Havre Daily News
A special committee appointed by Havre Mayor Bob Rice will study the possibility of bringing a port authority - an economic development entity - to Havre and Hill County.
The committee will put together a proposal to bring to the Hill County Commission, Rice said Monday night at the Havre City Council meeting.
Rice chose Modern Aire owner Dennis Morgan, insurance salesman Andrew Brekke and City Council member Bob Kaftan for the special committee, which has until June to do its work.
Kaftan on Monday said the committee will meet with officials in other towns, like Shelby, to learn more about the creation and development of a port authority.
Rice said he learned about the issue from Shelby Mayor Larry Bonderud at the Mayor's Academy in February.
In an interview Monday, Bonderud said the port authority has “been a real positive thing in our community.” He said he looks forward to serving as a resource for Havre.
“We centered all economic developments under the port authority, so it allowed us to consolidate under one nice umbrella,” Bonderud said Monday in a phone interview.
Shelby has had a port authority for about 20 years, he said.
The Shelby area has a regional economic development agency similar to Bear Paw Development Corp. that works with the port authority, he said.
Bear Paw Development supplies business loans along with training and technical assistance to residents of Hill, Blaine, Phillips, Liberty and Chouteau counties.
Bonderud said Havre citizens should not look at Bear Paw Development Corp. and a possible port authority as competitors because the two entities would complement each other.
Bob Giese, program director for Snowy Mountain Development Corp. in Lewistown, said the corporation works in conjunction with the local port authority.
“We are separate entities, but we work hand-in-hand with them,” Giese said. “The port authority is working on getting businesses into the area and we assist them however and wherever we can.”
Pondera County in 2004 established a port authority with the city of Conrad and the town of Valier.
“Pondera County didn't have a Bear Paw Development,” Pondera Regional Port Authority executive director Elaina Zempel said. “We wanted to bring somebody onboard who could fill in those blanks. We joke with Bear Paw Development, saying they are the example we all hope to emulate.”
Pondera County officials and local mayors discussed creating a port authority before holding public meetings to gauge interest level and support, Zempel said.
Bear Paw Development executive director Paul Tuss said “at this early point, more research needs to go into the benefits and possible downsides” of creating a port authority.
He said new taxes would need to be levied to create the authority and make it operational.
“The creation of a port authority brings you no resources unless you charge mills to run the port authority,” Tuss said. “It takes at least two mills to run a port authority. By creating a port authority, you don't have anything unless you take advantage of the two mills.”
A four-mill levy increase was passed by voters to fund the Pondera Regional Port Authority, Zempel said. The county collects and redistributes the money.
Zempel said the port authority works well because it's only concern is economic development. She described the authority as a “quasi government with the power to bond.”
Tuss said the possibility of a port authority raises “too many unanswered questions.”
“It's good conversation to engage in. At this point, I think that's all it is,” he added.