Top headlines for the week

August 02, 2014 10:15 am  • 

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  • Walking through Rimrock Mall and meeting community members, new mall manager Devin Hartley is usually confronted with one common question.

    “ ‘What’s coming in where Scheels is?’ ” said Hartley, who started last month.

    The sporting goods store is leaving the mall Aug. 24 for Shiloh Crossing on the West End, leaving Hartley to fill a gaping, 41,000-square-foot hole in a key anchor space.

    Trends are working against Rimrock: online shopping is growing, and brick-and-mortar retailers are shifting to open-air shopping centers with cheaper leases. Small retailers at Rimrock worry that declining foot traffic will hurt their businesses.

    Nevertheless, Hartley, a 12-year veteran of mall management, said he and his team see a bright future for Montana’s largest mall, on the cusp of its 40th birthday. They don’t have a replacement for Scheels, but they’re optimistic Rimrock Mall — home to more than 70 retailers — will play a major role in Billings’ growing economy.

    “Rimrock has long had a very positive reputation within the state, within the industry, and we want to keep it that way,” Hartley, 48, said.

    ‘Diligent’ recruiters

    Hartley is a Florida native who graduated the University of Central Florida with a degree in financial asset liabilities. He began his career in property management, though he never figured he’d end up working in malls.

    “I always knew I wanted to do real estate in some capacity,” Hartley said.

    When the opportunity arose, Hartley headed to Colorado to continue his career in real estate. In 2002, he went to Great Falls to become mall manager at Holiday Village Mall, lured by the rugged, outdoor charm of Montana.

    “I like what the Rocky Mountain West has to offer. Big ranges, fly fishing, big game hunting. The mystique, the cowboy way of life, appeals to me,” Hartley said.

    Billings is a bigger market and a good next step for Hartley.

    Hartley replaces Kendall Merrick, who left in May after nearly two decades as mall manager. Merrick has taken a new position at another mall out of state.

    Hartley is the first new manager hired by affiliates of Starwood Capital Group, the investment firm that bought Rimrock Mall last year from Macerich Co.

    Hartley won’t hint about what could move into the Scheels space. Retailers in the mall are hoping for another large chain store, but other possibilities include a second food court or a group of smaller stores.

    “Our folks are as diligent (recruiting businesses) as can be,” Hartley said. Two new businesses, women’s apparel store Francesca’s and Taco Treat, will open in August, he said.

    Other malls, desperate to fill space, have leased anchor space to grocery stores, churches or social-service organizations in recent years.

    At Rimrock, other anchors are JC Penney, two Dillard’s stores (one men’s and one women’s) and Herberger’s, an original anchor. JC Penney and Dillard’s have struggled since the recession, both announcing closures of poor-performing stores nationwide within the past two years.

    The mall is also home to Wynnsong Cinemas, a free-standing multiplex movie theater.

    Adapting with trends

    Rimrock Mall was built in 1975, just ahead of the 1980s boom of shopping mall construction fueled by friendly tax breaks for developers. Rimrock was a major driver of West End development at the time, creating a regional destination for shoppers in Montana and Wyoming.

    The loss of an anchor tenant is rare but has happened before. Montgomery Ward closed its department store in 2001 after the corporation declared bankruptcy, but Dillard’s moved quickly into the space.

    Replacing Scheels will be a much harder chore in this era of decline for shopping malls, industry experts say.

    Nationwide, online retail sales have more than tripled over the past decade, taking away an increasingly larger piece of the retail pie from brick-and-mortar stores, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

    Even the recession failed to slow electronic commerce, and industry experts say that shoppers’ habits may have changed for good. Almost no new malls nationwide have been developed since 2006, and dozens have closed or are struggling to stay open.

    At the National Retail Federation’s annual conference in January, developer Rick Caruso made national headlines when he said that the traditional U.S. regional mall would be dead in 10 to 15 years, unless they’re completely reinvented.

