Written by John Plestina
The first photo is ongoing work on infrastructure at the Fort Peck Tribes Sustainable Village project in Poplar. Earthwork is taking place in preparation to build circular streets in the old village fashion. The second photo is the Tribes environmental director Deb Madison pointing to a built-in wood stove in one of the new factory-built prefabricated houses. (Photos by John Plestina)
A lottery system will determine 20 lucky families from a much larger pool of applicants for the Fort Peck Tribes new family housing development in Poplar slated for occupancy later this year.
The first phase of the Fort Peck Sustainable Village project on a 5.2-acre site at the scuttled airport north of U.S. Hwy. 2 in Poplar is partially in place and is scheduled for full occupancy before December.
The first eight of 20 factory-built prefabricated houses have been moved by truck and trailer from Method Homes in Ferndale, Wash., to Poplar. At the end of last week, five had been placed on insulated form foundations.
The Fort Peck Tribes’ environmental director Deb Madison said Friday, Aug. 14, that the three other houses that were delivered are scheduled to be placed on foundations this week and two more houses are en route.
Much of the needed infrastructure was installed at the site this year and streets are under construction.
Planning for the project began in June 2013 when the Tribes partnered with the non-profit
Make It Right Foundation, a New Orleans, La.-headquartered charitable organization.
Make It Right representatives met with tribal leaders, architects and designers.
At that time, the Fort Peck Tribes Housing Improvement Program hired Felix McGowen, formerly of Poplar and now of Post Falls, Idaho, as a consultant for the program. He coordinated public meetings in Poplar where potential tenants were asked what they would like to see in the houses and neighborhood.
McGowan said in August 2014 that tribal members attending the meetings said they want the new communities developed in the old village fashion with circular streets.
There are income guidelines.
Madison said applicants for the houses must qualify by earning between 40 and 60 percent of the median income for Roosevelt County at the last census, which was in 2010.
They will be recertified each year to ensure that they meet all requirements to remain in the house they are living in.
The occupants of the houses will be renters, but home ownership will be available and structured through a low-income housing tax credit rent-to-own program with ownership transferring to tenants after 15 years of renting.
Some houses are as large as four bedrooms and two baths. Occupancy depends on family size.
The houses have angular shapes and are built with the “cradle to cradle” method, which means building with safe and reusable construction materials. Make It Right says on its website that the houses use 70 percent less energy than conventional homes of the same size.
The houses are built from recycled materials and meet the LEED Platinum standard. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, known by the acronym LEED, is a set of construction and design rating systems for “green” buildings and neighborhoods.
“We are anticipating extremely low MDU bills for electricity,” Madison said. “The R-value in these walls will be rated R-57.”
R-value is a measure of resistance to heat flow through a given thickness of material. The higher the R-value, the greater the resistance of the insulation, meaning the houses are very energy efficient.
All of the houses have electric heat, central air conditioning, track lighting in living rooms and high-end appliances that include stoves, refrigerators, washers and dryers.
General Electric is donating a 30 percent discount on appliances for the 20 houses.
All of the houses are equipped with wood burning stoves to further decrease the use of electricity. Some are built into livingroom walls, some are free-standing and some houses come with fireplaces.
Method Homes completed the first house for the Poplar project earlier this year and shipped it to the Dwell magazine-sponsored Dwell on Design conference in Los Angeles, Calif., in May. That house is now on a foundation at the development site in Poplar.
Madison said the total cost of houses is about $235,000, including shipping from Washington, appliances, landscaping, sidewalks and driveways.
She said the tribes are investing about $2.5 million into the project for infrastructure, which includes purchase and installation of water and sewer lines, extension of all utilities and constructing new streets.
The original plan was for Method Homes to manufacture 18 of the houses and move them to Poplar and two houses to be built on-site. The plan is now for Method Homes to build and ship all 20 houses.
Jason Campbell of Arete Development Group said the Fort Peck Tribes could become a model for tribes nationwide with the first 20 houses during a meeting held in Wolf Point Sept. 25, 2014.
McGowen said one year ago that there is a three-phase plan to build up to 100 houses. He said construction in Poplar and other communities beyond the first 20 houses will not happen immediately.
Long range plans stated in 2014 included building more energy efficient tribal houses in Poplar, Wolf Point, Brockton, Fort Kipp, Oswego and Frazer during the coming years.
Timelines for construction beyond the first 20 houses in Poplar and possible locations in Wolf Point and other communities have not been disclosed. Public meetings were held in all of the communities during the fall of 2014.
