommodate the county’s need for administration space. Work will begin on the Miller Building when its tenant leases expire and the county ends its lease for space in the Stillwater Building. “Currently, we are slated to begin the transition …to the newly remodeled Miller Building by the end of Fiscal Year 2025,” said Jones. “This will free up space in the Courthouse for our district and justice courts, county attorney offices and the possibility of another justice court judge. We project to be able to remodel the Miller space and remodel the courthouse with neither, any need for additional debt nor any need for a tax increase, thanks to reserves in our Capital Improvement Fund.”

COVID funds from the federal government – -The American Rescue Plan Act – has allowed the county to address infrastructure needs at MetraPark – “for which funding options were few.” Jones said, “Not only will these improvements provide the campus flexibility and responsiveness in times of community need, but it improves the campus with overall safety and functionality.” The upgrades are projected to be completed by the end of FY 2024.

In addition to the infrastructure work at Metra, the county has begun the process of bringing other improvements to Metra operations. The County has retained an industry consulting group to assist in finalizing Metra management staff, then to conduct a review and assist in the implementation of industry “best practices”, improving internal processes to increase efficiencies in operations, grow revenue streams, and reduce the County’s dependence upon mill levy support.

Jones explained that her tax revenue projections for 2024 are based upon an estimated growth factor of 2.2 percent and the State allowed increase for the rate of inflation rate of 2.46 percent.

Entitlement funds from the State, and the addition of new property tax revenue from new construction over the past year, help reduce the mills assessed to each taxpayer. Increased interest rates earned on county funds will also be higher than the “record lows” of past years, which will ease the burden. (The Entitlement fund was created by the state legislature in 2001 to compensate counties for revenues lost when the State assumed responsibility of collecting vehicle taxes. Yellowstone County’s share in FY2024 is $5,471,792.67)

Given the higher property valuations this year, the proposed county budget estimates an increase in the amount that will be protested— any revenues from which are not released to the county until the protest case is settled.

Tax revenue that comes of new growth or construction is projected to increase 2.2 percent for 2024.

The county is also allowed by the State to increase revenue 2.46 percent to accommodate for inflation.

Also included in tax revenues for 2024 is estimated marijuana tax revenue of $750,000.

Big Sky Economic Development (BSED), although a county entity, functions under a separate fund and generates separate revenues. The tax levy for BSED is estimated to generate $1,431,441 before protests. BSED will also receive about $268,665 from the State Entitlement Fund.

County Commissioners are reviewing much of the county’s salary structure “with the twin goal of attracting and retaining personnel in order to reduce overtime related to vacancies.” Salary and benefit costs included in the budget reflect estimates for union contracts currently in negotiations.

While the rise in inflation was felt last fiscal year, as well, this year many of the county’s contracted services are tied to the inflation factor resulting in significant increases to those contracts. Compounding high inflation is the rise of utilities and price increases mainly in the IT, public safety and construction related portions of the budget.

Staff increases are projected for: 6 new patrol deputies; 2 in the County Attorney’s office; 2 in Youth Service Center; 1 in Public Works; and 1 in elections.

By Jim Atchison

As the Executive Director of Southeastern Montana Development (SEMDC), I wanted to state that in my opinion, Colstrip is Changing – – – Not Closing! At least if Common Sense had a vote. As an economic development professional serving a regional non-profit economic development group consisting of the four-counties of Custer, Powder River, Rosebud, and Treasure for the past 22 years, I have never been more excited and optimistic about the future of Colstrip and Rosebud County then I am today.

And here’s why: Since the original Clean Power Plan was introduced years ago, it became apparent that in order for the Colstrip community to survive, it would need to urgently diversify its economy. SEMDC listened to the community, found the funding, and released the Colstrip Economic Diversification Strategy in 2017. This Strategy identified Six (6) major Goals and 17 Strategies that could diversify the Colstrip economy.

Interesting that only about half of these Goals were energy related. In fact, the highest priority was to have additional Broadband Capacity in the Community. Other projects that were completed as the result of this Strategy, besides additional Broadband Capacity were 2) Market the region as a safe and clean place to live and do business, 3) build a Business Innovation Center as a one-stop shop to assist with workforce retraining, entrepreneurial development and have co-working and maker’s spaces, 4) create a GIS Site Selection Service and 5) complete an engineering plan for an Industrial Site (Energy Park). Another concept that came out of this Strategy was the phrase “Value-Added Energy Commercialization Opportunities.”