    To survive, Caruso said, malls must find ways to enhance the shopping experience and better connect with their communities.

    It’s a strategy that developer Bob McDonald put into play when he bought the struggling West Park Plaza mall on Grand Avenue in Billings in 2008.

    “If you don’t have the right type of regional or major tenants … what are considered to be natural major tenants, then malls are a problem,” Seattle-based McDonald said last week.

    He knocked out the mall’s main atrium and reinvented West Park as an open-air, community center, focused on becoming a destination for customers from within a few miles. Instead of clothing or retail stores, the newly named West Park Promenade centered on salons, restaurants, a fitness center and other services that can’t be found online, he said.

    The cherry on top was Lucky’s Market, which opened a new store at West Park Promenade earlier this year and generates thousands of car trips weekly.

    “You need a draw … for these other retailers. Everyone knows the promenade because of Lucky’s. Everyone else can leverage off them,” McDonald said.

    It’s an idea that Scheels is also putting into place at its new, 220,000-square-foot store. With a Ferris wheel, bowling alley and simulator games, developers are aiming to give a people a reason to drive to the store instead of staying home to buy online.

    Other retailers at Shiloh Crossing expect Scheels will be a big boost for their business.

    Rimrock Mall officials say their indoor venue has its own unique perks, playing host to numerous community events, including the Pack the Mall in Pink breast cancer fundraiser, Safe Kids Expo and the Playhouse Parade fundraiser. Mall officials say these events are key for Rimrock to maintain a strong connection to the community.

    “It’s an ever-evolving industry. For us to be on the edge of that, we need to be active in the business community,” Hartley said.

    Indoor malls aren’t struggling everywhere. The largest indoor mall in the country, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., announced this spring a massive $325 million expansion to nearly double the mall over the next decade. The expansion was partly financed by state lawmakers seeking to boost the mall’s profile as a destination tourist attraction.

    Hartley noted that enclosed malls in the northern states, such as Minnesota or Montana, have a key advantage: shelter from the bitter winter cold.

    “There’s still a need for a conditioned environment,” he said.

    Foot traffic

    Inside Rimrock, locally owned retailers say they are worried about the loss of foot traffic once Scheels leaves, especially if the vacancy lasts through the holiday shopping season. But they still believe a mall location, despite its higher rent, is a valuable asset.

    Tea City, which sells loose-leaf tea, pots and other accessories, opened in the mall in March, fully aware that Scheels would soon be gone.

    Owner Zane Luhman of Billlings said he looked at other places, including Shiloh Crossing, West Park Promenade and downtown, before deciding Rimrock best fit his business.

    “As far as getting our name out there, we felt this was the best choice,” Luhman said.

    Tea City usually isn’t a typical destination store, Luhman said, so he relies on the foot traffic from other retailers.

    “That is part of the struggle, getting Billings people in the mall to find us,” Luhman said, adding, “Business has been pretty much what we expect.”

    Across the walkway from Scheels, owner Rhetta Pederson of Sagebrush Trading Post watches dozens of shoppers come in and out of the sporting goods store daily. Some take a glance inside her western clothing and apparel and walk inside to browse.

    “The main thing that has me here now is the (foot) traffic,” said Pederson, of Billings, who’s owned Sagebrush in the mall for about 15 years.

    “There is no way I would see this kind of traffic pass by me and walk in” at a location outside the mall, she said.

    At the request of Rimrock officials, Pederson moved last spring into her current, larger space to accommodate the new Francesa’s store. She said she considered fleeing Rimrock.

    “I’m hoping to be able to stay here a long time,” Pederson said.

    Hartley is hoping for the same. Married with one child and another on the way, he’s commuting from Great Falls every week but planning to move his family to the Billings area.

    Hartley admits he’s been slow to meet retailers in the mall, but he’s quick to add he’s not running the mall alone. The management team of six has lengthy experience in the community, including new marketing director Tom Krause.

