The Top 10 story lists that crop up everywhere at this time of year inevitably include a lot of bad news. And while the Chronicle's list of top stories in 2010 certainly includes some of, it also contains a refreshing amount of good news, too.

The bad news in 2010 included the fatal shooting of Montana Highway Patrol Trooper David DeLaittre earlier this month, followed by the suicide death of the shooter, Errol Brent Bouldin, in his pickup truck 30-some miles north of Three Forks. Online voters and the entire staff of the Chronicle ranked that the No. 1 story of the year.

Other unhappy news included the June 30 hailstorm, the grizzly bear attack on a Cooke City campground that killed one camper and the October arrest of former Bozeman High School track coach James Michael Evans on charges of "sexting" female runners.

Falling somewhere between good and bad news, depending on the reader's point of view, were the ongoing story of how best to manage the growing population of wolves outside Yellowstone National Park.

The same could be said of the economic news. Although unemployment hovered above 7 percent and nonprofit organizations reported record demand for social services ranging from food to housing in 2010, a surprising number of new businesses opened in Bozeman and the federal government injected more than $120 million into the Gallatin County economy.

On the good news end of the spectrum, the Chronicle's Top 10 list included the city of Bozeman getting a handle on how best to manage the explosion of medical marijuana sales in the city, the arrival of the new Montana State University President Waded Cruzado to seemingly universal acclaim and the beginning of construction to fill in the hole left behind by the 2009 natural-gas explosion downtown.

And thanks for reading.

Happy new year.

- Karin Ronnow

1. YOUNGEST MONTANA HIGHWAY PATROL TROOPER GUNNED DOWN; THREE FORKS REMEMBERS

When Montana Highway Patrol Trooper David DeLaittre stopped to check on a truck stopped in the middle of a road outside Three Forks on Dec. 1, the truck's driver shot him to death.

After an extensive search for DeLaittre's assailant, authorities found the body of the 56-year-old shooter, a Three Forks resident named Errol Brent Bouldin, in his pickup several miles south of Townsend.

Bouldin died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Broadwater County Sheriff Brenda Ludwig said. Had he not taken his own life, he would have died from the wounds he sustained in the crossfire during the 4:30 p.m. incident on Montana Highway 2, she said.

This was the fourth death in the highway patrol in four years. DeLaittre, who was 23, was the eighth and youngest trooper killed in the line of duty and the first shot since 1978.

When he joined highway patrol two years before his death, he became the fifth generation in his family to serve as in law enforcement.

His funeral, held Dec. 7 in the Three Forks High School gymnasium, drew thousands of mourners including hundreds of law-enforcement officers from across the country and Canada.

- Jodi Hausen

 

2. HAILSTORM DAMAGES CARS, BUILDING

On June 30, a massive hailstorm ripped through Bozeman, leaving a path of destruction that will take years to repair.

Hailstones the size of golf-balls rained down in a 30-minute torrent, shattering windows, tearing apart theater marquees and leaving roofs in tatters. In the farmland surrounding Bozeman, Four Corners-area farmers bore the brunt of the tempest, with farmers like Sherwin Leep on Gooch Hill Road reporting that most of the hay crop was destroyed by the storm.

In its aftermath, one insurance agent predicted that Gallatin County residents would submit a total of $60 million in claims to insurance companies. Montana State University predicted it lost $100,000 worth of windows alone.

When the storm hit, some roofing companies were just getting around to fixing roofs that had been damaged in the similar, although less severe, hailstorm of 2008. For the rest of the summer and into the fall, the pop-pop-pop of roofers' nail guns could be heard across the city.

- Daniel Person

 

3. GRIZZLY BEAR, CUBS ATTACK CAMPGROUND

On July 28, a 221-pound grizzly sow ravaged Soda Butte Campground near Yellowstone National Park, killing one person - Kevin Kammer of Grand Rapids, Mich. - and injuring two others.

Kammer was a married father of four and had been on a solo camping trip.

Deb Freele of London, Ontario, and Ronald Singer of Alamosa, Colo., were both bitten by the bear and sustained minor injuries.

The grizzly was caught and euthanized, and her three cubs were taken to ZooMontana in Billings.

An in-depth investigation on the grizzly offered little explanation of what had led to the deadly attacks, although it did find that the victims did nothing to bring the attacks on themselves.

- Carly Flandro

 

4. BOZEMAN TACKLES MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Medical marijuana became more visible in Bozeman as people flocked to clinics to get their "green cards" and pot shops cropped up across town.

Like many cities across the state, Bozeman city officials created new laws to deal with the drug. And now, six months into the city's new system, officials say those rules are working.

At last count, Bozeman had licensed 17 medical marijuana storefronts and 41 caregivers who deliver cannabis to patients in town.

Medical marijuana, however, has not been without controversy, and the Montana Legislature is expected to consider several measures to curtail the drug's availability when it meets this January.

- Amanda Ricker

 

5. WOLVES, WOLVES, WOLVES

In August, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy ruled that the federal government had violated the Endangered Species Act when it used the Wyoming state line to determine which wolves are endangered and which are not.

This year also marked the 15th anniversary of wolves being reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park -- a move that has been called "the most controversial feat of conservation in United States' history."

