Sept. 5 Regional News Briefs

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Missoula woman sentenced to prison for crash that killed 2

MISSOULA (AP) — A Missoula woman has been sentenced to five years in prison for causing a horrific car crash that killed a father and his 3-year-old daughter. The Missoulian reports Judge Karen Townsend sentenced Thomas on Tuesday to 30 years in the Montana Women’s Prison, with 25 suspended. She pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of vehicular homicide for the 2016 deaths of Brandon Zuleger and his daughter Paityn. Thomas was driving the car that the three were riding in when the vehicle veered of the westbound lane on Interstate 90 and into a median. Thomas over-corrected, rolling the vehicle and ejecting all three passengers. A state crime lab toxicology supervisor testified Tuesday that traces of cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy were found in Thomas’ blood after the crash.

Shuttle service offered for Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier

WEST GLACIER (AP) — Glacier National Park will offer limited shuttle and tour access on Going-to-the-Sun Road from the west side starting on Friday. Most of the west side of the scenic highway has been closed to the public since Aug. 12 because of a wildfire burning next to Lake McDonald. The National Park Service says visitors will be required to use the shuttle or tour services to travel through the closed area. Visitors will be able to ride the park shuttle system with a free park shuttle pass, available beginning at 7:30 a.m. each day at the Apgar Visitor Center Shuttle Stop. The passes will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Private vehicles will not be allowed. The Going-to-the-Sun Road remains open to private vehicles from St. Mary to Logan Pass.

Montana sees growth in wages, health care as mining drops

HELENA (AP) — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock says the state is outpacing most others in terms of wage increases, but faces challenges in transforming its economy as industries such as mining and utilities contract. Bullock on Tuesday released the administration’s annual Labor Day report on Montana’s economy. The Democratic governor touted an unemployment rate that’s hovered around 4 percent in recent years and wage growth that’s the fourth fastest in the nation. Department of Commerce economist Barb Wagner says Montana experienced a $167 million decline in personal income in 2017 from the mining, utilities and agriculture industries. That was offset by $251 million in growth in health care industry income and gains in financial services and leisure activities. Across all industries the state added 4,600 new jobs last year.

South Dakota pet store owner facing animal neglect charges

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — The owner of a South Dakota pet store that was raided by authorities last month is facing more than 200 charges of animal cruelty and neglect. Animal control officers acting on an anonymous complaint say they found 36 dead animals and squalid conditions at the Pitter Patter Pet Store in Rapid City, which still needed permits to open for business. They seized 90 living animals, including dogs, cats, hamsters and guinea pigs in the Aug. 16 raid. Authorities haven’t said what animals were found dead. The Rapid City Journal says 38-year-old Marinda Parks now faces 203 municipal charges. Her attorney, Timothy Rensch, says the only dead creatures were cockroaches, goldfish and snails. Rensch says Parks is being portrayed as a villain, but is actually a kind person who loves animals.

Black Hills Energy customers to get refund after tax cuts

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota regulators have approved an agreement with Black Hills Energy to refund about $7.7 million to customers in 2018 as a result of last year’s federal tax cuts. The state Public Utilities Commission voted Tuesday to accept the settlement agreement, which also includes a roughly $9 million base rate reduction starting in January 2019. This year’s refund is expected to be a roughly $50 credit in October for an average residential consumer. Commission Chairwoman Kristie Fiegen says the move gives stability to ratepayers and will have a “real impact on families.” It comes after the commission in July approved an agreement to refund roughly $10.9 million to Xcel Energy customers in South Dakota because of the tax cuts. The commission says rate discussions are ongoing with several other companies.

Balloon event canceled due to Trump visit to Sioux Falls

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s scheduled visit to Sioux Falls on Friday has prompted the cancellation of a hot air balloon event at the city airport that day. The Sioux Falls Ballooning Association says participants in the Balloons over Downtown Sioux Falls event wouldn’t be allowed within 30 miles of the airport, so the event is being called off. Association President T.J. Olson says it likely will be rescheduled. He says this Friday’s weather might have been challenging for balloonists anyway. Trump is visiting for a fundraiser and possible rally in support of the gubernatorial run of Republican U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem.