By Martin J. Kidston
With enough square feet to support a number of industries, but nothing to fill its halls, the Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd sits vacant. The question of what to do with the building will be asked of the public should a proposed meeting be held.
The old Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd, empty for the past six years, ran into financial trouble in 1994 while it operated as a nursing home. Consequently, it was purchased by Northern Montana Health Care Inc., a company that went on to build a new facility and vacated the old one.
Now, with the building empty and what-to-do presiding as the big question, efforts have begun to find answers.
What the community needs to know is theres this facility sitting vacant out there, and were looking at what we can do with it how it can best benefit the community, said Dick King of Bear Paw Development. Some groups have talked to the Human Resource Development Council and other social service agencies with the idea to convert the old Lutheran Home into a usable facility. They will try to coordinate a public meeting to talk about possible uses.
King said other uses could range between a small business incubator to a certified kitchen. However, costs of taking the building off the hospitals hands remain a problem no matter what ideas are revealed.
Whatever organization ends up with the facility, they have to pay for the costs that will begin to accrue immediately, even before they get their project going, King said. It presents some problems that still need to be addressed.
King said that efforts to put the empty Lutheran Home to use will begin with a public meeting and the exchange of ideas. However, the public meeting is still in the planning stages and the buildings future remains unknown.
Hospital CEO David Henry said the hospital has made no commitment to any group or organization on turning the Lutheran Home back over to the community. However, he did say there was interest in the building itself.
There are some groups interested in doing something with the home, but we have not made a commitment on that, Henry said. We have not decided to turn it back over to the community.