By Larry Kline/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The Havre City Council may decide next week to reject the sole bid it received for the Heritage Center and put the historic landmark out to bid a final time.
"It's a beautiful building," Finance Committee chair Tom Farnham said Monday night. "We'd like to put it out to bid one more time. I just hope there's someone out there who would give us more for it."
The city received a bid of $5,000 from Tom and Jamie Lambrecht by the deadline on Jan. 18. The Lambrechts, who attended Monday night's Finance Committee meeting, said they were not pleased with the committee's suggestion that the City Council reject their bid and reopen the process for a fourth and final time.
"We're disappointed," Tom Lambrecht said. "Whether we bid again is something we'll have to discuss and determine later."
The city had submitted the bid to the Montana Department of Transportation for review. In a letter dated Feb. 1, MDT engineer Mike Wherley said MDT and the Federal Highway Administration would support the City Council's decision, whether it be a rejection or an acceptance.
Finance Committee member Rick Pierson said the sale of the Heritage Center has dragged on long enough. He suggested that the next round of bidding be final.
"This thing has gone long and deep," he said. "We've had large bids and small bids. We have to come to some kind of consensus. We're going to have to consider all bids (in the next round). We have to come to a final decision."
In the next round of bidding, if the council rejects the bids, the city should board the building up, he said.
Farnham said today he is open to other possibilities. He said it may be a good idea to have a real estate agent market the building out of state.
"I think it would be something to look at," he said. "It would be nice to find somebody out there that would give us at least half of what it's worth."
During Monday's meeting, Havre resident Charlie Grant suggested contacting the group involved in setting up a community health center in Havre to see if they are interested, or giving the North Central Community Ventures Coalition more time to get organized and set aside money to purchase the building.
"You'd get your money out of the building and you would be doing something for the people of Havre," Grant said.
The coalition did not to submit a bid on the Heritage Center in January, after its board decided the project would be too big to undertake at this time.
The city used $89,600 from the Community Transportation Enhancement Program to purchase the former post office and courthouse from the U.S. Postal Service in 1996.
The building had been leased by the Clack Foundation until July 1, when the foundation said it could no longer afford to operate it.
The Heritage Center's last utility bill cost $5,097, city finance director Lowell Swenson said today. The city has been been paying the bills out of the Heritage Center fund, which at the end of January was $120 in the red, Swenson said.
The city announced in November its intention to winterize the building in order to avoid the cost of heating it. It later learned the boilers and pipes could not be adequately drained and the hardwood floors might buckle in extremely cold temperatures.