Following the publication of a cartoon in the Bitterroot Star, the chair of the Stevensville Community Foundation’s community center committee contacted the Star to see if a clarification could be made.
The Stevensville Community Foundation has been trying to get a community center built for the past 20 years. Recently, the project got a boost when the Stevensville Town Council decided that looking into a possible partnership was a good idea. The council had also previously approved a sewer line extension project that will allow the center to hook up to Town services.
Some readers thought the cartoon implied that the new sewer line would cost $1.5 million. Although the cost is unknown at the time, it will be under $150,000, according to Mayor Brandon Dewey. The Foundation will pay the cost of hooking up to the line and any other costs associated with running the line into the interior of the property, located at the corner of Park Avenue and Middle Burnt Fork Road. The proposed 1300 feet of sewer main on Park Avenue would make service available to 13 lots and make sewer available to both occupied and undeveloped lands to the south if development occurs at some point in the future. Water service already exists in the area.
The sewer main extension project is part of a slate of planned infrastructure projects in Stevensville. Other projects include resurfacing and sidewalk repair on East Third, improvements at the intersection of East Fifth Street and Park Avenue to enhance pedestrian safety and address parking issues, and sidewalk improvements along the route of East Sixth Street between Main Street and College. The town is also working on finalizing plans to improve sidewalks downtown on West Third Street. It will add lighting and curbing on the north side of the street. All of the projects are in addition to the water system improvements and leak repairs that are underway.
According to Bob Thomas, chair of the Foundation’s community center committee, more than $225,000 has been raised and spent on buying the land plus improvements and maintenance. The private non-profit Foundation now owns the land free and clear and has an additional $60,000 in reserve for the project, which Thomas estimates could cost up to $1.5 million.
Thomas has been meeting with the mayor to see if they can come up with a mutual management plan for the center that will benefit both entities. Thomas said that potential uses for the space have changed in recent years, and the Town has numerous ways in which it could use the space, particularly for meetings and for Parks and Recreation needs.
“This gives the town organization the opportunity to prove itself by taking over management of a multi-use facility,” said Dewey. “If we had $500,000 in reserves to put up a building like this on our own, we’d jump on that. We have a space problem for gatherings and programs, and here is an opportunity to build on the Foundation’s strength in creating a facility.”
Thomas said the $1.5 million is a high estimate for what the building will cost. “We’re hoping we will get some local contractors to help us with discounts and donations.”
“It isn’t a paltry amount,” said Dewey. “It’s significant. This is what the community is willing to invest. The use we will get out of that building will more than pay for itself.”
Thomas said they hope to begin construction next year. “We’re working hard, getting a lot of thoughts on the table and the creatives juices are flowing.”
Both men see the partnership as nothing but a win-win for the community. The Foundation will raise the money to complete the project, while the Town will take over the daily management in exchange for use of at least part of the space. Currently, they are assessing three components: potential uses, potential revenues, and potential operating costs.
“With the town’s involvement, the people now will have more of a voice in the project,” said the mayor. “We have the capacity to build whatever the need looks like.”
Anyone wanting more information can contact Thomas at 381-2901.
Victoria Howell can be contacted at: [email protected] or (406)207-8793.