The Billings Outpost

MSU professor dies on trip


MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – Betsy Palmer, an associate professor of education at Montana State University, passed away Monday as a result of injuries sustained in a landslide while traveling in Nepal, university officials announced Monday.

Palmer was in Nepal leading a group of 16 students on a course offered through the University Honors Program at MSU. None of the students were injured in the landslide. The university is working with the U.S. Embassy, Senator Max Baucus' office and emergency transport services in Nepal to expedite the students' return to the United States.

Palmer and the students were on an extended trek to a remote village in the Arun River Valley in the Himalayas as part of  “Great Expeditions,” a University Honors Program course.

"Betsy was a strong, spirited, amazing woman filled with graciousness and kindness for every person she met. She was a gifted and award-winning teacher, researcher, and scholar because she cared deeply about her students and was passionate about finding ways to promote their success and well-being throughout their college experiences. We have lost an incredible member of our department, our family, and our lives," said her friend and colleague, Jayne Downey, head of the MSU Department of Education.

Palmer, who taught statistics and research methods courses, came to the university in 2001. Through MSU’s adult and higher education program, she also taught courses that focused on college student research and theory, student services, and college curriculum and teaching. Her research focused on college students and the institutional practices that foster improved outcomes for students.

Palmer spent the 2011-2012 academic year conducting research in Nepal. In May of 2012, she received the MSU Department of Education’s Outstanding Research Award.

Palmer had a deep connection to Nepal. While visiting the country in 2005, she met her future husband, who was born and raised in the village of Pandok. They later married in a traditional ceremony held in that village. The couple have twins.

A university memorial service will be announced at a later date.


Last Updated on Monday, 20 May 2013 17:20

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Information sought on game kill

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game wardens are looking for information about an incident about a month ago when as many as 30 antelope were killed illegally southeast of Billings.

The state’s TIP-MONT program is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to a conviction in the case.

Game warden Nick Taylor said FWP received information that two males trespassed on private land west of Montana Highway 418 and south of Blue Creek. The two killed as many as 30 antelope in one field, then left them to waste. At least one perpetrator later drove into the field and removed some of the carcasses. Game wardens have retrieved several of the antelope carcasses.

Montana law makes it illegal to kill antelope without a license or out of season. It also is illegal to leave game animals to waste.

Taylor asked that anyone with information about the incident call him at (406) 247-2976 or (406) 697-3443. People also may call FWP’s 24-hour wildlife tip line at 1-800-TIP-MONT (800-847-6668). The TIP-MONT program is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to a conviction in the case.

The 1-800-TIP-MONT program is a toll-free number where people can report violations of fish, wildlife or park regulations.

Callers may remain anonymous. It is similar to the well-known Crimestoppers program and offers rewards for information resulting in conviction of persons who abuse Montana’s natural, historic or cultural resources.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 May 2013 20:47

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Applicants sought for health board

The RiverStone Health Clinic Board of Directors, which governs the activities of the federally qualified health center, is seeking applications for two Board members residing in either Yellowstone or Carbon Counties. RiverStone Health primary care clinics are located in Billings, Bridger, Joliet and Worden and residents of those communities are encouraged to apply.

RiverStone Health clinics are designated federally qualified health centers and as such, the Board of Directors must be representative of the communities they serve. In addition, the majority of board members must be users of health center services so patients of RiverStone Health clinics are especially encouraged to apply for board positions. Board members, in addition to governance of the health center, are also charged with governance of the RiverStone Health Dental Clinic and Health Care for the Homeless program.

Visit or call Nancy Taylor, vice president of clinical operations at 247-3295 for information about the organization, the commitment required of RiverStone Health Clinic Board members, and the application / selection process.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 May 2013 20:46

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Open burning banned May 13-14

Open burning is banned today (May 13) and Tuesday in Yellowstone County because of dry conditions along with near record temperatures and high winds, according to Duane Winslow, the county's emergency and general services director.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 May 2013 10:55

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Small schools shine at Top Ten Meet

By WILBUR WOOD - For The Outpost

Last Tuesday’s annual Top Ten Track and Field meet was conducted in Laurel under a gray sky offering periodic sprinkles of rain flavored by a persistent cold breeze.

Nothing unusual about this, on the last day of April in Montana, and this weather did not seem to faze the 150 or more athletes competing in 17 running, jumping or throwing events.

