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Hollow shops site

The open area to the right (east) of the junkyard in the background and some land below it is property owned by Hollow Contracting that has been selected as a new home to the county shops. The county is close to purchasing 20 acres of the land off of Beef Trail Road at $13,250 per acre.

Butte-Silver Bow is nearing its first big-money step toward building a new complex of county maintenance shops by purchasing 20 acres of land just west of urban Butte for $13,250 per acre.

Last-minute tweaks to the $265,000 land deal are being made but Dave Palmer, the county’s chief executive, expects a final agreement to come before commissioners in the next two weeks for approval.

Palmer said Tuesday that he wants architects and engineers to get designs done sooner than they proposed so work on the $14.2 million project off of Beef Trail Road in west Butte can get started next summer.

“They were going to go out to bid in June or July of next year … but that is the worst possible time to be going out to bid because everybody (contractors) is already working,” Palmer said. “I’m pushing them to move that into late spring when people are still looking for work and planning for work.”

Palmer noted that the land deal will be the “first big capital purchase” in the overall project. The state is paying the $14.2 million tab as part of removing polluted mine waste from underneath the current shops and other areas near the Butte Civic Center.

Gov. Steve Bullock’s administration has agreed to the overall plan but must OK its bits and pieces, including the land deal.

Palmer expects that to happen and says if the project goes out to bid next spring, work could get underway sooner than planned and the new complex could be up and running by the spring of 2020.

The complex will include three vehicle storage buildings, a building for washing vehicles, another for working on them, and a new administration building. But the plan does not call for a new re-fueling station to replace the one at the current complex.

Instead, the county would move to a fuel network with a private vendor, with only nominal storage of fuel for use in the maintenance shop for repair work.

The county plans to pay Bill Hollow $265,000 for the land off of Beef Trail Road in west Butte, just north of the Copper Mountain Sports Complex. Hollow is president of Hollow Contracting Inc. in Butte.

The county is granting Hollow an easement on the west side of the tract to provide access to Beef Trail Road, and Hollow is giving the county an easement so it can hook in water and sewer lines.

Commissioners had approved the Hollow site last year, but progress on the move was stymied for months because of cost concerns and largely under-the-radar political strife.

The county, with input from private consultants, presented a plan last April for a new shop complex on the Hollow property with a $15-million construction tab and a total cost of $18.6 million. The state had said it wouldn’t pay more than the $12.5 million initially budgeted for the move.

But the consultants presented a new plan in late September that reduces construction costs to $11.8 million and the overall tab to $14.2 million, and that passed muster with Bullock’s office.

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Before the new plan was presented, Commissioner Jim Fisher said the council had been kept in the dark on details about the overall project. But after officials detailed the new plan, he said he was pleased it was moving forward.

But outgoing interim Commissioner Dan Strizic has still criticized the process, saying the council was only given a short time to consider and approve a revised plan that included the loss of a fuel station.

“I didn’t feel the presentation (on the plan) provided the information to make an informed decision nor were the individuals presenting able to answer detailed questions,” Strizic said in a Nov. 5 letter to Palmer and fellow commissioners that is now before the council.

Strizic has given Palmer a list of questions he wants answered. A couple are about the shops but most are about other provisions of a proposed consent decree that the county, state, federal environmental regulators and Atlantic Richfield Co. have been working on for two decades.

The consent decree spells out long-term responsibilities for cleaning up mine pollution on the Butte Hill, but Strizic said there are critical questions that should be answered before commissioners sign off on the agreement.

Strizic was appointed an interim commissioner this summer to temporarily replace District 2 Commissioner Sheryl Ralph, who took a new job in Arizona. Michele Shea was elected as the new commissioner on Nov. 6 and was sworn in Tuesday.

Palmer said Tuesday night that he and other county officials will still try to answer Strizic's questions next week.

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Government and politics reporter

Reporter with emphasis on government and politics.

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