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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Valley News at a Glance

Plum Loco owner finds her niche

Open Lands Fair scheduled

Rapp Family Foundation grants available

Volunteer opportunity

Children need two doses to protect against H1N1

Leadership Montana now Accepting applications for Class of 2011

Victor garden plots possible

Local students named to MSU-Bozeman honor roll

Info and referral service available

Funding available for Montana projects

Commissioners’ Activity Report

Dean’s List

Plum Loco owner finds her niche

By Victoria Howell

The story of Ruth Carmona, owner of Plum Loco in Stevensville, sounds a bit like a fairytale. Ruth was born in Fresno, California to Mexican parents and when she was young she picked fruit with her family in the fields of California’s Central Valley. As a young single mother in the 1960s, she found herself looking for work in what was then becoming Silicon Valley. Knowing absolutely nothing about that, she noticed a building where bunches of women in smocks exited at the end of the workday. Thinking perhaps it was a candy factory, she decided to apply, only to find it was a computer electronics firm. Nevertheless, she got the job and worked her way up to a position as a silicon mask maker. She was later hired by Intersil Semiconductor and sent to work in Germany.

One day a visiting physicist noticed her at the front desk, and returned later to ask her to dinner. The physicist turned out to be the late Dr. Jean Hoerni, world-renowned Swiss inventor of the silicon chip. (Hoerni is also one the founders of the Central Asia Institute in Bozeman, of “Three Cups of Tea” fame, which funds the building of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.)

They were subsequently married and Ruth was introduced to an eye-opening new life, which included traveling the world and hobnobbing with the geniuses of the emerging computer industry. The two eventually divorced, but always remained dear friends. According to Ruth, Hoerni was her advisor and mentor. When he died, he left Ruth some money that allowed her to pursue an interest of her own.

Ruth’s interest turned out to be property development, an investment she much prefers to the stock market. She enjoys turning a piece of property, whether it be commercial or residential, into its best and highest use. Ruth relocated to the Bitterroot in 1995 where her daughter was living and bought a bar on the southeast corner of Main and Second in Stevensville. When vacant land that had once housed a gas station became available across the street, she purchased that and built a new building in 1999 and moved the bar into the new building in 2000.

In the early years in the new building, the business struggled to find its niche. Various people leased the kitchen, she tried bringing in live entertainment and other things. Ruth sold the business in 2005, but, lo and behold, she got the keys back in a repossession in 2008.

Now she had to do some serious thinking about what would work best in the space. She was feeling “rather desperate” as to what might be viable, and while eating at the popular Mexican restaurant “Fiesta en Jalisco” in Hamilton, the light bulb came on. Fiesta en Jalisco is a small chain (currently 10 restaurants) based in Tacoma, WA with restaurants throughout the Northwest. She contacted the management, and it was “a match made in heaven.” Incidentally, when the Stevensville Main Street Association did a consumer survey a few years ago on what businesses people would like to see in Stevensville, “Mexican restaurant” was at the top of the list.

Roger Hutchison, the builder of the original Plum Loco building, did the remodel work to incorporate the restaurant and kitchen. Now open about a year, the restaurant is extremely popular and the managers, Antonio and Amber Verbera, have settled in nicely into the fabric of Stevensville’s downtown. They are active members of the Main Street Association and are currently partnering with the Stevensville Playhouse to offer “dinner and a play” at a discount.

Ruth runs the much smaller adjacent bar herself these days, showing up every morning to sweep and clean and do whatever’s needed with the help of a small crew. Plum Loco was the first bar in Stevensville to go “smoke free,” definitely Ruth’s preference. Perhaps because Ruth is admittedly a “clean freak,” the interior is spotless, a great place to meet for a drink before dinner or beer and nachos with friends.

Recently Ruth heard that the Stevensville pool may not open this year if money can’t be raised to operate it. So she is holding a “Save the Pool” raffle for a wine cooling cabinet. Tickets are $2 each and she is offering a bonus to the employee who can sell the most tickets. The drawing will be April 1st.

No one knows what the future holds, but for now Ruth and her Plum Loco seem to have found their niche.

“I feel really blessed,” says Ruth, “and I want to thank the community for their support of my business, and for the support of the new restaurant.”

