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LibbyMt.com > News > March 2008 > Council says no to mayor’s plan for boulevard extension

Kootenai Valley Record. Photo by Kootenai Valley Record.
Kootenai Valley Record
Council says no to mayor’s plan for boulevard extension
by Brent Shrum, Kootenai Valley Record
March 25, 2008

A proposal from Mayor Tony Berget to buy property at the east end of Lincoln Boulevard and extend the street to City Hall appears dead after the city council declined to take action on the issue during a meeting last week.

Berget has long advocated the extension of the boulevard as a way of linking City Hall – formerly the local headquarters of Champion International when that company operated a lumber mill on the adjacent property now managed as an industrial district – with downtown. During a meeting last Tuesday, Berget told the council the property at the end of the boulevard, which he described as “dead center” in the path the street would need to take, was available for $50,000. He recommended using money in the city’s economic development and infrastructure fund, left over from an $8 million federal grant, to buy the parcel.

There is currently a house on the property, and the city could “rent it out for now,” Berget said. Rental income would pay off the purchase of the property in 12 years, he said.

Berget reminded the council that the city previously purchased two houses, for $1 each, from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. One was sold and the other donated to Flathead Valley Community College’s building trades program, he noted.

“It’s not like something we haven’t done before,” he said.

Councilwoman Charlene Leckrone, however, questioned the Lincoln Boulevard plans in light of other discussions the council has had regarding eventually moving City Hall back downtown.

“Aren’t we saying that someday we might not be here in this building?” she asked.

Extending the boulevard would be a worthwhile project to link the City Hall building to downtown even if it’s not longer occupied by the city, Berget said.

“Personally I think it’s a good thing for someday down the road to have the boulevard go all the way through, even if it goes to the industrial park and it doesn’t go to City Hall,” he said.

Councilman Doug Roll suggested the city has more pressing needs, noting overdue roof repairs at City Hall as well as the old City Hall building on Mineral Avenue, now used as offices for the Libby Police Department and Libby Main Street Program.

“Right now we have some money sitting there that we could do some maintenance and fix this roof,” Roll said.

Berget said the city will always have other needs, but the boulevard property presents a rare opportunity that won’t come up again.

“We’ll never see it at that price,” he said.

Berget said he didn’t want to postpone a decision, and Roll agreed that the city should give the property owner an answer.

“She wants to sell her house,” Roll said. “We don’t need to table it. We need to do it or we don’t.”

Berget asked if anyone on the council wished to make a motion, but the council remained silent.

“So without a motion, we’ll leave it right there,” Berget said.

In other business, the council:
- Moved forward on a request from Tungsten Holdings to abandon an alleyway that runs through the firm’s property at the corner of Highway 2 and Mineral Avenue.

Tungsten representative Tim Rooney presented the request to the council in January. He said Tungsten plans to remodel the former grocery store into a professional center with 10 to 15 offices and asked that the city abandon the alley that runs between the building and the adjacent parking lot to allow that side of the building to be improved and used for entrances.

Tungsten owns most of the block, including the parking lot. The owner of the only other property along the alley is supportive of the abandonment, Rooney told the council. The issue was given to the council’s streets committee for further research.

Meeting again with the council last week, Rooney said the project is being held up by the council’s inaction.

While council members have expressed concerns about a possible future need for the alley, “There has been no use of the alley for the last 50 years,” Rooney said. “I would think that if there had been a need for it, it would have presented itself by now.”

Streets committee member Lee Bothman said the committee’s recommendation was to move the alley to the east, rather than abandon it. Tungsten would be allowed to use the alley for parking, but the city would retain ownership along with the right to use the right of way for an alley again in the future if necessary.

“I can’t see us ever needing it as a roadway,” said Councilman Bill Bischoff. “There’s a road all around the block.”

Bischoff said he thought the council should be cooperative when presented with a property owner interested in making an investment in Libby’s future.

Responding to concerns about the utility easement that goes along with the alley, Rooney said it would be a simple thing to move the easement.

“Easements are changed every day,” he said. “It’s just the recording of a legal document.”

Bothman suggested a land exchange, “rather than just giving away city property.” He said there is a small piece of property the city needs along City Service Road. Tungsten could buy that property and trade it to the city for the alley, he said.

Berget said he thought such an exchange would “confuse the issue.”

Councilman Wally McElmurry said he thought the city should help Tungsten by abandoning the alley.

“I don’t see any real value to that,” he said. “We’re not using that. Nobody uses it.”

Bischoff moved to ask City Attorney Charles Evans to draw up a resolution to abandon the alley while retaining the utility easement. The motion passed by a 6-0 vote.

- Set a regular second monthly meeting for the third Tuesday of each month. Regular meetings are held on the first Monday of the month, but the council often meets a second time to take care of unfinished business. Such second meetings have usually been held on the third Monday of the month, but Bothman asked the council to consider setting the second meeting on the third Tuesday to accommodate his work schedule.

Roll said he didn’t think the council should adjust its meeting days for the convenience of one member.

“You may not be here in two years,” he told Bothman.

Leckrone said she didn’t think there was anything wrong with setting the second meeting for a different day of the week to accommodate one council member. Bischoff agreed, and said the council could always change the meeting to another day if members’ needs change.

Leckrone moved to set the second meeting for the third Tuesday of the month, and the motion passed unanimously.

Editor’s Note: See the March 24, 2008 edition of the Kootenai Valley Record for the printed version of this story. The Kootenai Valley Record publishes once a week, on Monday, in Libby, Montana. They are a locally owned community newspaper, located at 403 Mineral Avenue in Libby. For in-county and out-of-county subscription information, call 406-293-2424, or e-mail kvrecord@gmail.com.

LibbyMt.com > News > March 2008 > Council says no to mayor’s plan for boulevard extension
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