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School board should embrace opportunity for preservation

| March 9, 2006 11:00 PM

To the Editor:

As the sole not-for-profit historic preservation organization in Montana, the Montana Preservation Alliance encourages the continuation of negotiations between the Libby School Board and ConoverBond Development for the preservation and re-use of the historic Libby school.

For years, MPA has advocated for the preservation of the historic school. Now, the school board stands at the edge of a momentous decision that would have lasting benefits for generations of Libby citizens.

So much has been accomplished over the last two years. Many in Libby have come to realize that rejuvenation of the school preserves more than memories; it is key to long-term revitalization of Libby, and the creation of long-lasting economic and social partnerships.

We were heartened in December when the school board listened to local citizens, MPA, the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and engaged with a reputable developer in the re-use of the building.

Both the citizens of Libby and the school board have come too far to turn away now from the prospect of returning the school to its former life as a community cornerstone. ConoverBond has a proven track record in restoring historic buildings. The company has successfully redeveloped dozens of large historic buildings for a variety of commercial and residential uses. Now, ConoverBond wants to bring their experience and expertise to Libby, and has offered two viable proposals that presented the potential for significant revenue over time, with little risk to the district and taxpayers.

Libby has the enviable opportunity to partner with these successful developers and begin the long-awaited renaissance of downtown Libby.

Historic places are our most non-renewable resource. Once a historic place has been demolished, it is gone forever. The Libby City Council has expressed support for the project, and the people of Libby have voted overwhelmingly to preserve the historic Libby school. The Libby School Board should move quickly to embrace this historic opportunity to preserve and restore this community symbol. We encourage you to seize this chance and make the most of it.

Chere Jiusto

Executive Director

Montana Preservation Alliance