    Krause was formerly sales manager at the Billings Chamber of Commerce (now Visit Billings), and he said he’s excited to promote the mall around town.

    “We have a real interest in the success of the community,” he said.

    Hartley said the staff is ready to tackle the challenges facing the mall.

    “For us to come in here, it’s a fresh perspective. We’re excited about the new team,” Hartley said.

  • A 24-year-old man is facing a charge that he raped a Billings hotel maid on July 24.

    According to court documents, Darren Jon Longhair asked the maid to inspect his room at the Rimview Inn, 1025 N. 27th St., so he could get his room deposit back and then forced her to have sex.

    Longhair is charged with sexual intercourse without consent, which carries a sentence of between two and 100 years in prison. 

    The woman told police that Longhair ripped her clothes off before sexually assaulting her, and then said “it was nice meeting you” when he left after about 15 minutes, charging documents state.

    A responding officer noted the woman was shaking and crying as she explained what happened.

    She gave police the license plate number of the vehicle Longhair was driving, and hotel records showed he was the occupant of the room where the alleged rape happened, charging documents say.

    The alleged victim also identified Longhair as her attacker from a photo line-up, court records say.

    Longhair appeared voluntarily on the charge in Yellowstone County Justice Court, where Judge Pedro R. Hernandez agreed with a prosecutor’s request to have the man held on $50,000 bond. 

    The judge ordered Longhair to sit in the jury box until sheriff’s deputies arrived to take him into custody.

    Longhair is scheduled to enter a plea to the charge in Yellowstone County District Court on Aug. 7.

  • MISSOULA — A childhood steeped in community service, libertarian ideals and hard work has culminated most recently for Nita Maddux in her determination to organize a nude bike ride in Missoula.

    Growing up, Maddux, now 47, would run home from school in Whitefish to catch her grandfather before he left to do horse chores. Her father worked on the railroad. Hard work is not a foreign concept to her.

    But aside from their day jobs, her family members were involved in the Whitefish community in various roles, including the City Council.

    “It’s kind of what they do,” said Maddux, who has lived mainly in Missoula for more than two decades but who has traveled the world.

    During her time in Missoula, the former political activist owned Crystal Video and started a modern circus group, Bellatrix.

    While she has turned her social justice lens on Missoula most recently, she spent the past three years working on various causes in Hawaii, Cambodia and the Philippines.

    After a near-death bout with malaria several months ago, Maddux said, she was ready to come home and be closer to her two grown children.

    Missoula, though, is not what she remembers.

    In the Philippines, a country that was reeling from the devastation of typhoon Haiyan, necessities were hard to come by, she said.

    In Missoula, they aren’t, but people are still “tucked in” and often worried about the day to day, she said.

    A naked bike ride would be just the thing to bring people out, she thought.

    When planning the ride, Maddux has followed all the permitting requirements to be “polite” and has well-publicized it so if people don’t want to be part of the event, they can avoid it entirely.

    But the ride, scheduled for Aug. 17, has met heavy opposition, and Maddux said she has received two death threats. On the other end of the spectrum, though, she said, she has found support.

    The ride isn’t about nudity, per se, Maddux said, adding she isn’t a nudist but is comfortable with her body and has ridden in a similar annual ride held in Portland, Oregon, several times.

    People really are afraid of being naked, she said. “But with that, that’s the exact point.”

    The ride is about courage, people being themselves and stripping away conceptions based on appearances, Maddux said.

    “It’s not about sex. It’s about authenticity,” she said.

    *****

    When she’s not working on the bike ride plans, Maddux spends her days working in catering and teaching yoga, which she adamantly says helps people find inner calm and healing.

    She had dabbled in yoga for years, but when she found herself injured and in a challenging relationship three-and-a-half years ago, she became more serious about her practice.

    Now that she’s back in Montana, Maddux has been working to bring yoga to prisoners in Deer Lodge, but like with the bike ride, has met opposition.

