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Wednesday, October 18th 2017
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT

University of Montana offers buyouts to non-faculty workers

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — In a continued effort to reduce personnel costs, the University of Montana has offered voluntary severances to non-faculty employees.

University interim President Sheila Stearns said in a news release that the school must reduce the percentage of the budget spent on personnel.

Stearns said the offer is similar to the Voluntary Employee Retirement Incentive Program offered to qualifying tenured faculty members earlier this year.

The voluntary severance offer will be detailed in campus meetings on Wednesday. The meetings will be live-streamed on Montana Community Access Television.

The University also is in the midst of a program prioritization effort that Stearns said will further inform the overhaul of academic programming and administrative services offered at the institution.


Coroner: Wyoming man killed by falling tree in NW Montana

(Information from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a 61-year-old Wyoming man was killed earlier this month when a tree fell on him in western Montana.

The Helena Independent Record reports that records released Tuesday by the Powell County coroner's office identify Berwyn Conroy, of Gillette, Wyoming, as the victim.

Conroy was injured Oct. 7 on Ogden Mountain. He died in the ambulance after the incident, and his cause of death is listed as blunt force trauma.

Coroner Lee Jewell declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding the incident.



ACLU seeks to ban transgender bathroom initiative in Montana

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The ACLU of Montana is challenging the constitutionality of a proposed ballot initiative that would require transgender residents to use public bathrooms that correspond with their sex at birth.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in District Court in Cascade County on behalf of seven transgender Montanans, the parents of a transgender 9-year-old and the City of Missoula. Bozeman voted Monday to join the effort.

The lawsuit argues the Locker Room Privacy Act would deprive transgender Montanans from equal protection under the law and violate their right to privacy. It asks the court to declare the initiative unconstitutional and to prevent it from being placed on the ballot.

Montana Family Foundation President Jeff Lazloffy argues that predators claim they are transgender to access public bathrooms used by the opposite sex.


Man gets probation, girl too traumatized to testify

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

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana man has been sentenced to 30 years on probation for sexually assaulting a girl as part of a plea agreement reached by prosecutors who said the girl is too traumatized to testify at trial.

District Judge Elizabeth Best told 36-year-old Jason Faldzinski that he deserved prison time and that she wasn't sure the girl would ever recover.

The Great Falls Tribune reports Faldzinski is required to pay for the girl's counseling for the next 10 years.

Court records say the assaults happened while Faldzinski was teaching the girl how to drive and another time when they were playing cards.

Prosecutors say girl's mother learned of the assaults in November 2016 and went to police.



Federal agency backs Montana tribe's ouster of its president

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

LAME DEER, Mont. (AP) — The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs says officials with a Montana Indian tribe acted within their authority when they removed the tribe's president from office for reportedly neglecting his duties.

The Billings Gazette reported Tuesday that the federal agency declared its backing for the decision to remove President Jace Killsback in a letter to the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council.

The council said in a statement that the BIA decision "removes any doubt" that its members were within their rights to remove Killsback. His ouster came Oct. 5 on a 9-1 vote.

Killsback has said he will continue opposing the action, which he contends was illegal because it went against a judgment by the Cheyenne Constitutional Court.



State announces program to crack down on organized crime

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Law enforcement officials have announced a program to crack down on organized crime in Montana, mainly through increased efforts to stop drug trafficking.

Attorney General Tim Fox said Tuesday that six Montana Highway Patrol troopers, including trained K-9s, and two Division of Criminal Investigation agents will work together on a criminal interdiction team to not only seize drugs as they move into or through the state, but to determine their source.

The Legislature appropriated $1.7 million over the next two years for the program, which also will target human trafficking and firearms trafficking.

Law enforcement will use intelligence from other agencies to keep on top of new trends and patterns in drug trafficking. DCI Administrator Brian Lockerby says agents also will look to stop drugs from coming into the state via air, rail and the mail.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, October 17th 2017
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT

Montana providers can file new rates without US subsidy

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Federal regulators are allowing two companies offering health insurance through the individual market in Montana to file rate increases.

Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale says the move comes after President Donald Trump's decision last week to end certain federal payments to insurers that help low- to middle-income workers.

It's also a reversal from Friday, when U.S. regulators told Montana they would not allow companies to further raise rates in 2018.

Rosendale says both Montana Health Co-Op and PacificSource Health Plans told him Monday they will file rate hikes. Montana Health Co-Op says it's seeking an additional 24 percent average increase for 2018.


Montana wildlife officials say poached deer likely suffered

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife officials say one or more poachers illegally shot eight mule deer in eastern Montana with a type of ammunition used for small game that likely caused the animals to suffer considerably.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Todd Tryan said in a statement Monday that one of the animals, a fawn, was found injured but still alive and had to be put down.

The animals were shot with a shotgun loaded with shells typically used to hunt pheasants.

They were found by a local resident Sunday morning in northern McCone County, where the dead deer were scattered along a two-mile stretch of road 528.

Officials are asking for the public's help in identifying those responsible and offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.


Gianforte raises $252K for 2018 race as challengers line up

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte has raised $252,000 since July for his 2018 re-election campaign while his first two Democratic challengers took in more than twice as much combined over the same period.

Campaign finance reports that were due Sunday showed Gianforte with $178,000 in the bank after subtracting expenses for the quarterly period ending September 30.

Among Democrats, Billings attorney John Heenan raised $325,000, including a $100,000 loan of his own money. He had $257,000 in cash on hand.

Grant Kier, a former land-trust director, raised $192,000 in just three weeks after announcing his candidacy September 12. The Missoula Democrat had $174,000 in cash on hand.

A third Democrat, Tom Woods of Bozeman, announced last week and did not file a quarterly report.


Montana girls' basketball coach killed in car crash

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana High School girls' basketball coach died in a car crash.

The Billings Gazette reports Kurt Kautz, who had been the girls' basketball coach at Huntley Project High School for the past three years, died Saturday night in the crash.

Montana Highway Patrol says Kautz was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash after his pickup truck rolled over on Interstate 94. Kautz, who was not wearing his seatbelt, was ejected from his vehicle. The Montana Highway Patrol report stated no other vehicles were involved in the wreck, and no passengers were present.

It was unclear why Kautz's vehicle swerved into the highway median.

Huntley Project Superintendent Mark Wandle Sunday night called Kautz a "dedicated guy (who) loved athletic competition and really valued hard work and life lessons."



Wyoming officials see revenue stream in Yellowstone vehicles

(Information from: Powell (Wyo.) Tribune, http://www.powelltribune.com)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The state of Wyoming wants to ensure those who live and work in Yellowstone register their vehicles in the state.

The Powell Tribune reports the Wyoming Department of Transportation, at the request of Gov. Matt Mead and members of Wyoming's congressional delegation, is pushing to get more Yellowstone residents and workers to follow state law and purchase Wyoming registrations and driver's licenses.

State and federal officials say they don't know how many of the about 550 permanent and more than 3,000 seasonal employees working for the National Park Service and Yellowstone's concessionaire, Xanterra Parks & Resorts need to get Wyoming plates. But with an average vehicle registration costing a couple hundred dollars, the state could theoretically be losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees each year.



1 of 2 tracks reopen after Williston-area derailment

(Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com)

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — One of two main BNSF Railway tracks in northwestern North Dakota has reopened after a derailment.

Two trains were operating on adjacent tracks when they derailed Friday afternoon. Forty-three cars went off the tracks. No one was hurt, and no hazardous materials were spilled.

Railroad spokeswoman Amy McBeth tells the Minot Daily News that one of the main tracks reopened Sunday, and the second should reopen in a few days.

Amtrak passenger trains also use the tracks. Amtrak for a time used buses to move passengers between Williston and Minot, but spokeswoman Vernae Graham says operations are now back to normal.


Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Monday, October 16th 2017
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT

Avalanche victim remembered for striking balance in life

(Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A 23-year-old Montana woman whose boyfriend took his own life after she died in an avalanche was an avid mountain climber and student of mathematics who had planned to become a teacher.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that Inge Perkins was sometimes called "Ingetron" by her friends because of her ability to successfully juggle multiple responsibilities.

She was also known as "little speedster" because of her small frame and climbing prowess.

Her mother, Heidi Hersant, says Perkins struck the perfect balance in life and had an affinity for wearing dresses under her ski gear as a child.

She met Hayden Kennedy through climbing and was killed Oct. 7 when the pair triggered an avalanche while skiing in the Montana backcountry.

Kennedy took his own life after leaving a detailed note on how to find Perkins.



After punishing drought, Montana ranchers sell calves early

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana ranchers with little grass to feed livestock are selling off their calves early after suffering the worst drought in the U.S.

The Billings Gazette reported Sunday that eastern Montana ranchers are coping with drought-scorched pasture land with little green for cattle to chew on.

Sales tracked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Marketing Service more than 40,000 cattle have moved through auction barns in Miles City and Billings since July.

Stockyards have moved 6,000 animals more than they did during the same weeks in 2016 and 11,000 more than in 2015.

The eastern two thirds of the state suffered the worst drought in the nation last summer.



Contractor: Montana not enforcing asbestos dumping rules

(Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com)

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A contractor has sued Montana's environmental agency alleging public health is being put at risk by the state's failure to crack down on the improper disposal of a common and potentially deadly building material.

Ingraham Environmental of Butte said in a lawsuit reported Sunday by the Montana Standard that asbestos is being dumped in open air sites at landfills. That poses a danger to workers and anyone who breathes in the air around the dumps, the company says.

State regulations require asbestos to be treated differently than common waste.

But attorneys for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality say the agency is not required under the law to more aggressively enforce laws on asbestos disposal.

The lawsuit is before Judge Brad Newman in state District Court in Butte-Silver Bow County.



Missoula woman gets 2+ years prison for meth distribution

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Missoula woman has been sentenced to more than two years in federal prison on drug charges in an interstate methamphetamine distribution case that's led to at least two other convictions.

U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell in Helena handed down the sentence last week against 33-year-old Barbara Jean Satrom.

Authorities alleged Satrom and another woman sold meth for a Washington state man who was arrested last year after entering Montana with four pounds of the drug.

That man, 33-year-old Tillian Gonzalez of Yakima, Washington, was sentenced to almost 11 years in prison in June for his role in the drug conspiracy. The second woman, 33-year-old Rebecca Frankforter of Helena, was sentenced in June to more than three years in prison.

Federal prosecutors say Montana's experiencing a surge in meth-related crimes.


US, states struggle to pay spiraling cost of fighting fires

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The brutal 2017 wildfire season is stressing the state and federal agencies that pay for the army of ground crews and machinery required to fight them.

The federal government spent more than $2.7 billion on firefighting in its just-finished budget year, far surpassing the previous record of $2.1 billion in 2015.

In California, firefighting costs have already chewed through more than half the state's $469 million emergency fund for big fires just three months in.

That doesn't include the recent catastrophic fires that claimed dozens of lives and thousands of buildings.

California officials said Friday they expect the cost of fighting those fires will be hundreds of millions of dollars.

The fires are increasing pressure on lawmakers and forest managers to find new ways to pay for firefighting and fire prevention.


US agency's bid to allow trumpeter swan hunting draws fire

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal plan to let hunters shoot trumpeter swans has drawn fire from some of the people who toiled to bring the majestic white birds back from the brink of extinction.

Trumpeter swans have made a comeback thanks to efforts to reintroduce them. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working on a plan aimed at letting hunters shoot them in states that allow the hunting of tundra swans, a more numerous species.

Officials say no state is proposing a hunting season for trumpeter swans. But they acknowledge the proposal opens up the possibility.

Brad Bortner with the Fish and Wildlife Service says the plan is mostly designed to protect hunters in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, North Carolina and Virginia who mistake a trumpeter swan for a tundra swan.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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