Archives for October 2017

Five Finalists for Billings Administrator

The Gazette reports that city managers in Helena and Great Falls are among the five finalists announced Monday for Billings’ vacant city administrator position. After meeting in closed session for 2½ hours, the Billings City Council voted unanimously, with Councilman Ryan Sullivan absent, to interview the five finalists during public sessions to be held on November 30th and December 1st. Among them are; Ron (alice) Alles, Helena city manager the past eight years; Greg Doyon, Great Falls city manager since March 2008; Jeff Mihelich, the deputy city manager and chief operating officer in Fort Collins, Colorado; Kevin Smith, general manager of the Truckee Tahoe Airport District near Truckee, California, the past seven years and a former deputy city manager in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, south of Salt Lake City, and; David Fraser, city manager in Boulder City, Nevada, since 2013.

Big Game Harvest Down From 2016

The number of hunters at Fish, Wildlife and Parks check stations during the first two weekends of the general big-game hunting season is down from last year, and the deer harvest was reportedly lower than 2016. KTVQ.com reports that FWP operated four check stations this year at Columbus, Laurel, Big Timber and Lavina. 1,705 hunters checked 109 white-tailed deer – down from last year – and 225 mule deer – also down from 2016. They checked 120 elk, which is up from 76 a year ago. FWP also opened a new check station in Billings Heights, and FWP wildlife biologist Megan O’Reilly checked 357 hunters during the first two weekends of the big-game season, checking three white-tailed deer, 72 mule deer and 27 elk along with 13 antelope and a bighorn sheep. 32 percent had reportedly harvested an animal.

Puerto Rico Cancels Whitefish Deal

Amid thinly-veiled political controversy over the nature of the deal, the head of Puerto Rico’s power company said Sunday the agency will cancel its $300 million contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings amid growing scrutiny of the tiny Montana-based company’s role in restoring the devastated American territory’s power system following Hurricane Maria. The Billings Gazette reports Ricardo Ramos’ announcement came hours after Gov. Ricardo Rossello urged the utility to scrap the deal with Whitefish, which is based in Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s hometown. He was born in Bozeman, but raised in Whitefish. More than 70% of Puerto Rice remains without power more than a month after Hurricane Maria struck. A FEMA statement said that any language in the controversial contract saying the agency approved of the deal with Whitefish Energy Holdings is inaccurate. The deal is being audited.

Billings Man Killed in Rollover

A Billings man was killed after a rollover crash on US Highway 312 Saturday afternoon. The Montana Highway Patrol reported the Chevrolet pickup was eastbound when it veered off the roadway for an unknown reason and rolled multiple times. KTVQ.com reports that both occupants of the vehicle were ejected. The crash reportedly happened across the street from Mickey’s Tavern. An as-yet-unidentified 39-year-old Billings man was transported to the hospital via helicopter. Speed is a suspected factor in the crash, according to the report. Neither occupant was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. The investigation is ongoing. Montana Highway Patrol could not provide any updated information regarding the 39-year-old man’s condition. It’s unknown who was driving at the time of the crash. Power lines were damaged in the area and crews were on scene for repairs.

WA Pimp Gets Five Years, Deadly Opioids Hit Billings

The Gazette reports that a federal judge in Billings on Thursday sentenced a Washington state man to five years in prison for bringing women to Montana to work as his prostitutes. U.S. District Judge Susan Watters called the operation run by defendant, 24-year-old Andrew Rivera of Tacoma, sophisticated. Rivera made thousands of dollars off of women he coerced into sex trafficking in various states.

The opioid abuse epidemic, now officially a public health crisis, has not spared Montana, with powerful, deadly drugs now hitting the region. Fentanyl is a synthetic opiod between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Carfentanil is a fentanyl analogue used to tranquilize large animals like elephants. Carfentanil showed up recently in lab results following an overdose death, according to Billings Police Sgt. Brandon Wooley.

WA Pimp Gets Five Years, Deadly Opiods Hit Billings

The Gazette reports that a federal judge in Billings on Thursday sentenced a Washington state man to five years in prison for bringing women to Montana to work as his prostitutes. U.S. District Judge Susan Watters called the operation run by defendant, 24-year-old Andrew Rivera of Tacoma, sophisticated. Rivera made thousands of dollars off of women he coerced into sex trafficking in various states.

The opioid abuse epidemic, now officially a public health crisis, has not spared Montana, with powerful, deadly drugs now hitting the region. Fentanyl is a synthetic opiod between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Carfentanil is a fentanyl analogue used to tranquilize large animals like elephants. Carfentanil showed up recently in lab results following an overdose death, according to Billings Police Sgt. Brandon Wooley.

Judge Throws Out Plea Deal, Billings Man Gets 10 Years

A Billings man’s plea agreement was supposed to keep him out of jail, but Judge Mary Jane Knisely sent him away anyway. 64-year-old Jose Cobos admitted to fatally shooting his friend in 2015, in exchange for a plea agreement which spared him from prison, but at his Thursday sentencing, the Yellowstone County District Court judge sentenced him to 20 years in the Montana State Prison with 10 years suspended.
KTVQ reports Cobos pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in the death of Mark Kirby. Prosecutors recommended a sentence of 15 years to the Department of Corrections with 10 suspended and veterans treatment court, but Judge Knisely said she was uncomfortable with the plea agreement and sent him to prison. Cobos shot and killed Kirby while the two were drinking. He initially said he shot his friend in self defense.

Two-Vehicle Crash, I-90 Dedication

The Billings Gazette reports that a man was sent to the hospital after a two-vehicle crash Wednesday night. The wreck reportedly occurred when a man ran a stop sign heading south on 12th Avenue South, colliding with a westbound vehicle on State Avenue. The crash caused one of the vehicles to land on its roof, sending its driver to the hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening, according to Billings Police. Sgt. Matt Lennick said alcohol may be a factor in the crash.

The Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office announced it will dedicate and rename a portion of Interstate 90 to honor Deputy David L. Briese Jr., who was killed in the line of duty in a car crash in 2006. The ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. on November 3rd, on the 11th anniversary of Briese’s death.

Horses Die in Billings Fire

KTVQ.com reports that at least one horse died Wednesday at a Billings South Side fire, which jumped a fork in the Yellowstone River to ignite brush on the other side, while the main blaze was predominantly under control before 10 p.m. The two barns behind South Frontage Road, where the fire reportedly started, are mostly destroyed, and the fire was ultimately reduced to simply smoldering, according to several eyewitnesses. One horse was seen dead near a corral by the barns. At least one residencial structure was threatened but did not appear to have sustained any damage. No official word has come from the Billings Fire Department regarding the cause of the blaze, or initial damage estimates. Billings first responders, along with the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office and Montana Department of Natural Resources arrived to assist in extinguishing the fire.

Tester Slams Park Service Price Increases

The U.S. National Park Service has proposed increases in entry fees at 17 national parks, including Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, aimed at raising money for deferred maintenance costs, but critics fear it could hurt other local tourism-based economies. According to a news release, the fee increases would target the five busiest consecutive months of the year. For Glacier and Yellowstone national parks entrance fees for private non-commercial vehicles would more than double, from $30 to $70. The entrance fees for motorcycles would increase from $25 to $50. Bicycle and pedestrian entrance fees would double to $30, and the price of an annual pass would go up to $75 at each of the affected parks. Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester blasted the proposal, saying Congress should be responsible for pay for the backlog of National Park Service projects.