Patches' Pieces, Wildlife

Game Camera: Sandhill Cranes

Perhaps you’ve heard the distinctive call of the sandhill cranes recently? -Patches

We’re actually in at the very south edge of the breeding range for Sandhill Cranes. They’re not particularly picky eaters- they’ll eat snakes, frogs, insects, seeds… Often, we’ll see them in the spring, hunting frogs in shallow water.

Community

Lincoln Electric Held Annual Meeting

Saturday, Lincoln Electric Coop held their annual meeting as a drive-in meeting at Lincoln County High School.

As with last year’s meeting, it was drive-in, with attendees tuning their radios to listen in. Unlike last year’s smoke, this year’s meeting was cold, wet, and windy.

View from one of the registration checkpoints (before the weather really started to worsen)

At 9 am when the meeting started, there were 97 members registered. With last meeting‘s bylaw change, a quorum only required 2% of coop members, so the meeting was able to continue.

To say the meeting was uneventful might actually be an understatement. Members did vote by mail -over 200 of them, in fact- but it made little difference since there were no more people running than open seats. In fact, each incumbent was reappointed.

Capital credit checks were mailed, we heard a few California jokes, and a bit about the state legislature.

What’s the difference between California and the Titanic? The Titanic had its lights on when it sank.

(I’m paraphrasing the joke, but it was something along those lines)

The discussion on legislation was informative; We learned about House Bill 475 which proposes to classify hydroelectric power as a renewable resource. The representative of the Montana Electric Coop Association was optimistic that the bill will be signed.

As renewable energy sources become increasingly required, having a reliable energy source that qualifies (such as hydroelectric) becomes important in avoiding blackouts and brownouts.

Other news: Rural Propane Services had a rough year but “is on the rebound”, expect to see a rate adjustment (but most residential members won’t see much of a change)

The meeting closed in under 45 minutes.

Community, Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Illegal Meetings- Open Meeting Laws

How to avoid having an illegal meeting?

Having read about the recent meeting during which two of the county commissioners and the mayor of Troy (among others) ran afoul of Montana’s Open Meeting Laws, it seems time to consider how not to have an illegal meeting.

Montana’s Open Meeting Laws require that “Meeting of Public Agencies” be open to the public. Public Agencies include boards, bureaus, commissions, agencies, etc.

First, what is a meeting? According to Montana’s Code Annotated, if it has a quorum, it’s a meeting. And it certainly doesn’t have to be in-person! (An email exchange is quite sufficient to be considered a meeting – especially now).

Now, quorum is an important word. On a five member school board, a quorum constitutes three members. Any two members can talk on the phone without having an illegal meeting. Of course, if the number of board members drops, the situation becomes more complicated.

In general, the smaller the board, the more important it is to be certain meetings are announced well in advance, so that state laws are followed. With small, three person boards, an illegal meeting could be just a careless phone call away.

Decisions made at meetings that violate Montana’s Open Meeting laws may be declared void (there is a time limit on that, though).

When does the public need to know? The requirements that the public be given notice in advance of the meeting are actually part of Montana’s public participation laws, and only apply when the meeting will include something of “significant public interest“.

How long in advance should the public know? Depends- the rule is that the more significant, the more notice should be given. (Forty-Eight Hours is the suggested minimum for County Commissioner’s meetings, according to the Attorney General).

Community

BackPack program begins at Trego School

What is a BackPack program? In essence, students are sent home with a “backpack” of food for the weekend. The premise is that while students receive meals at school (indeed, meals are free to all students at Trego School), they may need some supplementation on weekends and holidays. Thus, a BackPack program. Students are given a pack of food for the weekend to take home each Friday.

BackPack programs are typically supported by Food Banks and other sponsors. In Lincoln County, Libby and Troy schools both have BackPack Programs on the state map.

The program is starting out big, with a large bag of food going home with each student. North Valley Foodbank has provided Trego School with the initial bag, and with the “BackPacks” for several weeks.