    Both causes highlight the need to create dialogue and shift the cultural narrative, she said.

    Plenty of room exists in our democracy to change but the cultural narrative says we can’t. If people at least have conversations, the world is better, period, she added.

    Is the human body being commoditized? Should people choose alternative modes of transportation instead of vehicles?

    The bike ride is just one way to start the conversation, Maddux said. “It opens the discussion and it creates a container for a moment when that could happen.”

  • CASPER, Wyo. — Members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club rolled into Wyoming on Monday for the start of an annual week-long gathering.

    The Park County Sheriff’s Office confirmed via its social media accounts that members of the Hells Angels were checking into Cody hotels for the road-trip rendezvous, known as a “run” in biker parlance.

    Between 400 and 500 bikers and associates are expected to visit Cody and the area for the Hells Angels’ U.S.A. Run, the first run for the notorious club in the area since its worldwide run called Cody home in 2006.

    “While there is no intelligence to support specific intent or plans for significant events and/or confrontations in conjunction with the Cody Run, the Park County Sheriff’s Office has plans in place to insure public safety during the Hells Angels’ visit,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote on its Facebook page on Monday.

    The Sheriff’s Office will work in coordination with other area law enforcement agencies and have all of its personnel on duty, it said. Both the Sheriff’s Office and the Cody Police Department plan to keep the community updated during the run, via social media accounts and through a daily press briefing by a Cody police spokesman that will be aired on the local city television channel.

    National Guard units deployed to aid local law enforcement and bolster security in the area during the 2006 Hells Angels Worldwide Run centered in Cody.

    The Hells Angels said the run featured 800 bikers, but police estimated attendance at closer to 1,500.

    The run went quietly, featuring only a handful of arrests and one incident of intimidation. Local law enforcement agencies even scaled down their visibility after hearing complaints from the community about aggressive traffic enforcement and other tactics.

  • CODY, Wyo. — Cody Police Chief Perry Rockvam met Wednesday with representatives of the Hells Angels motorcycle club, seeking an “open dialogue” with the group, a police spokesman said.

    “They’ve been in contact for some time,” officer John Harris, spokesman for the Cody Police Department, said at a 10 a.m. news briefing Wednesday. “The meeting was supposed to occur yesterday, but due to logistical issues they weren’t able to make it last night. They’re meeting as we speak.”

    The Hells Angels are in Cody from Wednesday through Sunday for their U.S.A. Run, an annual gathering of the club’s bikers. Law enforcement officials estimated that about 400 to 500 bikers and associates would take part.

    Bikers began trickling into Cody earlier this week. Harris said he wasn’t aware of any incidents or arrests.

    Harris confirmed that the group’s events were centered on a site in the 700 block of Yellowstone Avenue, or on the south side of U.S. Highway 16 at the far west end of Cody.

    A photo tweeted by the Park County Sheriff’s Office showed that the Hells Angels had erected a tent and a number of outhouses. A semitrailer was parked to one side.

    Fourteen law enforcement agencies, including local, state and federal, are assisting Cody police during the visit of the notorious motorcycle club, long considered an organized crime syndicate by law enforcement.

    The state of Wyoming is pitching in up to $184,000 toward the cost of law enforcement’s coverage of the event, Harris said.

    The Hells Angels last gathered in Cody in 2006 for their Worldwide Run, and law enforcement agencies received some criticism for their blanket response. Five arrests were made, stemming from one traffic stop of the club’s members.

    Harris acknowledged the significantly ramped-up law enforcement presence in Cody during this year’s event, although he declined to total the number of officers or detail all of the agencies involved. He said the 2006 run didn’t compare in size with this year’s smaller, national run.

    “This is a different event, and we’re going to respond differently,” he said.

  • Almost 9,000 screaming fans packed the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark on Tuesday to see country star Tim McGraw in a rare sold-out show in Billings.

