Montana Coal Board Makes Hard Decisions At June 14th Meeting
The June 14th meeting of the Montana Coal Board was brutal, summarized by Jim Atchison, SEMDC Director as the “most difficult meeting of the Coal Board I’ve ever seen.”
The Coal Board will have about 3.9 million to award in grants for the next two fiscal years. Yet, in it’s first meeting, the Coal Board struggled with four million dollars of requests, all of which Chairman John Williams called “requests that meet the criteria of need in coal country”. Also, as reported, in last weeks issue Governor Bullock vetoed a budget increase for the Coal Board which was supported by Representative Peppers and Senator Peragoy, local representatives from this area.
“I just can’t understand that,” said Llevando “Cowboy” Fisher, Birney District Tribal Council Representative. Fisher is developing an application to the Coal Board to request funding for the development of a Community Center in Birney. “Coal Board funding is very important to our communities. I’m still hopeful that we can get some Coal Board funding but it’s obviously going to be harder now” he noted. In the light of funding restraints, the members of the Coal Board struggled to deal with six “tabled” requests from last fiscal year and twenty-two new requests. The Northern Cheyenne Utilities Commission, for example, requested 25 thousand for a feasibility study on how to bring water from Stebbins Creek to the Ashland area. That request was partially funded at nine thousand. “The Coal Board has been so good to us,” Winslow Whitecrane, NCUC Director said. “We will now just have to figure out how to make that money stretch.” Allen Clubfoot, NCUC grant writer explained that they actively seeking other sources of funding and working with SEMDC to do that.