Archives for June 2017

MontDevCo Granted Extension by Council reports that less than two hours before Monday’s city council meeting, MontDevCo — the developers of the $165 million One Big Sky Center project — requested the Memorandum of Understanding be extended to July 10. Councilors extended the request 30 days from June 30. A message to City Administrator Tina Volek stated [quote] “We will not have the agreement signed until next week” [end quote], referring to a joint venture that would bring an additional financial component to the project. The group, involved in high-profile projects like the Minnesota Vikings stadium and renovations to Lambeau Field in Green Bay and the Detroit Lions stadium, will be revealed on July 10 in a full presentation to councilmembers.
Lead developer George “Skip” Ahern Jr. fielded questions last week and attempted to reassure the council that the process is taking shape.

No Road Blocks at the Rims July 4th

For the first time since 1991, there won’t be any road blocks on the Billings Rims on Independence Day. reports that the public will be able to enjoy the space for the first 4th of July in 26 years. The decision was made by Billings Fire Chief Paul Dextras. An attraction for its recreational options and views from above the city, fire hazards below the rims remain high. Even though igniting fireworks within Billings city limits is illegal, people living below the rims still need to stay alert and be ready to call 911 in a moment’s notice. Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said fines for possessing and shooting off fireworks begin at $110. If it sparks a fire or injures another person, it could result in criminal charges. Additional patrols will begin the evening of July 4th.

Billings AM News II

The Gazette reports that Billings Trailnet invites the public to its 2017 Annual Meeting and Trail Summit to learn what they can expect from future trail and bikeway projects. The event will be held in the Royal Johnson Community Room at Billings Public Library from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday. To date, Billings TrailNet has contributed almost $365,000 toward trail and street projects in Billings. Since 2001, more than 45 miles of trails and 25 miles of bike lanes have been created in Billings.

Drought-stricken northeast Montana has an elevated risk of wildfires, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasts call for low humidity and high winds, meaning that fires will catch easier and are more likely to take off, spurring a Red Flag Warning from noon to 8 p.m. today in parts of Hill, Blaine, Phillips, Valley, Garfield and Petroleum counties.

Billings AM News

A Missouri woman died after she was ejected from a vehicle near Lodge Grass on Sunday afternoon. Montana Highway Patrol reported a man and a woman from Missouri were westbound on Interstate 90 when they overcorrected and vehicle rolled multiple times. reports that both occupants — who are in their 70s — were ejected. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene. The man suffered serious injuries and was life-flighted to Billings. Neither occupant was wearing a seat belt, according to Trooper Jack Rhodes. Alcohol and speed do not appear to be factors.

19-year-old Benjamin Tesseneer of Bozeman died from injuries suffered falling some 2,000 feet in the Beartooth Mountains Saturday. Emergency crews responded to a report of a severely injured hiker after 1 pm. He died of apparent head and chest trauma, and wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Billings AM News

A Billings neighborhood was vandalized by black spray paint on Thursday, defacing homes, vehicles, fences and public property. Some of the damage happened along 13th Street West and 17th Street West. Billings Police received 10 calls starting at 5 a.m. The vandals damaged vehicles, hit some street signs and electrical boxes.

KTV reports that a vehicle traveling on South Frontage Road failed to navigate a turn and went through a fence near the intersection of Garden Avenue and Sugar Avenue Thursday evening. There were multiple unrestrained occupants in the vehicle, and three attempted to flee, according to an MHP Trooper. The vehicle was reportedly involved in hit-and-run at Maui Nites Casino earlier the same day. Two of the occupants were transported to local hospitals for non-life-threatening injuries. A third occupant was transported for a possible DUI. Some were minors.

Interior Removes Grizzlies From Endangered Species List

The U.S. Department of Interior announced it intends to lift endangered species protections for the population of grizzly bears living in the greater Yellowstone region on Thursday. reports that the decision, effective by the end of July, will turn over management of the animals to Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Calling the recovery of the Grizzly population around Yellowstone one of America’s great conservation successes, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said it’s time to return the overall management to the states and tribes. The decision to de-list the Yellowstone Grizzly was praised by both the Montana and Wyoming congressional delegations, but the decision was criticized by several environmental groups. Spokesmen for the Western Environmental Law Center said an isolated population of 700 grizzlies– no longer in need of federal protections– is absurd. A final ruling can be expected by late July.

RiverStone Proposing Rule 7

Citizens had the opportunity to comment on a smoking and vaping restriction at RiverStone Health on Wednesday. The proposal would mean no smoking within 30 feet of a building and moving electronic nicotine delivery systems into the same category as tobacco cigarettes. reports that RiverStone Health is now proposing Rule 7 to meet state Clean Indoor Air Act standards. People on all sides of the issue spoke out. RiverStone Health calls second hand smoke “an affirmative danger to health.” Opponents say E-cigarettes are not as harmful as tobacco, the rule would be difficult to enforce and would hurt businesses. Proponents say that while E-cigarettes, or “vaping” eliminates the smoke, it is still a delivery system for addictive nicotine, and perhaps as harmful. Public health advocates suggest that all types of cigarette use should be kept away from non-smokers.

Montana Bathroom Bill Proposed

A proposed Montana ballot initiative would regulate who can use which bathrooms. A conservative group wants Montana voters to decide whether to regulate transgender people’s access to both bathrooms and locker rooms. The initiative proposed by the Montana Family Foundation would require that people use public facilities designated for their gender at birth. It could, however, thrust Montana into the national debate over transgender rights. The announcement come on the heals of Big Sky Pride events in Billings recognizing LGBTQ rights. The proponents say they want to protect “the privacy, safety and dignity” of Montanans and guard against possible sexual predators– while the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union say there is no statistical evidence of transgender violence to justify these laws. Critics warn that Montana could face anti-discrimination lawsuits, and lose millions of dollars in business.

Steele Project On-Time, Under-Budget

Finally, some good news for Billings taxpayers, who will see roughly $500,000 in savings after the Ben Steele Middle School finishes construction. reports that the $29 million project– coming in on-time and under-budget– will begin the school year in August with an estimated 700 students at the West End school, located at 56th Street West and Grand Avenue. Lew Anderson, School District 2 project bond manager, said ninety-two percent of the workers on this project were local contractors, and 100 percent were hired from within the state. Anderson was picked as a new career and technical education director on Monday. He has overseen a number of overhaul projects throughout the district from work on Senior High School to the restoration to McKinley and Broadwater Elementary schools. A top priority of the district is keeping local contractors on the job.

Gianforte Sworn In Today

Republican Greg Gianforte will be sworn in to office today, officially becoming the state’s newest– and only– member of the U.S. House of Representatives, following his May 25 special election victory. reports the Bozeman software entrepreneur will take the seat held previously by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned March 1. Gianforte’s swearing-in celebration comes just nine days after he pleaded guilty to an assault charge for choking, tackling and punching a reporter. Gianforte’s assault on the UK Guardian’s Ben Jacobs brought even more national attention to a race that was already infamous for being the most expensive U.S. House race in Montana history– nearly $20 million– more than double the previous record. The heat won’t dissipate much for the new congressman, who will be thrust immediately into some of the biggest issues facing the nation in recent history.