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USFS will start renovating new administrative offices this month

(MISSOULA)- Renovation will start this month for the U.S. Forest Service's planned move to Fort Missoula. However the actual operations of the Northern Region Office won't be shifted out of downtown Missoula until sometime next summer.

The Forest Service Northern Region Office has been using leased office space in the old federal courthouse in downtown Missoula for decades. But in response to budget cuts, the agency first vacated one floor last November, and will now be moving out entirely. 

The Forest Service plans to move about 170-employees to a building the Army no longer uses at Fort Missoula, with others moving to existing facilities adjacent to Missoula International Airport. 


Missoula firefighters limit damage in storage unit fire

(MISSOULA)- Quick work by Missoula firefighters limited damage, and prevented injuries, during an early morning fire Sunday. 

The Missoula Fire Department sent crews to the report of a structure fire in the 500 block of Toole Street, finding smoke and flames coming from a corner storage unit. They were able to get that fire knocked down quickly, but had to force their way into two more units to completely extinguish the blaze.

MFD says firefighters were able to confine the fire to those three units, but there was smoke and water damage to some adjacent units. Cause of the fire is under investigation with damage estimated at $10,000.


Missoula leaders to present report on broadband expansion

(MISSOULA)- Missoula leaders are ready to present their full report into the idea of building a municipal fiber optic network as a means of spurring economic growth in the Garden City.  

A city council committee has been working on the broadband expansion question for more than a year, analyzing what it would take to bring faster network and Internet service to Missoula for business and industry. Although there's a considerable amount of "dark fiber" or unused bandwidth in the region, the coalition is concerned that resource isn't being completely tapped. 

Under the report to be presented to the council's Committee of the Whole Wednesday is the recommendation the city pursue construction of a 60-mile self-financed "open access" fiber optic network. The new network would tie together more than 50-public entities, including public schools, the University of Montana, healthcare facilities and city and county government agencies. 

The report also suggests other steps to assist other communications companies with deployment and accessibility of additional network capacity and sharing construction costs. 

“Broadband is essential and transformational infrastructure for the 21st century economy,” said Caitlin Copple, who has championed this issue for more than two years as chair of the economic development subcommittee of the City Council. “If Missoula is serious about educating entrepreneurial, tech-savvy students, supporting our local tech-startups, and becoming a Big Data hub, this is how to do it.”

The first focus of the network would be geared to government and business use, rather that providing residential service.


The committee meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Missoula City Council chambers. 


New sheriffs to take over in Missoula, Lake counties

(MISSOULA)- It may take a few months for the dust to settle, but there will be a new sheriff in town after Missoula voters elect T.J. McDermott as Missoula County's "top cop", one of three men from within the department that were competing in the race. 

McDermott was able to claim victory Tuesday evening as he captured nearly 52% of the ballots. Current Undersheriff Josh Clark finished with just over 30% and Seeley Lake deputy Bob Parcell with just over 17% of the votes cast. 

Because there were no Republicans in the race, a point of contention during the campaign, Tuesday's voting gives McDermott the office, which is being vacated by Sheriff Carl Ibsen after a single term. 

A similar situation existed in Lake County, where only Republicans were running for the soon to be vacant job. With all of the votes tallied, CSKT Tribal Police Officer Don Bell pulled off the upset, finishing with just under 32% of the vote to get the win. Polson Police officer Rick Schoening was second with 27% of the vote. Current Undersheriff Dan Yonkin finished third with LCSO detective Kim Leibenguth in fourth. 

Bell is a Lake County native with a long list of law enforcement experience. He'll be replacing one-term Sheriff Jay Doyle, who decided not to run for re-election. 


Missoula leaders hope for major Russell Street grant 

(MISSOULA)- Local and state government agencies are coming together to show support for a new federal funding application that could provide millions of dollars for the Russell Street bridge project. 

Last month, the Montana Department of Transportation engineers, working with the city and other partners, were able to pin down the final design for the Russell Street bridge. And at the same time, engineers said they might be able to also include some improvements along Russell Street itself as part of this phase of the project. 

To see if that's going to pencil out, MDT and the city are applying for a federal TIGER grant that could provide roughly $21-million to match the state and local share for the $26-million project. MDT says if the grant is approved, it would not only pay for the bridge but the street improvements too. 

Last week, Missoula County commissioners also threw their backing, signing a letter of support for the grant application, saying the full funding is critical for development along Russell to "fully realize" the "economic, social and transportation potential" of the project. 




MDT says the application is due in a couple of weeks and the city and state should find out if the money is approved by early summer. 

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