    The arena was filled to the top row of seats and by the end of McGraw's 90-minute set, everybody was standing up, many waving their arms and singing along.

    "Isn't it great?" Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy said looking at the crowd.

    Three friends from Valier considered themselves lucky to score tickets, even in the upper deck. Jamie Espeseth, 19, of Valier, said the show is her fourth concert ever and by far the best one yet.

    Three songs into McGraw's set, fans started dancing in the aisles to "I Like, I Love it," and the dancing and screaming never stopped. Fans came from across Montana and Wyoming.

    "I don't mind looking at him," said Natalie McAlpin, of Valier.

    Cassadee Pope joined McGraw on one song after opening the show. Kip Moore also performed a 40-minute set highlighted by his recent hit song, "Young Love."

    "Did you all come to watch a movie or did you come to see a show?" Moore asked the screaming fans. "We're going to act like it's Friday night right here tonight."

    Moore thanked Montana for supporting him in the beginning and promised to sign autographs after the show as long as the fans lined up to get them.

    Stephanie Windorski, from Roundup, won a ticket to a VIP private concert before the show, featuring McGraw. Windorski said she was so excited when she got the message Monday that she won the VIP ticket by donating blood at United Blood Services, she screamed and jumped up and down.

    "He was really nice; just as cute in person as he is on stage," Windorski said.

    Fans were lined up at the arena when the doors opened at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Braden Grove, 22, came with his friend Taylor Roberts, 21, using tickets his mom bought them.

    "I just love country music," Grove said.

    Roberts added, "I just like his butt."

    Jenni Whisenhunt celebrated her 30th birthday at the show with her high school buddy from Senior High, Kellie Kintzing, and Brianna Pirtle and her mom and future mother-in-law decorated T-shirts and came to see the concert.

    "I hope he plays some of his old songs," Pirtle said.

    McGraw obliged, running through a string of his oldest songs, including his 1994 breakthrough hit, "Indian Outlaw," his first gold-selling single.

  • A Billings attorney with a history of being disciplined for unethical practices is facing suspension again, this time for misleading a district judge in an adoption case — which resulted in a girl being adopted without her father’s consent — and for hampering an investigation into his conduct.

    In reports filed in two cases last week, the Montana Supreme Court ordered that Roy W. Johnson Jr. be suspended from practicing law for three months beginning Sept. 1 and then for seven months beginning Dec. 1.

    Johnson, who contested findings in both cases, declined to comment late Wednesday, other than to say that two district judges, Gregory R. Todd and G. Todd Baugh, testified on his behalf in a hearing about the adoption matter.

    Neither judge could be reached for comment late Wednesday.

    Records indicate Johnson started practicing law in 1979 and that he has been disciplined by the Supreme Court at least three times prior to these two cases.

    In 2011, he was publicly censured by the Supreme Court and put on two years of probation for mishandling a parenting plan for 43-year-old Walter Martin “Marty” Larson, the ex-husband of 34-year-old Susan Casey, of Glendive, who was found dead in the Yellowstone River in May 2008.

    At the time of Johnson’s public censure in 2011, the death was unsolved. But in April 2013, a jury convicted Larson of strangling his ex-wife and dumping her body in the river. He has since been sentenced to 100 years prison.

    Adoption without father’s consent

    In one of the two cases, Johnson misled District Judge Gregory R. Todd in a 2007 adoption proceeding, which resulted in a girl being adopted by her stepfather without her father’s consent, according to a complaint filed by Jon. G. Moog, an investigator with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

    Johnson testified on his own behalf before the Commission on Practice, which found he violated the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers, records say.

    According to the complaint, a husband and wife with two children separated in 2003.

    While paternity of one of the children was unclear, records say the husband was legally recognized as the father and the former couple shared custody of both kids, based on a parenting plan established in 2004 by District Judge G. Todd Baugh.

    The mother hired Johnson as her attorney in 2006 after the father sought to change the parenting plan, records say.

