By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A pregnant woman fell through a Havre sidewalk into an underground coal chute, prompting Mayor Bob Rice to propose spending federal grant money to fill the 8-foot-deep chute.
The incident happened on July 2 on the sidewalk on the west side of Fourth Avenue between Second and Third streets. A 4-by-3-foot section of vaulted sidewalk embedded with square glass plates collapsed beneath Stacy Keller, sending her into the chute, Rice said.
Keller's two children ran into the nearby Havre Credit Bureau for help, and paramedics had to retrieve Keller and take her to the hospital, he said.
Rice did not know the extent of Keller's injuries, but said she has been bedridden, and is now at home.
Keller declined to comment today.
Rice said making the sidewalk safe is his No. 1 priority for using Community Transportation Enhancement Program grant funds this year. The Havre City Council will also consider five other projects competing for CTEP grants.
CTEP money is raised through federal gas taxes and is distributed annually by the Montana Department of Transportation. The city has about $78,000 for local improvement projects for next year.
"That's my number one project," Rice said Tuesday. "We're going to replace the whole sidewalk."
"When a lady that's four months pregnant falls through the sidewalk in downtown Havre, that's a major shock," he said.
At the annual public hearing for CTEP proposals on Monday night, Havre public works director Dave Peterson said the project would involve building a concrete wall under the sidewalk and then filling the chutes in with dirt and gravel.
The chutes were used by downtown businesses to store coal, and are accessible by a system of tunnels. The small glass plates allowed light into the chutes. There are similar glass plates in vaulted sidewalks in at least two other locations in town, Rice said. He said those areas, including tourist attraction Havre Beneath the Streets, were being reinforced with jacks on Tuesday.
Rice estimated the project would cost $50,000. He said he would ask the nearby businesses - Retro Works and the Havre Credit Bureau - to cover the 13.42 percent local match required for CTEP projects.
Many of the other five proposals that came before the City Council on Monday night had a common theme: pull tourists off the highway. Proposed projects ranged from a public mural to a pedestrian park.
The council will choose among the proposals competing for the federal transportation dollars later this month.
Local archaeologist John Brumley proposed a kiosk and mural along U.S. Highway 2 south of the Holiday Village Shopping Center or on the northern edge of the Hill County Fairgrounds.
The centerpiece of the project would be a by Medicine Hat artist Jim Marshall. Marshall has completed "dramatic artwork" for several public sites in the United States and Canada, Brumley said.
The theme of the mural would be the Wahkpa Chu'gn Bison Kill Site, which Brumley operates. Surrounding the mural would be panels focusing on other historical sites in the area.
"It is to snag people off the highway," Brumley said. "You're trying to attract the public's attention and make them stop."
He estimated the project would cost about $35,000.
Roberta Demarest, chief executive officer of D&B Partnership in Havre, proposed a community pedestrian park at the top of the hill above Kmart on the south side of Highway 2, on a sliver of property now owned by D&B Partnership.
The park, which would have dimensions and features similar to the Town Square on First Street, including pavement and trees, would allow people the chance to rest in the sun or rain, she said.
"I think it would be an appropriate site to attract tourists" as well as local people, Demarest said.
Demarest requested $10,000 for a feasibility study of the project, and estimated that the final project would cost about $175,000. She said she is investigating other sources of funding as well.
Havre park and recreation director Dave Wilson proposed a landscaping project for the city water plant on the west end of town, which he said might include a sign.
"I think it would be a great enhancement to the approach to town," Wilson said.
He estimated the cost would be $35,000
Havre resident Charlie Grant proposed to turn the small park between First and Second streets once known as Tourist Park into a tourist information center, with a new sign welcoming people to Havre.
Grant's proposal includes putting in a gazebo and some picnic tables, as well as wooden signs telling people what there is to do in Havre.
In the southern half of the park he proposes to put in new playground equipment.
"You could make that a crown jewel of our city," Grant said. "You would hold them here in Havre."
Grant said Tuesday morning he estimates the project will cost about $30,000.
Clack Foundation vice president Elaine Morse proposed to continue installing energy-efficient windows on the second and third floors of the Heritage Center. The windows were installed on the first floor and part of the second floor with CTEP money several years ago.
Morse said replacing the windows is critical to decreasing energy costs and operating costs of the building, and will increase the viability of the building.
Morse said the total project would cost about $95,000 per floor plus $10,000 for the engineering and architect fees, for a total of about $200,000.
Raising the 13.42 percent local match would be difficult for the foundation, but the project should still be pursued, Morse said.
"It's going to be a stretch, but if we don't do something to (improve) the long-term viability of this building ... I think we're being shortsighted," she said.
Bear Paw Development Corp. planner Craig Erickson said that before an application can be submitted, it must first be determined that the project would be eligible for CTEP funding. Projects must relate to surface transportation and be located on publicly controlled property.
Applications are due on July 31, Erickson said, so the City Council must make its decision on which projects to approve at its July 21 meeting.