Archives for November 2016

OSHA Looks Into Accidental Death

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has begun an investigation into the death of a man working on a heavy-duty wrecker at J.H. Motors on Sunday. OSHA routinely investigates workplace deaths and employers are required to report deadly incidents within eight hours. J.H. Motors reported the death inside of the required timeframe and is cooperating with the investigation, according to Billings area director Art Hazen
On Tuesday, the man killed in an apparent workplace accident was identified as 64-year-old Robert Bruce Johnson of Billings.
Johnson was working on the wrecker when a possible mechanical failure caused the raised cab to fall on him. His body was discovered Monday morning and an initial Billings Police investigation found the death to be accidental.
Hazen said that there’s a series of events that usually lead up to something like this and OSHA is required to complete the investigation within six months.

ATF Shuts Down Billings Block for Warrant

Agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in conjunction with local law enforcement, temporarily closed the 1100 block of Howard Avenue Tuesday as they searched a Billings home.
38-year-old John Terry is a convicted felon in possession of unregistered firearms, according to the search warrant filed in U.S. District Court.
Terry was booked into the Yellowstone County jail on Tuesday on federal weapons charges.
The street remained blocked until about noon as federal agents executed the warrant, according to a statement from the ATF spokesperson. They said the operation is part of an ongoing investigation and no other details were being released on Tuesday. Billings Police were also on the scene, along with at least one canine unit, according to Billings public information officer Lt. Mark Cady.
Agents believed Terry, who was convicted of a felony drug charge in Michigan in 1999, was illegally in possession of firearms.

TrailNet Member Appreciation Tonight

The Gazette reports Billings TrailNet will hold its annual Membership Appreciation event from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday at Yellowstone Cellars and Winery, 1335 Holiday Circle.

The event celebrates Billings TrailNet’s members being a part of the community effort to improve the trail system. The event will also be open to new members who can sign up at the door. Memberships start at $25, and proceeds help fund the trail system.

The Membership Appreciation Event is on Giving Tuesday, a day marked for charitable giving during the holiday season. At the event, Billings TrailNet will encourage members to help the organization raise $11,500 to build a trail connection from the existing trail at Swords Rimrock Park to Yellowstone Kelly’s Interpretive Site.

Members and the community also are encouraged to bring new or used bicycles to the event for a bike drive to benefit low-income students at a local elementary school.

Billings Mustangs Lease On Hold

The Billings City Council wants to wait a couple weeks until it decides on a 10-year lease with the Billings Mustangs.
At issue is the city’s share of naming rights for Dehler Park, which cannot be renamed until 2032. The proposed lease is for 10 years and can be renewed in 2026. The vote to delay action on the proposal until Dec. 12 was 8-1, with Councilman Ryan Sullivan opposed. Under the current proposed lease, the city would receive 15 percent of naming rights, with the owners of the Mustangs– or Main Street Baseball– receiving the rest.
After discussing the matter at length, council members agreed they didn’t know enough about how other ball clubs share naming rights revenue with the communities they play in. City Administrator Tina Volek said she will research the topic for the December meeting.
The club wanted a decision before the winter meetings begin Dec. 5.

Trump Inaugural Tough Ticket To Get

If you’re interested in attending the inaugural of President-Elect Donald Trump, it’s reportedly a tough ticket to get. Trump’s presidential inauguration tickeys are going fast, according to Montana’s Congressional delegation.
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Ryan Zinke say the list of Montanans interested in attending the event is growing. Montana’s two Republican lawmakers and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester each have free tickets to give away for the event.
Tester reports on his website that the tickets, are first come, first served, and Tester provides an online application form.
Zinke and Daines also provides a website for applying for tickets. Tickets aren’t needed to attend the event from the National Mall, but anything closer requires one. In 2012, Daines was able to get some Montanans seating close enough to the ceremony that binoculars weren’t needed to watch.
People who apply for tickets now will know one way or the other by December. 

