Special for the Missoulian Sunday, April 30, 2000

Three companies give to Disability Services

Three Missoula companies - First American Title Co., Mann Mortgage and Re/Max Realty Consultants - have donated $850 to Disability Services for Students at the University of Montana. The donation was raised from a tailgate party at a UM athletic event.

Disability Services Director Jim Marks said the donation will fund voice-recognition software, which will ensure that computing is readily accessibly to students with disabilities. The software, Dragon Naturally Speaking, allows a computer user to type with his or her voice. Students who can't use their hands or have difficulty expressing themselves because of a learning disability or motor impairment, use Dragon instead of the keyboard, giving them an equal opportunity to participate in their studies.

University Communications

Water cooler company reports a profit

GLEN HEAD, N.Y. (AP) - WaterChef Inc., a water cooler manufacturer with factories in Havre and Tianjin, China, announced last week that the company earned $159,353 in 1999, compared to a loss of more than $1.5 million in the preceding year.

David A. Conway, president and chief operating officer, attributed the earnings to restructuring of debt that resulted in a one-time gain of $1.14 million in 1999.

He said revenues were $354,792, up 48 percent from a year earlier, and the loss from continuing operations was $878,277, a reduction of 38 percent from a year earlier.

Besides water coolers, the company also sells household water filtration products and manufactures a patented water purification system designed for Third World communities.

Montana Power's net income drops

BUTTE (AP) - Montana Power Co. reported quarterly net income of 29 cents per share last week, down from 30 cents a year earlier, as income from electric operations fell.

For the quarter that ended March 31, Montana Power saw increases from oil, gas and coal operations, and from the Touch America telecommunications subsidiary.

Net income from nonutility operations rose to 21 cents per share from 18 cents the previous year, an increase of about 17 percent.

The decline tied to the electric utility reflects the December sale of the company's power plants in Montana, and the ongoing adjustment to deregulation, said Robert Gannon, Montana Power's chairman and chief executive.

Touch America's operating income increased by about $2.4 million, or more than 40 percent. Operating income from oil and gas operations increased about $5.5 million. The increase from coal operations was $300,000.

"Overall, Montana Power continues to make progress with transforming the company," Gannon said.

Montana Power announced in March that it plans to sell its energy holdings and function as a telecommunications company with the Touch America name.

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