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Wednesday, October 16th 2019

Associated Press Montana News


The Latest: Device found in Montana school yard not a bomb

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana authorities say a device they initially thought to be the remnants of a homemade bomb in an elementary school playground didn't explode — and it wasn't even a bomb.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said Tuesday that further investigation found the plastic bottle wrapped in black tape was full of washers, nuts and bolts, along with a non-flammable unidentified liquid. There was no detonator attached to the bottle.

Dutton says a homeless person carried the bottle from a nearby construction site and left it in Helena's Rossiter Elementary School playground.

Initially, authorities said the bottle was an improvised explosive device that detonated sometime before school began. Dutton says authorities passed on information they believed to be true at the time, and that school officials acted appropriately.

The school was evacuated and schools across Helena were locked down after the initial report.


Missoula couple plans $100M civic events project

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Montana business owners have announced plans for a $100 million commercial development including a hotel, a civic event center and two restaurants.

Nick and Robin Checota have worked with the city of Missoula on an agreement for a parcel at the downtown Riverfront Triangle near the Clark Fork River.

Nick Checota says the goal is to finalize investors and contractors and begin construction by summer 2020.

Checota says the 10-story hotel and 6,000-capacity civic event center could set the tone for further development on the riverfront.

The couple says the center would be able to accommodate traveling Broadway plays, TED Talks and weddings.

Missoula City Council is scheduled to discuss the proposal on Oct. 16.

The Checotas also own the Top Hat, the Kettlehouse Amphitheater and the Wilma Theater.


Missoula priest removed for inappropriate contact with woman

(Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Missoula priest has been removed from his parish after acknowledging he had inappropriate contact with a woman.

The Missoulian reported Tuesday the Rev. Rich Perry was relocated to the Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California, a retirement community for church leaders accused of misconduct.

The Rev. Joseph Carver, the pastor at St. Francis Xavier Parish, said the woman came forward on Oct. 2, Perry was confronted the same day and was relocated to California on Oct. 7. Perry is a former pastor of the church and has been an associate pastor in recent years.

Carver says the allegations have not been reported to police because it wasn't illegal contact. Church officials say none of the allegations involve minors.

Perry did not respond to emails from the Missoulian seeking comment.


A Billings man drowned in the Yellowstone River

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Yellowstone County officials say a Billings man drowned in the Yellowstone River over the weekend.

Deputy Coroner Richard Hoffman says 67-year-old James Karls died Sunday. He had been fishing with a child.

The Billings Fire Department and Yellowstone County deputies responded to a report of an unconscious man in the water at about 8:15 a.m. Sunday. Efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.


Montana city pays $23K for tree damage caused by heavy snow

(Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Heavy snow in Montana has cost a city tens of thousands of dollars in cleanup work after widespread tree damage.

Great Falls Tribune reported Monday that a record-setting September snowstorm brought more than 19 inches of snow to Great Falls causing trees to bend and break.

City officials say the 16-day cleanup effort cost more than $23,000 after eight forestry workers accumulated 130 hours in overtime on top of 557 regular hours.

Foresters say that doesn't include hours and costs of Park and Recreation Division workers who cleaned up trees in city parks and a city-hired contractor who worked 13.5 hours.

Foresters say cleanup of downed branches and the trimming of damaged limbs are expected to wrap up Monday, the same day foresters are scheduled to begin leaf pickup.


Western governors want nuclear testing compensation expanded

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Western governors say atmospheric nuclear weapons testing exposed more states and more people to radiation fallout and resulting cancers and other diseases than the federal government recognizes.

The Western Governors' Association on Friday sent letters to the U.S. Senate and U.S. House urging passage of proposed changes to a law involving "downwinders."

The changes would add all of Nevada, Arizona and Utah, and include for the first time downwinders in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and the island territory of Guam.

The changes to the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act would also include increasing the maximum payment to $150,000 for someone filing a claim.

The U.S. between 1945 and 1992 conducted more than 1,000 nuclear weapons tests, nearly 200 in the atmosphere.

