By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
After a delay on the state level and an early dose of winter weather, the project to replace the leaky Heritage Center roof has been postponed until next spring.
"The season just came up on us pretty fast," said Debe VandenBoom, building manager at the Heritage Center. She said the project will be put out for bids in late February with construction starting in early spring.
"As far as I know, it was tied up at the state level with the plans, making sure everything was the way it should be," she said.
VandenBoom said waiting through another winter isn't ideal.
"It is a concern, but a bigger concern would have been to start the roof and tear it off and have nothing," she said.
"We just have to do what's best for the building, so we just have to wait until spring," said Elaine Morse, vice president of the H. Earl Clack Foundation, which maintains the building and was responsible for raising the money to cover the local match for the project. Morse added that she hopes there will be no more damage to the roof this winter.
The historic building, which houses the county museum and several private offices, has been plagued by monthly shortfalls as well as a variety of expensive maintenance issues, including two aging boilers and the leaky roof. After funds were approved for the project this spring, Morse said she hoped the roof would be fixed before another winter went by. That hope faded in late October as a balmy autumn died under a blanket of white.
Craig Erickson, planner at Bear Paw Development Corp., said the state's environmental review took two months longer than expected. He said he doesn't know why the review took so long.
Pete Brown, historic architecture specialist with the State Historic Preservation Office, said he received the proposal for the project on June 12, approved it and sent it to the Montana Department of Transportation for its approval on June 26.
John Axline of MDT, who Brown said would have been the next person to handle the proposal, could not be reached for comment today.
Because of the delay, Milk River Engineering did not get clearance from the state to bid the project out until Oct. 1, Erickson said, and the bid would have been advertised for two weeks before a contractor could have been chosen. Work probably wouldn't have started until Nov. 1, he said.
Erickson said the bid likely would have been high because contractors are busy in the fall, and because the weather is often bad.
"It's all ready to go. We're just waiting now to get through the winter and we'll advance," he said.
The entire roof replacement is expected to cost about $75,000.
In June of 2001 the Havre City Council approved spending about $53,000 in CTEP funds for the roof project. The city purchased the building in 1996.
In April of 2003 the Havre City Council voted to spend an additional $9,800 in CTEP funds for an engineering report and construction oversight.
CTEP funding comes from the Community Transportation Enhancement Program, a federal program administered by the state Department of Transportation that give cities and counties grants for various public projects. Every project that uses CTEP funding requires a 13.42 percent local match.
Morse said most of the match is being paid for with money from the insurance settlement for damage caused to the Heritage Center by a severe hail storm that pounded Havre this summer.
The city bought the Heritage Center from the U.S. Postal Service for $150,000. The Clack Foundation leased the building from the city and has continued to pay to keep the building running since its lease expired in 2001.