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Helena News and Sports

     BUTTE, Mont. (AP) - Officials say an oversized load of oil refinery equipment will travel from Dell to Great Falls as early as Wednesday. The megaload will follow Interstate 15 north to Highway 287. It will also travel along the Northwest Bypass in Great Falls to Third Street. Motorists should expect delays of about 10 minutes.



Earthquake shakes Lincoln area

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - A small earthquake has struck the Lincoln area, but no damage has been reported.


The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude-3.6 quake shook the area at 10:42 p.m. Saturday.


Lincoln Volunteer Fire Chief Zach Muse says he spoke to a firefighter who lives near the quake's epicenter. Muse says the man's house was "shaking good," but nothing was damaged.


The quake was centered about 6 miles south-southeast of Lincoln at a depth of nearly 11 miles.


Nearly 300 protest transfer of federal lands

     HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Nearly 300 hunters and anglers from around the state came to the Capitol to protest proposed legislation that would transfer the management of federal lands to the state.
  Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester spoke Saturday criticizing efforts at the federal level to transfer federal lands to make up for budget shortfalls. He says selling those lands to the highest bidder is the agenda behind the proposed transfer.
     Tester and former Secretary of State Bob Brown signed the Sportsmen's Creed, a pledge to protect public lands and access to them. They urged the public to do the same.

Commissioner rules for Fox in campaign complaint

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Montana commissioner of political practices has dismissed a citizen's complaint that Attorney General Tim Fox improperly accepted $47,000 in excess campaign contributions during his 2012 campaign.


Commissioner Jonathan Motl said in a decision Friday that Fox accepted the money after a federal judge struck down the state's campaign contribution limits on Oct. 3, 2012.


The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the limits six days later, but Fox did not return the money until Oct. 25.


Motl ruled that Fox did nothing wrong in waiting to return the money until then, as other court proceedings connected to the case were still underway.


The 9th Circuit has not yet made a final determination on whether the state's limits are constitutional.

     Commission gives final approval to $900M dam sale
     HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Montana Public Service Commission has given its final approval to PPL Montana's $900 million sale of 11 hydroelectric dams to NorthWestern Energy.
     Thursday's 4-1 vote was the final step after the commissioner's initial approval earlier this month. The commission had spent nine months reviewing the deal.
 Commissioner Travis Kavulla cast the only "no" vote. Kavulla says the sale put too much risk on the ratepayers.
     The sale is expected to increase rates for NorthWestern's customers by an average of about $5 per bill.
     The Federal Trade Commission previously ruled the purchase does not violate antitrust laws.
     Analysts: 2015 budget remains close to projections
     HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Analysts say numbers from the state's 2014 fiscal year that ended in June show the 2015 biennium budget remains close to projections.
     Legislative Fiscal Division officials told lawmakers on Thursday revenues through June were about 1 percent higher than projected. Spending also came in lower than what was estimated.
     As a result, the state is forecasting about $364 million will remain in the general fund at the end of the 2015 budget period. That's up about $19 million from a June projection.
     Analysts say the revenue was up because individual income taxes and property taxes generated more revenue than expected. About 51 percent of revenue comes from individual income taxes. Corporate income taxes, however, continue to come in below what was estimated.

Arrest in stolen excavator case 

A Helena man has been arrested and charged with trying to sell a stolen excavator .

Court records say 26-year-old Joseph Mario Nistler tried to sell the excavator, but the prospective buyer thought it might be stolen and called police.

A Lewis and Clark County deputy contacted Nistler, who told the deputy he bought the excavator for $3,500 from someone in Kalispell. According to the affidavit, Nistler said after the purchase, he noticed that the vehicle identification number plate was missing, and when he called the person from whom he purchased the excavator from, that person "said it was more than likely stolen."

It was stolen, and the owner of the excavator had reported it stolen to Kalispell police.

Transient charged in knife incident at hospital  

A man with no known address has been arrested and and accused of threatening a nurse at St. Peter's Hospital with a knife.

The nurse told police that 48-year-old Preston Todd Blackwolf had been released from the emergency room and was seated in a waiting area. The nurse said she approached Blackwolf to ask him to sign some paperwork, and after signing the paperwork, Blackwolf stood and pulled a knife from his pocket and began to "slash at her." Blackwolf then took his belongings and left the hospital.

Police caught up with Blackwolf about four blocks from the hospital,

Police say Blackwolf told them he only removed the knife from his pocket because the nurse told him to empty his pockets.

Other witnesses told police they saw Blackwolf pull the knife and make stabbing motions at the nurse.

Police filed an initial charge against Blackwolf of assault with a weapon, a felony.

Local taxes may go down 

The Montana Department of Revenue says total taxes for residential properties in Lewis and Clark County may go down slightly for 2015, because property values have gone down.

The preliminary figures show property taxes on the median home in Lewis and Clark County will be $1,615 in 2014 and $1,577 in 2015, a decrease of 2.32 percent. The median home value in the county is estimated at $179,700 in 2014 and $166,204 in 2015.

The market value for all residential properties in Lewis and Clark County will drop by an estimated 7.51 percent in the county, compared to an average state decrease of 4.57 percent.

The state estimates that total residential tax contribution will decrease by 0.07 percent, agricultural by 15.73 percent, and commercial by 4.43 percent in Lewis and Clark County.

 Montana has 2nd case of enterovirus

     GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - State health officials have confirmed a second case of a virus that causes respiratory illness in children.
     The Department of Public Health and Human Services confirmed a case of enterovirus D68 in Cascade County on Monday afternoon.
     Enterovirus-D68 is a more virulent strain of the virus that causes the common cold. It has shown up in 22 states since mid-August. The virus can cause mild to severe illness, with the worst cases needing life support for breathing difficulties. Children with asthma are more vulnerable. No deaths have been reported.
     Earlier this month, a case was confirmed in Yellowstone County.


