Bear Lake County Courthouse

Bear Lake County Courthouse to be replaced in 2020

We all share in the hopes and dreams that the year 2020 might bring. Well, it just so happens that the year 2020 is a decade year, which makes it even more special. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and see what some of the highlights of the past 10 years were.

Looking back at the year 2010, the City of Montpelier announced their partnership with Bright Tomorrows, which opened a satellite office in the Counseling Center in downtown Montpelier. Also, a group of trainers were brought in from the National Sheriff’s Association to train the police department in domestic violence.

It was the end of an era for Judge Lynn Brower who retired as only the second magistrate judge for Bear Lake County. Using the formula of “If you build it they will come,” the Intersection Youth Center was finished and waiting for it’s first volunteers as adult supervisors and youth to fill it and enjoy it. And, Steve Heeder was hired as the middle school principal in May.

The Pony Express celebrated their 150th anniversary with Travis Lyons rode out carrying the mail as the first rider.

Of other note, Governor Butch Otter presented a proclamation to Montpelier Mayor Reed Peterson declaring Montpelier as Capital for a Day. And to end 2010, Rosa Moseman, editor of The News Examiner, retired after many years of service.

The year 2011 saw snowpack more than double the previous year in January, just in time for the first baby of the year, Denim Gundersen, to arrive on Jan. 12 to Devin and Sari Gundersen of Montpelier. In February, John Tippetts was named to the Legislative District 31 by Governor Butch Otter.

There were several tragedies during the year, including many drowning in Bear Lake, and the fire in downtown Montpelier that completely destroyed the building next to the mental health center.

In other news that year, Sherry Brown took over as editor of the News-Examiner after Rosa Moseman retired. The Lions named Keith Martindale as Outstanding Citizen of 2010.

After a long period of problems, in April, 2009, School Superintendent Cliff Walters resigned.

The Bear Lake Valley experienced quite a bit of flooding in 2009. The people of Montpelier were worried for quite some time as to whether Montpelier reservoir would hold, but it held steady throughout the season. The Bear Lake, however, reached it’s capacity level of 5,921.02 feet on August 26, 2009.

2009 was also the 25th anniversary of the Cokeville bombing, reminding everyone of the tragedy that this incident was and bringing back many sad memories.

Montpelier Police Chief, Greg Butler, resigned, and a new police chief, Russell Roper was put in place after Detective Blake Wells filled the position as Interim Chief until Chief Roper was hired.

New School Superintendent, Gary Brogan, was put in to replace Cliff Walters who resigned earlier.

A Jon Gries movie was filmed in Geneva with a lot of interest, and Modern Drug closed its pharmacy in October.

The year 2012 was a mixed bag of wonderful accomplishment, great loss, and deep concern. Drought was a major concern this year, as opposed to last year’s flooding issues.

Bear Lake Memorial Hospital had their ribbon cutting and open house celebrating the reopening of the front entry.

Multiple fires kept local firefighters busy. Local residents, TJ and Marlaina Johnson of Georgetown, lost their home to a fire of unknown origin on Aug. 10. Many other fires caused damage to property and land.

Bear Lake County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Craig Bunn retired after 24 years with the sheriff’s office, which followed 13-14 years with the Montpelier Police Department.

After 66 years of local ownership by one family, Matthews Mortuary was sold to Lee Schwab, owner of the Schwab Funeral Home in Star Valley. Leonard Matthews was reluctant to sell the business he and his father, Nile, owned since 1946, but he and Schwab have had a long association and working relationship. The name Matthews Mortuary was retained.

And finally, Todd Garbett assumed the duties of Magistrate Judge in November. Judge Garbett replaced retired Judge O. Lynn Brower. Garbett had been Franklin County’s Prosecuting Attorney.

The year 2013 was, unfortunately, fraught with car and truck crashes with several fatalities. There were also several fires, like the one in Georgetown that completely destroyed the home of Martin and Maria Simmons. However, there was also a lot of good news to offset it throughout the year.

In January, Frank Vilt and Sheryl Bomsta of Montpelier purchased the radio station KBRV am 800 in Soda Springs. The Paris Hills mine was a large issue as to whether or not it would come to fruition. And, an $800,000 school levy passed, and work on the St. Charles bridge began.

A motivational speaker, Bigg Milt, addressed parents and teens about the problems of drugs, alcohol, and violence at the middle school auditorium. Bear Lake High School principal Alan Schwab resigned in June of 2013, and David Chamberlain was welcomed as the new principal in July.

Sadly, the Dingle Post Office closed at the end of July. The Post Office was attached to the front of Marilyn Gould’s home for 21 years. The community anticipated a great loss through losing their community post office.

