Montana rail safety regulator to discuss how to fix problems
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Public Service Commission will hold a public meeting with railway officials and lawmakers on how to address rail safety problems found in a recent audit.
The Legislative Audit Division in October faulted the PSC for not having a rail safety plan, not conducting a risk assessment and having no goals other than meeting the minimum number of track inspections each year.
The audit recommended adding inspectors and possibly moving rail safety oversight to another state agency.
PSC spokesman Eric Sell says Wednesday’s round-table discussion will include officials from BNSF Railway, Montana Rail Link and Union Pacific Railroad.
Sell says the commission wants to understand to what extent the railroads conduct their own safety inspections and how state and federal inspections fit with their work.
Avalanche danger high in Montana’s Swan Range
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities are warning of high avalanche dangers in northwestern Montana’s Swan mountains.
The Flathead Avalanche Center said Monday that recent heavy snowfalls in the mountains east of Bigfork increased the possibility of human-triggered and natural avalanches.
The center says the risk is most acute above 6,000 feet in elevation.
Avalanche advisories also have been issued around Whitefish, the Flathead Range, southern Glacier National Park and areas north and west of Yellowstone National Park.
That includes the Bridger, Madison and Gallatin mountain ranges and the mountains around Cooke City.
Bullock expands discrimination ban to cover pregnancy
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s governor has expanded prohibitions against discrimination in state employment and state contracts to include pregnancy, military service and gender identity.
Gov. Steve Bullock said in statement that he was honoring the principles of equality fought for by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Monday was a federal holiday marking the civil rights leader’s birthday.
The executive order from Bullock, a Democrat, directs the Department of Administration to develop policies to enforce the prohibitions. The department is in charge of state personnel and contract procurement policies.
The order also covers genetic information and medical conditions related to childbirth.
It replaces a 2008 anti-discrimination directive from former Gov. Brian Schweitzer that was more narrowly written.
Body of man missing at Montana ski hill found
HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — Ravalli County officials have found the body of a Corvallis skier who had been reported missing at a ski hill on the Montana-Idaho border since Dec. 22.
The Missoulian reports that Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman says the body of 65-year-old Bart Pickard was found by a Lost Trail Powder Mountain ski instructor on the south side of the mountain Saturday.
Hoffman says high winds in the area moved some of the snow that had been covering Pickard’s body.
Search and rescue crews spent two days searching Lost Trail after Pickard, an experienced skier, wet missing. They called off the search on Christmas Eve after consulting with his family.
Pickard’s body has been taken to the state crime lab in Missoula to determine the cause of death.
Montana town cuts hours, considers bankruptcy
BROWNING, Mont. (AP) — A northwestern Montana town has cut back its hours of operation and is considering filing for bankruptcy after running short on funds.
Browning is a town of about 1,000 people on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.
Lee Newspapers of Montana reports that town officials blame their financial problems on a dispute with the Blackfeet Nation over management of a water utility that serves the city.
Blackfeet leaders say the town owes the tribe money and must accept responsibility for its poor fiscal management.
Over the past two years, town officials in Browning have reduced their operations to four hours a day, four days a week.
Norris man arrested for threatening others over wounded elk
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A Norris man has been arrested after officials say he threatened to shoot two men in a fight over a wounded elk.
The Montana Standard reports that the 52-year-old man was arrested Saturday on resisting arrest and assault with a firearm charges as well as an outstanding driving-related warrants.
Madison County Sheriff Roger Thompson called it an “elk rage” incident.
Thompson says two men had stopped on Highway 84 near Norris to watch a wounded elk. They men intended to salvage the elk meat after it died. The Norris man saw the men from his home and arrived at the scene.
The three men argued over the elk and the 52-year-old is accused of retrieving a handgun from his car and threatening to shoot the men.
Polson prepares for annual international film festival
POLSON, Mont. (AP) — The northwest Montana city of Polson is gearing up for its fourth annual international film festival.
The Missoulian reports that the Flathead Lake International Cinemafest will open Friday. The festival will feature short and feature-length movies from Montana and the rest of the world.
The festival received about 80 submissions this year, and festival chairman David W. King says interest in the festival has been growing since it began.
King says there are hopes that the cinemafest will become a destination film festival, but that would require building a theater for Polson to accommodate more films.