Wednesday, June 07, 2023

School renovation represents a great opportunity for downtown

| December 26, 2006 11:00 PM

To the Editor:

The headline in The Western News about the appraised value of historic Libby High School was misleading.

The appraisal value for the property is $115,000 with the building as it stands. The $240,000 figure is for the bare lot if the building was not there.

This is an appraised value, not an offer.

ConoverBond is still interested in bidding and wants to see what community support is available as far as potential tenants for the building. Scott Curry of TLC Engineering has said he will move his engineering firm into the old high school after renovation.

There are three ideas for use of the building that seem to have a lot of support:

1. Assisted Living. This is an acknowledged and growing need in Libby. The old high school is close to all services and medical facilities. The building is structurally sound and can be readily made compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act with elevators and fire suppression.

2. Consolidation of State Services. The state of Montana would like to bring their state offices like the assessor and human services under one roof. The old high school is an ideal central location and would really help the human services clients who now have to drive all the way out to McGrade school.

3. Move Libby City Hall back downtown. City hall is in its present location in the old St. Regis retail is inconvenient for everyone. The old city hall downtown is now occupied by the police department and was too small for the city in the first place; that's why they moved out.

The city offices take up to 9,000 to 10,000 square feet, almost equal to one floor of the old high school. In order for the city to move downtown, tenants will have to be found for their current space. The boon to downtown business and tourism would be huge.

This is a great opportunity for Libby and the downtown. Historic buildings are creating real economic development in towns all across Montana.

One thing people seem to overlook is that this solid landmark building is an important part of our infrastructure. For example, if law enforcement used part of the building for detention facilities, it would be readily secured and at a huge cost savings compared to new construction.

ConoverBond spent $10,000 to get this appraisal, an amazing show of good faith in Libby.

Please contact our elected officials and encourage them to do the right thing and bring city and state services back downtown.

Ron Carter