The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) would like to notify the public and seek comments on a proposal to rehabilitate 10 bridges within the Interstate 94 corridor in Yellowstone County. The bridges are located between mile posts 14 and 21, starting at Ballantine and continuing to approximately 2.5 miles west of Pompeys Pillar.

Proposed work includes resurfacing or sealing the existing bridge decks, upgrading the bridge rail and roadway guardrail, replacement of bridge deck joints, deck drainage improvements, and upgrades to the adjacent roadway and signing. The purpose of the project is to repair deteriorated elements of each bridge to extend their service life.

The project is tentatively scheduled for construction in 2021, depending on the completion of all project development activities and availability of funding.

An important part of properly planning for future projects is partnering with the community. Montana Department of Transportation welcomes the public to provide ideas and comments on the proposed project. Comments may be submitted online at or in writing to Montana Department of Transportation, Billings office at PO Box 20437, Billings, MT  59104-0437. Please note that comments are for project CN 9585000.

The public is encouraged to contact Billings District Administrator Rod Nelson at (406) 252-4138 or project Design Engineer Jason Senn at (406) 444-9128 with questions or for additional information.

Matt Smith has joined the Billings office of  KLJ, an engineering firm. Smith has joined the team as a project manager.

He is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Montana and earned his bachelor’s in civil engineering from Montana State University.

At the beginning of the year, small business owners must begin complying with changes in the federal overtime rule. The minimum salary for the overtime exemption will rise from $23,660 annually to $35,568 annually. That means employers have to pay time-and-a-half for executive, administrative, or professional employees who make less than $35,568 for any work done beyond 40 hours per week.

The Department of Labor estimates that the change affects 1.3 million employees, raising the cost of compensation for the affected businesses. The cost would have been a lot higher had NFIB not stepped in with a lawsuit that blocked the Obama administration from raising the overtime threshold salary to $47,476. The new Trump administration increase was meant to be a compromise.

Affected NFIB members should double-check to make sure they are in compliance. The Labor Department found 11,018 overtime rule violations in 2019, forcing payment of millions in back wages. Don’t make a mistake and find yourself on the hot seat.

The Lockwood Fire Department has appointed former Captain Karim Eshbaugh, to the newly -created  position of Deputy Fire Chief. Chief Eshbaugh has 17 years of experience with Lockwood Fire. He will begin his new duties on January 1, 2020.

Eshbaugh’s salary will be $80,000. He will report directly to the Fire Chief, John Staley. His responsibilities will include managing training, emergency medical services, and daily operation.

He will work 40 hour weeks and will be on call for major emergencies as the Incident Commander.

The newest report from the Tax Foundation on the consequences of high state cigarette excise taxes reveals that 21.34 percent of the total cigarettes consumed in Montana are smuggled into the state. Montana ranks twelfth highest in the nation in terms of smuggled cigarettes.

The organization makes the point that crafting tax policy, often has, no matter how well-intentioned, unintended consequences that outweigh their benefits.

One notable consequence of high state cigarette excise tax rates has been increased cigarette smuggling as people procure discounted packs from low-tax states and sell them in high-tax states.

The data was based on 2017 during which Montana’s tax on a pack of cigarettes was $1.70, the same as it has been since 2006. During that time smuggling cigarettes into Montana has declined from 31.20 percent.

Growing cigarette tax differentials across states have made cigarette smuggling both a national problem and, in some cases, a lucrative criminal enterprise.

Cigarette smuggling also puts consumers at risk with counterfeit cigarettes and perpetuates a black market which negatively affects tax revenue.

New York and California have the highest inbound smuggling activity in the country, with an estimated 55.4 percent and 44.6 percent of cigarettes consumed in the state deriving from smuggled sources in 2017, respectively. New York has a tax of $4.35 (the highest in the nation) and California has a tax of $2.87. Missouri has the lowest tax rate of 17 cents.

New Hampshire has the highest level of outbound smuggling at 65 percent of consumption, likely due to its relatively low tax rates and proximity to high-tax states in the northeastern United States.

Following New Hampshire is Delaware (40.6 percent outbound smuggling), Idaho (26.8 percent), Virginia (24.2 percent), and Wyoming (22.4 percent).