Bags of food went home with students Friday
The typical Friday “BackPack” to take home is sized to feed a single child over the weekend
Thank you to North Valley Foodbank for helping to look after our kids.
Community

Trego School-More About the Building

Since the state was kind enough to go through every K12 school in the state (back in 2008) and evaluate the condition of the buildings, there’s a fair bit of information to play with.

The general facts- as taken from the Facilities Condition Inventory.

BuildingYear Constructed (according to the state’s report)Deficiency RatioRenewal Cost (estimate as of 2008)
Trego School (the school building proper, including the portable classrooms on the East end)196730.1%$594,743
Teacherage19675.1%$7,152
Bus Equipment Shed19601.8%$104
Fuel Storage Unit19601.8%$104
While it might seem a bit odd that the last two are exactly the same- since the complaint (paint peeling) was identical, the identical deficiency ratios and renewal costs make some sense.

Evidently, then, the problem was (and given the comparatively low costs of the other repairs, surely still is) the school itself, with a deficiency ratio of 30.1%. With the report estimating the total cost of repairs of the school building at $594,743, the school board will have to prioritize the necessary repairs (surely some of them have been addressed since 2008).

Many of the complaints in the report were reasonably straight forward; Windows should be double paned rather than single and window frames should have thermal breaks. Simple, though the renewal cost is quite spendy ($86,107 in total for windows). Another big ticket item is the two “portable” classrooms on the east side of the school. The report observed “Floor sagging or showing other similar such failure”, and estimated $88,058 to renew.

While the school board did pass a permissive levy which will amount to around $25,500, that’s not going to be sufficient for some of the costlier repairs the school is going to need. With the budget tight (enrollment has gone up, but the funding received from the state is based on a three year average), the school board is going to have to prioritize spending very carefully.

Patches' Pieces

Backroads of Montana films at Tobacco Valley Historical Village

The filming was for a 15 minute segment of Backroads of Montana that is expected to air in mid-May.  Watch the Historical Village Facebook page for exact information when the PBS segment will air.  A special thanks to Rita Collins for serving as the Village’s media liaison and secretary.

Filming the Hand Quilting

Friday March 12, Ray Ekness of PBS Montana filmed the hand quilters in the old schoolhouse at the Tobacco Valley Historical Village in Eureka.   Ekness is the director of the Broadcast Media Center at the University of Montana.  Ekness spent the day filming, interviewing, and observing the hand quilters.

Quilts

Area quilters rejoice! In other quilting news, Scraps and Threads quilt guild will host their annual quilt show during Rendezvous, April 23-25. The quilt show is at the fairgrounds in Eureka. Other area quilt groups have been invited to participate in the quilt show. Expect to see lots of new and colorful quilts.

The Eureka Outdoor Quilt show is August 7.

The Flathead Quilters’ Guild has announced their annual Quilt Show is a go. The dates are September 18 & 19 at the Flathead Valley Fairgrounds.

-Patches

Community

Damage to the Civic Center

This newest hole isn’t the only damage to the entry- that post alongside the ramp is pretty twisted as well. It’s a common place to back vehicles up to when events are happening, and that puts the entrance at risk of damage.

Trego’s Civic Center is due some expensive repairs- with insurance premiums already high, filing a claim with the civic center’s insurance may cost more in the long run. Since the damage appears to be associated with backing up towards the hall (odd, since there were no events held at the hall near the time the damage occurred), the Civic Center is considering how to keep this type of damage from happening again.

The hole appears deceptively small!
May be an image of text that says 'TREGOCIVIC TREGO CENTER TICKETS $5.00 EACH OR 5 FOR $20.00 SAVAGE AXIS 6.5 CREEDMOOR WITH WEAVER SCOPE OR FLANNEL RAGGED EDGE AMERICAN FLAG QUILT OTHER PRIZES AVAILABLE BY DRAWING DATE OF MID MAY 2021 DONATIONS BENEFIT UPGRADES OF THE TREGO CIVIC CENTER TICKETS AVAILABLE FROM ANY BOARD MEMBER AND SEVERAL LOCAL BUSINESS'S'

How can we help? Buy Raffle Tickets. The Civic Center is still selling raffle tickets for the upcoming drawing. Win an American Flag Quilt or a Firearm (see picture).

