Havre Daily News
An official representing a firm interested in purchasing city-owned land rebutted statements made by city officials and residents about the details of the proposed purchase.
A Havre City Council member today said the same company official, investment specialist Joel Hewson, has asked the city to table the proposal to buy land for the construction of a new U.S. Border Patrol facility south of town.
City Council president Rick Pierson this morning said a Finance Committee meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. today still will be held.
Pierson said Hewson called City Hall this morning and asked for the meeting to be cancelled. He said he is awaiting clarification from Hewson, but thinks the meeting should still be held.
“We need to discuss the sale of public lands, meet with the flying club, and talk to people who are concerned with the whole issue,” Pierson said.
Hewson, in an e-mail on Monday, responded to several concerns raised at a Havre City Council meeting last week.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice, who could not be reached for comment, said last week that the land Hewson is considering - a 30-acre tract south of the Havre Ice Dome and a Border Patrol facility - could be further developed if the city expanded water and sewer service to the area. He said he's learned that the agency wants at least a quarter-mile buffer around the facility.
Border Patrol officials could not be reached for comment.
Hewson wrote that the area likely will be developed further, regardless of who wins to contract to build the federal facility. He said the agency would keep the same quarter-mile requirement for all bidders, and added that the area's topographical features provide a buffer to the south.
Hewson declined to be interviewed.
He said Phoenix-based Hewson Development Company was unaware of the Saddle Butte RC Club's lease on a portion of the land. The club has a 20-year lease on a parcel it uses for its runway area.
“Hewson was unaware of an existing lease on any of the proposed site at the time of the letter of intent, or offer, being submitted, and would only be interested in further pursuing the offer if the existing tenant can be otherwise accommodated,” Hewson wrote.
Pierson said that unless Hewson makes the flying club a substantial offer, he won't be in agreement with selling the property.
“We entered a contractual agreement with the RC club, and what credibility would the city have in breaking agreements with people we've made in good faith?” he said. “I cannot see the City Council breaking the lease. I for one, unless other contingencies are provided by the bidder, I will not break the lease with the flying club.”
RC club secretary Bonnie Keeley today said that if the price was right, the club may be willing to talk to Hewson about relocating.
“I think if (Hewson) wants to help us relocate, the club might consider negotiations,” Keeley said.
Hewson named a potential partner and contractor of the project in the email as well.
“Hewson's potential development partner and contractor, Tom Patrick of Tom Patrick Construction, is a local vendor employing local vendors,” he said. Patrick could not be reached for comment.
Pierson said other parties in Havre are interested in bidding on the project, but he wasn't aware of who they were. He added that he hoped to be armed with that information by the meeting tonight.
Pierson said in an interview Monday that City Council members are “in the dark” about the proposal.
Pierson said another potential site for the Border Patrol facility exists on the city's east side.
“It is my understanding there are other sites proposed. I have heard of one in east Havre, but that is as much as I know,” Pierson said.