July 12 Montana News Briefs

Friday, July 12, 2019

Missoula County workers say officials eavesdropped on them

MISSOULA (AP) — Missoula County employees say county officials illegally recorded their private conversations with digital audio and video recording devices installed in public works vehicles last year. County Chief Operating Officer Chris Lounsbury tells the Missoulian that county officials agreed the audio in the devices needed to be turned off once concerns were raised in January. But the employees worry the devices are still in the vehicles and they don’t know what’s become of the recordings. Erica Grinde, the county’s director of risk management and benefits, says the video and GPS devices are used in evaluating accident or property damage claims. An attorney representing 27 county employees, Greg McDonnell, says they are negotiating with the county but has drafted a civil lawsuit if a settlement isn’t reached. Grinde confirms settlement negotiations are underway.

Man who caused Montana State lockdown threat to be evaluated

BOZEMAN (AP) — Montana State University officials say an employee will undergo a mental health evaluation after making threatening statements that caused a campus-wide lockdown. School officials said in a statement Friday that the man is not under arrest and no charges have been filed against him. His name has not been released. On Thursday, MSU students, employees and visitors were ordered to stay in locked rooms with window blinds drawn for over an hour until officers detained the man. MSU police chief Frank Parrish says the man was about to be fired from his campus job. He told a relative and said on social media that he was suicidal and that he was willing to take others with him. Officials say the man cooperated with police and consented to searches of his home and vehicle.

Montana energy storage project lines up financial partner

BILLINGS (AP) — Developers of a 400-megawatt energy storage system proposed in central Montana say they expect to start construction as soon as next year after inking a financial agreement for the $1 billion project. Absaroka Energy President Carl Borgquist said Friday that Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners of Denmark has agreed to line up financing for the project near Martinsdale. Known as the Gordon Butte Pumped Storage Hydro Project, it’s intended to make wind turbines and other renewable energy sources more reliable by storing the electricity they produce until it’s needed. Described as a “hydro battery,” it would use excess power produced by wind farms or other sources to pump water uphill to a 3,000-foot long reservoir. The water would be released during periods of high electricity demand, turning hydropower turbines to generate power.

Montana Democratic delegates meet in Helena for convention

HELENA (AP) — Montana Democratic Party delegates are meeting in Helena to examine their party’s rules and elect officers. The party’s biannual rules and officers’ convention is Friday and Saturday, and features keynote speaker Heidi Heitkamp, a former U.S. senator from North Dakota, and Montana Sen. Jon Tester. Candidates for governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. House and other statewide offices also are scheduled to address the delegates. On Friday, delegates will meet in about party rules and take up proposed amendments. On Saturday, they will elect leaders that include state chairman, vice chairman, secretary and treasurer.

Montana man dies in Dunn County crash

MANNING, N.D. (AP) — A man from Montana has died in a highway crash in western North Dakota. The Highway Patrol says the 40-year-old driver of a pickup truck was killed on Highway 22 near Manning Thursday about 5 p.m. when his vehicle was hit from behind by an SUV. Authorities say the pickup was parked in a northbound lane and providing traffic control for a hazardous materials crew working along the highway. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. They SUV driver was taken to a hospital in Dickinson.

Man who crashed car into federal building pleads not guilty

BOZEMAN (AP) — A man who crashed his car into a federal building in downtown Bozeman in what investigators say was an attempt to destroy the facility has pleaded not guilty. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports 54-year-old William Hutton appeared in federal court in Missoula on Thursday on charges of destruction of government property and attempted destruction of government property. Investigators say he drove into the entrance Monday and planned to get to the maintenance room, disconnect the gas lines and ignite the building. According to court records, Hutton said he believed he could “level the building.” Investigators say Hutton told them he was angry with the government because of a sexual abuse conviction in 2003 while he worked at Yellowstone National Park. Online jail records don’t indicate if he has an attorney who can speak on his behalf.