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Council ponders Cabinet View

| January 19, 2012 2:16 PM

Extending an olive branch in an attempt to avoid potential costly litigation, Libby City Council members have taken a step toward beginning anew in its dispute with Cabinet View Golf Club.

At issue is $1.5 million the city loaned to Cabinet View Golf Club for the purpose of developing its Wilderness Nine, bringing the course to its current state of 18 holes.

The city also would like to recoup some of the $1.6 million it expended to bring sewer service to the Cabinet Heights neighborhood while extending a trunk line to the golf course. However, there seems to be a difference in opinion of whether the Cabinet View Board of Trustees agreed to pay as much as $750,000 for the extension.

Without documentation to support its stance, the city is seeking to start over, which even calls into question acknowledgement the subdivision was adopted by the city.

City attorney Jim Reintsma has been asked by Mayor Doug Roll and the City Council to offer an opinion on whether the city can move forward on the premise that the subdivision has not been recognized by the city.

Citing a Montana Supreme Court decision as precedent on a similar case in Red Lodge, Reintsma is expected to offer a written opinion of the case by week’s end.

“Until we get an opinion on this, we really can’t move forward,” Roll said.

During the meeting, the mayor again expressed his desire to press forward in dialogue with Cabinet View Golf Club officials.

“We don’t want the property, Roll said referring to the estimated 115 home site lots. “From this point on, lets move forward. ... If I have said anything that offended, I am sorry,” Roll said to nine people in the audience, four of whom included a contingent from CVGC.

Dann Rohrer, CVGC Board of Trustees, was among those attending the hearing Tuesday, and he said he was left confused on the city’s stance on the subdivision.

“I don’t know whether this is a ploy to go back to the drawing board to try to get us to pay for the sewer line,” Rohrer said.

“At the time they were deciding on whether to extend the service, we had three options, this being one of them. The only reason we agreed to this is because we were told the Golf Club would not not have to pay for the extension. If we were told we would have, we would never have agreed to this,” Rohrer said.

Those other two options included septic systems or even a small sewer system for the CVGC clubhouse and home sites.

Payment for the trunk line is just part of the issue that divides city officials and the Golf Club. The other issue is the repayment of the loan, which is not contended by Rohrer and the CVGC Board.

“We don’t have any money. Clearly, we agreed to pay the loan back as the sale of the lots is made,” Rohrer said pulling a loan agreement from his brief case dated Jan. 1, 2004, that states the board will make a payment with the sale of each lot until the $1.5 million is repaid.

A sticking point is the Jan. 1, 2010, deadline on that agreement for the club to begin making payments on the loan. However, when the document was drafted in late 2003, the economy was much better than it is today, and it seemed there would be no difficulty meeting that deadline, which loomed seven years later.

“We just don’t have the money,” Rohrer said, admitting the CVGC Board has sent two checks of $100 as good-faith gestures.

Asked to open the CVGC financial records, Rohrer offered the annual Operating Expenses for the Golf Club to be $300,000 and its revenue to be just more than that.

“We finished the year with $2,000 (in the black),” Rohrer said. “Our wages and other expenses are right at $200,000, and we spent another $100,000 on Operational Supplies. Yes, we are cutting it that close.”

CVGC sought the $1.5 million loan on the premise the enhancement of the course would make the estimated 115 home property sites near the course more marketable for developers and in that process, CVGC would then use the sales of those lots to repay the note.

However, declining home values and a downward economic trend have left the lots unsold and vacant.

In other action, the City Council ...:

• Approved the Federal Fair Housing Law known as Resolution No. 1796, which makes it illegal to deny housing to an person because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

• Heard the Lights/Street/Sidewalks Committee has received bids for a backhoe for city purchase. City Councilwoman Barb Desch said the committee likely would forward both bids to the Council at its Feb. 6 meeting for consideration.

• Continues to work with Denise Hanson of the engineering firm Morrison Maierle, Inc., to find the right combination of polymers for the wastewater treatment plant’s new screw press. The city has set Friday as a date for the firm to meet a performance deadline.

• Heard an emotional opening prayer from Lloyd Miller of the Amish Church. Miller began the meeting with prayer, specifically asking for Divine assistance to aid the families of those hurting as a result of the recent string of violence against and to family members.