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Bankruptcy experts say Touch America executives may have to pay back the $5.4 million in "change-of-control" payments they gave themselves last year, according to reporter Leslie McCartney of the Butte Montana Standard. The possibility hinges on whether and if Touch America files for bankruptcy before or after a one-year deadline passes.

Northwestern Corp. faces further Security and Exchange Commission reviews of its finances for last year, after announcing $900 million loss in 2002, Jan Falstad of the Billings Gazette reports. The company had expected to earn $1.53 a share for the year, but instead lost $30.04 a share. It remains about $2.2 billion in debt.

The former state legislator who led the initiative campaign to retract utility deregulation last year has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Livingston City Commissioner Michelle Lee listed $108,000 in debts and $4,600 in assets, the Gazette reports. Lee said her efforts to collect petitions for I-117 and manage the campaign's finances ended up sucking her own money into the mix.

Education officials expressed hope that a little-noticed legislative study bill may produce a much-improved way of funding Montana's schools, the Great Falls Tribune reports. House Bill 756 brings legislative leaders of both parties together with up to 25 other education experts to fix the problem. Gov. Martz is trying to find $70,000 from private persons and corporations to augment the $10,000 in legislative funding to support the study.

Mosquitoes are driving Mitchell Slough neighbors to court, Ravalli Republic reporter Buddy Smith writes. Jerry Metully is suing Kenneth and Judith Siebel to make them remove four large pools they built along the slough. Metully says they have become mosquito breeding grounds that harass his family and put them at risk of catching West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne illness.

Tending wounded Montanansamong the casualties of Operation Iraqi Freedom helped make Lt. Col. Glenn Woodson a better Army chaplain, according to Helena Independent Record reporter Martin Kidston. The Montana resident was back home after serving in the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where he also helped treat P.O.W. Jessica Lynch.

The IR also reports that predictions are coming trueabout a flood of calls to the Lewis and Clark County Attorney's office after restitutions officer Anna Ferguson was charged with stealing funds from fine-payers. About two dozen calls came Thursday from people wanting to know if their cases were affected by the alleged thefts.

West Glacier school officials are coping with a failed mill levy on top of reduced federal funding that has lopped off about one-third of their annual budget, according to the Kalispell Daily Interlake. Voters turned down a $30,000 levy request, and other cuts have reduced their operating funds from last year's $275,800 to $202,100.

The Wild Eyes exotic animal farm may leave Columbia Falls for Seattle, the Hungry Horse News reports this week. The controversial roadside attraction has had a running fight with state wildlife officials over allowing animals out of cages. The business has 24 different animals, including bears, tigers, alligators and snakes.

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