Since then, ranchers, hunters, conservationists and politicians have been among those speaking out on the way those wolves - and others across the United States - are managed.

- Carly Flandro

 

6. WADED CRUZADO SELECTED AS MSU PRESIDENT

In January 2010, Waded Cruzado became Montana State University's first woman and first minority president, as well as the state's highest-paid employee.

Cruzado quickly went about winning hearts and minds, holding listening sessions around the state, making budget decisions to prevent layoffs, heeding a rare student protest by saving MSU's microbiology department, and knitting together all four MSU campuses into "one university."

Everywhere Cruzado went, she spoke of MSU's special role as a land-grant university, a democratic institution created to educate "the sons and daughters of the working class." MSU is "your university," she told audiences in her Puerto Rican accent, and people seemed to love her message and her style.

Cruzado won Board of Regents' approval to move administration of two-year and job-training education on the Bozeman campus from Great Falls to Bozeman, and gave the Gallatin College Programs a more visible home in the center of campus.

In the fall, Cruzado won the affection of Bobcat fans by embracing plans for a $10 million expansion of the football stadium. The Bobcats' 21-16 defeat of the arch-rival Grizzlies seemed to cap Cruzado's rookie-year good fortunes.

- Gail Schontzler

 

7. DOWNTOWN RECONSTRUCTION

In October, 18 months after the natural-gas explosion leveled half a block of East Main Street, the American Legion was the first to rebuild, reopen and begin filling the hole.

Plans also started taking shape for the Legion's neighbors to follow suit. Two doors down, construction began on the F&H Building, which will house the Rockin' R Bar and Santa Fe Red's restaurant.

Most recently, NorthWestern Energy, the company that owns the leaky natural gas service line thought to have caused the explosion, settled most of the major lawsuits subsequently filed against it. The terms and settlement amounts were kept confidential.

- Amanda Ricker

 

8. BOZEMAN HIGH TRACK COACH ARRESTED FOR SENDING SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MESSAGES TO FEMALE ATHLETES

On Oct. 28, a Bozeman High School track coach was arrested and charged with sending sexually explicit text and images from his cell phone to his female athletes' phones.

James Michael Evans, 29, was initially charged with one count of felony sexual abuse of children and two counts of misdemeanor obscenity.

But earlier this month, prosecutors added a second count of sexual abuse of children and a third obscenity charge.

Bozeman police investigating the allegations said Evans had been communicating with a 15-year-old girl by cell phone for two months, school and law enforcement officials said the day of his arrest. Police said Evans tried to entice female students to engage in sexual conduct and sent three of them electronic messages and images with inappropriate sexual content.

A BHS graduate, Evans resigned his track coaching and assistant football coaching positions when he was arrested. He is currently out on $50,000 bail.

- Jodi Hausen

 

9. WATER MAIN BREAKS, FLOODS PARTS OF BOZEMAN

When one of Bozeman's main water supply lines broke underneath South Black Avenue on the last day of July, the street became a temporary rush of water that one city worker compared to the Madison River.

Four million gallons of water gushed out of the water main on July 31. Some people took the opportunity to cool off in the rushing streams, but the break had serious consequences for Black Avenue landowners from the 1000 block of South Black to the avenue's intersection with Beall Street.

Many homeowners saw their yards and basements flooded. At least two tenants in an apartment building on South Black had to temporarily move out because of the water.

Two weeks later, the city's insurance denied payment for the property damage, as did most of the affected people's homeowner insurance companies.

However, using its "goodwill" insurance policy, funded by residents' water bills, the city was able to reimburse people for damage. As of Oct. 16, the city had reimbursed residents $40,000 and all but three of 13 claims submitted to the city had been paid in full. The biggest claim was $11,240.

- Daniel Person

 

10. GALLATIN VALLEY DEALS WITH ECONOMIC DOLDRUMS

The economy was so rotten in 2010, many people would rather just forget the whole year.

Thanks to the national Great Recession and the housing bubble's burst, Gallatin County lost 5,600 jobs in two years, nearly half of them in construction. The county's unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent in March, and by November had only edged down to 7.4 percent.

Signs of misery: The Gallatin Valley Food Bank served record numbers of hungry people. Home foreclosures filled the newspaper's legal ads. Median home prices fell nearly 10 percent.

Signs of hope: New businesses keep opening, including restaurants, coffee shops, REI and a second Town & Country Foods. RightNow Technologies hired 100 people. Downtown Bozeman saw two new buildings rise in the giant hole created by the devastating 2009 natural gas explosion. Bank deposits in the county reached a new record, the state's third highest, as people sought a safe place to stash their cash. Montana State University student enrollment reached a new high. Gallatin County's census count hit a record high.

The county's economy was goosed by $127 million in federal stimulus money, which was spent on everything from upgrading an MSU research lab, to keeping teachers employed, paying unemployment benefits, fixing freeways and repairing Bozeman tennis courts.

Gallatin County's diversified economy was still one of the strongest in the state, state economist Paul Polzin said in August, declaring, "The good news is that bad news is over."

We'll find out in 2011.

- Gail Schontzler

 

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