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Butte's biggest private employer laid off 35 workers to overcome a $1.2 million revenue shortfall, according to reporter Leslie McCartney of the Montana Standard. St. James Healthcare also won't fill a dozen currently vacant positions. Administrators cited several financial challenges, such as reimbursement rates that in some cases donà t pay for the cost of care, the costs of technologically advanced medicine, a weak local, state and national economy and staggering malpractice insurance costs.

Standard reporter Vera Haffey writes that Deer Lodge School teacher Arlita Fenner won't be fired, after Superintendent Joe Brott dropped his request to terminate the 30-year physical education teacher. Brott placed Fenner on administrative leave with pay beginning April 11. He initially accused her of lying during an investigation into the clandestine locker room videotaping of female athletes, and of offering "vague and inconsistent" statements about any knowledge of the incident.

Brott did not give any reasons for the change of plans, but did say that Fenner had accepted a letter of reprimand from him. Kathy Mullins, president of the Powell County High School Teachers' Association, also wouldn't discuss Brott's comments, but said "It totally turned away from the whole connection with taping. They had to settle for something much less, because there was no truth in what they had been claiming. It was a way of saving face."

Billings police have arrested three people they believe helped an felony robbery suspect escape jail, the Billings Gazette reports this morning. Officers are still looking for George Alan Cooper, who squeezed out of his jail cell and vanished Monday. They arrested Julene Theriault; her daughter Julene Roberta Korte; and Theriault's nephew, Kelly Kleinsasser, Wednesday on suspicion of felony obstruction of justice in connection with Cooper's escape.

Also in the Gazette, reporter Jan Falstad tells of the sale of Video Library Inc. Billings entrepreneur Becky Reno built the company over two decades to reach 15 retail stores in Montana and services to about 170 more grocery stores from Minnesota to Alaska. She has sold her company to Movie Gallery, which is one of the largest video retailers in the nation.

Great Falls folks are rejoicing about weather statistics showing above-normal rainfall in their region, according to the Great Falls Tribune. This is the first time in four years rain gauges have beat the average. Record-hunters have to go back to 1995 for an April that got more than the 1.84 inches collected this year.

Interest over a cement plants plans to burn tires for fuel has extended the public comment period on Holcim Inc.Ã s burning permit, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. The comment period will now end May 30 instead of May 9. The cement plant wants to burn more than 1 million tires a year to generate energy for its facility near Trident.

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