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Open Lands Fair scheduled

Ravalli County voters have put their money where their mouth is when it comes to preserving open lands. The voter-approved $10 million Open Lands Bond Program is proof of that. And if you want to find out more about that program, or about Conservation Easements in general, there will be no better opportunity than at the Open Lands Fair scheduled for Saturday, February 27, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Bedford Building, 223 S. 2nd Street, in Hamilton.

Presentations are planned by Glen Marx from the Montana Association of Land Trusts, Grant Kier from the Five-Valleys Land Trust, and Dan Walker, former Chair of the Ravalli County Open Lands Board. Roundtable discussions will be hosted with land use attorneys, appraisers, Land Trust members, and representatives of various funding agencies. Dennis Dellwo of the Natural Resources and Conservation Service will be on hand to talk about the Farm and Ranch Protection Program.

But best of all, according to Jon Wickersham at the County Planning Department, it will be a good opportunity for interested landowners to talk to other landowners in the valley who have placed conservation easements on their property.

Wickersham said that the Open Lands Fair would be a good place to find some answers to some simple but fundamental questions such as, “What do land trusts do?” “Why put my land in a conservation easement?” “What are the benefits?” “What am I giving up?”

This Open Lands Fair is focusing upon the role of agricultural land in the Open Lands Bond Program and Land Trust easements across the valley. Wickersham said that, in keeping with that focus on agricultural production, refreshments that are locally produced will be served. He said there would be meat, cheese, apple cider and other refreshments, all produced by local farmers.

The Open Lands Fair is being sponsored by the Ravalli County Planning Department and the Open Lands Board. Questions about the event can be directed to Jon Wickersham at the County Planning Department, 375-6530.

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Rapp Family Foundation grants available

The Rapp Family Foundation is now accepting grant applications for the first quarter of 2010. Completed applications must be received by Friday, March 12, 2010 for consideration in this quarter.

The Foundation makes grants available to Ravalli County non-profit organizations or individuals applying through a non-profit organizations. The foundation is receptive to requests from small organizations utilizing volunteer-based services and asking for matching funds for a specific need instead of funds for general purposes, salaries or continuing support. Primary consideration is given to requests of $3,000 or less. Application forms can be completed by non-professional grant writers.

Application forms are available only by sending an email request to HYPERLINK "" or HYPERLINK "" and need to be submitted back to the same email addresses.

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Volunteer opportunity

The Bison Internet Café is a not-for-profit endeavor to create a safe and comfortable alternative to bars and casinos as an evening destination in Hamilton. Volunteers are needed to act as hosts to welcome the public to utilize the five computer stations or socialize in the sofa area. No special computer skills are required; but individual trainings can be arranged, if desired. Training in general operating procedures will be provided.

Those interested to volunteer some time during the operating hours of Thursday through Sunday, 4 to 10:00 p.m., are invited to attend an introductory session to learn more. Come to the Café on Saturday, February 13 at 2:30 p.m. for a brief overview of services and mission and how you can get involved. The Bison Internet Café is located at 164 S. 3rd Street, Hamilton. If you have questions, call Denelle at the Café at 363-2222 or e-mail to

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Children need two doses to protect against H1N1

Children need two doses of vaccine to be fully protected from the 2009 H1N1 virus, state public health officials said Tuesday, February 2.

Department of Public Health and Human Services officials are encouraging parents, guardians, and physicians to be sure children aged 6 months through 9 years are properly vaccinated.  “Most children who have already had one dose of vaccine will need a second dose,” said DPHHS Director Anna Whiting Sorrell. “The second dose should be given 28 or more days after the first vaccination.”

Since April 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received over 250 reports of laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated deaths among children caused by the H1N1 influenza.  The CDC estimates that over 1,100 deaths among children have probably occurred in the US.  Children younger than 5 years old have higher rates of hospitalization caused by the 2009 H1N1 influenza than any other age group, and school age children have the highest rates of infection.

The Montana Public Health Laboratory has confirmed 801 total cases of H1N1 infections in the state.  DPHHS reports that 173 of those cases resulted in hospitalizations and 17 in death.  One of those deaths was a child.

Vaccination is the best form of prevention of influenza and its complications.  A second (booster) dose of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine given 28 or more days after the first dose is needed to achieve full protection in children from 6 months through 9 years old.

