By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The ownership and management of the Heritage Center may soon change hands.
The Finance Committee of the Havre City Council heard the last of three proposals to purchase the downtown landmark at a meeting Tuesday night.
Jamie and Tom Lambrecht offered the city $100,000 for the center, with a $50,000 payment up front. Tom Lambrecht said the remaining money would be used to "perform immediate required improvements" - including boiler and heating system repairs, water damage repairs and plumbing improvements.
"These are issues that can't wait," he said. "It's important that we address them immediately."
The Lambrechts' proposal is contingent on the city receiving a grant from the Montana Department of Transportation's Community Transportation Enhancement Program, to repair the center's roof. CTEP funds transportation-related projects that are designed to "strengthen the cultural, aesthetic, and environmental aspects of Montana's intermodel transportation system." CTEP allows for the implementation of a variety of nontraditional projects like historic preservation.
If the city is approved for a CTEP grant for roof repairs on the historic building, Lambrecht said a portion of the $50,000 cash payment could be used to cover the 13 percent match of funds CTEP would require for the repairs. A new roof would cost an estimated $92,000.
Tom Lambrecht also asked the city for a five-year graduated tax abatement on the building.
He said he plans to continue the preservation and restoration of the center, while turning it into a "premier professional office complex and cultural center for the Hi-Line."
"It's a fabulous building with a lot of history," Lambrecht said. "We want it to be an attractive place for businesses to establish themselves in."
The Lambrechts said their combination of "historical passion" and business savvy would be a benefit to the center. Tom Lambrecht is superintendent of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway locomotive shop in Havre, with experience in both marketing and sales and finance. Jamie Lambrecht is the station manager for Big Sky Airlines at the Havre City-County Airport. She also has experience in property management and construction.
Tom Lambrecht said he hopes to keep the H. Earl Clack Museum in the building.
"That's a big part of our proposal," he said. "The museum is a cultural focal point at the center, and it's key that we maintain that. The museum makes the building attractive to other tenants."
Lambrecht said the county museum would be housed on a "cost basis," where it would be expected to help pay utilities, maintenance and security costs and janitorial services, which could total more than $1,000 - nearly the same amount the museum is currently struggling to pay the city for rent.
The Lambrechts said they plan to equip the center with conference and banquet facilities, high-speed Internet access and audio-visual and video abilities.
"Hopefully that will attract more tenants," Tom Lambrecht said. "We hope we've come up with a proposal that will satisfy everyone's needs."
The H. Earl Clack Foundation had leased the building since 1996, when the city purchased the former post office and federal courthouse from the U.S. Postal Service. When a five-year lease expired in 2001, the foundation continued to manage the building under a tenancy-at-will agreement with the city of Havre. The two parties had been attempting to negotiate a new lease when the foundation announced in May that it planned to relinquish management responsibility of the building on July 1 because of the cost.
Finance Committee members met with Jay Springer on June 28 to discuss his interest in purchasing the Heritage Center. Springer proposed allowing the Clack Foundation the opportunity to continue managing the building with his financial help for the next six months. At the end of that "grace period," Springer said, he would enter into a four-year lease with the city, with an option to buy the building for $113,000 at the end of the fourth year. Springer has said he will "bend over backwards" to keep the Clack Museum in the center.
Springer said leasing the building first helps ensure the city receives a grant from CTEP for roof repairs. CTEP funds are contingent upon the building remaining in city hands for three years.
"A lease would hopefully alleviate any legalities with CTEP," Springer said.
On June 30, the Finance Committee met with Charlie Grant, who said he was representing a private entity interested in purchasing the historic building for $1. Grant said today he's representing Jim Treperinas. Treperinas could not be reached for comment today.
Grant asked committee members to consider a proposal for a four-year property tax exemption on the building. Grant said the buyer would spend his money and resources fixing up the historic building, so more businesses would be attracted to setting up office space in the center. Grant was uncertain whether the museum would be allowed to stay.
At Tuesday's meeting, Clack Foundation president Elaine Morse said if the city picks a purchaser for the building, she would like council members to consider giving the purchase money to the foundation.
"The foundation has put all the money into the center," she said. "Besides CTEP funds, the city has not spent a dime in that building."
The Finance Committee hopes to vote on one of the three proposals for the Heritage Center at a meeting July 19 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.
"I can assure you, we will pick a buyer who best suits the museum and the heritage of the city of Havre," Finance Committee Chair Tom Farnham said Tuesday.