    Johnson was “well aware” of the shared custody of the children, the existing parenting plan and the established father-daughter relationship in the matter, the complaint states.

    In 2007, Johnson filed a petition — in a different court, presided over by District Judge Gregory R. Todd — seeking to have the girl adopted by her mother’s new husband.

    Todd allowed the adoption, after ruling, based on Johnson’s petition, that no other parties were interested in the adoption proceeding, records say.

    According to Moog, Johnson knew this wasn’t true and failed to inform the judge about the existing parenting plan and did not notify the girl’s father about the adoption proceeding.

    The matter went to trial before Baugh in July 2012. He ruled that the mother of the girl went through with the adoption in an effort to interfere with her ex-husband’s parental rights, Moog states.

    Baugh also ruled that Todd had not been provided with, as required by law, notice of the pre-existing parenting plan, according to the investigator.

    The status of the girl’s custody wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday.

    Delayed investigation

    In the second Johnson case, the attorney was disciplined for failing to “promptly and fully” respond to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel’s investigation into multiple ethical grievances clients had filed against him, a supreme court order indicates.

    In the first grievance, a husband and wife complained about Johnson to the Office of Disciplinary Council after retaining him to defend their foster care license from being taken away and to help them adopt their foster children.

    In the second grievance, a man complained about Johnson after hiring him to defend against a DUI charge.

    Moog’s complaint doesn’t

    elaborate on the details of either matter, but states that Johnson failed to cooperate with records requests

    and the investigation into

    his handling of the two cases.

    Johnson’s failure to cooperate with the investigation, rather than the merit of the underlying ethics grievances, was the reason for the seven-month suspension, the Supreme Court’s order indicates.

    The document states Johnson’s failure to cooperate with the investigation delayed the court proceeding for two years.

    2011 public censure

    Court records indicate the Supreme Court has disciplined Johnson before.

    The case that led to Johnson’s public censure in 2011 involved the children of Susan Casey, whose body was found in the Yellowstone River in May 2008, several weeks after she was reported missing.

    Casey’s ex-husband, Walter Larson, who was convicted last year of killing his ex-wife, hired Johnson when members of Casey’s family filed to be appointed co-guardians of Casey and Larson’s two children.

    At the time, Casey’s murder was unsolved.

    In September 2008, Johnson filed a proposed parenting plan on behalf of Larson, but the attorney failed to file appropriate documents or move forward with the case, a complaint states.

    In a response to the complaint, Johnson said the correct paperwork was prepared, but Larson could not be reached for his signature.

    Johnson also said that once Larson filed a complaint with the state about his legal services, he legally couldn’t move forward with the case on behalf of his former client.

    The attorney concluded by saying Larson also failed to tell him about the circumstances of his wife’s death, “which made the matter involving the children a much more significant problem than he had lead (sic) me to believe.”

    Later in 2011, Johnson was suspended from practicing law for 60 days in a separate matter. He was also publicly censured in May 2008.

  • Paul Metzger was a humble man and a savvy investor.

    The retired Billings area farmer, who died May 6, two months shy of his 98th birthday, also had a strong sense of community philanthropy.

    That became evident during a news conference Wednesday morning, when it was revealed that Metzger left his entire $38 million estate divided equally between Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare.

    It is the largest single gift either of the two hospitals have ever received.

    Both will put the money into endowments. Metzger didn't restrict the gift, letting the hospitals decide how they will use the money.

    The announcement was made at the downtown D.A. Davidson offices, where Metzger often spent his days following the stock market.

    “It was Paul’s hope that this will serve as both a blessing to the community and a challenge to others to be benevolent and return a portion of what this wonderful place we call home has been to us,” said Todd Preston of D.A. Davidson, Metzger’s financial advisor.

    Preston sat at a conference table with Jim Duncan, president of the Billings Clinic Foundation; Dave Irion, president of the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation; and Gary Everson, Metzger’s longtime attorney. An enlarged photograph of Metzger was propped up on an easel, with his brown fedora hanging below the picture.