“There is plenty of vaccine available in Montana for every child who needs that second dose,” said Whiting Sorrell.  “We also have enough for anyone who hasn’t yet received their initial 2009 H1N1 vaccination.”  

Local health departments throughout Montana have vaccine on hand to cover all residents, especially those with underlying health concerns, such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma.  Children should be vaccinated twice to achieve full protection from the 2009 H1N1 virus.

Information about the 2009 H1N1 vaccine and the virus is available at local health departments by calling 1-877-701-8555 or visiting the DPHHS website at

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Leadership Montana now Accepting applications for Class of 2011

Leadership Montana, a statewide collaboration of higher education, community and business leaders, has begun accepting applications for the Class of 2011. This will be Leadership Montana’s seventh annual class. There are over 260 participants from 45 Montana communities who have participated in Leadership Montana.

Leadership Montana will present a seven-session program of business and policy education. Also included will be a program of leadership skill development focusing on the principles of community trusteeship, “The Integrated Work of Leadership.” Participants will be selected to ensure diversity of ideas, commitment to the long-term future of Montana, and a willingness to play a leadership role. The program will be conducted in locations across the state, beginning with an Orientation and Retreat in Big Sky on September 8, 2010. Ultimately, Leadership Montana members throughout Montana will form an important bond, creating a powerful network of energy, talent and leadership.  

Funding for Leadership Montana is supported by more than ninety organizations from around the state. Leadership Montana, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with offices located on the Downtown Campus of Montana State University-Billings, through the support of the University.

Leadership Montana provides unique experiences and opportunities to meet Montana’s leaders.  Included in this year’s program have been Montana’s Governor, Justices of the Montana Supreme Court, the Montana Board of Regents and Commissioner of Higher Education, tribal leaders and business and civic leaders in wide variety of fields including education, tourism, military, agriculture and healthcare.  

Programs for the Class of 2011 will be conducted in Big Sky, Butte, Missoula, Great Falls, Helena, Havre and Billings.  

The seventh class of Leadership Montana will include approximately 40-participants. Tuition will be $2,500 for the seven-session program. Tuition assistance may be available on a limited basis. Applications must be received by March 31, 2010.  

The application form, program schedule and more information is available at

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Victor garden plots possible

Do you need a garden plot in Victor? The school owns four acres on 5th Street, and the school board is considering a development plan for this land. Part of the field could be used for gardens for the community and school if there is enough interest. If you or someone you know would like to have a low-cost garden plot in Victor in spring, or would like to volunteer for school or community gardens, call Luci Brieger at 642-3943. The board needs to hear from you by March. Spread the word!

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Local students named to MSU-Bozeman honor roll

Montana State University has announced its undergraduate honor rolls for fall semester 2009.

There are two MSU honor roll lists: the President's and the Dean's Honor Roll. Students must complete a minimum of 12 credit hours to be on either list.

Students with a perfect 4.0 grade point average for the semester were named to the President's Honor Roll. An asterisk follows the names of the 487 students named to the MSU President's Honor Roll in the listing below.

The Dean's Honor Roll includes the 2,149 students earning grade point averages of  3.5 or above for the semester.

Students named to MSU's President's or Dean's Lists, ordered according to their hometowns, follow.

Corvallis: Grey Chadwick, Carol Froseth, Zachariah Hennager*, Michele Henson, Forrest Hoyt, Kyle Hoyt, Desirae Lindquist, Daniel Meuchel, Heather Wofford

Darby: Shelby Rogala

Florence: Paul Dallapiazza, Kayla Daniels, Jenny Lawson, Kevin McChesney*, Elizabeth Miller*, Joshua Peterson, Scott Sharp

Hamilton: Ashley Albert, Megan Baker, Kathryn Cheetham, Jesse Ehli, Kjerstine Fischer, Breanna Holmes, Jessica Huggans, Daniel LaCroix, Andrew Miller, Laura Moran*, Michael Raveling, Sydney Stewart, Lillian Stirling, Susan Torre

Hardin: Erin Flack, Nicole Foster*, Chance Johnson, Mary Bethany McMaster, Sarah Norby

Lolo: Karen Laing, Nathan Norberg

Stevensville: Brittany Constantino, Daniel Daley, Nikole Disney, Jordan Kaler, Eric Loya*, Erin McCormack*, Emily Miwa-Vogan*, Matthew Piedalue*

Sula: Alyssa Wetzsteon

Victor: Michaela Hasenkrug.

