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Survey results split on support for center


Community members are split on the question of whether the city should help fund the Heritage Center, according to results of a survey in Havre Mayor Bob Rice's quarterly newsletter.

The question, in a newsletter issued in late May, asks, "Should the City of Havre support the operational costs of the Heritage Center?"

Of 231 respondents, 114 said yes and 117 said no.

"I honestly couldn't believe it was that close," Rice said today, adding that initially there were more responses in favor of city support.

The Clack Foundation, which operates the historic building, approached the Havre City Council several times this spring to ask for help operating the city-owned building, which runs a monthly shortfall of about $600 and has serious maintenance issues.

The foundation leased the building after the city purchased it from the U.S. Postal Service in 1996. The foundation has threatened to turn operation of the building over to the city if the city doesn't help it cover costs.

Rice said he thought the outcome of the survey may have been influenced by the results of a separate survey by the Clack Foundation, which was published in the Havre Daily News in June. That survey showed public opinion more clearly for city support of the center. Results of that survey were published in a newspaper story on July 4.

The mayor's survey gives no clear mandate to the Havre City Council, which will vote tonight on whether to give monetary support to the center.

- beyond limited maintenance and upkeep, and paying the liability insurance - for the center.

City Council member Tom Farnham, who chairs the council's Finance Committee, said today he would recommend to the committee tonight that the city provide some cleaning, maintenance and snow removal for the building, as well as continuing to pay liability insurance, which the city has done for the past two years. Farnham said insurance for the building costs about $2,000.

"If you don't have (the money) you don't have it," Farnham added.

The Finance Committee will meet at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall before the council meeting, which begins at 8 p.m.

Clack Foundation vice president Elaine Morse said this morning she was surprised the survey results were split, and said she thinks increased publicity about the building has brought out people on both sides.

Morse added that she will be disappointed if the city only agrees to give in-kind and insurance help, and added that so far, the city has not followed through with its promise of janitorial help.

"You can promise us everything, but if it doesn't happen, it still doesn't help," she said.

If the city only approves in-kind help and continued insurance coverage for the building, Morse said, she doesn't know if the foundation will turn the building over to the city.

Survey respondents, both pro and con, added comments ranging from the expository to the monosyllabic.

"The City of Havre needs to take care of city things, not the Heritage Center. They should apply for federal and state grants. The tax payers have enough on their backs," one respondent wrote.

"No tax money," wrote a more direct respondent. One checked the "no" box and also scrawled a large "NO" in a space for comments.

Many wrote comments in favor of support of the center.

"It would be great if the mayor and the city council would support this center, instead of complaining publicly about what a burden it is. There are more ways to support a cause than with money," wrote one respondent.

Other respondents qualified their support.

"Support it but as long as it doesn't go over $2.00," one respondent wrote.

Another supporter seemed to echo that sentiment, writing "Not all - some."

A few were more cryptic.

"Loyalty, That's all the comments needed," wrote one respondent, who favors city support of the center.

Rice also tallied phone calls he received about the center. He said he received 29 phone calls from community members against city support and seven calls for it.


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