Pennsylvania, following a cigarette tax increase from $1.60 to $2.60 in early 2016, has seen a significant increase in smuggling into the state.

Cigarette tax rates increased in 37 states and the District of Columbia between 2006 and 2017.

The data was based on 2017 during which Montana’s tax on a pack of cigarettes was $1.70, the same as it has been since 2006. During that time smuggling cigarettes into Montana has declined from 31.20 percent.

By Evelyn Pyburn

One of the greatest travesties of political correctness is the degree to which it cripples productive efforts in addressing serious problems.

It stands in the way of truly and honestly dealing with the very real problems afflicting various minorities, or in dealing with some medical, religious or cultural conflicts, as well as in dealing with political and economic problems.

It is a fact that a problem cannot be addressed until it is accurately identified – no matter where that leads. The survivability of human beings has always been our ability to rationally analyze a situation and identify what needs to be adjusted. The degree to which we fail in that endeavor is to diminish our success at survival. At what point did we begin to sabotage ourselves in that process?

The bullying of politically correct thought is intended to short circuit reality – of being able to accurately identify reality – of zeroing in on the crux of problems.

If the source of a societal, economic or political policy problem stems from something pre-determined as not SUPPOSED to be true, then observers, leaders, academics, politicians, bureaucrats, etc. bend themselves into pretzels trying to avoid seeing it. What that boils down to is that the problem is never addressed and those who suffer from it are condemned to go on suffering so others don’t have to endure the discomfort of disagreeing with those whose admiration they seek – or worse, so they can perpetuate a problem that gives them some kind of political clout.

One of the most immediate examples that comes to mind is the fact that homelessness, unaffordable housing and all the social and economic problems that stem from that, are primarily the result of over regulation. That’s an indisputable fact, challenged by almost no one, and yet it influences absolutely no local or state solutions attempting to “solve” homelessness or the problem of high-cost housing.

For decades and decades, with ever mounting fervor, centralized planners, building coders, municipal administrators, and utopian visionaries have imposed arbitrary and relatively unnecessary costs on development and construction that prohibit lower-cost processes and products, innovations and market alternatives in the realm of housing, unlike almost any other realm of endeavor in our country, except for perhaps education.

Seldom ever has anyone stood to reject the conclusions of the economic studiess – they just ignore them.

For the past 50 years, the observations of analysts   have been promptly relegated to the backwaters of public discussion, academia, politics, and media. Thr evidence does not support the prevailing wisdom that only government – not markets – are capable of shaping the housing market, so the evidence has to be rejected because it does not advance the politically preferred policy of growing bureaucracies and government control.

Besides the availability and cost of housing, over regulation also results in empty storefronts in downtowns across the country, which is most especially true in Billings. This has been a fact made clear to city council and other civic leaders over the past few years, with absolutely no response. Every single over-reaching, arbitrary and capricious regulation imposes costs on maintaining and updating properties. At some point that cost exceeds what the market of a thriving business in the downtown can endure, forcing them to find a less costly location or to not open at all, which leaves no market for property owners to lease or sell. And, that leaves dark, looming empty shells of structures in downtown that only drag down further the value of adjacent properties, creating a downward spiral. Believe it or not, the processs is reversable.

But, so long as leaders and decision makers avert their gaze when it comes to looking at the reality, it will indeed continue to appear that there is no solution but to appeal to government. With market forces curtailed, there will be greater appeal for gargantuan projects, tax funded subsidies, giveaways, and faux economic solutions that in the end will fail.

 With the facts rejected and warnings unheeded, more and more mandates are piled on, crippling the market’s  ability to meet the true needs of consumers. The results are exactly what we see. No solution will be forthcoming until the problem is identified.


