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Touch America's fate is a hot question for Billings investors who wonder if the Butte-based telecommunications firm will survive the summer. Billings Gazette reporter Jan Falstad compares rumors of a buyout from Denver-based Level 3 Communications with predictions that the former Montana Power Co. firm will be bankrupt within weeks.

Ravalli County residents are hunting for petition signatures to force a public vote on the county's new growth policy, Jared Miller reports in the Ravalli Republic. Opponents of the policy need 3,331 signatures to get the question on the November 2004 ballot, or 5,551 signers from the county's unincorporated areas to force an earlier special election.

Bozeman children can expect full-day kindergarten next year, Gail Schontzler reports in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. The city's school board approved the change in a larger agreement with the teachers' union. The new deal gives most elementary teachers more time for lesson planning. Kindergartners will attend their full-day sessions two regular days and every other Friday.

A new casino and liquor store may soon open in Great Falls over neighbors' protests, the Great Falls Tribune reports. The Lucky Lil's business has taken over the site of a defunct motel and restaurant on 1605 Fox Farm Road. Area residents argue city zoning prohibits gambling on the property. City officials maintain it got a variance sometime in the 1960s that allows bars and casinos there.

Grizzly bears, are up and hungry in the Flathead Valley, according to the Kalispell Daily Interlake. State Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say their phones started ringing last weekend with reports of bears appearing in yards and golf courses. The bruins typically emerge from hibernation in March and April.

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