AJ Winters students were excited to receive new playground equipment funded by a Fun Run, which was greatly needed, and last but not least for the year 2013, NAPA Auto Parts store opened in the old Modern Drug location, owned and operated by brothers Larry, Brendan and Kelly Bartschi, who had worked long and hard for many years to make this dream come true.

2014 came in as a banner year for the National California/Oregon Trail Center which saw approximately 10,000 patrons during their open season.

Police had their hands full with several major auto accidents. Montpelier Police Department also headed up a drug sting in March, working with many police agencies. A group selling methamphetamine and other illegal drugs was arrested.

Montpelier City swore in a new mayor and City Council in January. Mayor Jared Sharp took the reins from Mayor Reed Peterson. Heather Mortensen, Scott Nussbaum and Theodore Slivinski took up seats on the council bringing a new look to the Montpelier city government.

Scaffolding was prominent in Montpelier with the remodel of the historic Montpelier Tabernacle and the new wing on Bear Lake Memorial Hospital.

Many amazing shows came to the valley. Singing groups such as BYU’s Vocal Point, The Bar J Wranglers, and the legendary Don Edwards performed for Bear Lake audiences. The annual car show brought a Transformer (from the movie) to town, and the Bear Lake County Library hosted the Scenery Safari Exhibit, which featured a taxidermy display of animals that people could touch.

Bennington and Montpelier celebrated sesquicentennials with many events, including parades, reunions, dinners, campfires and historic programs.

2015 came in strong with the new patient rooms at Bear Lake Memorial Hospital open and ready for use. This was the first phase of the plans for remodel of the hospital, and the New Years baby, Brixztyn D. Boehme, was born on Jan. 22 to Missy and Devin Boehme of Geneva. Brixztyn was the second little girl already having big sister Tinzley.

Bear Lake High School Junior Maddison Eborn was elected as the new Idaho Association of Student Councils State Secretary. This was a prestigious award for her, and she was very excited and proud to accept it.

The Bear Lake Valley Health Care Foundation made a $100,000 payment to the Bear Lake Memorial Hospital to go toward their $2 million pledge in order to support the hospital’s remodel and the private patient room project.

A new Research Center opened at the News Examiner. It was open for all to see the archives of past newspapers and display of old tools used by the paper in the past. In April of 2015, the Montpelier tabernacle was rededicated, just about the same time as work was started on the new temple in Star Valley.

A shiny new floor was put in the Middle School gym due to a water heater in the basement of the school breaking and leaking steam under the gym floor warping it and making it unusable. The Paris Hills mine issue was still ongoing with plans but no outcome. Agrium presented a $5,000 check to the Grace Thiel Community Center to fund the replacement of the sidewalk out front of the center.

And last but not least, residents of the county got to celebrate a white Christmas as there was a series of snowstorms giving the valley the first real snow for the season.

Looking back at the year 2016, many have said it was one of the worst years in history, while others have said it was a great year. A big focus was on the war against ISIS with a shift in the political view in the world.

Closer to home, Bear Lake saw many ups and downs in local politics. The City of Montpelier swore in two new city council members, Bobbi Leonhardt and Dru Strange, and one returning council member, Dan Fisher. During the May Primary Election, the County debuted new electronic voter-assist terminals. The News-Examiner hosted a Meet the Candidates night where the candidates for County Commissioner, Sheriff, and Prosecutor answered questions from the community. Bart Heslington won the primaries for Sheriff and John Olson won for Prosecutor. Governor Butch Otter attended Paris’s Capitol for a Day in May, but it was delayed by a snow storm which in a round-about way helped the Bear Lake County Airport get funding for the instrument landing system. In the November election, the levy to build a new county courthouse missed the necessary 66 percent to pass for the third time, putting the county in a bind as to what to do about the problems of the old courthouse. Prosecutor Steve Wuthrich resigned to take a position with the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

The Montpelier City Police Department was able to assist in stopping heroin from entering the state of Idaho in a joint operation. The Police Department also arrested several drug offenders that had stopped at Maverik.

An October storm brought down trees all across the valley, knocking out power in Paris and bringing the county and city crews out to help with the clean-up.

The Middle School was donated a weight room. Bear Lake High School held a Service-A-Thon, completing several landscaping projects at the school to help beautify the school and build school spirit.

Bear Lake Memorial Hospital hired a new administrator to fill the shoes of Rod Jacobson, who retired.

In September, the Star Valley Temple was completed and held an open house. Butch Cassidy Day returned with reenactment of the famous bank heist, and the Arts Council successfully presented Beauty and the Beast.

