By Ron VandenBoom
A vital piece of property needed to make the Havre Area Chamber of Commerces proposed downtown park project a reality has been purchased by Bear Paw Credit Union.
Bear Paw Vice President Gerry Veis said Wednesday that the only reason the Credit Union purchased the lot was to make it available for the park project. The lot borders two lots already owned by Bear Paw on the southwest corner of Fourth Avenue and First Street.
According to the Hill County Assessors Office, the property was initially sold to Northern Montana Health Care Inc. on Friday, Oct. 8.
Veis confirmed that NMHC bought the property with the understanding that it would immediately be sold to the Credit Union. He also acknowledged that no official agreement yet exists between Bear Paw and the Havre Chamber and that the details of any agreement will be worked out at a future time.
The remaining five lots just west of Bear Paws property are owned by Norwest Bank.
According to John McLain, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce subcommittee responsible for the park project, only a verbal lease agreement currently exists between Norwest and the Chamber for the use of its lots.
McLain acknowledged that acquisition of the last piece of property clears the way for preliminary design work to begin on the project.
The Chamber, McLain said, has asked for help from MSU-Northern in coming up with some preliminary designs for the park using their CAD programs.
I hope to see something in the next week or so, he said.
He added that he would like to be able to have some of the ideas ready to present at the 91st Annual Banquet of the Havre Chamber scheduled for Friday, Nov. 12.
McLain said the committee wants community input on the parks design before any plans are finalized. He said he hopes to be able to meet with City Hall, groups, and organizations to get their input.
The possible loss of downtown parking has been addressed in preliminary discussions over the design for the park and early estimates suggest that approximately 60 parking spaces will remain in the back third and eastern-most areas surrounding the park.
Also in the committees future will be fund-raising activities. Most of which, McLain said, were still on the drawing board.
McLain did, however, acknowledge that representatives from the committee plan to meet with representatives of Ocwen Financial Corporation, the new owners of the Havre Holiday Village Shopping Center, within the next few weeks to discuss the possibility of a financial contribution to the project.
No date has been set for completion of the park, but McLain reiterated that this is just the beginning and a lot of work remains to be done.