Top Ten is my favorite high school meet of the year, although the excitement of the two-day state meets (on the last Friday and Saturday of May) can rival it. The local Top Ten sponsor, the Billings Roundtable, conducts this meet with brisk efficiency: Starting at 3:30 in the afternoon, it always is ending about four hours later.

My only critique is that, if you’re watching pole vault and high jump, there is no way to know the height of the bar that competitors are trying to propel themselves over. Why not follow what is done at most state meets I’ve attended and place a large sign that can be rotated to show spectators the height being contested?

Why not use the big electronic scoreboard at Laurel, across the field from the grandstand, to do more than list what competitors have done at the end of an event? Why not also use it to note current leaders in various events, particularly long jump, triple jump and the three throwing events? (But that may be asking too much.)

From schools large and small

One very good thing about Top Ten is that athletes from schools of all sizes are invited to compete, as long as they have attained results, in any of the 17 events, which place them among the ten best in the region, to date.

The region for this Top Ten is any Montana school, large or small, within a radius of 150 miles from Billings. Several other Top Ten Meets happen around the state — Glasgow, Helena, Missoula, possibly elsewhere — and operate the same way: Ten invited competitors in each event compete for five medals. The big schools, of course, send the most athletes and tend to dominate spots on the podium.

But there are always exceptions. Billings Top Ten includes the four Class AA schools — three from Billings: Senior, West and Skyview — along with Bozeman. Local Class A schools Billings Central and Laurel are joined by Belgrade, Livingston, Lewistown, Hardin and Miles City - then by a host of Class B and C schools.

This means that a javelin thrower from Class C Ryegate named Collin Brosz can qualify in ninth place going into Top Ten, with a throw of 161 feet 4 inches, and if he has a good day and throws the spear 170 feet — which he did — he can end up on the podium with a second-place medal around his neck.

Double winners

At this meet, on this day, this throw by Brosz was exceeded only by a 185-foot-7-inch toss by another athlete from a smaller school, Ty Bermes of Class B Joliet (which only a few years ago got big enough to move up from Class C). Bermes also won the Top Ten boys’ high jump, clearing the bar at 6 feet 3 inches (he had come in with a 6-4 mark earlier in the season).

So it isn’t just big school athletes who excel. Abby Bymaster of the combined Broadview-Lavina girls’ team came into the shotput competition with the best mark, 38 feet 6 inches. She didn’t quite equal that, but her throw of 37 feet 11 inches was leading the pack until Bethany Rides Horse of Class A Hardin, on her sixth and final attempt, heaved the cannonball (well, that’s what it looks like) 39 feet 6 inches. Rides Horse, like Ty Bermes, was also a double winner, with her throw of 128 feet 3 inches winning the javelin.

There were four other double winners, two girls, two boys. On the boys’ side, like Ty Bermes, the other two also came from Class B schools. Dustin Sobrero of Columbus triumphed in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes, while Ike Zier of Manhattan won both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles.

On the girls’ side, Bethany Rides Horse was joined by two runners from Class AA Billings Senior: Chloe Rector in the 100 and 200 meter dashes and Christina Aragon in the 800 and 1600 meter runs.

Another Aragon

Aragon — that name may sound familiar. Christina’s two older sisters, Alexa and Danielle, both excelled in multiple events at Billings Senior High, and last year, as a senior, Danielle obliterated a 39-year-old all-class state record in the girls’ 800-meter run. Both of the older Aragon girls now are running for Notre Dame.

Christina’s just a freshman, but she ran with assurance, hanging with early leaders, then striding out strongly in the final 200 meters to win the 1,600 by three and a half seconds and the 800 by more than four seconds.

Another freshman girl, Baylee Green from Class B Roundup (where I live), ran in that same 800; she finished 16 seconds behind the winner but ran close to her best time in this event. For Class B and C athletes like Green, this week marks the end of competing in meets against athletes from any other classes except their own.

For the smaller Montana schools, last week marked the end of the regular track and field season and the beginning of the second season: the march from District to Divisional Meets, each time winnowing all but the top five or six in each event (this varies) to advance to separate Class B and C State Meets.

So Baylee Green, for example, now says goodbye to another freshman distance runner she’s competed with not only all this season, but for the previous two junior high school track and field seasons, Emma Chandler of Absarokee. Why? Because Absarokee is Class C and Roundup Class B.