The year 2017 was a remarkable year in that the people of Bear Lake got to see the solar eclipse, even though not in totality, and they got to live history as the Union Pacific Steamer, the 844, rolled along the familiar tracks once again.

One of Montpelier’s big businesses closed its doors for the last time as King’s went out of business.

The film Lore was filmed here in Bear Lake and got its world premiere as well as showing here and receiving world-wide attention as the Tour of Utah bike race circled the lake.

Long-time Sheriff Brent Bunn retired, and the county welcomed Sheriff Bart Heslington as well as new County Superintendent Scott Esquibel. Montpelier City Hall developed some scary snow-related cracks that started talks on what to do with it. The county has had a year-long discussion on how to fix or replace the courthouse, ending with the commissioners voting to petition a judicial confirmation.

The county confronted a speeding problem by installing new radar speed signs, and the TV district had to rework its system thanks to the federal government changing the frequencies. Montpelier’s Fourth Street got a new road top, and Paris Main Street got a new look.

There was record snowfall in early 2018, causing flooding in the spring. The snow was so heavy that the old Geneva school caved in. A state of emergency was declared so the state and federal governments could help with the damage.

Bark beetles killed a number of trees in the area, including many that lined Montpelier’s Fourth Street. Grasshoppers invaded by the thousands on the west side of the valley, and over 2,000 tiny earthquakes shook the area with some getting as big as four points on the Richter scale The valley was also plunged into darkness with a region-wide blackout, and Montpelier experienced another local blackout.

On March 23, the Judicial Confirmation hearing was held with the final outcome giving Bear Lake County the go ahead on a new Courthouse. John Olsen, the elected prosecutor, resigned, and Adam McKenzie was the appointed prosecutor.

Our Bear Lake boys basketball team won the 2A State Championship, and Itafos purchased Agrium and Bayer bought Monsanto.

In looking at the year 2019 in review, there were so many happenings, both exciting and newsworthy.

Several changes were made in the school board and city councils, and a new CEO, Mike Blauer, was put in at Bear Lake Memorial Hospital.

Citizens of Bear Lake were able to access weather information in real time through the Automated Weather Operating System installed at the Bear Lake County Airport.

The streetlights on Washington Street in Montpelier were all replaced with double LED bulbs, and the Oregon Trail Center received a bomb threat that locked down the center, all the schools, and the hospital.

Our own local sheriff, Brent Bunn, was nominated to serve as a U.S. Marshal, Jory Hunter was named administrator of the Skilled Nursing Facility, and Bear Lake Memorial Hospital celebrated 30 years of the Snowball Dance.

Peter Cottontail hopped down the bunny trail at the Easter Egg hunt in April, and the Easter spirit was continued with the interdenominational choir performing the Messiah cantata directed by Neil Harris.

Several new businesses opened such as Linda’s Lunchbox, New To You Auto Sales, Diamond Heart Cattleman’s Steakhouse, Country Road Store & More, and Bear River and Holistic Wellness Center; several existing businesses made some changes and had grand re-openings such as Gundersen Ace Hardware, Centre Theatre, and Bear Necessities; and Rest Assured Inn & Suites now rents U-Haul trucks, trailers, and accessories.

Montpelier signed a deal for the City Hall to move to the old Wells Fargo Bank building, and KVSI became “The Wave.” Bear Lake High School sent an eSports team to Boise to compete, and the Bear Lake Middle School’s Robotics teams won recognition.

Of course, the Culpepper and Merriweather Circus came to town with all of it’s glitz and glamour. The 4th of July was celebrated by many with chuckwagon breakfasts, a parade in Paris, a wonderful program in the Paris Tabernacle, and a huge fireworks display.

Montpelier City implemented some civic improvement plans, the Rotary had their 13th annual car show, and we can’t forget the Bear Lake County Fair with it’s carnival, displays, and events. The rodeo and bike races brought many out as well.

Justin Write-Foreman made an appearance in Cokeville in August to the surprise and happiness of Junior Jazz players and fans.

“M” Hill got a face lift with new lights that are much brighter and easier to see, and the Bear Lake County Airport got new managers, Trevor and Rebecca Keetch.

All of the sports teams, and the Lakettes and Cheerleaders, had a great year with many wins in each of their respective categories, and the Bear Lake High School students performed a very successful Service-A-Thon in November.

Cokeville held “A Country Christmas,” Georgetown had a “Light the Park,” and Montpelier joined in with “Light Up Main Street” for some of the Christmas productions of the year.

These are just some of the highlights of the past decade. It was a wonderful 10 years to bring us into the year 2020, and we here at the News-Examiner hope the Bear Lake Valley will have just as many wonderful experiences in the next ten years. Happy New Year!

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