By Ron VandenBoom
The next tenant of the old Havre Air Force Station 32 miles north of Havre could be the Anchor Academy for Boys, a Texas-based Christian home for troubled 13 to 17-year-old boys.
The Academy, which located in Lewistown last July, recently failed to out bid several neighbors that live near the Academy's current home on the former Lewistown Air Force Station. The neighbors had formed the Maiden Valley Protective Association to oppose the purchase of the property by the Academy on the grounds that they were concerned about the environmental impact of greater traffic posed by the Academy's expansion.
Loren Wolery, president of Premium Pork of Montana (PPM), the hog production company that currently owns the site, said Monday that the 11 member group of investors have run into a brick wall trying to finance the conversion of the old base into a hog production facility and that they would be willing to walk away from the site.
Dennis McElwrath, superintendent of the Academy also said Monday that he has met with Wolery, the Hill County Commissioners, and representatives of Bear Paw Development, and has toured the site.
"The site needs lots of work," McElwrath said, citing the old base's water supply as one of things that need to be considered. Water from the existing wells is hard and brackish and whether the site could be linked to the North Havre Water District is a concern. Also being considered is the availability of electricity and funding for the diesel fuel heating system currently at the site.
The state would also have review and approve health, fire, safety, and sewer issues related at the site, McElwrath said.
McElwrath said he likes the location of the Havre site and said that it fits in well with what they are trying to do.
"Perhaps we can make it work out," he said.
McElwrath and all 37 boys from the Academy met with about 30 Cottonwood area residents Friday at an informational meeting to discuss the project.
Wolery and McElwrath both confirmed that there was some hesitancy about the Academy when the meeting began, but said after seeing the boys and the plan, the response was "very favorable" and "positive."
Wolery also said that he has also been in contact with several lewistown residents familiar with the Academy and has received what he called, "very favorable reports."
"We wanted the community to know who we are and what we are about," McElwrath said.
The amount of work required to get the site ready for occupancy will not allow the Academy to move in right away, McElwrath said. The Academy will still have to find temporary lodging in Lewistown for about a year before the old base is ready.
The Academy has earn a sterling reputation in the Lewistown area for their volunteer work helping to do everything from helping an elderly