Water coming April 25; board fields question about manager

by Sharon Michaels 

BALLANTINE — Good news, water users — water will be turned in on April 25, decided the Huntley Project Irrigation District board at the regular meeting on Thursday, April 8.

Cody Kuntz was elected district president, replacing Dale Bilyeu who resigned recently; Dan Vogel retains his position as vice president and Liz Freeman as secretary.

Vogel thanked Bilyeu for doing such a great job as  president and for his help as acting manager. Bilyeu will continue to act as manager until a manager can be hired. New board member Travis Kamp was also welcomed.

When asked by a Yellow-stone County News reporter if it were true the district did not want to hire a local manager, Vogel said they hadn’t found anyone qualified for the position.

Bilyeu added, “We want someone from outside the district who has worked at other districts to bring new ideas to us.”

The Yellowstone County News reporter also asked about the concern with employees using a time clock to record their hours.

Vogel said, “It is impossible for our ditch riders to use a time clock to record their time. During irrigation season, they work a lot of evenings and also Sundays and are paid 50 hours per week.”

Freeman asked for permission from the board to seek grants up to $300,000 for pipe and liners in seep areas where needed.

“These would be written to the Bureau of Reclamation out of Denver that has multi-millions available on a 50-50 basis,” she added.

Board member Elmer Kembel asked, “Will the district have the funds available to cover our half of the expenses? We also need to ear-mark the areas where the work is needed,” he added.

Freeman said the funding would have to be paid within a two year period. “The district has the funds, I just want your approval to apply. Foreman Todd Wilson and I will research the areas in need and then present it to the board for final approval,” she added.

After discussion, the board gave its approval to apply for the grant and a special meeting may have to be held for the final approval. No date was set.

After discussing the need to purchase a new loader, the board reviewed purchase prices and discussed various loader options. Because the purchase price would be over $50,000, they have to advertise for bids.

Bilyeu told the board after checking on Dan Banderob’s chemical license, the license is still current and he is qualified to spray. Banderob was involved in an accident on the job with John Sherman when the bucket of the backhoe hit his arm. He will be available for light duty after the doctor’s release this week, the board said.

The Worden Fire Department has a jeep for sale and the board will bid on it this week for use in ditch burning.

Water user Nick Lindeen had asked the district for permission to put in a culvert on Fly Creek and Anita Dam roads, because the Reservoir Line cuts through his property and he wishes to put a house on the other side. The board advised Lindeen that because of the grade, the district would need to clean the silt out and they did not have time to do it this spring. Lindeen asked if he moved the culvert down, could he put in a culvert with rocks and riprap. After a lengthy discussion, the board decided he would need concrete end walls for the culvert installation. Lindeen said he probably wouldn’t be able to get it done before the water came in. Vogel stated he wanted it done right the first time.

“From now on, we are looking at things that should be done right, not what has been done,” said Vogel.

Freeman reported the Department of Transportation does not handle CDL licensing for the district. Freeman said, “In my research, so far, I have been told we are exempt because we are agriculture. I still need to check with the Department of Justice.”

The board discussed drug testing for the employees, which Freeman will check into. “If we implement the drug testing, we will save on our Workman’s Compensation rate,” Freeman added.

Kembel inquired about Yellowstone Valley Electric Co-op installing power poles so close to ditches. He said he had been told by the co-op that the irrigation district’s previous manager, Mel Brozek, had told them they could. The board asked Freeman to contact the co-op about the situation.

Freeman reported Brozek had returned the unused travel funds of $286 along with all receipts from the meeting he attended in Las Vegas. His phone was also returned, so everything has been accounted for, she added.

The board closed the meeting to discuss an employee matter. It then reached a decision to give Freeman a raise from $11 per hour to $12. Freeman had not had a raise since 2007.

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