By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Havre Mayor Bob Rice was sick of looking at the hill west of the Sixth Avenue Memorial Field, so he decided to do something about it.
"We're spending $40,000 on that ballpark, but right across the street we've got a big eyesore of an ugly hill," Rice said, referring to the hill directly south of Pro-Putt Golf on the west side of Fifth Avenue.
That's about to change. Rice has been planning for about a year now to do some landscaping, cover the hill with greenery, put in a retaining wall to prevent mudslides like the one that covered the sidewalk a year ago, and make a big white Havre Blue Pony H on the hill.
And he means big - 20 feet tall.
There was just one problem: money.
"There ain't no money, so I beg, borrow and get the materials from wherever I can," Rice said. The result, he said, is what he calls a "mercy project," and the cost will be very low.
The Montana Department of Transportation has agreed to donate cement pilings to create a retaining wall, and Rice is hoping to get between 15 and 20 high school students to volunteer to help with the H. When he ran the project by some students last year, they thought it was a great idea, he said.
"All I'll have to buy is the paint and the greenery" and the concrete to anchor the pilings, Rice said. "I'll probably pay for that myself."
Rice said he has a truck and trailer ready to pick up the pilings in Great Falls and today got final confirmation from the Department of Transportation.
About two tons of various-sized rocks for the H have already been saved up from various projects around town, Rice said.
"I hope to have it done by the time school's out," he said on Monday.
The wall will be about 3 feet tall and about 230 feet long, and set back from the sidewalk on the west side of Fifth Avenue about 3 feet, said Gary Schaub, the city's assistant public works director. Above the posts will be a flat area of a few feet dug back into the hillside with a combination of bushes, trees and flowers, he said. There will be grass between the sidewalk and the wall.
The white H will be dug into the slope above the retaining wall and filled in with painted rock and concrete, Rice said.
"Right now there's nothing," on the hill, Schaub said. "You've got dirt and mud and weeds." The project, he said, "should dress it up. It should go good with the project across the street." He added that the wall should prevent mud from the hill from getting on the sidewalk.
The city can began digging out the hillside now that an inspection Monday ensured that no power lines or utilities are in the way.
Schaub estimated the project would take 120 to 160 hours of work.
"I would suspect it'll be done by maintenance employees" volunteering their time, he said. Schaub said that as soon as there is a rainy day, he will go down to Great Falls to get the 180 pilings.
The pilings were removed from a state highway to be replaced with wood ones, Rice said.
The project will be built on the portion of the hill that is a state right of way. The part of the hill farther west is owned by Montana State University-Northern, Rice said.
Meanwhile, Sixth Avenue Memorial Field is due for some improvements. On March 17, the Havre City Council unanimously approved a $5,889 local match to a $38,001 state grant to that project.
The $43,890 project will include making it more handicap-accessible and putting in a landscaped memorial where the parking lot known as the pot lot now sits.
Work on the softball field renovation is slated to begin in June.