Feb. 5 Montana News Briefs

Bumper sugar beet crop keeps Montana factories going

BILLINGS (AP) — Montana’s sugar factories are working overtime to process a record crop of sugar beets produced in the region.

Western Sugar Cooperative in Billings plans to go into March turning beets into sugar. The company fired up the factory in late August, its earliest start in recent memory.

Randall Jobman is Western’s vice president of agriculture, Northern Region.

Jobman tells The Billings Gazette that Montana farmers produced a record 36.6 tons per acre.

With a full month of the sugar-making to go, there are massive beet piles along the Yellowstone River still waiting to be trucked to Billings.

In Sidney, Duane Peters, of Sidney Sugars, says the factory fired up in September, instead of October, its usual beginning.

Glacier Park seeks comment on plan to lease buildings

KALISPELL (AP) — Glacier National Park in Montana is proposing to lease some historic cabins on Lake McDonald in an effort to preserve the structures.

The National Park Service announced that the proposal was available for review and that public comment would be accepted through March 1.

The Flathead Beacon reports that seven properties with 24 buildings are included in the plan. Among them are Kelly’s Camp and the Wheeler Cabin, both located on the north end of Lake McDonald.

The Park Service says it has limited funds for historic preservation for properties is owns.

The draft environmental assessment alternatives include leaving the structures as they are or the preferred solution of leasing the structures to park partners who will help fund the maintenance of each building.

Eastern Montana man dies in oil well explosion near Baker

BILLINGS (AP) — An eastern Montana man died in an oil well explosion north of Baker.

Fallon County Sheriff Trenton Harbaugh tells The Billings Gazette that 39-year-old Chad Tronstad of Baker died after the rig experienced a “pressurized explosion” late Thursday morning.

The cause of the explosion is still under investigation.

Montana governor’s political group raises $464,000

BILLINGS (AP) — A political organization set up by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock to heighten his national stature raised almost a half-million dollars last year.

Financial disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission show the Democratic governor’s Big Sky Values PAC raised $464,000 in 2017.

The formation of the PAC, or political action committee, allows Bullock to raise money to make appearances on the political circuit.

Bullock has previously downplayed his national political ambitions, saying it was premature to talk about a run for president or U.S. Senate in 2020.

He’s said he wants to add his voice to debates over health care and public lands, from the perspective of a Democratic leader of a rural state that backed President Donald Trump by a 20-point margin.

UM coach upset with way university portrayed departure

MISSOULA (AP) — The former University of Montana women’s soccer coach says he’s upset with the way university officials portrayed the reason for his departure earlier this week.

Mark Plakorus told ABC FOX Montana on Friday the portrayal was one-sided and that he intended to look into legal action.

Athletic director Kent Haslam said Thursday players complained about “troubling things” including excessive texting.

Haslam said the investigation led to the discovery that Plakorus used his university-issued cellphone to text escort services while on recruiting trips in Las Vegas. Officials decided not to renew his contract.

The university announced Plakorus’ departure Tuesday as a resignation, thanking him for his contributions to the program.

Haslam told the Missoulian that the initial announcement that it was a mutual decision was an attempt to strike a balance between Plakorus’ privacy and circumstantial evidence.

Prosecutors: Man charged with killing wife brought son along

BOZEMAN (AP) — Montana prosecutors say a man charged with killing his estranged wife last month brought his 15-year-old son with him.

Court records indicate that the boy told investigators he and Joseph “Paul” DeWise drove from Bozeman to a Belgrade apartment where 35-year-old Lauren DeWise was living. 

When they arrived, the boy said his father told him he was going to kill the boy’s stepmother and insisted that he come inside.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports the boy said his dad went upstairs and shot and killed Lauren DeWise and critically injured her roommate, 32-year-old Ashley Van Hemert.

The boy said his father coached him in a cover story.

DeWise has been charged with deliberate homicide and attempted deliberate homicide in connection with the Jan. 7 shootings.

He has not entered a plea and remains jailed on $800,000 bail.

DeWise asked for a public defender.