Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Bear Paw Development Corp. is asking the local government to consider developing some of the land owned by Havre and Hill County, near what is used for the local airport, into an industrial park, and to consider the use of bonds to help pay for the development. “We don’t want to let grass grow under our feet on this issue,” Paul Tuss, executive director of Bear Paw Development told the Hill County Commission Tuesday. Tuss said that Bear Paw hears from businesses interested in locating in the area fairly frequently. He said these businesses would be more likely to move Here if they were offered a space to locate in an industrial park, including at least some services like water and sewer and possibly curbs, sidewalk and gutters. “If you have a shovelready’ piece of ground, you’re one leg up,” Tuss said. He said he plans to meet with the county airport board this week to see if the board is interested. He added that discussions would have to be held with the Federal Aviation Administration to discover if the development near an airport could even occur. Tuss asked the commission to consider making a proposal to sell bonds to help finance the creation of the park, if it did occur. While there are sources of money that could potentially help with the development of an industrial park, the county would at least have to be able to provide money for required matching funds, he said. Commissioners Kathy Bessette and Mike Wendland and Hill County Clerk and Recorder Diane Mellem told Tuss that there are many possible ways the proposal could be done, but that much more needs to be known before a proposed bond could be sent to the voters. Mellem said detailed information would be needed, including exactly how services would be provided to the area, what route would be used to run water and sewer services to the area and detailed information on what the maximum amount bonded would be. “We have to be able to tell that to the voters,” she said. Bessette agreed. “To do a ballot issue, if we don’t have that it just won’t go,” she said. “We have to have those facts and figures.” Mellem said it would be almost impossible to get a proposal for a general obligation bond ready in time to go on the ballot in the general election in November. She added that the deadline to have a proposal ready for the ballot is Aug. 21 and the people working on the proposal would have to move very quickly to make that deadline. An option aside from floating a bond proposal could be the creation of a rural special improvement district, where private property owners are taxed over 20 years to pay for the development. The strategy has been used many times in the area around Havre to install services like water and sewer, Mellem said. In the 1970s, an RSID was created which ran water and sewer lines from the city limits west to the weigh station and under U.S. Highway 87 where it intersects with U.S. Highway 2 and to the property where the Holiday Village Mall is now located, the first county industrial park. Some years later, two more RSIDs were created, one which ran water and sewer infrastructure to the area south of the line and another which ran the services to 18 acres of land donated by Ron Harmon to create a second industrial park, located west of town on Second Street West. The group discussed finding out if the people who own land adjacent to the airport, such as Meadowlark Estates, were willing to allow the creation of an RSID to receive services. That could help pay for getting the services to a location near the airport, they said. In response to a question by Tuss, Mellem said the county could also consider putting a bond proposition on the ballot to help with development of the county property in addition to the creation of RSIDs. To create an RSID, the landowners either have to start a petition to create the district or the county commission can pass a resolution of intent to create such a district. The resolution would be followed by public meetings to take comments and determine if the landowners support or are opposed to the proposal. Bessette said it is possible that people who own property near the airport might be interested in such a proposal, because it could spur development in the area and increase the value of the owners’ property. Tuss said the creation of the infrastructure could spur development, as the industrial parks west of Havre did. Having the services available could lead to the industrial, commercial and residential improvements, he said. The next step is finding out whether development near the airport is even possible, and then finding the best ways to run services to the area if it is possible. Tuss said that, at this point, he can’t even approximate what the cost could be. “I would be throwing a dart at a dart board,” he said. He will know more after he meets with the airport board this week, he added. “They might tell us this isn’t something they want to do,” he said. There will also be some hoops to jump through before the proposal would be approved by the FAA, Tuss said. Bessette said she hopes that people realize the process would take time. “I hope there isn’t the perception that this will happen overnight, because it won’t,” she said.