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.