By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Tenants of the Heritage Center will soon be forced to pack their bags and move out of the downtown landmark. The city of Havre issued an eviction notice to the center's tenants Monday, giving them 30 days to vacate the building.
"Due to the city's inability to meet the financial obligations of the Heritage Center, it is of great regret that the city can no longer afford to operate the Heritage Center in the capacity in which it should be operated," the eviction notice said. ". effective Oct. 4, 2004, the city will start the process to close the doors of the Heritage Center."
The letter was signed by public works director Dave Peterson, on behalf of Havre Mayor Bob Rice. Rice refused to comment on the matter Wednesday. Peterson is at a Montana League of Cities and Towns conference in Kalispell this week and could not be reached for comment.
The city took over management of the Heritage Center on July 1, after the H. Earl Clack Foundation - which had leased the building since 1996 - relinquished management of the building, saying it couldn't afford to continue to do so. The city purchased the former post office and federal courthouse in 1996 from the U.S. Postal Service with $89,600 in federal highway funds. The building houses the county's H. Earl Clack Museum and some business offices.
The city on Sept. 17 received the green light from the Montana Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to move forward with its plans to sell the building. The building has since been advertised for sale in newspapers across the state.
City officials have estimated that the center brought in $3,000 per month in revenue, but said the building's operating costs hovered around $4,000 per month.
"This includes the bare minimum to operate the building. The current monthly costs for gas and electricity run on average of $2,300/month," a "letter of hardship" from Rice to MDT officials said Sept. 7. "This building is costing the city money that it does not have in its operating budget."
The $2,300 is the amount the Clack Foundation paid NorthWestern Energy under a budget billing plan. On Sept. 13, Peterson estimated the city's cost to run the building at $914 for the month of August. The city paid NorthWestern Energy $264 in August. But Peterson said heating the building during the winter would likely cost more than $2,300.
At the end of August, the city had a $3,700 cash balance in its Heritage Center account.
The North American Rural Futures Institute closed its doors and moved out of the Heritage Center Sept. 30. Rice has said that NARFI was paying the city $600 a month for rent. The county's H. Earl Clack Museum, which has paid the city $1,200 a month for rent since July, has been looking to relocate to the Holiday Village Shopping Center. The museum stayed in the center rent-free until the city took over managing the building. Rental and lease negotiations between the Clack museum board and Holiday Village are under way.
The museum board is holding a special meeting at 5 p.m. today to discuss its options to relocate to the mall.