By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Communities in Hill County outside of Havre will have the opportunity to be more involved in the local historic preservation commission after a vote Monday night by the Havre City Council.
Also Monday night the council decided to buy a new street sweeper for about $100,000, and approved a new labor contract for 15 Havre firefighters that includes a 3 percent pay raise.
The council voted 8-0 to make the five-member Havre Historic Preservation Commission into a joint preservation commission made up of appointees from both the city and Hill County.
City Council member Emily Mayer, who was instrumental in forming the Havre Historic Preservation Commission in 2000 and is the Havre historic preservation officer, thanked the council for approving the resolution Monday.
"This has been a dream that's been going on for the past couple, three years now," Mayer told the council. "This will allow us to get out into the county and do a lot of work, a lot of research, a lot of documentation, and hopefully they'll be able to fight for people to do some preservation work out in the county." That documentation includes photographs of historic sites, as well as information about the people who lived there and details about what structures were used for and when they were built, she said today.
After the meeting, Mayer said the joint commission will hold some of its meetings in Hi-Line towns like Rudyard, Gildford and Kremlin. She said she hopes people from those communities will come to the meetings.
"They're not on the (historic) register, but that doesn't mean those structures don't have history that's worthy of preserving," Mayer said, adding that historic structures are not just old homes, but can include cultural landmarks like teepee rings.
Although the preservation commission has never turned away county people who are interested in historic preservation, Mayer said, the change means people in the county will have greater access to the consultations and referrals the commission provides, as well as its research and documentation, its preservation library, and its information about tax incentive information for restoring commercial buildings.
Mayer said about half of the preservation commissions in the state are joint city-county commissions.
The commission will now be made up of two members appointed by the county, two appointed by the city, and one at-large member appointed by the other four members.
State law requires those appointments to be made within 60 days, Mayer said.
Those five members will in turn appoint the historic preservation officer, who was previously appointed by the mayor of Havre. Mayer's two-year term as preservation officer will expire at the end of this year.
"If it's me, great. If it's not, that's fine too," she said.
Keith Doll, chair of the preservation commission, said today that the joint commission will be able to provide informational materials about Hill County's historic structures similar to its walking tour maps of Havre's historic residential district.
"I think it's great," he said. "Now we can spread farther and include the homes, businesses, schools and churches in Hill County."
The Hill County Commission signed the resolution on Oct. 6.
"The resolution we signed was just to expand the scope of the historic preservation into the county," Hill County Commission Chair Pat Conway said today. "Of course, the total effort is to establish a local historic preservation program and to promote the preservation of historic and prehistoric sites, structures, etc., and to identify and protect the historic sites also."
Havre Mayor Bob Rice said today that he received a copy of the resolution about three weeks ago. Rice said that when he received it, he wanted to make sure the preservation commission would not ask the city for money as the Clack Foundation has done to help it support the Heritage Center.
He said Mayer assured him that any money the preservation commission receives locally will be from donations only.
Mayer said today that the joint commission will not cost Havre or Hill County anything. The preservation office's annual budget of $4,125 comes from a federal grant, and Monday night's decision will not change how much the office is eligible for, she said.
Some other business took place Monday night:
The City Council voted 8-0 to accept a bid of $99,924 to buy the city a new street sweeper. The sweeper, which will be purchased from the Great Falls-based Western Plains Machinery Co., will replace one of the city's two existing sweepers. That sweeper, which is nearly 30 years old, has a blown transmission, Rice said today, and would not be worth repairing.
The second sweeper has a hole in the engine block, he said, but has been temporarily fixed. It will cost about $5,000 for a more permanent repair to the engine, Rice said. That repair, which he hopes will be done by summer, will come out of the vehicle maintenance fund in the Public Works Department budget, Rice said.
He said the city will probably take out a loan from the state to pay for the new sweeper.
City Clerk Lowell Swenson said today the money to pay off the loan will come out of the city's street maintenance fund, which comes from annual assessments added to city taxes.
Rice told the City Council that the bid by Western Plains Machinery, the only bid the city received, was "substantially under what I thought it was going to cost."
He said today he does not know when the new sweeper will be available.
The council approved by an 8-0 vote a one-year labor contract between the city and Local 601 of the International Association of Firefighters, which represents 15 Havre firefighters. The contract, tentatively agreed upon two weeks ago after months of negotiations, gives the firefighters a 3 percent raise retroactive to July 1, and splits this year's 45 percent health insurance premium increase equally between the city and the firefighters.