DRIFTING ABOUT — One of the by-products of the horrid winds and snow are drifts that pile up like this on Front Street. Drifts bunched up in front of businesses and homes as well making it difficult to get from here to there on Saturday. Although the photo has no relationship to the article, it was too nice a picture to not publish, we hope you enjoy it! I-O Photo by Buck Traxler
By Adam Jerome, I-O Reporter
In mid-August the 4.7 million member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted to lift the ban that prohibited sexually active gays and lesbians from serving as ministers.
Under the new policy each ELCA congregation will be allowed to hire homosexuals in committed relationships as clergy.
The change passed with 68 percent of about 1,000 delegates. The change makes the 4.7 million member group one of the largest U.S. Christian denominations to take the gay-friendly stance.
With the change there has been some worry that many Lutheran congregations around the country would consider leaving the organization for a more conservative alternative.
Since the decision in August, over 80 Lutheran Churches nationwide have taken an initial vote to leave the ELCA. Of the 80, around 20 churches have voted against the intitial proposal to leave the organization, leaving 60 to take another vote in the near future.
Included in that number are the two Lutheran churches in the Conrad area, Pondera Valley Lutheran Church and the Golden West Lutheran Church.
At the Pondera Valley the vote was 94 to 18 for continuing the process. At Golden West the vote was 32-10 for the same decision.
If the congregations decide to leave the ELCA there will be a few decisions left to make. For example, if they leave they will have to align with another Lutheran Church organization or they may lose their tax-exempt status.
Two possible alternative organizations include the Lutheran Congregation in Mission for Christ (LCMC) and the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC).
The LCMC has been around for 10 years and the AALC was formed in 1987, the same year as the ELCA.
Pastor Michael Sculley, of both churches said, “One impact of leaving the ELCA would be that the decision would take us out of our comfort zone and force us to become more self-reliant.”
He went on to say, “The decision to leave the ELCA is not about gays and lesbians. To us it is a matter of scriptural authority.”
Another impact may be regarding the Flathead Bible Camp which is part of the ELCA. Although area children would still be allowed to attend the camp, area parents may lose their say on the board of directors which is something that will have to be worked out when the time comes.
The final vote to ratify the decision for both congregations will take place on Jan. 31, 2010.
In the meantime the area Bishop will be in Conrad for a question and answer session regarding the issue on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Pondera Valley Lutheran Church in Conrad.
Editor’s Note: More information will be forthcoming after the Bishop’s Q and A session
By Adam Jerome, I-O Reporter
With the passage of House Bill 488 the next step in the possible Dutton/Brady transfer is about to take shape.
Last Spring HB-488 was passed to allow residents of the old Brady School District (and other similar districts) to petition their land out of the Brady/Dutton School District under the laws that were in place when they consolidated.
Since the bill’s passage, Brady residents began to circulate a petition to leave the Dutton/Brady District in favor of the Conrad School District.
In order to move to a public hearing the land owners in the old Brady School district needed a Supermajority of 60 percent of the qualified voters.
It is important to note that the petitioned land will not exactly be the old Brady district. Instead it will encompass all of the land other than a three mile radius around the Midway Colony School. This was done, because the law states that land may not be petitioned within three miles of a functioning school.
The contested land contains 282 qualified voters. The petitioners gained 66 percent of the voters to move to the next step. The 66 percent is also a little misleading as only 20 voters declined to sign the petition, the rest of the 34 percent not included were not able to be reached, because they do not live in the area anymore.
One of the petitioners’ attorneys is Daniel Jones with Jardine, Stephenson, Blewett & Weaver out of Great Falls. Jones is also the son of Rep. Llew Jones who introduced HB-488 during the 2009 legislation.
D. Jones has been working on the issue since October when his firm was approached by the Brady land owners.
As it stands now, there are 36 school age children in the contested district, 26 of which already attend school in Conrad.
Jones commented on the issue, “The Brady residents want an opportunity to be on the board and have their taxes follow the school in which their children attend.”
In a school board meeting in Conrad on Nov. 10, the board voted unanimously to accept the petitioned land.
Conrad Superintendent Lynn Utterback commented, “The Conrad school system did not initiate and by law cannot initiate the petition, but we would support the transfer if it goes through.”
He went on to add, “We all ready have a majority of the kids in the Conrad schools, so it would be nice to have the tax dollars to support them.”
Brady land owner Cynthia Johnson continues the sentiment, “We own a farm 45 miles from where our taxes go. The kids out there have always gone to school in Conrad and we would like to have a say in their education and want our taxes to go to the school that educates our children.”
One question that has been asked is if the land transferred involves the new gym in Conrad. Are the people from the petitioned district responsible for a share of the cost?
The answer in short is no. The gym levy was attached to the property that was in the district at the time when the levy was passed.
They would though be responsible for their share of other educational costs going forward.
When approached with the issue the Dutton/Brady School Board tabled the issue on Nov. 17.
The next step in the process is a public hearing on Jan. 5, 2010. The hearing will be presided over by Pondera County Superintendent Jo Stone, Teton County Superintendent Diane Inbody, and Missoula County Superintendent Rachel Vielleux with a majority decision deciding the hearing. The hearing will take place at the Pondera County Court House.
The reason for Vielleux’s involvement is because the law stipulates that when two counties are involved in transfer issues they must choose a third superintendent to be a member of the hearing panel.
While any decision will be subject to the appeals process it will be very difficult to overturn.
Editor’s Note: The I-O will have further information available after the Jan. 5 hearing.
Work on highway improvement project on Primary Route 21 (Midway Road) has been shut down for the winter.
Paving, chip seal, and striping operations will be performed next spring beginning about April 19, 2010, according to Doug Wilmot, District Construction Engineer for the Montana Department of Transportation in Great Falls.
The posted speed limit on the gravel section from mile post 0.6 (Brady Frontage Road) to mile post 3.2 (Pendroy Road/Front Street) is 45 mph.
The posted speed limit from mile post 3.2 to mile post 3.6 (Conrad city limits at 8th Ave.) is 35 mph.
Please note that the Montana Highway Patrol will be enforcing these posted speed limits.
Nelcon, Inc. of Kalispell will be performing the winter maintenance on the gravel section only.