By Ron VandenBoom
A plan by HRDC to locate five donated homes from the former Havre Air Force Station to various locations in Havres Highland Park has drawn criticism from some landowners who fear the homes will lower property values in the area, could potentially increase crime, and not accomplish HRDCs objectives.
About 30 concerned residents of Highland Park attended a meeting on Tuesday, July 20, to express their concerns over the project.
Its not true those homes are the same age as those that are already here, said David Rydell, one of the property owners that attended the meeting. These homes are two to three times older than those already up here.
The homes, originally built to house Air Force personnel with families, have sat largely vacant since the base was closed. They were donated to HRDC by the new owners of the base, Premium Pork of Montana, to be used as part of the McLaughlin Transitional Housing Program.
The programs goal is to provide affordable housing for dislocated low-income families while they become established financially.
Rydell said moving the old Air Force homes on to lots in Highland Park will not be conducive to solving the problems they are trying to cure.
These people have already been displaced once and then theyre going to put them in here and after a year they will be displaced again, Rydell said.
Rydell said the majority of those who attended the Tuesday meeting left without having their minds changed by the information provided by Tom Bolan, executive director of HRDC in Havre, and were adamantly against the project.
Ive got an interest in maintaining this town, Rydell said and expressed concerns over HRDCs ability to even complete the project in the allotted time with the funds that are available.
Ric Floren also has concerns over the ability of HRDC to prepare the ground and move the homes in the time available.
Floren said bid deadlines for preparing the lots is set for July 29, with the award of a bid probably being made July 30. Lot preparation, including the installation of sewer lines and foundations, must be completed by Aug. 9, and the homes moved onto their foundations by Aug. 16.
I just dont think thats enough time to do all of the work that needs to be done, Floren said.
Floren said the Tuesday meeting did alleviate many of his misgivings with his greatest concern being the adequacy of the lots to meet the needs of additional residents.
Im not alarmed by it, he said and added that he prefers to reserve judgment on the homes until after they are on their foundations.
At that point in time I will evaluate the home, he said. He noted that he has some concern over the small size of the homes.
Overall, Florens concerns about the nature of the program and the control by HRDC of the property and the prospective residents have been eased, but he said he still has some concern over the duration of the residents stay and also the duration of the program itself.
Im concerned that in four or five years the program will disappear and there wont be resources to maintain and continue the program, he said. We all know how government funding can come and go what happens to the program if funding stops?
Im pleased that they are doing all of these things. But anytime there is a change in the neighborhood people are going to be concerned.
Floren said sign-up sheets were available to those who attended the Tuesday meeting that would allow residents the opportunity to serve on a citizens board governing the program.
Floren said he signed up to be on the board, but was not sure how many others took advantage of the opportunity.