Havre Daily News
Hill County officials this week said they want to get into the wind energy business, and some in Havre say the city should have pursued the same opportunity.
The county has applied for $1.7 million in clean energy renewable bonds, Hill County Commissioner Doug Kaercher said Thursday.
County Commission chair Kathy Bessette said the board has not determined where the turbines would be located or when they would be built.
The project won't be paid for with taxpayer money and won't affect the county's bonding capacity, Kaercher said. The money will all go toward building the facilities, he said.
Kaercher said the bonds will be interest-free. “What the project does is allow us to use the money we would normally use for electrical costs to pay for the bonds,” he said.
At a Monday meeting of the Havre City Council, a resident questioned why the city didn't apply for the same program.
Resident Lou Lucke said he wants the city to participate in the program.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice told him he thought the program required matching funds.
He said he thought the taxpayers gave enough money to the city for other projects in the works, like the First Street reconstruction project.
“I didn't feel it was appropriate to ask the taxpayers for more money because it is a matching program,” he said.
Kaercher said Thursday the bonds require no matching funds.
Bessette said that several counties and cities were part of the application. Kaercher said commissioners tried to contact Havre officials to include the city in the application.
“The time frame was short,” Kaercher said. “The mayor wasn't in his office at the time, and the application had to be submitted by April 26.”
Rice could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Kaercher quickly pointed out that just because the city wasn't on the list of original applicants doesn't mean that in the future Havre won't be eligible for the funding.
“This does not mean the city of Havre isn't eligible somewhere down the road either with us or on its own,” Kaercher added.
City Council member Pam Hillery this week said she would have supported a wind energy project.
“I believe the government has a responsibility to raise money to better the community,” she said. “I think wind power is probably a good thing.”
Council member Emily Mayer Lossing said she thinks the decision not to apply was a mistake.
“I think we're shooting ourselves in the foot,” Mayer Lossing said Thursday. “We need to be proactive, and I think we're missing a great opportunity.”
Lucke pointed out a few good areas in the city where wind energy could be harnessed. He mentioned city property in Highland Park that was sold about three years ago.
“When the city sold the land up by the Highland Park water tower, there was no previous warning or anything,” Lucke said. “The fellow who purchased the land was going to build a warehouse or something, but nothing has been built.”
He mentioned city-owned property south of town that also would be a good location for turbines. That property, south of the Havre Ice Dome, may be sold to a development company looking to build a new U.S. Border Patrol facility. The City Council's Finance Committee on Tuesday will consider an offer to buy the property.