By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The Hill County Park Board has scheduled cabin inspections in response to problems with abandoned cabins in Beaver Creek Park, as well as cabins that exceed the total square footage allowed by their lease.
Inspections are scheduled for Sept. 30.
The board conducts annual inspections, but this year it plans to deal with violations of lease agreements and use the inspections to draft a new set of leasing rules.
There are 120 cabins sitting on land that is leased from the park. Currently, a lease holder is allowed to build a 720-square-foot lodging on his or her plot, as well as an outhouse and a shed, but is forbidden from building a larger structure or using a trailer house.
"We don't want a Taj Mahal out there," County Commission-er Kathy Bessette said during a park board meeting Wednesday.
Most of the complaints, however, are about a lack of upkeep. The board in recent years banned any new trailer houses because they found trailers most likely to be left in disrepair or abandoned. When trailers are abandoned, the park has to pay for their removal.
The issue came up again Wednesday because Jay Hammond, a cabin leaseholder, wanted approval for an addition to his cabin. Board members noted that Hammond had already broken one rule by adding a trailer several weeks ago. His request Wednesday was to approve a roof that would cover the trailer, and also partially conceal it.
After some discussion, Hammond's addition was approved. Board members said they were happy Hammond had come in for approval, but disappointed that the trailer rule had been ignored.
Hammond said he was not aware of the rule prohibiting trailers.
Board members said they might grandfather in trailers again since violations of the rule are widespread and then begin enforcing it rigorously.
"We set a date to have inspections and at that time we're going to measure every cabin and figure out the extent of the problem that we have. If someone has got something out there and it's done and it's nice, we aren't going to make them tear it out," board chair Steve Mariani said.
The park board is going to use common sense as its main measuring stick, County Commissioner Pat Conway said.
In other business Wednesday:
The board doubled the amount of money the county reimburses neighboring landowners for repairs to fences that border the park. The park had been reimbursing $50 a mile for fence repairs for more than 15 years. The vote doubling it to $100 passed unanimously.
Jody Manuel, a Republican candidate for County Commission who said he came to the meeting to speak on behalf of grazers' interests, said the $100 reimbursement is a Band-Aid over the problem. He said certain spots in the park have bigger problems than others, areas where cattle tend to gather and cause considerable damage to fences.
The board decided to come back to the issue later.