Saint Patrick’s Day events

St. Patrick’s Rock, the Rock of Cashel Fortress, Ireland. Photo by Brian Baxter, The Montanian.


By Brian Baxter


Saint Patrick will not be forgotten by the extreme northwest corner of Montana. On Friday, March 13, the Kootenai Heritage Council, the Irish Fair Board, and the Memorial Center will combine efforts to kick off their Irish Fair at 7 pm with the Boulder Creek Band playing Bluegrass and Celtic music. The popular group at this venue will include Dave Blackburn, Wayne Rau, Richard Young, and Billy Powell. The Irish Fair Board members are Kate Huntsberger, Eileen Carney, and Ray Reisman. There will also be a pastie dinner, and the Memorial Center provides a no host bar with beer and wine.

Mrs. Huntsberger is very Irish and grew up in Butte, Montana, with many relatives in Ireland. When asked about the fair, Kate said, “Last year we joined with the Memorial Center to provide Celtic music and an evening event with dinner.” Mary Kate has been a part of the Irish Fair for many years. When the mines in Butte began their heyday back between 1880 and 1905, Butte drew mostly first and second generation Irish miners, prospectors, and placer mine operators. The ladies on the board and several others will be making pasties, and the dinner is just ten dollars. Admission to the event is with your Memorial Center season pass, or tickets for the music are 15 dollars at the door, and 12 dollars pre-sale. Tickets may be purchased at the Libby Chamber of Commerce, Cabinet Books, Homesteaders Feed, Mountain Meadows, Rivermist, Rocky Mountain Music, and Booze and Bait in Troy. Among the craft items for sale will be Celtic accented jewelery such as necklaces and earrings by Becky Timmons, and needle felted Gnomes by Rhonda Bothman.

It is actually quite the understatement to say that Saint Patrick was an exceptional man. Although research has not always confirmed certain legendary traits of this individual, those remain for each of us to decide about on our own. What is known from research is that there are at least two writings by Patrick that have been confirmed as authentic. The first is a letter to Coroticus, the repudiation of a marauding king and his soldiers brutality, and the other is Confessio, a short autobiographical account of his life. (Ref. St. Patrick: The Real Story Tops the Myth – By Ron Cassie, Baltimore Magazine – March 16th, 2017.) This individual who was born roughly 386 A.D., or after the death of Christ, in what is now Wales and Scotland was originally named Maewyn Succat.


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Community Oriented Living Well

A free, multi-week health promotion workshop

By Tracy McNew


Health promotion and wellness program participation has been shown to improve quality of life and overall health, reduce medical care costs, and lower mortality rates, according to research.

A new program is now being offered in Libby based on these findings.

Community Oriented Living Well is a multi-week community workshop that will be held in Libby starting in late March. The program is free and specifically designed for anyone with a physical limitation or disability.

Participants will meet with each other and a facilitator once weekly for around two months, and focus on developing and clarifying meaningful individual goals then discussing tools to generate, implement, and monitor a path towards reaching those goals. In the group setting, participants will be able to encourage each other and build positive relationships.

A past workshop participant said, “The Living Well Program has taught me to be more assertive, more self-assured, and happier in my life. It has taught me to praise others for their accomplishments as well, no matter how small.”

The Living Well program is actually part of a research project being implemented in rural western Montana. The program has already been implemented in eight states with very positive results. Past participants have reported 20-25% less limitation due to preventable health problems and a 10% reduction in the use of healthcare service for at least a year after participating.

Researchers from the University of Montana and Kansas University developed the program, and they continue to work towards improving it, and in turn, improving health of communities  and program participants.

Funding for the workshop is provided by a grant from the May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust. Summit Independent Living, a Missoula-based advocacy agency for people who have disabilities, was contracted to help roll out the program in rural western Montana. Peter Pelchen and Lynae West from Summit have been working to develop a steering committee and orient program facilitators over the past few months. They have built a steering committee which includes representatives from Libby Public Schools, Flathead Valley Community College Lincoln County Campus, and Achievements, and facilitators from the Center for Asbestos Related Disease.

Stephanie Shaw, a Living Well facilitator, and Case Manager at the CARD Clinic said, “Participation in this program will be a great opportunity for many of our patients who struggle with limitations from respiratory disease to achieve their goals. Many others with physical limitations in our community  will benefit too.”

Each weekly workshop will last between one and two hours, and participants will learn about and discuss tools to make healthy lifestyle changes related to physical activity, nutrition, relationships, and stress in the context of their individual goals.