  • City Of Billings/T.W. Clark Construction Llc, 4845 Midland Rd, Com Addition, $2,550,000
  • Yellowstone County Council On Aging/H. C. Lift, 935 Lake Elmo Dr, Com Addition, $180,000
  • Family Services/Empire Roofing Inc, 3927 1st Ave S, Com Fence/Roof/Siding, $99,424
  • Fed X/Cobb Environmental & Technical Services Inc, 1148 1st Ave N, Com New Other, $3,000
  • Yellowstone Health Partnership/T.W. Clark Construction Llc, 116 S 25th St, Com New Warehouse/Storage, $550,000
  • Kairos Properties Llc/Sunset Construction Llc, 1363 Montana Ave, Com Remodel, $156,000
  • Rimrock Owner Lp/Rolo Construction Inc, 300 S 24th St W, Com Remodel, $500
  • R E O Llc/Shaw Construction, 2590 Holman Ave, Com Remodel, $3,000
  • Lara, Scott B & Linda K, 315 S 34th St, Com Remodel, $5,000
  • Plaza Office Building Llc/Artisan Builders, 1629 Avenue D, Com Remodel, $20,000


  • Classic Design Homes Inc/Classic Design Homes, 4039 Lodge Ln, Res New Single Family, $221,830
  • Classic Design Homes/Classic Design Homes, 2213 Gleneagles Blvd, Res New Single Family, $235,729
  • Specialized Construction Inc/Specialized Construction, 2127 Lakehills Dr, Res Remodel Single/Duplex/Garage, $47,635
  • Specialized Construction Inc/Specialized Construction, 2124 Lakehills Dr,
  • Res Remodel Single/Duplex/Garage, $47,600
  • Nick Wong/Paramount Construction And Remodeling, 123 Terry Ave, Res Remodel Single/Duplex/Garage, $15,000
  • Thomas, J Richard & M Sharyn/Your Home Improvement Company, Llc,
  • 333 Stillwater Ln, Res Remodel Single/Duplex/Garage, $8,500

A continuing resolution for federal funding for the current fiscal year gives Missoula International Airport the surety it needs in planning a proposed $67 million terminal, following a record passenger year and in anticipation of additional new flights. The project is expected to be completed in 2021.

Uncooperative winter weather has slowed progress on the terminal project at Billings Airport, with the possibility that it may stall until spring. But, if increases in passenger enplanements over the past two months continue through December, Billings too may break its 2018 record of 451,564 enplanements. November of this year ended with 431,000 enplanements YTD, compared to 413,795 in November 2018.

If, for shivering Montanans, the winters of the recent past have seemed colder and summers inordinately cooler, they would be right.

The average monthly temperatures in Montana have been declining at a pace of 0.4 degrees F each decade, since 2005, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The data also reveals that Montana has been experiencing a modest increase in precipitation since the early 1900s. Although interrupted by periodic drought during recent years – not historically unusual – the long-term increase in precipitation has continued into the new century.

Also, climate change has been a benefit to Montana.

To the degree that there has been warming, “Satellite measurements of global vegetation intensity show Montana is benefitting from global greening more than almost any other region of the planet.”

The Heartland Institute recently announced these findings as the result of research done by James Taylor and Anthony Watts in a policy brief entitled “Climate Change and Montana: a Scientific Assessment” (NOAA). The document provides Montana-specific climate information for lawmakers to assist in dealing with Gov. Steve Bullock’s executive order of July 1, 2019 creating the Montana Climate Solutions Council, charged with preparing the state for climate change impacts and to create a plan to reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2035.

The data reveals that Montana has warmed very little during the past century, and not at all during the past 15 years. “NOAA temperature records show a modest warming trend has occurred in Montana since 1985, at a pace of 0.2 degree Fahrenheit per decade,” but the most accurate and advanced temperature-gathering stations which became operational in 2005, show Montana temperatures have dropped at a pace of 0.4 percent per decade.

“It is counterfactual to claim humans are causing a recent increase, or any increase at all, in recent Montana temperatures,” the report emphasized.

What modest increases in temperature that have occurred, along with long- term precipitation increases, have benefitted Montana, as indicated by increased crop production (wheat, corn, barley, oats, potatoes, sugar beets, hay) that has set new records, almost every year. And, in fact there is much to indicate that warming temperatures are a positive to human existence and especially so in Montana since warmer climate “would provide greater opportunities for tourism, exercise, and recreation in Montana,” concludes the report.

Warmer temperatures also result in fewer human deaths than does colder weather.

The authors warn that while Montana has suffered economic losses and struggled, unnecessarily so, from government –imposed climate programs focused on restricting the production and use of coal and oil, the state should prepare for what is likely to be another wave of activism targeting another aspect of the state’s basic economy – livestock production.  “This also threatens to disproportionately harm Montana, which is an important beef and sheep producing state,” said the report, noting that Montana ranks seventh among the 50 states in beef cattle production and eighth in sheep and lamb production.

