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Havre Streets and Sidewalks Committee continues discussion of SIDS


Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Havre City Council and Streets and Sidewalk Committee member Denise Brewer speaks to Havre Public Works Director Dave Peterson Monday during a Streets and Sidewalks Committee meeting.

Havre City Council Streets and Sidewalks Committee met Monday after the council's regular meeting and discussed what some of the next steps might be for paying for improvements to city infrastructure including fixing the streets.

Committee member Denise Brewer said the committee and the rest of the council need to talk about the next steps in the direction they want to go.

"We have certain areas in town that we think should be targeted, areas that we want to promote special improvement districts, either through the city or sending out letters, like they suggested at our meeting last time, to those individuals that might need their streets to be repaired," she said. 

Montana allows city governments to create special taxable districts - special improvement districts - which the city can tax to pay off improvements, generally with the special taxes going to pay low-interest long-term loans taken to pay for the work.

This allows residents of an area to pay for work in the area over a long term - often 20 years or in some cases 30 years - rather than having to come up with the total funding up front.

City Council member Terry Lilletvedt said during Monday's committee meeting that it would be really important at this point, before they impose special improvement districts as a council that she would like to see some language how that works.

"I would really like to see some specifics before we decide as a council to impose that kind of assessment on taxpayers," she said.

Brewer said what is going on in her mind is what projects should the committee start working on, and gave a list of the kind of work an SID can pay for, out of Montana Code Annotated 7-12-1402.

"The city or town council may: Create special improvement districts, designating them by number; extend the time for payment of assessments levied upon the districts for district improvements for a period not exceeding 20 years or, if refunding bonds are issued pursuant to 7-12-4194, for a period not exceeding 30 years; make the assessments payable in installments; and pay all expenses of whatever character incurred in making the improvements with special improvement warrants or bonds," Lilletvedt read. "Whenever the public interest or convenience requires, the City Council may: Create special improvement districts for acquiring by purchase, building, constructing, or maintaining devices intended to protect the safety of the public from open ditches carrying irrigation or other water; create special improvement districts for acquiring by purchase or building and constructing municipal swimming pools and other recreation facilities; create special improvement districts and order the whole or a portion, either in length or width, of one or more of the streets, avenues, alleys, or places or public ways of the city: graded or regraded to the official grade; planked or replanked; paved or re-paved; macadamized or re-macadamized; graveled or re-graveled; piled or re-piled; capped or re-capped; surfaced or re-surfaced and oiled or re-oiled."

She added that the list goes on.

City Council member Derek Eldridge said in an interview after the meeting that the key points were finding an option to get the ball rolling for a special improvement. 

"We found that the city can initiate the process but it has to be in the hands of the citizens to proceed after that," he said.

City Council member Caleb Hutchins said in an interview after the meeting, the city of Havre has been trying to figure out how to pay to rebuild the roads for quite a few years now.

"Previously, we tried passing a mill levee, a special property tax to pay for it and in fact, it got voted down twice in a row in two different elections," he said. "So now, as the third attempt, the Streets and Sidewalks committee are looking at doing special improvement districts, where basically you pick a neighborhood, everyone in that neighborhood pays for a share of the cost of fixing the streets and the sewer and water underneath it, like a 20-year bond."

It's quite a lot of money split up within that neighborhood, he said, adding that it was the committee is trying to start now and figure out what their next step is.

Hutchins said it has been 50 to 60 years ago that any new special improvement districts were created in Havre.

The Streets and Sidewalk Committee is now going to focus on a few high-need areas that would be receptive to an SID, City Council member Lindsey Ratliff said after the meeting.

"Overall, the agreement was that whatever the council decides, we must educate the public and work with residents to promote special improvement districts where needed," she said.


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