St. Louis Zoo grizzly bear exhibit to open in September
ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis Zoo officials say a new $11-million grizzly bear exhibit is expected to open in September.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports two young grizzlies housed at a Montana zoo will be brought to the new Grizzly Ridge exhibit in St. Louis this summer and acclimate there with the windows covered before they are unveiled.
The bears — a male named Huckleberry and a female named Finley — each are younger than 2 years old and were orphaned in Montana last year when state wildlife officials there killed their mother.
The St. Louis zoo hasn’t had grizzly bears since March 2015, when 25-year-old male grizzly Bert died after residing at the zoo since 1991.
There are about 1,500 grizzly bears in the wild in the continental United States.
Montana superintendent refuses to delay school payments
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Public Schools Superintendent Elsie Arntzen has protested a decision to delay spring payments for schools.
Lee Newspapers of Montana reports the $55 million in payments for Montana schools were scheduled to be issued on March 24. But Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s budgeting director told Arntzen on Tuesday that school districts may have to wait to receive the money until Friday.
Arntzen issued a statement saying schools anticipate receiving state money on time and she would not delay the funds.
Short-term delays for school funding are permitted under state law and common this time of year when the state waits on income taxes.
Budget Director Dan Villa says Arntzen was trying to politicize the matter.
Arntzen is the state’s first Republican superintendent in decades.
Deadline approaches for asbestos work in contaminated town
KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — Residents of a Montana community where health officials say hundreds of people have been killed by asbestos poisoning have until the end of the month to contact environmental officials to have their homes inspected and cleaned.
The Flathead Beacon reports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been working to inform residents in Libby and neighboring Troy of the Friday deadline since January.
The agency has been conducting asbestos cleanup in Libby for more than 15 years. During that time, more than 7,500 properties in the mining town have been inspected and more than 2,400 properties have required cleanup.
As of January, there were still 600 homes that hadn’t been inspected.
Officials say homeowners may have to cover inspection and cleanup costs on their own if they don’t contact the EPA by the March 31 deadline.
Man charged in beating, burning death will get mental exam
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A judge has ordered a mental exam for a Busby man charged in the death of a woman who was beaten and burned on the Crow Indian Reservation.
The Billings Gazette reports U.S. District Judge Susan Watters ordered 19-year-old Dimarzio Sanchez to be taken to a medical facility in Los Angeles to undergo a psychiatric or psychological exam.
He is among three people charged in the death of 28-year-old Roylynn Rides Horse, who died after being beaten unconscious, set on fire with gasoline and left in a field April 17, 2016.
Sanchez and co-defendant, 24-year-old Angelica Jo Whiteman, of Billings, have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. A third defendant, 19-year-old Frank Sanchez, Dimarzio Sanchez’s brother, has pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony and to being an accessory after the fact.
The Latest: Jury says officer justified in fatal shooting
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A jury has ruled that a police officer was justified when he shot and killed an armed man during a standoff at a Billings hotel.
The Billings Gazette reports jurors heard testimony Wednesday that 32-year-old Kyle Killough, of Gillette, Wyoming, was rambling, paranoid and had used methamphetamine before taking over the hotel’s front desk area Oct. 27.
He was shot three times when he stood up and turned toward police with a pistol in his hand.
Killough’s father, Gordon Killough, says his son made a terrible mistake “and paid for it with his life.”
Coroner’s inquests, which involve a jury, are required under Montana law whenever law enforcement is involved in a fatal shooting or someone dies in custody.
Analysis shows Senate panel added $57M to Montana budget
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Legislative fiscal analysts estimate a Senate committee added $57.2 million in federal and state funds to the 2018-2019 Montana budget proposal approved by the House.
The preliminary estimate shows the Senate Finance and Claims’ amendments on Tuesday increases the budget to $10.3 billion.
The Republican-led Legislature until now has resisted adding a significant amount of money to a budget that GOP lawmakers are seeking to balance by making spending cuts across government agencies.
The estimate shows the Senate committee added $23 million to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services’ budget. The committee actually reduced total education spending by $12 million to offset some of the other additions.
The reductions came mainly from the temporary elimination of school district block grant funding.
The budget bill is expected to go to the Senate floor early next week.