Big Horn County Fair board expands to seven members

Barbara Anne Greene

At their December 19 meeting, the Big Horn County commissioners voted to expand the fair board to seven members.
The commissioner filled the three open seats at the December meeting, choosing Kelli Mercer, who had been serving on the fair board, and new members Tim Allen and Tucker McKim.
Ads seeking applicants for the additional two positions will be placed in local newspapers.
The pros and cons of having a larger board were discussed.  
Former commissioner Keith Grant appeared before the commissioners to express his concerns regarding possible changes to the Historic Preservation Plan (HPP) for the Medicine Wheel.
He gave a background on why he is so passionate about the Wheel. Grant said as a young man his Boy Scout troop would go there to put the rocks back in place.
“We were told at the time that the reason folks threw the rocks around was because there was a rumor that the Little People came up through the cave in the mountain and put jewels and gold under the rocks in the Medicine Wheel.”
He added that he worked on the Crow Reservation in 1960. He visited with the man who was the chairman of the Crow Tribe at that time. The chairman said this about the Wheel: “Oh, bad medicine. Little people. Stay away. Stay away.”
During a fire on the mountain in 1988, Grant said a native fire crew came in and said they had discovered that the Wheel must have been made by their ancestors.
In 1996 the Forest Service “came up with the HPP and gave the area to the Native Americans along with 18,000 acres in the consultation area. The Native Americans were bound and determined that 18,000 acres was going to be a national landmark.”
Grant added that the Town of Lovell had already made a national landmark there with 68 acres.
In 2008 Big Horn County agreed to a bigger land margin if it was agreed that nothing would change without the consultation of all involved parties.
He became concerned about what he read in minutes from a Wheel meeting on August 12, 2023. One of his concerns was about paying the Native Americans again to come to the meetings so there would be more participation.
According to Grant, in 2000 the expenses of the Native Americans and their families were paid when they came to a meeting in Billings. He protested then that if one party was paid to come then all the parties’ expense should be paid. The practice stopped then.
Grant pointed out some inconsistencies in the HPP about the closure of the road that runs by the Wheel. The potential closure during ceremonies was a topic of discussion with the commission and Forest Service District Ranger Mark Foster.
On Dec. 21, a Medicine Wheel consulting parties meeting was scheduled.
Neves attended and said that no changes were made to the HPP at that meeting. Foster is scheduled to be at the January 2 commissioners meeting to discuss the possibility of reducing the speed on the road by the Wheel.
County Engineer Willie Bridges gave the commissioners a list of roads for chip seal projects in 2024. They hope to do Road 5, both Sandhill Roads, Road 9, Lane 9, Lane 12 and Lane 13. He estimates the total will be around 20 miles. In 2025 the projects will likely be in the south end of the county.
South Big Horn County Road/Bridge Supervisor Shannan Hovey provided an update to the commission. He said the crew has graveled Road 28 and has started on Road 29. Work has started on the south end cold storage building. Three of the department trucks went down in one day.
North End Supervisor Eric Mann told the commissioners that the crew finished building up the intersection at Lane 9 and Road 1½. They have also done tree trimming.
There was some discussion about an irrigation ditch on Road 9. There is a spring that keeps water in it year-round. When the pipe freezes up, the water moves onto the road and freezes on the road. A landowner wants to put in a ditch that would take the water to another drain. The current ditch is partially owned by an irrigation district.  
The parties involved were wanting the county to be a part of the solution because the water is going across a county road. Mann said the county could dig a 200- to 300-foot ditch on private land and a headgate would have to be put in. He is still not sure this would fix the issue.
Further discussion among the commissioners, deputy county attorney Jen Kirk and Bridges ensued. There were concerns about the county going on private property or setting a precedence on these types of situations. Mann said that, if the county is notified when the road ices up, the crew will take care of it.
Bridges said he would go look and see if there was anything the county could do to mitigate the issues that may impact the county. The county’s responsibility starts at the road.
In other business:
• A public hearing for Transfer of Fund Resolution #2 was held.
• County Emergency Manager LaRae Dobbs asked about the North Big Horn Hospital District using one the county’s backup generators for a short time. The commission gave Dobbs the green light to explore the options and get a memorandum of understanding.