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Hamilton moves to join state Main Street program


By Michael Howell

The City of Hamilton voted unanimously at its last Council meeting to authorize the Mayor to sign an application for membership in the state’s Main Street Program. The program, created in 2005 under the auspices of the Montana Department of Commerce, provides technical assistance, support and training to Montana communities in their efforts to sustain and enhance a viable downtown.

Russ Lawrence, Coordinator for the Hamilton Downtown Association (HDA), made the pitch for joining the state program. He said the program was built around four “pillars” including aid in organizational development, local promotion, building design, and economic restructuring.

Lawrence told the council that the involvement in building design was to help towns and cities save buildings within the Main Street district that have historical and cultural value, as well as economic value to the community.

“Retail is undergoing major changes in our community and across the state and the nation,” said Lawrence. He said that service businesses were being affected by these changes as well, since many of those businesses serve the retail sector.

“Everyone on Main Street is adapting to the new economy,” said Lawrence, and the Main Street Program had a lot to offer in terms of technical help, other support and even grants for such things as long range planning, downtown revitalization, historic preservation and economic development.

The Main Street Program has a three tiered membership system, said Lawrence, including an “Affiliate” level, a “Designated Community” level and a “Certified Community” level. He said to achieve certified status, like the Town of Stevensville, required a paid staff, among other things. Lawrence was only recommending an Affiliate membership for Hamilton, which requires nothing other than a bi-annual report to the state organization. He said HDA would do the reporting work. What was required from the City was simply a signature on the application as well as support from the Chamber of Commerce. He said HDA was already working with the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Hamilton Business Improvement  District, as well as the Daly Mansion.

“We have plenty of organizations on board,” said Lawrence.

The Council agreed to unanimously to support the application.

In other business, the Council approved a waiver of the regulations in order to authorize the Mayor to sign a Private Well Use and Indemnification Agreement with Thomas Fox regarding the use of an existing private potable well for residential domestic water use at 3 Riverbend Court.

Councilor Mel Monson disagreed with the action, saying that the City had been working for years to get away from the use of private wells.

“This is reversing that,” he said. “I’d hate to see that. I’d like to see them get on city water because it is tested and approved. Private wells, especially close to the river, I think it’s best to put on city water.”

Councilor Joe Petrusaitis noted that in municipal code the city reserves the right to revoke any private well within 200 feet of a city water main. He noted that the current private well was within 200 feet of the water main.

Councilor Nancy Joy Valk pointed out that the main was on the opposite side of the street, making connection very costly.

Councilor Al Mitchell agreed that the law reserves the right for the city to require connection, but said that is the reason a waiver is being requested.

The vote was split 3 to 3 with Mitchell, West and Valk voting to allow the use of the private well and Petrusaitis, Monson and Helgeland voting against it. The Mayor broke the tie in favor of allowing the use of the private well.

The Council also approved on second reading changes to the City’s water and sewer charges and the purchase of a 2013 Chevy Silverado truck from Mildenberger Motors for $25,902.

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