By Ron VandenBoom
Members of the downtown business community asked the Havre City Council Monday to consider spending state transportation dollars on sidewalk improvements in the business district.
"The city has already allocated about $160,000 for the Heritage Center and $100,000 for the buffalo jump," said Janine Donoven, owner of JM Donoven Designs in Fine Jewelry. "I'm sure you'll all agree with me that a lot of sidewalks could be replaced for $260,000."
The City Council didn't agree with her proposal. It unanimously decided to spend the $113,000 in Community Transportation Enhancement Program funds, which is federal money administered by the state, as follows:
$40,000 to Wahkpa Chu'gn Buffalo Jump and Kill Site;
$23,000 to the Heritage Center for roof repair;
$38,000 to the Sixth Avenue Ball Park Association for facility upgrades;
$12,000 to the Havre Youth Hockey Association to finish landscaping at the Ice Dome.
Donoven represented a group of downtown business owners in presenting a 10-page petition to the council. The petition supported the use of Community Transportation Enhancement Program funds to repair sidewalks and gutters.
Donoven also presented the council with copies of Page 19 of the city's long-range strategic plan to remind it, she said, that sidewalks and gutters are a part of that plan and that CTEP money is a prime funding vehicle for implementation of the objective.
"It's incentive," Donoven told the council. "It allows them (business people) to pay only 13 cents on the dollar and an excellent opportunity for the city to rebuild a part of its infrastructure without it costing the city a dime."
Donoven also presented the council with a letter of support from the owners of the Atrium Mall, Richard and Doris Hanson.
Donoven told the council she was rather surprised when she learned no money was allocated for the sidewalk and gutter project.
Downtown business owner and former City Councilman Ron Knudson, just prior to the vote, asked the council whether it was its intention to send a message to the business owners in Havre that the city will not work with them.
Mayor Phyllis Leonard told him she believes the council is saying it wants to complete the projects already started.
"They don't (want to) leave something half done," she said.
Knudson asked if the Sixth Avenue Ball Park project was something just started this year.
"It has been talked about for some time," Leonard responded.
Councilwoman Emily Lossing said that as a homeowner she accepts that she is the one responsible for fixing her own sidewalk at her own expense.
"And I'm a little amazed that some people that have either studied local government or have been on it for several years, would fail to understand this," she said.
The council also unanimously approved renewal of the citys participation in Bear Paw Development Corp.
Charlie Grant, a member of the Hill County Libertarian Party, expressed opposition.
Grant told the council it should hire a professional economist a neutral party who is in no position to benefit from the result to study the benefits of entering such an agreement.
"Bear Paw Development has been here for years and years and years," Grant said. "Maybe it's time to look at something different. Maybe trust the people a little bit and turn some of their money back to them and let them develop their own business interests and their own business ideas without government regulation and control."