Bullock Aims For Preschool Funding Again

In 2015, Republicans in the Legislature shot down Gov. Steve Bullock’s $37 million preschool proposal for what they called [quote] “budget-driven” reasons.
But the tenacious governor is renewing his preschool pitch with a lower price tag than 2015’s budget proposal. Somehow, you know the $12 million asking price is likely to face legislative opposition again.
Eric Moore, a Republican state senator from Miles City and the vice-chair of the education appropriations subcommittee, said he expected any new education spending to focus on school infrastructure, saying superintendents are more concerned about roofs and boilers than putting new programs into place.
Montana is one of eight states that don’t offer any state funding for public preschools. Several school districts, like Hardin, have pieced together their own preschool program using money from a $40 million federal grant, districts launch their own programs with aid awarded for having the Crow Reservation within district boundaries.

Montana License Virtually Invalid as of Jan. 2018

Montana residents won’t be allowed to use their driver’s licenses to access military bases, nuclear power plants and federal facilities starting Jan. 30, and they’ll need another form of identification to board commercial aircraft a year after that, federal officials said Tuesday.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent Montana Gov. Steve Bullock a letter rejecting the governor’s request to delay implementation of the federal Real ID Act of 2005.
The state previously received two one-year extensions, but won’t get a third. There is no evidence that Montana will commit to meeting the requirements of the federal law passed to prevent terrorism and identity theft.
A 2007 law passed by the Montana Legislature said the state would not comply with the Real ID Act.
Starting Jan. 22, 2018, people presenting a Montana driver’s license at airports will be asked to show a different form of identification, such as a passport.

Yellowstone County Passes Industrial Park

A planned industrial park in Lockwood won the backing of the Yellowstone County commission, voting on Tuesday to approve a special taxing district to develop the park.
The commission passed an ordinance creating a Targeted Economic Development District.
The vote came after a second public hearing on the issue, which has drawn support from most of the Lockwood community, private businesses and economic development organizations.
The district is the first in the county and is the result of a two-year planning and development effort led by Big Sky Economic Development.
Supporters say it will generate economic development by providing funding for infrastructure improvements, like sewer, water and transportation services, to attract industries and manufacturing to the area.
Similar to tax increment districts use by cities, the Targeted Economic Development District will use a portion of property taxes collected from within the district to pay for infrastructure improvements.

Presidential Elector Comments on Gay Montanans

A 92-year-old Montana Elector, who will be casting one of the state’s three electoral college votes for president, has come under fire for his Facebook comments against gay Montanans.
Dennis Scranton of Miles City was exposed Sunday by the online news site Last Best News for suggesting in a 2010 Facebook conversation that gay people should be hanged. The conversation about gay marriage was reported in The Billings Gazette seven years ago when it cost former Big Sky Tea Party Association leader Tim Ravndal his chairmanship. Ravndal was commenting on a Billings Gazette article concerning an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit about same-sex couples.
Scranton responded to the Tea Party leader’s remark, saying “I think fruits are decorative. Hang up where they can be seen and appreciated. Call Wyoming for display instructions.”– an apparent reference to Matthew Shepard, a gay university student who as beaten, bound to a fence post and left to die outside Laramie in 1998.

Man Charged with Fifth Domestic Assault

A man with four prior convictions for felony domestic violence was charged with partner or family member assault Monday.
49-year-old Dondi Woodrow Whittaker was arrested and charged with his fifth domestic violence-related offense in Yellowstone County Justice Court, where he appeared before a judge. He was held in place of $35,000 bond and ordered placed on GPS monitoring should he post bail.
Whittaker is accused of punching his girlfriend in the face and kicking her out of their shared apartment on the 1500 block of Governors Boulevard, according to charging documents. Officers with the Billings Police Department arrested Whittaker at approximately 8:45 p.m. on Friday.
Whittaker denied the charges and said he hit the woman by accident. He told officers he wanted to press charges against the woman. Whittaker did not have any injuries, charging documents state.
Whittaker has a history of misdemeanor domestic violence and four felony convictions for similar incidents out of Colorado and California.