Great Falls Tribune: Senate approves bill giving $13 million to area

Great Falls’ area agencies are getting a big chunk of change from the federal appropriations bill approved by the U.S. Senate this afternoon — including $10.6 million for Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Democrats, announced where funds will be directed for several projects across the state.

Members of the Senate approved Sunday afternoon a $1.1 trillion spending bill that combines six of the 12 annual appropriates for the 2010 budget year, which began Oct. 1. The funding still has to be signed into law by President Obama.

Malmstrom will receive $10.6 million to upgrade its weapons storage area and an additional $7.6 million to build a new Armed Forces Reserve Center in Great Falls.

“This new construction at our weapons storage area will significantly enhance the mission of the 341st Missile Wing and the 819th RED HORSE Squadron,” said Col. Michael Fortney, commander of the 341st. “We are thankful for the continuous support of our Montana delegation.”

In all, Great Falls area programs are receiving $13,511,500 in federal funds. It isn’t clear at this point what the total funding bill is for the state of Montana.

“I support this funding for Great Falls because it’s a smart investment in Montana–and in our nation’s safety–that will create jobs and will build a safer, stronger community,” Tester said. “This is important funding for Great Falls that will benefit all folks in the region for generations to come.”

The Great Falls Transit District will receive $974,000 to replace several buses in its fleet that supporters say are in “desperate need” of replacement.

Benefis Health System is set to receive $500,000. Benefis indicated this summer the money would be used for a mobile cancer screening lab that will reach some of Montana’s rural communities.

The Great Falls Development Authority will receive $937,500, with $500,000 going toward completely reconstructing and paving Black Eagle Road north of town for more heavy industrial business development. Another $300,000 will be spent on getting sewer and water lines to soon-to-be-announced location of the industrial park and another $137,500 will go to the Development Authority’s Central Montana Growth Fund, which provides gap financing for start up businesses.

“We’re very appreciative of the delegation,” said Brett Doney, president and CEO of the Great Falls Development Authority. “These are high priority (projects) for Great Falls.”

Doney said Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Montana, also was instrumental in the funding process. All of the funding here is for shovel-ready projects that, at least in the industrial park, will hopefully be under construction early this spring, Doney said.

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