Actor Brad Pitt co-founded the nonprofit Make It Right Foundation in 2007 with a goal of building affordable and energy-efficient homes in New Orleans, La., after Hurricane Katrina — the nation’s worst natural disaster on record — destroyed houses and entire neighborhoods in New Orleans in 2005, displacing about 770,000 people in the Gulf Coast region, many of them in New Orleans. In 2014, Make It Right reported that the organization had completed 90 of 150 houses in New Orleans.
Since 2007, Make It Right has partnered with housing programs in Newark, N.J., and Kansas City, Mo., as well as with the Fort Peck Tribes.
Written by Herald-News
Wolf Point School District superintendent Gary Scott estimated that volunteer efforts by about 30 adults and students at all three school buildings during a volunteer work day Saturday, Aug. 15, saved the WPSD about $3,000 in labor costs. Volunteers painted interior walls, cleaned, set up classrooms, mowed grass, weeded and demolished the old crow’s nest at the football field. Among those volunteering were 2013 WPHS graduate Katie Page (near right); her sister, Ashley Page (far right), a 2015 graduate; their mother, teacher Joelle Page (near left); and junior high teacher Karla McGill. (Photo by John Plestina)
Written by John Plestina
With the proposed Wolf Point Village apartment project on hold for several months and appearing to be out of options, a Helena developer has stepped up and contacted the municipal officials with an interest in reviving the project.
GNDC executive director Tori Matejovsky and housing specialist Brianna Vine told the Wolf Point City Council Monday, Aug. 17, that Gene Leuwer submitted a letter Aug. 3, saying he would apply for more state Low Income Housing Tax Credits.
Leuwer must submit a LIHTC application by Oct. 3. Leuwer and municipal officials will attend a LIHTC meeting in Helena on Nov. 14. Whether or not he receives the tax credits will be known by January 2016.
“I do think we have a rock solid application,” mayor Chris Dschaak said.
A public meeting will be held in Wolf Point. It has not yet been scheduled.
Matejovsky said Leuwer has current projects in Havre and his references are good.
Developer Jonathan Reed of Jonathan Reed & Associates of Colorado Springs, Colo., worked with municipal officials and GNDC through most of 2014 and nearly half of this year to develop the apartment project. He withdrew after two rounds of construction bidding came in substantially over budget.
Matejovsky said Leuwer would apply for a larger amount of LIHTC funding than previously applied for to close the financial gap Reed encountered.
The city received a $750,000 HOME grant for the project through the Montana Department of Commerce in early 2014. The city acted in a pass-through capacity with the project for the funding. Great Northern Development Corporation was the project manager.
Wolf Point must spend the HOME funds by March 17, 2016, for Wolf Point Village or another affordable housing project.
Matejovsky said construction must begin in the spring of 2016 to meet that deadline.
Dschaak said the council must act on annexation of the property into the city limits.
The proposed 24-unit rental complex had been planned for a site at the northern edge of Wolf Point, within walking distance of Northeast Montana Health Service - Wolf Point Campus, Borge Park, the swimming pool and Northside Elementary School.
The 2014 proposal included building four one-bedroom units, 12 two-bedroom units and eight three-bedroom units. The proposed complex had been targeted to families with incomes between 40 and 60 percent of the area median income. A family of four with a household income between $23,240 and $38,860 would have qualified for the apartments with rents ranging from $354 to $767 monthly.
The apartments would have included energy efficient air conditioning, heating, appliances, single-car garages, and included common areas with barbecue, gazebo, computer learning center and library.
It is unknown whether a project by the new developer would include the Wolf Point Village name or the same amenities that Reed proposed.
Written by Herald-News
Construction has begun on the handicapped accessible ramp on the east side of the Shumway Gazebo in Sherman Park. The city contracted the project to Scanlon LLC of Fort Peck. (Photo by John Plestina)
Written by John Plestina
The Wolf Point City Council discussed the federal essential air service contract with Cape Air and the need to retain the service. A four-year contract is being offered to the provider of subsidized flights between Wolf Point and Billings.
Contracts with previous carriers were for two years.
The city had sought additional flights, but that will not be available.
In other business, the council discussed the need to replace an engine that blew a piston in a two-year-old garbage truck. The work will be done in Billings at a cost of $33,000. The truck is not under warranty.
Mayor Chris Dschaak said the environmental cleanup of the burned out former site of Gysler Furniture and Appliance is complete.
The city will advertise the property for sale at a future date.
A fire destroyed both Gysler buildings in March 2014. The site contained asbestos.
The city-owned Nielsen building on Cascade Street, which is used for storage, has asbestos that needs to be abated before demolition. The council voted to apply for a federal Brownfield program loan.