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Ballot to decide school¹s fate

| October 20, 2004 12:00 AM

By Paul Boring Western News Reporter

The fate of the old Libby High School will be put to a vote, the Libby School Board decided during a regular meeting on Monday night.

After several hours of public comment and deliberation, the trustees voted 4-3 in favor of mailing out ballots to area residents to determine if the public wants the historic building razed or the building and property sold to a local group interested in renovating the structure.

The trustees will now confer on the wording of the ballot and the timeline for distributing the ballots.

At the August board meeting, the trustees asked Superintendent Kirby Maki to research the logistics of demolishing the old high school. Maki discussed his findings prior to the trustees¹ vote on Monday.

Demolition without salvaging materials would cost roughly $100,000, including asbestos abatement, which would be carried out first. The total could grow depending on the amount of trucking required to move the material. Demolition with salvaging would be considerably less. The latter plan would take approximately three-and-a-half months, Maki said, while the former could be completed in a matter of weeks.

After speaking to representatives from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and county and city personnel, Maki determined that the project would be financially feasible and within the capabilities of the building fund.

³You have some monies there to pay for it if you want to do it,² Maki said. ³It¹s for buildings and grounds. That¹s where it came from and that¹s where it needs to go back. That¹s a pretty good chunk of money and we need to be sure we put it to the best possible use for the short and the long run.²

Residents attending the meeting voiced disapproval for demolishing the building, imploring the board to accept a $100,000 from the Friends of Historic Libby High School to purchase the building with funds provided by private investors.

The ballot will ideally provide the trustees with a clearer picture of what Libby residents would like to see happen to the old high school building. A number of the board members said their own personal survey of community members has yielded overwhelming support for demolition. A wider community survey conducted by Gary Huntsberger months ago revealed the same collective sentiment.

³It looks to me like if we put it up for a vote, it¹d be demolished,² said trustee Jerry Frament.