By Tim Eberly
Havre City Council member Emily Mayer Lossing falls in love quite frequently when her eyes fix on a structure that takes her back in time.
"I see an old building in the middle of a field, and the first thing I want to do is love it," said Lossing, volunteer historic preservation officer with the nearly 2-year-old Havre Historic Preservation Commission. "It's a love I have and a love that will never go away."
Much of Lossing's interest has been poured into the Historic Preservation Commission, which was founded on Dec. 20, 1999, when the Havre City Council passed a resolution to create it.
Now Lossing is channeling her efforts into giving the commission a more permanent status. She has asked the City Council to pass an ordinance recognizing the commission.
"I would feel like this would be the second greatest accomplishment of my life, the first being when I married my husband (Lyle)," said Lossing. "But the Havre Historic Preservation Commission comes in a very close second."
"I think it'll pass," added Lossing, a secretary at Montana State University-Northern College of Nursing. "(City Council members) hear from my reports about all the good work we do. I think the Havre City Council feels like I do that the time has come for historic preservation."
The City Council initially created a historic preservation commission in 1989 Lossing's junior year in high school but a sunset provision sent it to its grave four years later, when the resolution was not renewed. Lossing doesn't know why the commission floundered, but she is determined not to let history repeat itself.
At Lossing's urging, the City Council passed the new resolution in 1999.
The motivation behind the commission's push for ordinance status is stability. It only takes a simple vote to undo a resolution. But to revoke an ordinance, the City Council must hold a public hearing and take two votes.
A resolution "is a legal vehicle but it's not as strong as an ordinance," Lossing said. "We don't want to be working hard at a project and, at the next City Council meeting, find out we're no longer in existence. An ordinance gives us more permanence."
The council will take a final vote on Lossing's ordinance Jan. 7.
So far, few Havreites have enlisted the services of the Preservation Commission, which is funded by a $5,500 federal grant and certified by the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service. "They don't know we're here yet," Lossing said. "Historic preservation, on the whole, has not caught on in Havre like it has in other communities."
Last year's grant money paid for the October printing of 10,000 walking tour maps of the historic district, which includes 500 homes. Toni Hagener and Elinor Clack, first created a walking tour map of Havre in the '70s.
The Heritage Center has donated a small office to the Preservation Commission, which plans to use the 2001 grant money to fill the office space with a library of books on historic preservation.
Lossing said the mission of the nonprofit group is to recognize the area's historic properties and educate the general public about preservation.
"You can't move toward the future without studying the past," said Lossing, who owns the two oldest homes in the historic district with her husband. "I think preservation is an up-and-coming business. It's a form of economic development."