    Metzger, Preston said, had a sly sense of humor and a keen business sense.

    “He was humble, thoughtful, didn’t want anybody to make a fuss over him, but very decisive, too,” Preston said. “When he got to the point that he lost his license to drive, he was meeting with a Realtor that afternoon and was going to assisted living.”

    Metzger was born in Laurel in 1916. His parents, Louis and Nora Metzger, homesteaded on land south of the Yellowstone River off Duck Creek, between Billings and Laurel.

    Metzger’s formal education ended after eighth grade, when he went to work on the farm. According to a brief biography, the family farm had no electricity, and Paul and his sister, Grace, shared the task of hauling water to the house.

    The family’s 1947 wheat crop was the largest single purchase and sale of wheat ever made in Laurel by the Hageman Elevator at the time of its sale.

    Metzger bought an adjoining farm in the early 1950s, and though he wasn’t averse to experimenting with crops, he grew mostly wheat. He bought and expanded the family operation, selling it in the mid-1970s when he retired.

    Everson described Metzger as a wonderful man who was small in stature but always nattily dressed in a suit and a hat when he’d come to D.A. Davidson. 

    When he retired, he lived a simple life in a sparsely furnished condo and never stopped using a rotary phone.

    “He was very quiet and low-key, but he loved this community and he really thought a lot of the hospitals,” Everson said.

    Both Irion and Duncan knew Metzger. Duncan pointed out that Metzger’s sister, Grace, made an anonymous $2.4 million donation in 2002 to Billings Clinic for a cardiovascular services endowment.

    At that time, it was the largest one-time gift ever received from an individual.

    “So, obviously, giving back and supporting the community was a key part of how this family was raised and how they believed they could make a difference,” Duncan said.

    He pointed out that most of the great health care organizations around the U.S. have gotten where they are thanks to philanthropy.

    “We know that these dollars will, for generations to come, transform how health care is delivered and how state-of-the-art technology, facilities and people that are in the business of delivering health care can do their jobs better,” Duncan said.

    Irion called Metzger “a great example of the greatest generation, a man who started with little, worked hard, saved and believed in the importance of impacting the community in which he grew up.”

    St. Vincent is committed to supporting medical work in our community for many years to come, Irion said. “Paul wanted this to have an impact over a broad range of the community and we will manage this in an endowment like fashion so these resources are going to be available for many, many years to come.”

    Duncan and Irion said that how annual earnings from the endowments will be spent has not yet been determined.

    “He didn’t want to tie our hands to something because he knew medicine is changing all the time and we needed to be nimble with the dollars,” Duncan said.

    Though Metzger didn't want recognition from the two hospitals, both Duncan and Irion said Billings Clinic and St. Vincent will find a way to honor him.

  • Billings police searched several businesses Tuesday morning, finding what they believe is evidence of selling synthetic drugs, commonly known as "spice."

    Ball Adult Books and Video, 15 S. 26th St., and Headies, 1802 First Ave. N., were searched as part of an ongoing investigation, according to Billings Police Department Lt. Kevin Iffland.

    No arrests were made during the searches.

    "The search warrants resulted in the seizure of extensive evidence supporting the sale of these substances," he said.

    Iffland did not elaborate on what evidence was seized.

    The warrants were in response to the Billings area seeing an increased level of imitation dangerous drugs appearing at the street level, he said. 

    The class of substances, intentionally created to be consumed as an alternative to illegal drugs, are generically referred to as "spice" or "bath salts" by law enforcement, he said.

    "There's so many derivatives out there these days," Iffland said.

    He pointed out that Montana law says any substance represented to be a dangerous drug or to simulate the effect of a dangerous drug is illegal. 

    The investigation is ongoing, he said, and could be expanded to include other local businesses that are suspected of selling the illegal substances.

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