Huckleberries to U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, for successfully pushing for more funding for veterans services. Tester is a ranking member of the Senate subcommittee on Veterans’ Affairs, and recently voted against a VA appropriations bill because he said it underfunded the agency by more than $800 million and would have resulted in 68,500 fewer veterans receiving medical care through the VA. This week, he offered a new bill on the Senate floor that added $1.9 billion to the bill that was rejected earlier this year and urged his fellow senators to support it. They did, with a bipartisan vote of 93-0.
Chokecherries to the VA for allowing veterans in Missoula, Helena and Butte to have the longest wait times in the state for health care. In Missoula, veterans have to wait for nearly two weeks for primary care at the clinic on Palmer Street, which is slated for an expansion that will add 4,500 square feet and up to six additional exam rooms to the 18,000-square-foot facility. Yes this expansion, expected to be complete by the end of Spring 2016, is merely a Band-aid. A report released by Tester’s office, “State of Veterans in Montana: A Regional Breakdown,” shows that Missoula has the highest growing veteran population in the state. A new, much larger facility is needed to serve this growing population of veterans, and the sooner the better.
Huckleberries to SLE Outside, the new outdoor gear store staffed by Seeley-Swan High School students. The cooperative will raise money for outdoor programs at Seeley Lake Elementary while providing hands-on learning in business management for students.
Chokecherries to the irresponsible parties who helped trash a popular campsite in the Bitterroot National Forest. The small dispersed campsite along Daly Creek is literally littered with trash, and nearby trees – some 200 years old – have been badly damaged by people who used them for target practice. But even that travesty pales next to the rampant poaching of deer and elk whose carcasses were left to rot by criminals who clearly have no respect for our national forests or public resources.
Huckleberries to A Carousel for Missoula and to the many community businesses and individuals who supported recent fundraising efforts to build an addition to the carousel in Caras Park. Thanks to their support, the carousel was able to hold a groundbreaking ceremony earlier this week for its first major expansion in 20 years. The construction project, slated for completion by April 2016, will add 640 square feet to the existing building, adding a museum, a private room for parties and special events, more office space and a bigger workshop area for volunteers to keep those ponies whirling.