By Ross Markman
The Hill County Commission has allocated all of its CTEP dollars for this year and next to efforts to build a visitors center in Havre.
The center, Commissioner Doug Kaercher said, would house the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce and be the headquarters of the Great Northern Fair Board. The facility would be located on the northwest corner of the Hill County Fairgrounds.
The county has committed $57,035 this year, leaving its CTEP balance at zero.
"We feel a large project like this has more impact to our community economy and benefits our community in the long run," Kaercher said.
Through CTEP, the Community Transportation Enhancement Program, the Federal Highway Administration distributes money for projects ranging from landscaping to sidewalk maintenance to historic preservation. Craig Erickson, planner at Bear Paw Development Corp., oversees county and city CTEP projects.
"The idea was, Why don't we create a visitors center that's highly visible, has parking and tells the story of all these places we have in our area," Erickson said. "And we owe the project to the Havre Daily News."
A story published on July 23 about the Lewis and Clark tourism explosion was what initiated the idea to build the visitors center, Erickson said.
"The story was about how there's no money to market our tourist sites and what can be done about that," he said.
The goal, Erickson said, is to complete the visitors center by 2005.
"That's an aggressive schedule, but I think it's possible," Erickson said.
The project could cost in the neighborhood of $200,000, with $112,000, Erickson hopes, coming from the county. The rest, he said, will come from other sources, including a possible grant from the Montana Department of Commerce.
"The concept is that the Chamber and the fair office would be located in this facility," Erickson said. "How that's going to work out still needs to be negotiated. But that's the idea."
Neither Debbie Vandeberg, executive director of the Chamber, nor Mike Spencer, fair director, could be reached for comment this morning.
Other project ideas proposed to the County Commission included the construction of a pavilion and recreation area at Fresno Reservoir and another asking for the construction of a Lewis and Clark interpretive and visitors center.
The pavilion, proposed by Walleyes Unlimited, did not meet CTEP criteria, Kaercher said. And the Lewis and Clark idea, he said, fits in with the project the commission approved.
Past county projects funded with CTEP money include improvements at the Wahkpa Chu'gn buffalo jump site and a fencing project at Fort Assinniboine. Others under way now include the construction of walkways at Camp Kiwanis in Beaver Creek Park and the installation of an underground sprinkler system at the community park in Rudyard.