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The Chief torn down

The Chief, a former bar on Highway 1, was torn down Tuesday as part of Anaconda's efforts to tear down vacant, burned-out buildings that have contributed to the Smelter City's blight.

Anaconda is getting spiffed up through a new program launched by the county last year.

Around 12 buildings have been demolished in the Smelter City over the last few months, said Bill Everett, chief executive. The latest in this effort was the Chief, a former bar on Highway 1 which was taken down Tuesday.

Everett said the county passed an ordinance last year that requires owners of vacant buildings to register their building and pay a $300 fee to the county.

That has helped the county raise money to help demolish the buildings while also motivating owners to want to get rid of buildings that are "eyesores," Everett said.

Everett said many of the buildings had been burned, were long since past being up to code, and contributed to the town's blight.

Long-time government watchdog Rose Nyman told The Montana Standard last week that she has only heard positive responses in the community about the county's efforts to get rid of dilapidated buildings.

"I believe in historic preservation, but there are times when a structure is hopeless," Nyman said by phone.

Nyman said she moved four-and-a-half years ago because of a burned out vacant building next door that was in such bad shape, debris kept coming off and landing in her yard.

The county offers to pay half of the demolition costs. For the Chief bar, that amounted to $5,000 from the county for a $10,000 demolition bill.

If an owner can't come up with the other half of the cost, the county will add the cost to the owner's tax bill with a "reasonable interest rate" to pay off over a long period of time, Everett said.

The vacant building program isn't the only way the county is trying to work with residents to find ways to spruce up the town.

Everett said the county has also implemented a program to improve sidewalks. The county will hire the contractor and then add that bill to the residents' tax bill. For low income residents, the county charges no interest. For those with middle to high income, the county charges 1 percent interest.

Everett said it's in both residents' and the county's best interest to fix up sidewalks. If someone gets hurt because of a bad sidewalk, both the county and the resident are open to a lawsuit, he said.

"We've had a ton of people take advantage (of the sidewalk program)," he said. "We're getting our pride back."

The county has also improved the lighting system and done some pavement work on the streets, also as part of the effort to dress up the town.

But getting rid of "eyesores" within the community is making the biggest difference, Everett said.

"This is one of the things I'm most proud of," he said.

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Nat'l Resources / General Reporter

Environmental and natural resources reporter for the Montana Standard.

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