Lose some, gain Others

Both girls therefore lose some of their toughest competitors; each, however, will likely gain new tough competitors from Class B or C schools to the west, north or northeast.

This narrowing down doesn’t happen to Class A and AA athletes for one more week. Because there are fewer of those schools, they can dispense with District meets and stage only Divisional meets to qualify athletes for state. (In AA there is another way to qualify for state besides placing in the top five out of the two Divisionals; this is by equaling or exceeding a pre-established mark in an event at some time during the regular season.)

Laurel is the site this year not only for the District Class B Meet that includes Roundup, but also for the Divisional Meet that will bring teams from southeastern and southwestern Montana.

On May 24-25 Laurel will host the Class A and Class C State Meets, held concurrently, while Bozeman does the same for Class B and Class AA.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 01:07

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Rimrock Opera plans auditions

Rimrock Opera will be holding auditions for the summer festival by appointment.

The festival will be held June 15-23, ending with performances on Saturday, June 22, and Sunday, June 23. The festival will include musical theater and opera workshops as well as master classes.

Faculty for the festival will include two coaches from Dallas, Texas, James McQuillen and Jay Gardner, as well as voice teacher Kristee Haney and stage director Matthew Haney.

To audition, contact Matthew Haney at 1-816-872-5032.

Bring a resume, a headshot (if possible) and two contrasting pieces including an art song, arias or musical theater.

The second piece could also be a short monologue.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 April 2013 13:33

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Rodeo patrols out this week

If you are going to watch the bull riding at the PBR Nile Invitational, the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office reminds you to be safe on the road. Law enforcement officers will increase patrols on streets and highways this weekend.

“Rodeo is part of the Montana culture, and we want everyone to take pride in this tradition,” said Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder. “However, we don’t want people to be bullheaded and get behind the wheel after some drinks.”

The extra patrols will focus on apprehension of impaired drivers. “It is critical to get impaired drivers off the road before they hurt someone,” said Sheriff Linder. He suggested lining up a sober drive if you plan on drinking.

While the extra patrols are focused on drinking and driving, officers will be watching for unsafe traffic behaviors, such as speeding or distracted driving.

The extra patrols are funded by the Montana Department of Transportation Selective Traffic Enforcement Program. More than thirty law enforcement agencies around the state participate in enhanced enforcement to address traffic safety. For more safety-related information please access the Montana Department of Transportation’s website

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 April 2013 17:38

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Bus route added here

Jefferson Lines Bus Co. has launched new routes connecting Billings and Missoula. Jefferson also has extended its Glendive run from Fargo, N.D., into Billings.

The routes will include daily service in either direction between the two cities, and will facilitate Jefferson Lines adding bus service to several other Montana communities, including Livingston, Bozeman, and Butte.

Jefferson Lines will continue to connect with existing intercity bus networks like Greyhound and Arrow Stage Lines.

Jefferson Lines is a family-owned company founded in 1919.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 April 2013 17:17

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House passes budget, focuses on pay raises

By AMY R. SISK - Community News Service - UM School of Journalism

HELENA – Thanks to a last-minute agreement, Republicans and Democrats have unanimously passed a two-year, $9 billion state budget out of the House.

“This is my fourth term – I’m done,” said Rep. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, in his closing remarks last week on House Bill 2. “What an honor to chair this appropriations committee that has done something for the state of Montana that is historic.”

House leadership had scheduled two full days for debate over HB 2. Lawmakers last week passed the budget out of the House, unamended, in less than an hour and a half.

“Even though I was in the minority, I felt I had a platform,” said Rep. Pat Noonan, D-Butte, who served on the subcommittee that reviewed health and human services spending.

He said both sides made compromises and applauded his colleagues’ efforts to fund early childhood education, services for people with disabilities, meal preparation for seniors and the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

Although the members of the House demonstrated their ability to reach across the aisle last week, HB 2 still faces a long path to the governor’s desk. It next goes to the Senate Finance and Claims Committee, where legislators are expected to renew debate over funding. Democrats want further support for public schools and to restore federal family planning money to the budget.

“We have some priorities that our constituents sent us here to support,” said Rep Galen Hollenbaugh, D-Helena. “We will be carrying those concerns to our colleagues in the Senate.”

Here’s a look back at other highlights from week 11 at the Legislature:

State employee pay

A modified state employee pay plan is moving to the House floor.

