By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Appliances and fixtures salvaged from demolished houses are finding a new lease on life, and helping to support Havre students in the process.
In the driveway of Havre residents Kathie and Pat Newell, bargain shoppers will find an array of still-useful home appliances including cabinets, washers and dryers, fridges, lighting fixtures and books. All of them are being sold as a fund-raiser for the Havre Public Schools Education Foundation.
The Newells volunteered the use of their home to store and sell the items, which were taken from homes in North Havre slated for razing. HPS Education Foundation partnered with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and Baltrusch Construction Co. to acquire some of the items after BNSF purchased the homes to demolish them.
BNSF began purchasing homes in North Havre last year as part of a settlement of a lawsuit, the railroad said.
More than 80 residents had earlier filed suit against the railroad, claiming groundwater had been contaminated by chemical spills at the Havre railyard.
Since July of last year, BNSF has obtained the rights of first purchase on more than 75 North Havre homes. A right of first purchase means that if the landowner decides to sell, the railroad gets the first chance to make the purchase.
Some of the houses purchased by the railroad have been demolished. Baltrusch Construction was contracted to destroy the homes, and had rights to salvage fixtures and appliances, said Byron Ophus, treasurer of the HPS Education Foundation. Baltrusch in turn donated many of the items to the HPS Education Foundation, he said.
Since early summer, foundation board members have taken turns hauling loads of appliances from North Havre to their temporary home in the Newells' driveway, Ophus said.
"We've got fridges, freezers, cupboards, light fixtures, sinks, toilets - about any type of household appliance you could think of," he said.
Kathie Newell, a nonvoting member of the foundation's board of directors, is a member of the Havre school board.
Pat Newell, a claims agent for BNSF, has been largely responsible for organizing the sale, Ophus said.
"Kudos to Pat. He's really bent over backward to make this happen," Ophus said.
The money raised by the sale of the appliances is being placed in the foundation's general fund, foundation president Wells Lamey said today.
"Several weeks ago we were at $1,500 (from the fund-raiser), so we're probably pushing $2,000 by now," Ophus said.
The foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve and support the educational opportunities of students in Havre.
The foundation manages numerous private scholarship funds and has raised thousands for renovations at Blue Pony Stadium.