- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A Crow tribal judge has found officials with the town of Lodge Grass in contempt of a court order that said the town couldn’t shut off water to residents of a subdivision on the Crow Indian Reservation, despite nonpayment of bills.

Town attorney Ron Arneson asked for a re-hearing on the civil contempt ruling because town officials weren’t notified about Tuesday’s hearing. He said he believed his request had been granted because Crow Tribal Special Judge Georgette Hogan Boggio told him to suggest a date for the re-hearing. He suggested Oct. 8.

Boggio’s order also held the town responsible for the $107,000 the housing authority said it has spent on water trucks and portable showers and toilets for residents of the subdivision.

Tribal attorney Dennis Bear Don’t Walk told The Billings Gazette (https://bit.ly/1vFbDvq) that the contempt ruling is asking the town to restore water service until an agreement can be made and jurisdictional issues can be settled.

Arneson told The Associated Press on Friday that he’s asked the tribe to allow the town to shut off water to delinquent residences until they clear up their bills so service can be restored to the residences that are current on their payments.

The town had been negotiating with the Crow Housing Authority for more than a year in an effort to collect about $70,000 in delinquent water bills. Residents had also received notices in the mail saying their water could be shut off for non-payment, Town Clerk Rae Dawn Ten Bear said.

The housing authority agreed to make $4,000 monthly payments, but made just one in February. Town employees began shutting off water at the residences furthest behind on their bills in early September.

Bureau of Indian Affairs officers ordered the employees off the reservation and the tribal court backed them up. Without the ability to maintain the system, the town shut off water to all subdivision residents on Sept. 15, including those who were current on their bills.

The Crow Tribe’s executive branch issued an order on Sept. 25 to restore water service. Someone broke into the pump house and turned the water back on for the subdivision, Arneson said. Tribal Chairman Darrin Old Coyote advised residents not to use the water for drinking or cooking.

On Thursday night, someone broke in to the pump house and tried to sabotage the treatment and monitoring system, Arneson told the AP.

“This is really serious,” Arneson said.

Arneson said he believes federal law is on the town’s side, but the town is required to exhaust all of its options in tribal court first.


Information from: The Billings Gazette, https://www.billingsgazette.com

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