The version of House Bill 13 that passed the Appropriations Committee last week charges the executive branch with determining how much to increase its employees’ salaries. The amended bill urges officials to pay “particular attention” to executive branch workers with low salaries and employees who have not received a raise over the past two years.

Republicans on the committee voted for the change to HB 13. The original Democratic proposal – the product of negotiations between unions and former Gov. Brian Schweitzer – would have established an across-the-board 5 percent pay increase over each of the next two years.

The eight Democrats on the committee opposed the amendment and voted against the bill, which passed on party lines.

The updated plan calls for $38 million less than the $152 million Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock proposed to cover the pay increases.

The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Gibson, R-East Helena, said the bill’s price tag is not far below where the governor’s office is willing to negotiate. He added that the numbers are likely to change as lawmakers vote on other measures such as the bonding bill and tax relief.

State employees have not seen an across-the-board pay increase in four years, although certain individuals have received raises. Republicans argued that people who have received additional pay should not necessarily receive the same percentage increase as those whose salaries have remained flat.

Board of Regents

Board of Regents appointee Pat Williams addressed a state Senate panel last week, defending his comment to a New York Times reporter where he referred to University of Montana football players as “thugs.”

“Some people took that and thought I was talking about the whole team,” he told senators on the Education and Cultural Resources Committee. “But logically, folks, who would say that about a whole team?”

Williams discussed the remarks during a Senate hearing on his confirmation to the Montana Board of Regents, the seven-member panel that governs all of the state’s university system. More than a dozen people spoke in support of his appointment, but the hearing also drew a handful of opponents.

Former UM Vice President Jim Foley testified against Williams. He previously worked as a top congressional staffer for the appointee, who served as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Enough is enough with this name-calling of young men who, in most cases, can’t defend themselves against those words,” Foley said. “Words matter, and I just don’t take those words lightly.”

Committee chairman Jim Peterson, a Republican senator from Buffalo, said the committee will probably vote this week on regents’ confirmations.


The governor’s two bills to fix the $4 billion deficit in the state’s pension system are moving forward after the House Appropriations Committee voted down a third Republican-sponsored measure last week.

The committee tabled House Bill 338, which would have implemented a defined contribution system similar to a 401(k). Instead, the full House will now consider House Bills 377 and 454, which maintain the current system.

The existing defined benefit system pays retired state employees monthly pensions based on a formula that takes into account their salary and years of work.

The two bills ask employers and employees to increase contributions. House Bill 337 addresses liabilities in the Teachers’ Retirement System and draws upon state land revenues and school district reserves.

House Bill 454 focuses on the Public Employee Retirement System while calling for funds from natural resource development.

Term limits

Montanans could decide to change state legislators’ term limits when they cast their ballots in 2014.

The Senate passed House Bill 277 last week, which would ask voters to amend the Montana Constitution to allow lawmakers to serve in either the state House or Senate for 16 years, at which point they could no longer run for the Legislature. Currently, lawmakers can serve eight years in a particular chamber within a 16-year period.

The bill’s supporters argued that the term limits established by voters in 1992 have led to a lack of institutional knowledge among lawmakers due to their high turnover rate. They said HB 277 would allow legislators more time to understand complex issues and give them greater ability to develop seniority in a particular chamber.

The bill now goes back to the House, and lawmakers must decide whether to accept the Senate’s changes. The bill that passed through the House would allow legislators to run for office again after serving 16 years, provided they take an eight-year break from the Legislature.

Reporter Amy Sisk can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow @amyrsisk on Twitter for the latest from the Capitol.

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2013 00:07

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Higher ed funds down


HELENA – State budget cuts to higher education in Montana are noted in a new report.

The study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities outlines the tough time states have had in funding colleges and universities since the recession.

Montana’s spending per student is down about 17 percent since 2008, according to the report. Even though the state’s cuts are less than those in many other states, said report author Phil Oliff, it’s still a big reason why tuition and fees have been outpacing inflation.

“Keep in mind,” he said, “this spike in college costs comes even as the recession and slow recovery have diminished students’ and their families’ financial resources.”

Every state has cut higher-education funding except Wyoming and North Dakota, according to the report. Arizona and New Hampshire leveled the biggest cuts.

“The bottom line,” he said, “is that if states want to attract employers and develop a strong middle class, they will need a highly educated workforce.”

Restoring the money lost to those cuts is likely to take years, Oliff said. The full report is online at

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2013 00:05

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