By Tim Leeds
Devlin School should be filling with kids again this summer.
The Havre School Board on Tuesday night approved an agreement to lease part of the school building to the Havre HELP Committee to house a Boys & Girls Club of America for local youth. HELP stands for Havre Encourages Long-Range Prevention.
"If you guys are willing to take care of the building, have at it," said School Board member David Milam.
Robin Morris, executive director of HELP, said opening the club will allow HELP to expand its youth programs. HELP sponsors activities mainly for elementary students and on a limited schedule.
"We know there are needs out there on an ongoing basis," she said.
School Superintendent Kirk Miller said after the meeting that the agreement would be completed today and taken to HELP to be signed. The actual activities won't happen until July, giving the district time to move remaining property out of the building and HELP time to move in and set up.
Devlin was closed as part of the restructuring of the school district approved by the School Board in April. The district administration said the restructuring was necessary because of an estimated $660,000 budget shortfall caused by limited state funding and declining enrollment.
Renelle Braaten, who spearheaded a failed attempt to save part of the old Havre Junior High School to keep it as a gym and youth center, said today that opening the club will be good for the community, although even more should be done.
"I think it would be worthwhile getting activities going for everyone, not just youth," she said. "This town is plenty big enough to have many more activities."
Braaten said that when she and her group tried to open the proposed Baltrusch Center in part of the old junior high, she couldn't believe that more people didn't support it. Everyone thought it was a good idea, she said, but very few opened their wallets to help.
At the meeting, School Board member Teresa Miller asked Morris why the club would have more success than previous efforts like the Baltrusch Center.
Morris said having the HELP Committee running the club should give it stability. HELP was created in 1979 and incorporated in 1983, has financial stability, and already offers many programs that meet the Boys & Girls Club standards, she said.
HELP will be renamed Boys & Girls Club of Northern Montana and Havre Encourages Long Range Prevention, she said.
Morris, HELP program director Krista Young and Hill County Commissioner Doug Kaercher, who all attended Tuesday's School Board meeting, have been coordinating efforts to put the proposal together. Morris presented the board with a plan for the first year of operation of the club.
The plan includes a life skills and family support center. It will offer after-school programs for grades K-5, adolescent parenting classes, family game nights and other family activities, and additional programs based on assessments of the community's needs.
The club would host a sports, fitness and recreation center with open gym hours and limited offerings of sports and recreation events depending on volunteer availability and skills.
In the future it may host a technology center. An arts center and a teen center also are in the plans.
The agreement states that HELP will lease part of the facility for two years at a cost of $1. The area leased includes the area through rooms 106, 107 and 108, the boys' and girls' restrooms, gym, library and the office.
The lease states that in the case of unanticipated enrollment changes or loss of other facilities, the district can take back the facility. The district may use the parts of the building not leased to HELP as long as the use does not interfere with Boys & Girls Club functions.
The lease also requires HELP to indemnify the district in case of any injuries or damages happening on the facility, and to repair any damage coming from its use.
HELP is required to keep the building's interior and exterior clean and in good repair, while the district will provide major floor care in the summer and operate the boiler. HELP is responsible for lawn care, while the district will maintain the irrigation system, remove the snow around the block during the winter, maintain the roof and do any necessary exterior painting.
HELP will be responsible for all phone and utility expenses in the building after moving in on July 1.
On the Net: Boys & Girls Club of America: www.bgca.org