Havre Daily News
ROCKY BOY'S INDIAN RESERVATION - Nikki Windy Boy walks to most of the places she needs to go at Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. On Monday, the 25-year-old caught a ride from her home near Stone Child College to a tribal program office five miles away. While helping a friend fill up a car with gas, Windy Boy said catching the ride was lucky because of the rain that continued to fall all morning and into the afternoon.
Janet and Richard Sutherland were also at the Past Time gas station Monday morning, fueling up their car for a trip to Great Falls so Richard could get radiation treatment for cancer.
All three, in the midst of paying nearly $3-a-gallon for gas, perked up when they heard that the Rocky Boy tribal council is considering a bus system for the reservation.
"That would be great, because a lot of people in Rocky Boy walk," Janet said. "This car is a $100 car, and we give them rides."
A study of a rural transit system for Rocky Boy was recently completed by two transportation consulting firms. Environmental health director Tim Rosette presented the study to the tribal council last week, where it was well-received.
The study showed a transit program would be possible at Rocky Boy, Rosette said.
"It takes commitment from the tribe over a long time period. That's what we need to sit down" and discuss, Rosette said. "But the benefit would more than likely outweigh the cost."
The council decided to have Rosette take the next step and put the bus system on the Transportation Improvement Plan the tribe submits to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. The list contains the tribe's top priorities for use of road funds. Rosette will also submit report to the state, he said.
If both entities accept the plan, 80 percent of the proposed busing system could be paid for by state and federal highway funds, Rosette said. The other 20 percent would come from fees and from the tribe's allotment of federal road dollars, generally used for road construction and maintenance.
The study looked at providing transportation within Rocky Boy as well as daily trips to Havre and trips a few times a week to Great Falls, Rosette said.
Janet Sutherland said she and her husband would prefer a bus trip to Great Falls rather than paying high fuel prices and riding in an unreliable car.
To start, the study showed the tribe would have to commit $145,000 toward the purchase of vehicles and the first year of operation. Afterward, it would be responsible for $85,000 a year for the program, a price it could pay by using its road construction money as well as charging a nominal fee for rides.
"I think it's an excellent idea, especially with the rising fuel costs," tribal council chair John "Chance" Houle said.
In particular, senior citizens could benefit from it, he said.
"They get a chance to socialize, visit one another," he said.
Houle added that he wants to take another look at the study to make sure the costs seem realistic.