Saving people should come before preserving bricks, a dozen South Side residents told the Billings City Council Monday night.
But Ward 3 councilwoman Jan Iverson was the only council member who voted to keep the Child and Family Intervention Center Project in the old Maverick Fire Station, 201 S. 30th St. Her motion to allow the program to stay in the former firehouse died for lack of a second. A subsequent motion to sell the building to a for-profit business passed, 9-1.
The building will be appraised and sold to the Old Maverick Fire Station Development Venture, which includes partners Randy Hafer, president of High Plains Architects, and Kevin Oliver, principal in charge of Northern Industrial Hygiene. The partners plan to invest up to $250,000 in restoring the building.
"I came here tonight believing that I would follow staff recommendation and award the bid to Maverick Venture," Iverson said. "I have to vote against that because what they're doing over there is so important - their involvement, their passion."
Speakers during a one-hour public hearing made heartfelt pleas to the council to allow the Child and Family Intervention program to stay in the building. CFICP board member Monty Wallace said an anonymous donor has agreed to buy the building from the city and lease it to the center for $1 a year.
"The work of the CFICP is not popular," Wallace said. "It deals with people and problems that most people don't want to get involved in. It's not as trendy as a new office building."
The intervention program and Tumbleweed Runaway Program both submitted proposals to the city to either lease or buy the Maverick Fire Station. City staff recommended council members get the building back on the tax rolls by selling it to a for-profit business.
Dave Morales, director of the Child and Family Intervention Center Project, told the council that his group has looked at other locations for the program, including the Garfield School building. But he said the rent at the school is too high.
"No matter what happens here tonight, the emergency room will continue to put broken bones back together from abused women," Morales said. "Right here in Billings, between 300 and 400 children are taken away from their parents every year. We want to get involved in women's and children's lives before this happens."
Council women Shirley McDermott and Peggie Gaghen, who represent the South Side as part of Ward 1, said their vote to sell the building to Maverick Venture doesn't mean they don't appreciate what the Child and Family program does.
"Hopefully your programs are bigger than that building," McDermott said. "I'm not sure we should tie them to a building, particularly one with historic significance."
The Maverick Venture plan includes converting the top floor of the building to two or three loft apartments and using the main floor as office space. The partners plan to lease out part of the office space and use the rest to house Northern Industrial Hygiene, an 8-year-old business that helps deal with hazardous materials in renovation projects. The business, which has offices in Seattle and Helena, is based in Billings and employs 14 people in the three cities, Oliver said.
"This is an excellent location for us because of our employees who come from all over town," Oliver said. "We also like the historical aspect of it."
Hafer said the histoirc Maverick Station, built in 1911, is a historic gem.
In other action Monday night, the council voted to authorize $14.6 in additional money to the FY 2003 budget to pay for construction of the new Animal Shelter and Billings Operation Center. Despite a last-minute motion by council member Donald Jones to trim $2 million from the authorization, the full authorization was approved in a 7-3 vote. The new city complex will be built on South Billings Boulevard to replace existing buildings that will be torn down in a deal between the city of Billings and Sysco Foods.
The council also approved a city staff recommendation to acknowledge an Aquatics Facilities Assessment as a planning document. There was concern among some council members, including Dave Brown of Ward 5, that the plan was too rigid.
The assessment includes recommendations to:
Improve Rose Park and South Park swimming pools.
Build a Heights pool.
Build an indoor aquatics facility.
Close Athletic Pool.
Provide lifeguards at wading pools.
Keep closed wading pools closed.
Convert other wading pools to spray parks