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Info and referral service available

Need help locating assistance with food, housing, daycare, support groups or other human services? Call 211/First Call For Help. Call 211 or 549-5555.

211/First Call For Help is a telephone information and referral service. Trained staff can analyze your unique problems and provide information or refer you to the social services designed to meet your needs. 211/First Call For Help is a service of the Human Resource Council and United Way of Missoula County.

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Funding available for Montana projects

The University of Montana Wilderness Institute is accepting proposals for grants that support historical research, creative writing and wilderness studies projects that explore Montana’s land and people.

The grants range from $400 to $1,000 and are awarded through the Matthew Hansen Endowment, established in 1984 as a memorial to Hansen and his ideals. The deadline to submit proposals is March 1. Awards will be announced in April.

Projects should encourage mindful stewardship of the land and contribute to the preservation of Montana’s cultural heritage. Proposals from individuals will take precedence over those from institutions. The endowment committee recommends projects that can be completed in one year.

Proposals must be no more than two pages long and describe how the idea originated, what the project hopes to accomplish, how it is related to Montana’s heritage and whom it will benefit. In addition to the proposal, applicants must submit a detailed budget, timeline and a brief personal resume of qualifications. They also should include a project cover page with their name, contact, project title and budget, and submit seven copies of the proposal and seven copies of a previous work, if available.

Send proposals to The Matthew Hansen Endowment, Wilderness Institute, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula MT 59812. For more information, call 243-5361, e-mail or visit

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Commissioners’ Activity Report

Weeks of Feb. 1 and 8

Friday, Feb. 5:

-Voted 4-0 to approve purchase of building for Search and Rescue. (Not voting: Grandstaff)

Monday, Feb. 8:

-Voted 4-0 to authorize final payment of $34,932.56 to BN Builders for 911 remodel. (Not voting: Rokosch)

-Voted 5-0 to issue credit card with a limit of $2,000 to the Public Health office manager.

-Voted 5-0 reauthorize indigent burial agreement with funeral homes.

-Voted 5-0 to authorize the chair’s signature on WGM contract for work on Florence school CTEP project in an amount not to exceed $1,500.

-Voted 5-0 to appoint Carolyn Weisbecker to fill an unexpired term on the Tax Appeals Board.

Tuesday, Feb. 9

-Voted 5-0 to approve submission of cadastral phase three grant.

-Voted 2-3 to appoint Jack Barber to the fair commission. (Voting yes: Iman, Grandstaff; voting no: Rokosch, Chilcott, Driscoll); motion failed.

-Voted 5-0 to appoint RAN Pigman to the fair commission.

-Voted 5-0 to appoint Theresa Manzella to the animal protection and control board.

-Voted 5-0 to appoint Penney Howe to the animal protection and control board.

-Voted 5-0 to purchase the water treatment system for the airport from Kinetico for $1.

-Voted 5-0 to approve county credit card policy.

-Voted 5-0 to approve the employee training reimbursement policy.

Thursday, Feb. 11

-Voted 5-0 to approve the annual storm water permit with DEQ for the Hamilton airport.

-Voted 5-0 to approve submission of the Office of Violence Against Women grant application to the U.S. Department of Justice in the amount of $388.608.39; and voted 5-0 to approve two associated documents: letter of assurance and Memorandum of Understanding with participating agencies.

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Dean’s List

Hill named to Dean’s List

Jenni Hill of Victor was named to the fall semester Dean's List at the University of Great Falls in Great Falls. The Dean's List recognizes students who have received a 3.5 or higher grade point average.

Walters named to Dean’s List

Sherry Walters of Stevensville was named to the fall semester Dean's List at the University of Great Falls in Great Falls. The Dean's List recognizes students who have received a 3.5 or higher grade point average.

Nalls named to Dean’s List

William P. Nalls, a junior from Stevensville, was among the 710 students named to the Gonzaga University Dean's List for fall semester 2009. Students must earn a 3.5 to 3.69 grade-point average to be listed.

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