Although most of the information to be discussed will not be new to participants, having a good reason to implement it along with a group of supportive peers to help are key elements of the program. “People practice and develop skills for living well when they have important meaningful goals they are pursuing,” the program guide says.

Although the Living Well program is a one-time offering here in Libby, West, from Summit Independent Living said, “Many workshop participants continue to support one another afterwards too.”

The first workshop is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday, March 23 at the Libby Volunteer Ambulance’s building located on 3rd Street in Libby. Participants must be at least 18 years old to attend. Anyone interested in learning more can contact Shaw at 293-9274 ext. 139.

Asbestos Superfund site scheduled for April 1 EPA to DEQ transition

County considers “nuclear option” because of looming deadline and deadlock with DEQ  

By Tracy McNew


When Lincoln County Commissioners met at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4 for an update from the members of the Libby Asbestos Superfund Oversight Committee (LASOC), the message was clear: something needs to be done quickly. The Libby Asbestos Superfund Site Troy and Libby operable units are set to transition to an Operations and Maintenance (O&M) phase as of April 1. When this happens, responsibility will be turned over to Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality despite much local anxiety.

LASOC was formed in 2017 when Senate Bill 315 was signed into law by Governor Bullock. The group “advises DEQ on administration of the Libby Asbestos Cleanup Trust Fund and operation and maintenance accounts,” according to DEQ’s website. They are attached to DEQ for administrative purposes and membership includes Lincoln County Commissioner, Mark Peck; DEQ Director, Shaun McGrath; local citizen, George Jamison; Representative Steve Gunderson; and Senator, Mike Cuffe.

For LASOC’s update on the asbestos superfund site’s O&M transition, the commissioners meeting chambers were full of elected officials including both Libby’s and Troy’s mayors, and council members from both cities. Local public health officials and citizens were also in attendance.

“You can imagine the complexities of the things that need to be worked out,” Peck said by way of introduction to the topic. “Right now, none of that has been completely hammered out.”

Funding was identified as the main concern and topic of discussion, but other issues that still aren’t hammered out, he said, include liability and responsibility for homeowners, reimbursement processes, contracting for sampling and cleanup services, and contracting of lab services for testing samples.

A county workgroup (EPA, DEQ, County) has been meeting for more than two years to address O&M of the site, and LASOC has too, but no resolution or semblance of a plan is yet in place, and April 1 is approaching quickly. A primary source of contention expressed was DEQ’s lack of engagement and commitment during that  two-year time period.

The county’s position statement, adopted in January of 2018, includes three main elements that were discussed. First, property owners should not be discriminated against due to the history of their property. Second, property owners shouldn’t bear any expense related to Libby Asbestos. Last, if the first two conditions are not me, the plan will not be acceptable.

DEQ responded for the first time, said Peck on Feb. 27, with a memo regarding use of the state-held funds for O&M. Their conditions are unacceptable based on the county’s criteria.

George Jamison who is on both the O&M committee and LASOC walked attendees through a 30-year cost estimate put together “to address expenses related to the presence of Libby Amphibole Asbestos on properties in the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site.” His conclusion was that there are plenty of funds available to meet the county’s conditions. It is unclear why, but DEQ does not want to meet the county’s requests. Peck described their document as “fiscal paranoia, not fiscal responsibility.”

Peck summarized the discussion with options to move forward after taking questions from those in attendance. He said that three available options included taking no action, being accommodating to keep things running while seeking a legislative fix, or using the “nuclear option” and refusing to accept DEQ’s terms then seeking resolution through tort or a direct cooperative agreement between the county and EPA.

The consensus seemed to be a combination of these options. Discussions wrapped up with talk of exploring legal action, working towards a legislative fix, and taking another run at negotiations with DEQ.

In part, the negotiations with DEQ will happen during an upcoming LASOC meeting scheduled for Wednesday, March 18 at 6 p.m. at the Lincoln County Commissioners office. LASOC meetings are public, and DEQ has confirmed that they plan to attend. Peck asked for attendance and support from the community to help emphasize the need for resolution and a path forward.

Lincoln County Commissioners met on Wednesday, March 4 at 2 p.m. for an update with local elected officials given by members of the Libby Asbestos Superfund Oversight Committee (LASOC). As DEQ is set to take control of the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site on April 1, and no plan is in place at this point. Photo by Tracy McNew, The Montanian.