By Tim Leeds
The Havre Area Chamber of Commerce and the city of Havre are teaming up to find out what the people of Havre want First Street to look like when the Montana Department of Transportation rebuilds it.
"We want this to be a community project as much as a state project," Chamber member Janine Donoven said today.
The Chamber has designed a survey to find out how many lanes people want the street to have, whether part of the street should be kept open while construction is going on, whether they would prefer asphalt or concrete to be used in the construction, and how beautification should be done.
Chamber member Ron Brenna said the issue the most people are interested in is probably the number of lanes.
"Because everybody's worried about parking," he said.
MDT plans to start construction in 2006 or 2007 to completely rebuild the highway, starting from the west edge of Havre near the water treatment plant at Ninth Avenue West to 24th Avenue, near the old Kmart building. The project includes reconstructing the pavement, changing signs, traffic signals and lanes as necessary, striping lanes and improving drainage.
Business owners in downtown Havre have raised concern that businesses would be hurt if they lose onstreet parking. That is one of the options if a turning lane is put in with four traffic lanes.
Donoven, Brenna and Robert Floren have been heading up committees to examine the options. Donoven, of J.M. Donoven Designs in Fine Jewelry, is in charge of the beautification part of the project. Floren, of Floren's Hill County Printing, has been examining the options for detours. Brenna, of Havre Laundry and Dry Cleaning, is heading up the committee looking at construction during the project.
Floren said one concern is having detours through residential sections of town. It could cause problems if large trucks carrying freight drive down Third Street at 2 a.m., he said.
But that's not decided yet, Brenna said. The reason the survey is being done is to find out people's concerns and deas, he said.
"We don't want to get everyone excited about something that might not happen," he said.
Dave Peterson, Havre's director of public works, said that while MDT has said it will give careful consideration to public comment, there are restrictions and requirements the department has to follow in designing the street.
"But we can still voice our opinion," Donoven said.
The survey is being done in conjunction with Havre Mayor Bob Rice's office. Debbie Vandeberg, executive director of the Chamber, said Rice has volunteered his office to collect and collate the data.
The surveys are due back to the mayor's office by March 7.
She said MDT and its consultant, Morrison Maierle Inc., generally work directly with government agencies.
"(Rice) wants us to partner with him, but Morrison Maierle and MDT want their contacts with the city," she said.
Rice said collecting community input is very important.
"I think it's a necessity when we're dealing with a project of this magnitude," he said.
The survey is being printed in the Havre Daily News. The Chamber is making announcements about it on the local radio stations, is mailing the survey to all businesses listed in its business directory and may distribute it door-to-door. The survey will also be available at City Hall and at other locations.
Brenna said conducting the survey has several purposes. It will solicit the thoughts of people in the community, and will allow the city to present a united voice to Morrison Maierle.
It will also help keep contention from arising later in the process by allowing people to express their opinions in advance, he added.
Rice said the highway project gives Havre a great opportunity.
"I think it will be a vast improvement over what we have," he said.
Donoven said people interested in participating in the discussion are welcome to attend the committee meetings. They can contact her, Brenna or Floren to find out when the meetings are being held, she said.