Yes, just like Value-Added Ag – why couldn’t Energy add value and create beneficial use opportunities? Thus, SEMDC entered into four contracts with private firms to conduct Feasibility and Technical Studies on a) Hydrogen Development, b) Rare Earth Element Processing, c) Flue-Gas Capture and d) Graphene Research – all at Colstrip and Rosebud County. Add additional Energy Projects such as 1) Construction of the state’s largest Wind Farm in the region, 2) Major Transmission Line project starting at Colstrip and heading into the next grid to the east, 3) A federal Technical Study on possible construction of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMR’s) at Colstrip and 4) with a significant Geothermal Option, you can start to see the tremendous opportunities to Supplement our outstanding coal mining and power generation workforce and infrastructure capacity, already in-place.

But significant challenges and efforts continue to target the coal and energy industry at Colstrip. Even with attacks from numerous frivolous lawsuits to major disinformation campaigns, to the recent EPA MATS and Clean Power Plan 2.0 Proposals, including the BLM Coal Lease Review changes, I know that Common Sense will prevail and Montanan’s will realize that we simply need more affordable electricity and transmission.

Thus, due to the numerous positive opportunities developing, I certainly feel that Colstrip is Changing – – – but Not Closing!

Jim Atchison is the Executive Director of Southeastern Montana Development (SEMDC), a regional non-profit economic development group established in 1997 to stimulate and encourage economic activity in the four Counties of Custer, Powder River, Rosebud, and Treasure.


Jela LLC/ Gnerer Electric Inc, 3815 Hesper Rd,  Com Addition, $60,000

Walgreen Co/ Nations Roof Mountain LLC, 3333 Grand Ave, Com Fence/Roof/Siding $176,100 

Neal C La Fever Trust/ Lennick Bros. Roofing & Sheetmetal, 15 N 29th St, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $16,500 

Treasury Corp The/ Infinity Roofing & Siding Inc, 2132 Grand Ave, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $40,510 

Grand Lanes Inc/ Big Sky Disaster Restoration Service, 1625 Central Ave, Com New Other, $29,779.00

McDonald’s Real Estate Company/ Langlas & Assoc., Inc., 910 Shiloh Crossing Blvd, Com New Parking, Lot/Non-Building Structure, $100,000

Srei-Lenhardt, LLC/ Thompson Const. Co. Inc-Pools, 485 S 44th St W, Com New Pool/Spa, $40,000

Costco Wholesale Corporation/ Lydig Construction Inc, 3880 Zoo Dr, Com New Store/Strip Center, $13,819,620

CTA Building LLP/ TW Ridley LLC,  13 N 23rd St Com Remodel $463,444.00

Nedrow, David/ Cbms LLC, 733 Lake Elmo Dr, Com Remodel, $10,000

Mtcmkm LLC, 465 S 18th St W, Com Remodel $150,000

Herron, Amber/ Dick Anderson Construction, 985 S 24th St W, Com Remodel – Change In Use, $1,260,000

Jones Construction/ Southwestern Services, 2212 Grant Rd, Com Remodel – Change In Use, $310,000


Infinity Home LLC/ Infinity Home LLC, 2468 W Bonito Loop, Res New Accessory Structure, $43,200

Waleri, Michael R Jr & Kari, 1321 Steffanich Dr, Res New Accessory Structure, $15,360

Smithson, Shane T & Carrie M, 4537 Phillip St, Res New Accessory Structure, $48,150

J&S Development Co/ South Pine Design 5331 N Iron Mountain Rd,  Res New Single Family, $485,000

High Sierra Ii Inc/ Infinity Home LLC, 2468 W Bonito Loop, Res New Single Family, $237,158

Randy Allies/ Emineth Custom Homes, 3536 Dunlop Ave, Res New Single Family, 1,101,604

Billings Best Builders/ Billings Best Builders LLC, 3514 Crater Lake Ave, Res New Single Family, $250,000