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Side view of the historic caretaker's home

This is a side view of the caretaker's home at the Basin Creek Reservoir picnic area. The house has been heavily damaged and its fate debated by county officials for years.

Photo courtesy Butte-Silver Bow

A Butte-Silver Bow commissioner is pressing for a final decision on what to do with the damaged and vandalized Basin Creek Caretaker’s House that was spared demolition in 2014.

“I don’t want to wait and see it sit there for another two or three years,” said Commissioner Jim Fisher, who wants the full council to settle the matter Wednesday night.

He is opposed to the county spending any more money on the house at the Basin Creek picnic area, about 10 miles south of town, but says he’s heard nothing more on the issue since Historic Preservation Officer Mary McCormick and Public Works Director Dave Schultz gave a presentation on it before council a month ago.

McCormick said Tuesday that she still wants the century-old house saved and restored, which a group called Butte Citizens for Preservation and Revitalization also supports.

It is urging its members to oppose any plan to demolish the house and says it will “take the lead” in raising money and arranging volunteer labor for repairs and renovations.

“Butte CPR would love to see this residence saved, rehabilitated and eventually put to community use,” the group said in an email to members Tuesday, noting Fisher’s request for a decision.

McCormick and Schultz said last month that it would cost nearly $140,000 to repair the two-story house. They said the county’s insurance carrier would pay about $47,000 of that estimated tab for past vandalism, and grants, private contributions and material donations might cover other costs.

McCormick recommended the house be repaired so a county employee could live in it and monitor the nearby Basin Creek Reservoir when it is opens for public recreation next year.

The Butte Water Co. built the house in 1913 and until the 1990s, the caretaker of the reservoir and water works lived there. But a new house was built nearby and the older house at Basin Creek Park has been empty — and often vandalized — since then.

After numerous ways to save it were explored, each stirring new debate, county officials proposed in 2014 that it be demolished. But the Historic Preservation Commission granted it a 90-day stay, then a 60-day extension, and it’s still there today.

Fisher said last month that spending more county money on the house is like “feeding oats to a dead horse.” He has now asked the council to decide the issue when it meets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Butte-Silver Bow Courthouse.

“I’m opposed to the county paying to renovate it and I’m opposed to a county employee living in it,” said Fisher.

He would be OK with the county selling it and letting the buyer either move it or invest his or her own money into repairing it, he said Monday.

“If you can’t do that, I think it’s time to demolish it,” he said.

McCormick wants the council to accept the $47,000 insurance payout, saying it was a “huge chunk of money” that could cover part of the repair and renovation costs.

She has been trying to secure volunteer labor since the presentation and is pleased Butte CPR “is willing to step up to the plate and raise money that they can manage” for the project if the council lets it go forward.

The house is next to the only access trail planned up to Basin Creek Reservoir once it’s open for public recreation next year, she said, so an employee living there could monitor the area and prevent vandalism.

She said she doesn’t know what the council will do Wednesday night, but noted that anyone from the public can speak on the issue at the beginning of the meeting.

Butte CPR urged its members to contact commissioners and ask them to save the house and commit to housing an employee in the park until its public use can be assured.

It says the county should use its insurance money to pay for some repair costs and it pledge to “take charge of raising the necessary funds, volunteer labor and donations of supplies to restore the house.”

Fisher, in an email Tuesday, said he was not advocating demolition as a first option but wanted the matter settled.

“I do not wish to let this issue be kicked down the road any longer,” he said.


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