Tuesday, October 15th 2019

Associated Press Montana News


Regulators ask for expedited power grid reliability study

(Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Utility regulators from three states used nearly identical language in letters urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to speed up its study on the effects of upcoming coal-fired power plant closures on the U.S. power grid.

The Billings Gazette reports the language appeared to originate from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a coal lobbying group.

FERC is studying whether the U.S. energy grid would remain reliable with the closures and whether the government should subsidize some energy sources.

The letters asking FERC to expedite the study were signed by Montana Public Service Commission Chairman Brad Johnson, Wyoming PSC Chairwoman Kara B. Fornstrom and two members of Alabama's PSC.

Johnson told the Gazette the letter was given to him to sign by the Montana PSC communications director, but he agrees with its content.


State considering 5 sites for Montana history museum

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The state is considering five sites for a new Montana history museum.

Lee Newspapers of Montana reports the possibilities include upgrading the Montana Historical Society building and adding another building nearby or purchasing property at the former site of the Capital Hill Mall in Helena.

Other candidates include a spot east of St. Peter's Health, land the state owns near the Department of Transportation building on the east side of Helena and property available for long-term lease near the airport.

The 2019 Legislature approved an increase in the state's lodging tax to help pay for the project, which would allow the Montana Historical Society to display a larger share of the state's collection.

John Lewis, director of the Department of Administration, will make the final decision on the museum's location.


Banned mussels found on boat in Montana after initial checks

(Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials say a boat infested with an invasive species of mussels passed two watercraft checkpoints before they were discovered.

The Missoulian reported that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say the zebra mussels were found on a boat bound for Seattle.

Officials say zebra and quagga mussels can clog water intake pipes, disrupt the fishing tourism industry and cost industries, businesses and communities billions of dollars.

Officials say the aquatic invasive species on the vessel that originated in Lake Michigan could have spread in the Columbia River basin without the discovery.

Montana Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau chief Tom Wolfe says the state has protocols to prevent the spread of the mussels.

Wolfe says the initial missed checks were due to errors by seasonal staff.


6 grizzly bears killed in single week in northwest Montana

(Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Early snowstorms in northwest Montana have contributed to the deaths of five grizzly bears in one week on the Rocky Mountain Front.

The Missoulian reports that a sixth grizzly was put down east of Rogers Pass for killing cattle, pushing the one-week death toll to six and the unofficial annual mortality count to 38 in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.

Last year, a record 46 grizzly bears died in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which includes Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex and surrounding areas.

Grizzly bear specialist Mike Madel of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says five grizzly deaths last week all involved bears that were feeding on cattle killed by snowstorms.

Two bears were hit by a train and three were hit on a nearby highway.



Alpine areas of Going-to-the-Sun Road closed for the season

WEST GLACIER, Mont. (AP) — Glacier National Park in Montana has decided to close the alpine section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road to vehicles for the season because of winter weather conditions.

The road typically closes between Avalanche Creek and Jackson Glacier Overlook on or before the third Monday in October, weather and road condition dependent.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road between Avalanche Creek and Logan Pass was closed on Sept. 16 for road maintenance. The park intended to reopen the alpine section of the road after Sept. 29, but snowstorms and avalanches hampered efforts to plow the alpine section.

Road crews reopened Many Glacier Road, the Camas Road, and the portion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road between the foot of St. Mary Lake and Rising Sun. The Two Medicine Road remains closed due to ice and snow.


APNewsBreak: Records show Montana official's vehicle misuse

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton put tens of thousands of miles on a state-owned pickup truck and used it extensively during weekends and holidays in addition to other travel that legislative auditors said violated state policy.

An Associated Press review of government documents found Stapleton used the 2015 GMC Sierra regularly to travel from Helena to his home in Billings for nine months after the use that was reviewed by state auditors.

Records show he also traveled thousands of miles in the pickup truck during weekends and holiday periods when he had no official events scheduled.

Stapleton declined requests for interviews and his office declined to respond to questions about his travel outside of official events and travel to his home in Billings to "telework."

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