By Roger Morris Western News Publisher
Dozens of volunteers have worked on the new Turner Mountain Ski lodge during the past six months but one man has been working on the project for nearly a year.
Bruce Zwang of Kootenai Winter Sports estimates that Lonnie Hansen has spent about 2500 hours working on the project.
³It¹s been pretty much every weekend since February or March,² Zwang said. ³I stopped and figured out that he has given a year and half of his life to this project.²
Last Thursday, Hansen was planning to spend his day off working on the lodge. However, he was told Col. Debra Lewis, district engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was going to be at Libby Dam and he had to report to work.
Lewis presented the Patriotic Civilian Service Award to Hansen for his commitment to the Turner Mountain project.
³Service comes in many, many forms,² Lewis said.
The colonel said Hansen¹s efforts were directed at improving the quality of life for people in his community.
Hansen¹s efforts actually began in 1996 when KWS first developed plans to install a chairlift and build the lodge for their Forest Service permit. That¹s when Hansen began working with architects and engineers.
He organized and supervised the well drilling, the plan development, site work and initial excavation at the end of the 2002-2003 ski season. He worked on the budgeting, cost estimates and fundraising. Then he supervised the construction, directing an army of volunteers - all amateur carpenters. And he worked with the subcontractors.
³I know you people (Libby Dam employees) are busy and I look at this, my gosh, how did you do all this? Lewis asked Hansen. ³Is there anything you didn¹t do?²
³Sleep,² replied Zwang, who was on hand for the ceremony at Libby Dam. ³Turner is starting our 43rd year and our motto is we only need one guy who knows what he is doing.²
Before going to work for the Corps at Libby Dam, Hansen worked as a construction contractor.
³He has a tremendous amount of knowledge about construction,² Zwang said. ³We couldn¹t have done it without him.²
Zwang said if Hansen hadn¹t stepped forward the all-volunteer ski area would have had to hire out the entire project.
³I don¹t know if we could have done it,² he said.
The new lodge at Turner is a 40-foot by 50-foot two-level building and includes indoor rest rooms, a ski patrol area with storage and a snack bar and day lodge area to accommodate days when 300 skiers are on the popular local hill. There will be seating for 100 people.
The old snack bar barely had room for 20 people and it was heated with a homemade wood stove. Rest rooms were a string of blue porta-potties along the bottom of the ski slope.
The project is being funded by a $302,000 grant from the City of Libby¹s $8 million economic development fund.
Work is not completed on the new lodge. Volunteers supervised by Hansen have the building up, the roof and siding on, the windows and doors in. Last week, the electrician and plumber were finishing up with people waiting to insulate and begin sheet-rocking the walls.
³At this point we just hope to open it up sometime during the ski season,² Zwang said.
The ski season usually begins sometime just before Christmas at Turner.
On receiving his award, the unassuming Hansen said he had plenty of help.
³If wish I¹d know this was going to happen, I would have grown my hair,² he said drawing laughter. ³Like Bruce said, I didn¹t know what I was getting into. But I didn¹t have to call people, they¹re just there. Everybody¹s just in there for a good time.²