It would cost nearly $140,000 to repair the county’s damaged and vandalized Basin Creek Caretaker’s House south of Butte that was spared demolition in 2014, Butte-Silver Bow commissioners were told Wednesday night.
But 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, according to a report by Historic Preservation Officer Mary McCormick and Public Works Director Dave Schultz.
McCormick recommended the century-old house be repaired so a county employee could live in it and monitor the nearby Basin Creek Reservoir when it and surrounding areas are opened for public recreation next year. It would discourage “nefarious” activity around the reservoir, she said.
She also said many people have fond memories of Basin Creek Park and believe the house is an integral part of the area.
“They don’t want to see something they love taken away from them again,” McCormick said.
The findings and recommendations were for a presentation only, so the council took no action on the fate of the house. But several commissioners, including Jim Fisher and Dan Foley, said there were more pressing needs and higher spending priorities in Butte.
Fisher said the county has taken many stabs at saving or relocating the house and it was time to stop spending money and time on it
“To me it’s like feeding oats to a dead horse,” Fisher said. “I mean, the place is done.”
The Butte Water Co. built the two-story house about 10 miles south of town 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.
Schultz and McCormick were part of a seven-member working group that considered repair costs and options for the house.
The county had filed a claim with the Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority, which provides liability coverage for numerous local governments, and it will pay $47,498 for past vandalism if the house was fully renovated. That would be the payout if the county paid two $5,000 deductibles, Schultz said.
The working group noted past suggestions for the house, such as making it a “repair laboratory” for students at Highlands College or relocating it, but none panned out, Schultz said. The latter wasn’t really possible because nearby roads were too narrow for moving the house, he said.
Repairs and renovations would include new windows and exterior doors, plaster and floor work, heating and plumbing, cabinetry and painting. It could be completed by November 2019.
The council could take action on the house as soon as next week.