Ravalli County Weed District employees did not just find a new home to house their operation; they pretty much built it. Or, more exactly, they rebuilt the old Victor Volunteer Fire Department to meet their needs. Just to be clear, they re-modeled the old fire hall themselves with their own sweat, labor and tools.
If you ever visited the Weed District headquarters when it was housed in a shop near the airport north of Stevensville, you can appreciate the need for some more suitable accommodations. It was a little like a cross between working in a closet and working in the middle of an active shop. Now, things couldn’t be more different.
The turn in events took place last January, according to Kellieann Morris, Noxious Weed Coordinator. She said they went to the county commissioners and made them aware of the conditions and asked for a bigger, safer place to work. She said the commissioners told them to make a plan.
But when they went to get a bid on an engineering for design of a new building or improvements in the old, Morris said that Commissioner Greg Chilcott suggested they go talk to the Victor Fire Department which had just moved to a new station on the edge of town and look into using the old fire hall located just across the street from Victor Park. It only took a 20-minute conversation with the fire chief, she said, to realize what a deal they had found.
They started remodeling the building to suit their needs in mid-January.
The County Commissioners put $7,500 into the deal and Morris and the whole Weed District staff jumped in to do the work. Maybe not all the work, but most of it.
“We didn’t do any electrical,” said Morris, “and we didn’t do the framing.” But they did do a lot. They put the walls up to make the new office spaces and sheet-rocked them. They replaced ceiling tiles and put in molding and trim made from re-used building materials. They installed the flooring and the bathroom fixtures, using an old antique dresser for a washstand and old pan for a sink. It sounds funky, but it looks really neat.
The road crew including Tom Burge, John Harris, and Joey Bryan all helped in the remodel, bringing tools from home and putting in a lot of sweat. They are very excited about the move. There is a parking bay for every vehicle they have now and a place to store chemicals that is separate from the space used by administration and the public.
Morris said the location was better in a lot of ways. It is much more centrally located than the shop on Airport Road near Stevensville making it easier on the road crew to service the entire valley.
“I’m so thankful that the commissioners saw our need and helped do something about it,” said Morris. She said they hoped to hold an open house celebration when COVID-19 related restrictions are lifted, maybe some time in July.