Woman faces 7 drug charges  

A Helena woman has been charged with seven drug related counts relating to an incident last spring

Back on April 24, during a search of 37 year old Sarah Marie Grady's vehicle, a Helena police detective found marijuana, methamphetamine, and numerous bags, syringes and other drug related items. A search of Grady's purse found several prescription painkillers including morphine, oxycodone, Focalin and Suboxone, and at her residence, police found more drug paraphernalia.


Montana News and Sports




Court hears arguments in jury award cap case


(Information in the following story is from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle,


BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - The Montana Supreme Court heard arguments in an appeal of a case that could determine whether the state's $10 million cap on jury awards for punitive damages will stand.


The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports attorneys on Friday debated before the court whether the cap is constitutional. They made arguments during the appeal of a $52 million verdict awarded to an office supply company.


Two district judges have now ruled the limits unconstitutional. If the high court upholds those rulings, the effect could be an increase in jury awards in lawsuits across the state.


Punitive damages are awarded by a judge or jury to set an example and punish a defendant.


No decision was made Friday, and justices say they will rule on the case at a later date.




Megaload to move through Montana


(Information in the following story is from: The Montana Standard,


BUTTE, Mont. (AP) - Montana Department of Transportation officials say an oversized load of oil refinery equipment will travel from Dell to Great Falls as early as Oct. 1.


The Montana Standard reports the load is roughly 22 feet wide and 16 feet, 6 inches high. The weight and length of the load will depend on the number of trucks needed to help it move.


The megaload will follow Interstate 15 north to Highway 287. From there it will travel west to Bowman's Corner and move east on Highway 200 to the Vaughn Frontage Road. It will then travel along the Northwest Bypass in Great Falls to Third Street.


Movement will take place at night to minimize disruptions. Motorists should expect traffic delays of about 10 minutes.




Zinke changes mind, will debate Lewis Monday


HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Republican U.S. House candidate Ryan Zinke will debate Democrat John Lewis in Billings on Monday night, after all.


The former Navy SEAL and state senator said Friday that he made the necessary schedule changes to attend the 7 p.m. debate at Montana State University-Billings.


Zinke previously declined to participate because of a scheduling conflict. The debate sponsors planned to give Lewis that time in a one-candidate forum.


Lewis campaign spokeswoman Kathy Weber says the campaign received no prior notice of the change, but says Lewis is ready.


It will be the second meeting between the two candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Steve Daines.


A third debate is scheduled for Oct. 4 in Bozeman.




Judge rules for environmentalists in Swan Valley


HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A judge has ruled the U.S. government must better analyze how protected species would be affected before any more logging is done on about 111,000 acres the Nature Conservancy handed over to the U.S. Forest Service.


The land in the Swan Valley acquired in 2009 came with an agreement between the conservancy and the former owner, Plum Creek Timber, that allowed timber harvests through 2018.


Four environmental groups sued the Forest Service, saying the agency did not properly study the effects on protected animals, fish and plants in the area.


U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled Thursday that the Forest Service must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before future logging projects in the area to ensure they meet the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.




Johnson leads Montana over Northern Colorado 38-13


MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - Jordan Johnson threw for three touchdowns and ran for another Saturday as Montana cruised past Northern Colorado, 38-13.


Johnson connected on first half touchdown passes of 9 yards to Jamaal Jones and 41 yards to Ryan Burke. Johnson completed his third touchdown pass when he hit Mike Ralston with a 21-yard scoring strike with 2:14 to play in the third quarter. He finished the day completing 11-of-19 passes for 181 yards in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams.


Travon Van scored on a 71-yard scamper and Johnson ran the ball in from 9 yards out with 39 seconds to play in the first half to lead Montana to a 28-7 halftime lead.


The lone highlight of the game for Northern Colorado came with 3:07 to play in the first quarter when quarterback Jonathan Newsom scored on a 74-yard touchdown run.




Montana State knocks off North Dakota 29-18


BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - Dakota Prukop threw for 269 yards and a touchdown to lead Montana State to a 29-18 win over North Dakota on Saturday.


The Bobcats got an interception return for a touchdown by Khari Garcia early in the second quarter, Shawn Johnson scampered in from 16 yards, and Mitchell Herbert caught his first collegiate touchdown pass as MSU built a 26-7 halftime lead.


North Dakota was able to cut it to 11 on a late touchdown pass from Joe Mollberg to R.J. McGill and two-point conversion.


Prukop finished 17 for 24 passing and Johnson had 75 yards rushing on 15 carries. Jayshawn Gates had 85 receiving yards on three catches.


UND, which came in with the second-ranked defense in the Big Sky, held MSU's offense to 329 yards after the Bobcats totaled over 500 for three straight games.







Jay Scott wins two state awards

WHITEFISH (Montana Broadcasters Association) -- For the ninth year in a row, KBLL Radio's Jay Scott has won several awards from the Montana Broadcasters Association.
Jay finished second for three of the "EB's," the E.B Craney awards: one as Sportscaster of the Year, one for Sports Enterprise of the Year, and one for Newscast of the Year . 
The Enterprise award recognizes contributions both in radio play-by-play and other areas.
Jay has been either first or second for the Newscaster of the Year award for the past 8 years as well, but could not enter this year's contest because of a schedule conflict.
The “EB Awards” are named in memory of Montana broadcast pioneer Ed Craney. The “EB's” recognize excellence in local news, production, promotion and public service. The awards will be presented during the Montana Broadcasters Association convention on Saturday, June 21st in Whitefish.