Gov. likes ed center for Butte

2010-06-18T00:00:00Z Gov. likes ed center for ButteBy Justin Post of The Montana Standard Montana Standard

Gov. Brian Schweitzer toured the new Butte Public Archives building Thursday, saying he thinks the facility would complement a proposed restoration education center in the Mining City.

The governor said he's willing to explore the idea of using a portion of the state's Natural Resource Damage settlement to help bring the project to fruition, but says there are hurdles ahead.

"First off, I need to know that the community is fully supportive," he said during a Thursday interview with The Montana Standard.

The governor met with archives director Ellen Crain during his visit and one of his questions was whether a new education center would be viewed as competition.

But Schweitzer said his impression from his meeting with Crain was that the two facilities would complement one another.

A Butte Heritage Center board has suggested an operating endowment to ensure the center would be self-sustaining.

Meanwhile, the governor said he would like more input from Montanans on whether they believe construction costs for the project would be an appropriate use of NRD funds.

Preliminary estimates for the project are up to $30 million, including the endowment, with

$10 million possibly coming from the NRD fund, matched by $10 million from the Washington Foundation and possibly $5 million from Butte's $28 million Area One NRD settlement.

WIND TURBINE PLANT

Here's a look at other issues Schweitzer

discussed during his meeting with The Montana Standard:

  • Fuhrlander, a German wind turbine manufacturer, has made a verbal commitment to Schweitzer to open its first United States operation in the Mining City, but the governor says nothing is in writing and there's no timetable for the project.

The governor believes tax incentives at the federal level, if continued, would help attract wind turbine manufacturers such as Fuhrlander in the coming years.

The governor said roughly 1 percent of the country's electricity portfolio is linked to wind generation, and that the trend is to boost that figure.

"I think most of the playing field is still out in front of us when it comes to wind energy," he said.

In Montana, Schweitzer says about 20 large-scale wind energy projects are proposed. Those proposing the projects are being introduced to Fuhrlander's CEO, the governor said.

"Let's face it, what he needs to do is sell turbines and if there's a market he's going to build the turbines," he said. "There is a market for the turbines, but he needs firm orders."

MSTI DEBATE

  • The debate over the Mountain States Transmission Intertie, or MSTI, project has prompted calls to the governor from people with concerns about the line's impact on human health and the Montana landscape.

The governor is bullish on MSTI and thinks states like California don't have comparable wind resources. Montana, however, can generate excess wind that he believes should be exported.

"The point is if we're going to be serious about domestic energy production, wind is a big part of it and we will move wind through transmission lines," he said. "Unfortunately where we have a lot of our big cities they don't have very good wind resources, so we've got to get the electricity to them."

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

  • Montana's medical marijuana laws could use some tweaking, the governor says.

He questions whether voters intended medical marijuana to be more restricted than having traveling clinics for people with a wide range of ailments.

"Please, that isn't what we had in mind," the governor said. "I suspect there's a whole lot of people smoking marijuana because they want to, not because they need to and I think we've got to tighten it up a little bit."

VETERANS' HOME

  • The Mining City will likely have to fight during the next legislative session for state matching funds for the proposed new $10 million veterans' home, the governor said.

"These are not flush times," he said.

- Reporter Justin Post may be reached at justin.post@lee.net or by telephone, 496-5572.

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