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City council renews downtown revitalization grant

| June 11, 2004 12:00 AM

By Brent Shrum, Western News Reporter

The Libby City Council on Monday approved a $100,000 grant to fund a second year for Libby Revitalization Inc.

The Libby Area Development Co. voted last month to recommend the proposal for funding. When LRI initially approached the LADC last year, it sought $300,000 for three years, but the proposal was modified to require separate requests for the second and third years.

The LRI budget includes $45,000 for administration and $55,000 for projects, the same as last year. Most of the first year¹s goals were accomplished, LRI director Betty Jo Wood told the council.

The organization set aside $25,000 last year to provide $1,500 matching grants for storefront improvement proposals. Five $5,000 grants will be offered this year.

Also this year, LRI is hiring a consulting firm to develop a streetscape plan. The firm CTA Architects and Engineers from Bozeman has been selected for the project. The same firm will be developing a site plan for the former Stimson mill site now owned by the Lincoln County Port Authority.

In other business, the council heard a presentation from Vicki Munson and Ron Carter of Friends of Historic Libby High School asking for the city¹s support in preserving the vacant school building at the corner of Mineral Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard.

Munson told the council the building should be saved for economic reasons, ³not just sentimentality.² The building could serve as an anchor for downtown in a cluster with the Memorial Center and the Little Theater, she said.

The preservation group is promoting the transfer of the building from public to private ownership to facilitate renovation and plans to present a full proposal to the school board on June 22.

At Monday¹s meeting, Munson pointed out that the city has offered fill material and access to city water if necessary if the school board accepts council member and former school board member Gary Huntsberger¹s plan for demolition. She asked for the same amount of in-kind services should the school board agree to preserve the building.

Water lines to the building were cut when a main was replaced and would need to be re-connected, Munson said.

³We¹re just asking for a vote of support should it go the other way,² she said.

Councilman Doug Roll said he didn¹t have a problem with offering equal assistance, but he said the monetary value of the city¹s offer to Huntsberger will need to be determined.

Carter told the council the 87-year-old building is in need of maintenance but is structurally sound.

³No building will last forever being neglected, but this one has held up very well,² he said.

Carter said the old school is ³architecturally the most distinguished building we¹ve got.²

³Once this building is gone, it¹s gone forever,² he said. ³A building like this should last several hundred years.²