Butte’s Urban Revitalization Agency put $21,818 into a renovation project on Main Street on Tuesday, showing its grant program is viable despite a $241,000 revenue hit from a tax settlement involving NorthWestern Energy.
The grant will partially pay for a new roof on a vacant, two-story building at 205 S. Main St. that was owned by the Salvation Army from 1928 until last month. It has been tucked away in obscurity for years between Craven’s Garage to the south and Pork Chop John’s on Mercury Street to the north.
“This building is much bigger than you think,” Karen Byrnes, Butte-Silver Bow’s director of community development, told the URA board Tuesday. “It’s one of those sleeper buildings in Uptown Butte.”
A construction company called Rex Builders LLP plans to spend nearly $97,000 for a new roof, trusses and a bearing wall. The URA grant will cover about 25 percent of the eligible costs.
“It has been sitting vacant for 30 years,” said Todd Brown, owner of Rex Builders. “It has needed a roof for 30 years.”
All the windows – including two store-fronts and several on the second story – are boarded up. Brown plans to use part of the first floor for his company’s office and warehouse space and possibly use the second floor for apartments, although that has not been decided.
The grant award comes on the heels of a tax settlement between the Montana Department of Revenue and NorthWestern Energy reached Oct. 14 – long after local governments throughout Montana had calculated property tax revenue and set their budgets.
The deal lowered the utility’s taxable values and dropped its overall tax bills in Montana to $134 million. The state’s initial central assessment was $163 million, but a final agreement lowered it from $144 million to $134 million.
NorthWestern is the single largest property taxpayer in Montana, though its tax bills differ throughout the state based on its buildings and assets in local areas. Its new Montana headquarters building is located in Uptown Butte and is the revenue-generating cornerstone of the URA’s tax-increment financing district.
The settlement took a nearly $383,000 hit on Butte-Silver Bow’s coffers and means another $241,354 loss to the URA. The county plans to offset its loss through reserves instead of trying to increase property taxes to make up the difference, and Byrnes said the URA can absorb the loss as well.
The URA’s budget for the current fiscal year ending June 30 was based on conservative revenue projections, so the lower figure won’t really affect the agency’s spending plans, Byrnes said.
It will be able to meet its current payment obligations for the $7.4 million Uptown parking garage under construction and it still has more than $100,000 it can dole out in grants this fiscal year, she said.
The grant for the building at 205 S. Main will take up about 20 percent of that, but Byrnes said it is money well spent. Rex Builders has been part of several successful renovation projects and “they do fabulous work,” she said.
Brown said he bought the building from the Salvation Army last month and putting on a new roof will save the building.
“Every time it rains I just cringe,” he said.
The roof and initial renovation work should be completed by December and he will soon begin paying property taxes on the building.