Rent the Civic Center. The Civic Center is allowed to open for events once again. On a related note, Bingo should be resuming soon -keep checking the Civic Center’s Board.

If anyone has any extra sonotubes for pouring concrete, the Civic Center can use them!

Community

Trego School Ice Fishing Trip

Last week, students and their families made their way to Murphy Lake for an Ice Fishing trip. It was a warm, pleasant day with chili dogs grilled beside the lake. A successful trip, since all but one student caught fish.

Where are the kids now? Spring break runs throughout the rest of this week. Classes will resume on the 15th and we can expect to see the buses back on their usual routes.

Adults planning similar trips should remember that Fishing Licenses expired February 28th- be sure to get a new one.

More information about school field trips can be found on the school calendar.

Photos by School Board Member Michelle Linden

Community

Trego School -Why have a building reserve fund?

As we wrote about earlier this year, the school board had decided to use a permissive levy to establish a building reserve fund. One of the requirements of the permissive levy is that “The projects must be listed and the priority for projects are listed on the Facility Condition Report under their deficiency categories. Those need addressed first.”

Not a fan of permissive levies? The school board election is coming up in May.

To find out what that means, we have to go to the Facility Condition Report. Back in 2008 the state of Montana arranged for every k12 building in the state to be inspected and its condition reported on. While these reports are theoretically public information, and publicly available, chasing down anything the government did over a decade ago is a bit of a challenge. A few government agencies and several emails later, I obtained copies of the original reports.

Looking at the 2008 report makes the need for a building reserve fund obvious. The school building proper has a deficiency ratio of 30.1%. The statewide report considered buildings with deficiency ratios greater than 20% to be in poor condition, and those greater than 50% to be in such bad shape that replacement might actually be preferable to repair.

The classrooms on the right side of the school entrance were originally portable classrooms and rest atop a “walkout” basement.

While some of the items in the report are minor- things that need paint or other simple repairs, not everything is that straight forward. The report describes the stair treads/risers as 100% deficient, stating that “Stair flight is settling or the under-structure physically failing”. On the same page, another description remarked that “Floor strength integrity of portable structures is questionable”. Trego School was constructed in response to the large flood of people associated with the tunnel, and included several portable classrooms, two of which remain in use today.

The roof system also included a 100% deficiency rating; “Condition observed: History of leaks; seams separating, punctured, or lifting at edges”. The estimated cost to repair, back in 2008? $29,365.

The school board will be meeting Wednesday, March 10th, at 4PM. The meeting can be attended long-distance. The Agenda (available in the post office) includes the building reserve. Those interested in attending can do so via the Gotomeeting App.

Want to see the school facilities condition inventory for yourself? I’d be happy to share what I received from the state- otherwise, Richard Knatterud (rknatterud@mt.gov) of the department of commerce was the person who provided me with copies.

Community, Patches' Pieces

Off with the Old, on with the New Quilt

Every Friday, spread out among two quilt frames for social distancing, the quilters bring needle and thread to fabric to raise funds for the Tobacco Valley Historical Village. The quilters have been meeting and quilting in the old school house for five decades. Current hours are Fridays, 10:00 am to 2:30 pm until mid May. Visitors with masks are welcome.

hand quilting for decades

The quilters are available to add that special hand quilted touch to your treasured quilts tops for a fee. Bring in your quilt top to be placed on the quilt schedule.  Available for sale at the village are recently added curated fabric bundles priced at $1, $3, and $5. Added to the online store inventory are 2 new flannel quilts. Selling almost as fast as they are added to the inventory are pine needle baskets. As always there is a good selection of cozy baby quilts for that special arrival. -Patches

A striking depression era print quilt top

Recently the quilters finished hand quilting/tying a “Covid” themed related quilt (off with the old). Replacing the Covid quilt is feminine lavender quilt top with embroidered blocks of young ladies reminiscent of a bygone era. The quilt has been marked and the quilting begun. The second frame holds a quilt top with a striking pattern of depression era prints. A traditional cable is being stitched in the solid areas.

curated fabric bundles for sale