Havre Daily News
When a Hingham man named Louis sent a postcard in 1917 to a friend in Minnesota, he had no idea his brief missive would be saved for almost nine decades. When an elderly Arizona man found it years later, he had no idea what the Hill County Commission might want with it.
But the Arizona man, Lowell Joerg, decided to send the postcard to the commissioners late in 2002. The card couldn't have arrived at a better time. The photo shows a picture of the courthouse shortly after it was constructed. It arrived just as the courthouse steps were to be rebuilt.
The contract to design the steps had been awarded a year earlier, and County Commissioner Doug Kaercher said the photo helped the designers somewhat to match the original design.
Now the subject of a lawsuit, the steps may have to be rebuilt again. If they are, designers will have the photo in hand from the start, Kaercher said.
State District Court Judge Michael Prezeau today set a trial date for Hill County's lawsuit against Milk River Engineering of Havre and Springer Group of Bozeman. The trial is set for May 8 in Havre, with Prezeau presiding.
Last month, Judge David Rice, a former Hill County attorney, recused himself from hearing the case.
"O.K. at Hingham, going out in an auto today," was all that Louis wrote on the note bound for Hitterdal, Minn., dated March 24, 1917.
The card was addressed simply to Mr. Anton Johnson of that town.
Joerg, who found the postcard, had more to say in his note to the commissioners.
"Hope this brightens up your day in these troubled times," Joerg began his letter. He then went on to guess that the postcard, which he said he found in Bisbee, Ariz., arrived in the trunk of a miner moving to that copper mining town.
"I thought I'd send it home where it could be appreciated. Lots of changes I suppose," Joerg wrote.
Joerg said in his note that the postcard might trigger some memories. It did again during Wednesday's cloudburst.
"I remember that as a kid, running underneath the steps," Commission Chair Kathy Bessette said. The courthouse's original steps formed an archway. Underneath was an entrance into the basement floor, Bessette said.
At the time, the interior of the courthouse was quite different too, Bessette said. The front doors opened to a rotunda that extended the height of the building. The upper floor housed the county library. Bessette recalled going upstairs while her father visited the county offices.
"(I could) look down and see when he was done at the Treasurer's Office," she said.
Today the outside lanes of the courthouse steps are barricaded, as they have been for nine months.
In November, Hill County filed a lawsuit against the staircase designers. The lawsuit alleges that the drainage system was not properly installed and that the balusters were not properly spaced and are defective, among other problems. The wheelchair-accessible entrance on the east side of the building was not built properly either, the county's lawsuit says. Work on the $292,000 project began and ended in 2003.
Both companies named in the county's suit have filed responses in court, denying the claims and blaming problems with the construction on the Great Falls company, Phillips Construction, that built the steps.
Jeff Anderson, a project manager at Phillips Construction, declined to comment this morning.
If the steps are rebuilt again, Hill County Commissioner Mike Anderson said, he hopes they will look like the original steps. He suggested having someone paint the sides of the steps to give them a three-dimensional look, suggesting the archway children once played under.
Joerg included three postscripts to his letter.
"PS: I call my little hobby a 're-distribution of happiness.' Our world sure needs it.
PS: A library lady got your address off the 'net' for me. I'm heading toward eighty and she likes to help.
PS: Send something about your place today if you wish!"