By Ron VandenBoom
Fourteen boys from the Anchor Academy for Boys will be arriving in Havre early Friday evening to begin what they hope will be a permanent move to the old Havre Air Force Station 32 miles north of town.
No deal has yet been struck between the owners of the base, Premium Pork of Montana, and the school.
Dennis McElwrath, superintendent of the academy, said in a telephone interview today that the school will be taking up temporary residence in an old building next to the base that was once used as a two-room schoolhouse for dependants of military personnel.
The building is being leased from William Velk, who could not be reached for comment.
The academy is part of a Texas-based Christian home for troubled 13-to 17-year-old boys who have been placed in the home by their parents. The academy served last year as home for 37 boys.
The academy is leaving its home in Lewistown. "We need to be out of here by Friday, and we needed someplace to move to," McElwrath said.
Only 14 of the 37 boys enrolled during last school year will be making the trip to Havre Friday, McElwrath said. The rest of the kids are currently on a choir tour in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming that will last about 30 days.
They will join the rest of the students north of Havre after the tour.
McElwrath described their new temporary residence as in an ideal location from which the boys will be able to work on the radar base, fixing it up in preparation for the actual move that McElwrath hopes will take place in late August. McElwrath described the process as part of the the boy's training program.
The academy, which first located in Lewistown last July, recently failed to outbid several neighbors who had formed the Maiden Valley Protective Association for ownership of their current home on the old Lewistown Air Force Base. The association claimed it was concerned about the environmental impact of greater traffic posed by the academy's expansion.
Loren Wolery, president of PPM, the hog production company that currently owns the site, said in an earlier interview that the company had run into a brick wall trying to finance the conversion of the old base into a hog production facility and would be willing to walk away from the site if an agreement could be reached.
McElwrath said the boys have already visited their new temporary home and have been working mowing the lawn and doing other basic maintenance so it will be ready for the Friday move. He added that the boys are excited by the move and are looking forward to having a permanent residence.
"We're just looking forward to someplace to call home," he said.
McElwrath is also excited by the prospect of having 85 acres for activities.
Most neighbors to the old air base are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the proposed new use for the base.
Beverly Peterson, a neighbor to the northeast of the site, said she is not really opposed to the site being used as a school for troubled boys, but acknowledges that there may be one or two families that oppose it.
"I don't think I've heard a lot of opposition to it," she said, adding that she had heard several of the neighbors comment that they would have liked another meeting with the school before the decision to move was made.
Other neighbors could not be reached by phone this morning.