Monuments need a fix, but who should foot the bill?

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Sam Hannay and Bret Pitman of Glacier Pre-Cast concrete put the top on one of the new monuments in this file photo.

There’s a problem with the new monuments at the corner of Highway 2 and Nucleus Avenue. When the sun shines, they’re almost impossible to read.

Nucleus Avenue businessman Dave Petersen pitched a fix to the Columbia Falls City Council Monday night, saying it would take about $3,000 to fix the letters and another $10,000 to pay off the bill for the monuments themselves, which apparently ran over budget.

The project was not a city endeavor, it was done by the Columbia Falls Community Foundation, a nonprofit entity of Columbia Falls residents and businesspeople.

But Petersen noted the completed monument has its issues, particularly when the sun shines. The letters are too far away from the concrete, so the shadow of the letters makes a double vision effect.

“It’s fuzzy, you can’t really read it,” Petersen said

He made a pitch to council to use Tax Increment Financing Funds to fix the monument and pay off the balance.

TIF funds can be used for community enhancement projects in the downtown and business district area. He said this project would fit the bill.

After Petersen left the meeting, council discussed the matter.

Mayor Don Barnhart expressed frustration at the request. He personally donated time and resources to the project — he dug the foundation for the monuments and openly questioned how the project had such a big shortfall in funding, as it was pitched as having no cost to city taxpayers.

“That sounds like fiscal mismanagement,” Barnhart said.

Councilman Doug Karper was a bit more diplomatic, noting that projects can have variances in budgets. But he, too, noted that the project was sold to the city as not having a cost to taxpayers.

“Do we say (to the public) it didn’t cost us anything until now?” Karper said rhetorically.

In the end, council took no action on the matter — they noted they needed more information on the finances before making a decision.

The Foundation is also apparently approaching donors to bridge the funding gap.

Council agreed the monuments need to be fixed.

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