Rocky Mountain Laboratory workers arrived at work to feed research animals on the morning of Sunday, Feb. 8, and found dead monkeys.

During the night, a thermostat malfunction had spiked temperatures in the animal holding facility to 100 degrees, compared to the 72 degree norm. An emergency alarm went off, but the signal didn’t reach facility guards, even though they’re on-site 24 hours a day.

The death toll included 13 squirrel monkeys and 74 hamsters used in Chronic Wasting Disease research. Thirteen additional squirrel monkeys survived the ordeal, as well as all 14 of the macaque monkeys. The monkeys that died were confined in cages close to the ceiling, where hot air collected. The alarm mechanism has since been rewired to better notify guards of future episodes.

But at a time when the facility is trying to convince the public of the safety merits of a proposed biosafety Level 4 expansion, the monkey incident casts doubts on the lab’s credibility.

If granted Level 4 status, the lab will be handling more than just monkeys. It will be in charge of protecting Hamilton from the deadly viruses to be studied in the expanded facility, the deadliest of which is the Ebola virus.

Friends of the Bitterroot member Jim Olsen called the malfunction “another example of stuff not working like it’s supposed to” at the lab.

Rocky Mountain Laboratory Associate Director Marshall Bloom notes that that response comes from a group known to oppose the lab’s expansion. More reasonable people, Bloom says, “have been impressed with how rapidly and completely Rocky Mountain Labs evaluated the situation, made the necessary modifications in procedure and notified all segments of the community,” Bloom said.

That’s reassuring: When Ebola escapes in the night, Hamiltonians can sleep soundly knowing they’ll be notified first thing in the morning.


Here’s an idea: Why don’t you busy homeowners just wait until the very last minute to weigh in on the University of Montana’s proposal to double your property taxes? UM Vice President Bob Duringer is on his knees begging for ideas to raise money for the Montana University System, but by all means don’t waste your breath before you have to. He’s a big boy; he can figure it out. Best to sit tight for now—If the property tax hike becomes a legislative initiative, there’ll be plenty of time to scream, holler and punch fists through particle board.

Last Tuesday, Duringer presented seven proposals for raising money for the pinched UM. The idea likely to draw the most criticism is the one where you folks pay. But fewer than 10 community members showed up at the presentation. Duringer described the showing as “pitiful” the following day, but says he wasn’t surprised at the low turnout. Over the phone, he said that UM could be giving away money; it could be hosting a public execution—the campus just doesn’t draw. Unbelievable. Perhaps his office has been flooded with phone calls, at least? “We have not received a call,” says Duringer. “Not one.”

Means y’all are on board, right? Sure. At any rate, here’s the logic behind the proposal: UM—especially its sports fans—spill plenty of cash into the city. Every kid scarfing a burger and beers after the game, or anyone swilling Bloody Marys at the Press Box at 10 in the morning on game day, puts money into the community—about $300 million each year. So, asks UM, how ’bout a little quid pro quo?

“Please,” said Duringer during one plea for input, “come and tell me if we’re full of beans or not.” Heed the man’s plea, folks. Wednesday night. 7:00. Gallagher Business Building Room 122. Help the poor guy out.

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