Havre Daily News
ROCKY BOY'S INDIAN RESERVATION - An unprecedented amount of road work has been completed this summer at Rocky Boy, and more is planned. The tribe recently took over road construction from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, giving it more money and flexibility for completing road projects.
Rocky Boy compacted road construction before the building season this summer, securing about $1.5 million for road work that officials and residents agree was long overdue.
"Our goal and mission all year is to provide safer, more passable roads, and there has been a lot of effort and a lot of work done so far," environmental health director Tim Rosette said. "We have the flexibility to move our resources where they're needed. Whereas before, it would take a year or two to set a priority and get it funded."
In years past, Rocky Boy had about $250,000 for road maintenance, Office of Self-Governance and Self-Determination director Bill Sinclair said. Road construction was completed by BIA crews, which rotated among reservations.
"It's great," Stone Child College physical plant manager Frank Henry said. "We've been playing in the mud for two years and it's really good to have some pavement."
The parking lot of Stone Child College, as well as the byway that runs besides it to the Head Start building, were paved two weeks ago.
Before the road construction was compacted, giving the tribe its allotment of federal dollars directly for locally run projects, the BIA crews would work off a list of projects that could be several years old, Rosette said. Road construction plans are still approved by the BIA but completed on a locally set schedule that can be changed if necessary, he said.
"This is putting a lot of money into the pipeline," Sinclair said about the new funding.
Rosette is happy to have it. With the money, crews have replaced gravel on most of Oats and St. Pierre roads and on Saturday completed repaving sections of Duck Creek Road.
Sections of road near new housing developments at Bonneauville, Prairieview and the Box Elder water tank site were also repaved, and crews are working on improving school bus turnarounds and creating an access road for the new health clinic and wellness center, which are both still under construction, Rosette said.
Duck Creek Road resident Donald Meyers is happy about the work.
"Oh Lord, it seems like every half mile there was a big chunk of the asphalt coming out," Meyers said. The road was buckling in some places and in others, caving in.
"It was just literally deteriorating," Meyers said.
The worst sections have been repaired.
"The tribe has taken the bull by the horns and taken their chunk of money and fixed roads that needed to be fixed," Meyers said. "That is one good thing about compacting. I'm really grateful we're compacted."
Road department crew manager Harvey Friede said his department is able to employ more people locally because of the change. In the past, the crew would have 15 workers at peak times. This summer, 36 people worked for the department during construction season. A few will be kept on full time as well, he said.
"We'll also be working with the counties in the region to improve accessibility, not just for us, but all of us that travel the roads," Rosette said.
The Rocky Boy road department will improve the Mission-Taylor Road, which is Taylor Road in Hill County and becomes Mission Road at the reservation line.
Rosette also hopes to be able to work next summer on Beaver Creek Road where it runs from the reservation line to the Bear Paw Ski Bowl.
Workers have also begun repairing damage to BIA Route 2, also known as Laredo Road, where a portion of the pavement slid off the road bed.
"It will be a very expensive project," Friede said. It will involve rerouting the water drainage beneath the damaged section.
Another slide occurred on the Lower Road, formally BIA Route 8, west of the Bonneau Dam.
The tribe has secured Federal Highway Emergency Relief funding from the Federal Highway Administration to pay for both repairs, Rosette said.