By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The east end park once known as Tourist Park may soon be getting $10,000 in new playground equipment after a City Council vote tonight.
The equipment is the result of a federal grant that freed up some money in the Havre Fire Department's capital improvement project fund, and Havre Mayor Bob Rice's efforts to transfer some of the money to use in the park.
Last year the Havre Fire Department received a $165,000 grant that helped pay for a new firetruck, Havre Fire Chief Dave Sheppard said this morning. That meant the department only had to use about $16,000 of the $70,000 it had set aside for the truck.
Sheppard said Rice came to him about two weeks ago to discuss the possibility of transferring some of the leftover money for another project.
"I guess we just sat down and talked about it," Sheppard said.
Rice proposed to use $10,000 of the newly available money for the park, located in the 1100 block of First Street.
"The way our funding is being cut, I think I need to take the opportunity to get things done now because I don't know if I'll be able to in the future," Rice said.
Sheppard said he was not reluctant to part with the money, and that he supports using it for the park.
"I think it's great," Sheppard said. "The CIP funds are a great way for the city departments to replace needed equipment." Sheppard said the rest of the money in the fund - about $40,000 if tonight's transfer is approved, will be used for replacing two old fire engines the department uses to fight wildland fires.
The Havre City Council will vote tonight on whether to approve the transfer, said City Council member Tom Farnham, who chairs the council's Finance Committee.
Rice began discussing upgrading the narrow park, which runs between First and Second streets, in May. Original plans included barbecue pits, a canopy and picnic tables in the grass to the north of the alley that divides the park, and new playground equipment to the south.
Then in July, turning the north part of the park into a tourist information center was one of six projects vying for federal gas tax dollars as part of the Community Transportation Enhancement Program.
The park upgrade was one of three projects approved by the city on July 14. Later in the month the plan changed. The Montana Department of Transportation agreed to pave the north half of the park to make up for parking spots that will be lost in the plan to repave and improve First Street. MDT engineering services supervisor Jason Giard said the plan would eliminate all streetside parking on the south side of First Street between Seventh and 12th Avenues.
City Council president Rick Pierson said that as a result of MDT's decision to pave part of the park, the city decided not to allocate CTEP money to the project because the mayor said he would find other money for the equipment.