The Choteau Area Port Authority Board, meeting Nov. 29, reviewed project reports from several groups working on community and economic development projects that arose out of a community assessment held last spring.
CAPA board members Mary Sexton, Steve Dogiakos, Corlene Martin and Blair Patton reviewed work related to the Teton Pass Ski Area, the Choteau/Teton Public Library, promotional and branding efforts for marketing Choteau amenities/businesses and funding efforts associated with several grants.
The board also announced that board member Karrie Crabtree has resigned. The Choteau City Council on Dec. 4 is expected to appoint Choteau restaurant operator Gabriella Rasmussen to fill out Crabtree’s term on the board.
Chairwoman Sexton said work continues on a long-term project to remodel and revitalize the Choteau/Teton Public Library. Working with contacts through the governor’s Main Street Montana-Rural Partners program, Sexton said, the library project group hopes to obtain a $15,000 planning grant for a preliminary engineering report for the library.
Committee members are seeking options to raise the $5,000 local match needed for the Department of Commerce planning grant, she said. The Boe Brothers Foundation has already given the group a $1,5000 grant and committee members are also seeking a grant from 3 Rivers Communications and possibly funding from the Choteau Friends of the Library.
One step in the planned library changes has already happened in November, Sexton said: a book brigade of 40-plus volunteers helped Library Director Della Yeager move all the adult non-fiction books to the upstairs floor of the library and to move all the adult fiction books from upstairs to the main floor. The fiction selection gets more use than the nonfiction so it just makes sense to move the fiction onto the handicapped accessible main floor of the library.
Choteau Mayor Dan Lannen who is serving on a committee trying to get better highway signs on interstates and U.S. highways said his group is continuing to work with the Montana Department of Transportation to get signs denoting “services” and “business district” for Choteau along with signs off the interstate at Vaughn and Wolf Creek, denoting access to Glacier National Park.
On a related matter, Lannen said, the infrastructure committee that Public Works Director Mike Maples is heading is working with Eliza Fiaschetti, the Montana Rural Partners coordinator, seeking grants that could help fund the replacement of the aging water main beneath Choteau’s main street so that the MDT will be able to do an upgrade of Main Avenue as part of its ongoing U.S. Highway 89 upgrade, that has been moving south about five miles at a time from Dupuyer to Fairfield.
Fiaschetti, attending the meeting on speaker phone, said that Maples and his committee have worked up a memorandum of understanding with MDT and are working on a timeline and a budget. They are exploring preliminary engineering/planning grant opportunities through USDA Rural Development and the Montana Treasure State Endowment Program.
Dogiakos said the business retention committee is working on having some programming available within the community in January and is working with the Great Falls Development Authority, he said.
Sexton said another project group working on tourism and recreation is looking at signs and staffing alternatives for the Choteau visitors center as well as seeking funding through grants for any changes.
Sandra Dogiakos, the board’s secretary who also serves on one of the projects, said that the branding committee is working to get more information on marketing from Wendt Advertising, which created the www.visitchoteau.com website, and talking to stakeholders in the community about what their priorities are.
Gloria O’Roarke, the executive director of the Montana Economic Developers Association, also attending by speaker phone, reminded the CAPA board that her organization has a $1,500 mini grant available for work associated with the MEDA community assessment.
Sexton also said that the advisory committee on the Teton Pass Ski Area continues to work with the Montana Cooperative Development Center in Great Falls on a feasibility study of the owner/management options at the Teton Pass Ski Area.
New Zealander Nick Wood and a partner own the ski area west of Choteau on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. The partners closed the ski run a year ago, citing its lack of profit and the expense of having to replace the main generator. The ski area remains listed for sale at $375,000 with Clearwater Properties of Choteau.
The MCDC secured a $66,000 federal grant for a feasibility study to look at whether there are ways to operate the ski area at a profit if not at least at breakeven. The consulting firm’s report is expected out next May, and the ski area remains shuttered for the 2018-19 season.
Sexton reported that as of Nov. 29, the CAPA had $3,795.25 in the bank and continues to receive donations of money pledged to provide the match for the $66,000 feasibility study grant.
The board’s next meeting will be Jan. 24 at 5:30 p.m. in the Choteau City Office.