Tuesday: Barkus Judge, Election Day, Libby Soldier Remembered

By Beacon Staff

Good morning; on the Beacon today, District Judge John McKeon of Malta has been named to preside over the case of state Sen. Greg Barkus, who faces several charges stemming from a Flathead Lake boat crash that injured all five people aboard. Owing mainly to a defunct real estate development in northern Idaho under foreclosure and a decision to plow $47 million into a reserve to provision for loan losses, Glacier Bancorp, Inc. reported a $1.5 million-net loss for the third quarter. Flathead voters will head to the polls Tuesday in an off-year election likely to draw significantly fewer to the ballot box than last year’s presidential race. Fire officials confirmed on Monday that faulty wiring caused a fatal Evergreen trailer house fire. A 29-year-old Army sergeant killed during a training accident off the Virginia coast, Staff Sgt. James R. Stright, was remembered in Libby on Monday as a passionate man and fine soldier. Medical researchers have started a five-year investigation into the long-term health effects of human exposure to asbestos-tainted vermiculite ore in Libby.

Many political observers are considering the handful of important national elections today a very early test of President Barack Obama’s political influence. A plan to use federal stimulus money to expand Internet service in rural areas of Montana is being assailed by regulators and telephone companies who believe the effort will essentially simply duplicate high-tech infrastructure already in place. Officials in Hardin say they intend to pay more than $1,400 to a California con man for meals and hotel rooms he provided to three city officials as part of his scheme to take over their empty jail. Two more Bozeman businesses have filed lawsuits against NorthWestern Energy over a March 5 natural gas explosion that killed a woman and destroyed half a city block. Snowpack in the eastern part of the state is way above usual. Public Service Commissioner Brad Molnar, facing ethics charges on his alleged misuse of state equipment and corporate donations, gets his day in court this week.