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Southern decision expected today

By Jenn Rowell

Great Falls Tribune

A hearing is scheduled for this morning to approve the reorganization plan for Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative.
Most of the issues and earlier rejections of the plan have been resolved, and the plan is likely to be approved today or next week after some loose ends are tied up, said Andy Patten, an attorney representing some of the construction lien holders in the case.
But the plan that was filed in federal bankruptcy court in May remains largely intact, Patten said.
A few final documents need tweaking, he said, but he expects the plan will be approved by the bankruptcy court.
The plan, reached by the parties during the spring, calls for secured creditors Prudential Financial and Modern Woodmen of America to be paid $21 million from four remaining members of Southern Montana over a period of four years, and to receive proceeds from the sale of the Highwood Generating Station natural gas-fired power plant east of Great Falls. The umbrella cooperative borrowed $85 million from Prudential and Modern Woodmen to build the little-used power plant.
The plant is valued at $23.15 million and produces an annual property tax bill of $359,060 for Cascade County.
The four members of the cooperative are Beartooth Electric of Red Lodge, Fergus Electric of Lewistown, Mid Yellowstone Electric of Hysham and Tongue River Electric of Ashland. Beartooth Electric is still working to exit the co-op.

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