Ups and Downs:

2014-05-04T00:00:00Z Ups and Downs: The Billings Gazette
May 04, 2014 12:00 am

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Spring cleanups. With Earth Day and Arbor Day events, Billings area volunteers have been recycling, planting and cleaning. More than 1,000 people have volunteered as part of the annual Great American Cleanup in Yellowstone County. About 300 of those volunteers are Huntley High School students and staff who spent Friday picking up litter around their community. Other volunteers will be cleaning up through mid-May. Any individuals or groups that want to do a litter cleanup may call Bright n’ Beautiful at 248-6617 to get free trash bags, pickup sticks and traffic safety vests.

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Business startups. Montanans started up new businesses in 2013 at a higher rate than any other state, according to a report from the Kauffman Foundation. The index ranking entrepreneurial activity found that Montana’s rate went up even while the national rate declined slightly.

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Deputy contract. Yellowstone County and the 43 unionized sheriff’s deputies agreed to a new, three-year contract last week after nearly a year of often difficult negotiations.

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Corrections crowd. The number of offenders in Montana’s correctional system has increased by 2,000 in the past year to 15,400 people, Department Director Mike Batista told an interim legislative committee. About 30 percent of those offenders in prisons or other secure facilities; the rest are on parole or probation. Batista said 288 state prisoners are being held in county jails while waiting on space in prison or community-based programs. “We are at or near capacity in our prisons and our probation and parole and community programs,” he said.

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Triathlon triumph. Several inches of fresh snow delayed, but didn’t deter, 333 participants from competing in the 36th Annual Peaks to Prairie Adventure Race from the mountains above Red Lodge to the Special K Ranch along the Yellowstone River. Kudos to the athletes and the army of volunteers.

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Healthy coverage. More than 36,500 Montanans signed up for health insurance through the federal exchange. The Montana insurance commissioner's office plans to conduct a survey of how many policies were sold outside the exchange and how the number of insured Montanans has changed.

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