Havre Daily News
The Havre City Council on Tuesday night appointed a Box Elder architect to a two-year term on the Havre-Hill County Historic Preservation Commission, but not without debate over whether the seat should go to the man who holds it now - longtime preservation advocate Lou Lucke.
The commission nominated architect Wade Bitz to take over Lucke's seat when it expires March 6, historic preservation officer Todd Hanson said today. The commission reviewed guidelines that call for allowing people with architectural training to serve on the board whenever possible.
“Reviewing those qualifications ... the board decided it was in the best interest to nominate Mr. Bitz to the position,” he said.
Hanson said the commission reviewed both a formal request from Bitz and an informal request from Lucke. Bitz submitted an application to the commission, while Lucke submitted a letter he had written to Havre Mayor Bob Rice and the City Council.
The board's bylaws state that applications must be addressed to the board, Hanson said. Despite the technicality, He said, the board chose to review both men's qualifications at its meeting Thursday.
A day after the commission chose to nominate Bitz, at-large member Robert Harrison submitted his resignation. He said in a letter that the commission would be better served with both Bitz and Lucke as members.
City Council member Emily Mayer Lossing spoke up for Lucke Tuesday night. She read Harrison's letter to the council and asked if both Bitz and Lucke could be appointed to the commission.
Her comments drew the ire of City Council member Gerry Veis, who called the reading of Harrison's letter “inappropriate.”
“Are we trying to work together or trying to work against each other?” Veis said.
Veis asked Hanson whether the at-large seat, which is appointed by the other four members of the commission, would be dealt with by the commission. Hanson said the matter would be discussed at the next meeting.
The City Council approved Bitz's appointment, with Mayer Lossing casting a no vote.
She said today her comments were not intended to “insult or offend” Bitz.
At the end of the meeting, Lucke told City Council members he would not apply for the seat vacated by Harrison. “I think you just relieved me of two years of struggle,” he said. Lucke could not be reached for additional comment today.
Bitz, who works for CTA Architects in Great Falls, said today that he is “very excited” to be a member of the commission.
“It's an obvious choice for an architect,” he said. “It's what I've had background and training for.”
Bitz said he has worked with the state Historic Preservation Office on several projects, including an assessment of a historic auto dealership on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.
He said he's most interested in empowering Havreites who own historic homes to go through the process of getting the properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hanson and Mayer Lossing had glowing remarks for Lucke.
“The community has lost out on a person who has extensive knowledge on local history,” Mayer Lossing said. “It's a crying shame. What I tried to do last night was get (Bitz and Lucke) both on, and I failed.”
Hanson said he has “nothing but good things to say” about Lucke.
“He's been a great public servant in volunteering his time,” he said. “Things he has brought to the commission ... have been invaluable to the commission.”
Hanson said the board will next consider action to fill the remainder of the term vacated by Harrison, who had most of his two-year appointment left when he resigned.