Climate activists have outlined an anti-livestock agenda in the UN which claims that “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”

In September 2018, the UN published an article – “Tackling the World’s Most Urgent Problem: Meat” — summarizing the views of the winners of the UN Champions of the Earth Award, saying, “[Our] use of animals as a food-production technology has brought us to the verge of catastrophe. The destructive impact of animal agriculture on our environment far exceeds that of any other technology on Earth.”

The state faces these political attacks despite the fact that Montana CO2 emissions contribute very little to national and global emissions.

“Only eight states emit fewer total CO2 emission than Montana.”

Montana produces less than 2 percent of total US CO2 emissions. According to calculations included in the US National Center for Atmospheric Research climate models, immediately eliminating all of Montana CO2 emissions would lower expected global temperature by only approximately 0.003 degree C by the year 2100, “an amount too small to be measured or noticed.”

Montana gets most of its electricity generation from emissions-free hydroelectric power.

“While attempts by Montana policymakers to restrict or eliminate CO2 emissions will in no measurable way reduce global temperature, such efforts would inflict much economic suffering on the citizens of the state.”

“…even if Montana were showing signs of substantial climate change or negative climate change impacts, Montana has already dramatically curtailed its carbon dioxide emissions, which means state government action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions or otherwise address climate change would have extremely minimal climate impact. However, these actions to restrict greenhouse gas emissions would unquestionably limit Montana natural resource production, thereby reducing government revenues, raise energy prices for Montana consumers and businesses, and deal a crippling blow to Montana’s livestock and crop production.”

Restricting or discouraging oil or coal production would harm the economy and kill jobs. “In 2017, more than 1,100 workers, many with high salaries, were directly employed in coal production in Montana. Total annual coal-related payrolls in Montana amounted to nearly $100 million and there are many other jobs dependent on the coal industry…”

“Eliminating Montana’s fossil fuel sector would also put a strain on state and local government income. In 2018, the state collected $60 million from its Coal Severance Tax. Additionally the coal Gross Proceeds Tax collected $17.3 million, of which $9.1 million went to local governments.

“Other coal-production-related taxes lifted state revenues from that sector to greater than $110 million. The state also collects another $65.5 million from the Oil and Gas Production Tax.”

The report takes direct issue with the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment (MCA), which Gov. Bullock said was the basis for his climate change initiatives to restrict CO2 emission.

The MCA is “deeply flawed,” state the authors. “…the assessment was biased from its inception,” they state, pointing out that its participants – the Nature Conservancy and the Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) – had previously declared biases prior to becoming participants in the assessment, and any contributions from “credible and credentialed voices in the scientific and scholarly community offering solid data calling alarmist narratives into question” were not invited to participate.

“MCA’s authors cherry-picked data outside of their proper context and misleadingly presented such data to display an alarmist picture of climate change and its effects in Montana.”

They called a “glaring error” the MCA’s conclusion that between 1950 and 2015 Montana temperatures have increased 2- 3 degrees F. Comparisons were made using extreme data in ways for which there was no reason to present it, “unless the presenter is seeking the most alarmist storyline possible to mislead readers about the long-term temperature trend,” they said. “Any temperature history beginning in 1930, 1940 or 1960 would show a 1-2 degree temperature increase, which is in keeping with the Montana temperature history reported by NOAA. A temperature history beginning in 2005 would show no warming at all.”

In a review of earth’s history of climate change, the authors stated “Modest recent changes in global climate is well within natural variability”…. in fact during the current period between “ice age epochs,” which have occurred every 100,000 years or so, the temperatures have been cooler than in previous “interglacial warm periods.”

“During the past 150 years, Earth has slowly emerged from the Little Ice Age. This warming, which began before the invention of coal-fired power plants and automobiles, has brought immeasurable benefits. Crop production sets new records almost every year. Satellite instruments have measured a dramatic greening of the Earth. Deserts are receding and plant life is increasingly taking root in arid regions of the globe. Extreme weather events are becoming less frequent. Lower temperatures, which kill far more people than moderate or even high temperatures, are becoming less frequent.”