RL Meeting Strives for Clarity on CDBG Grant

Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter
Thursday, April 4, 2019
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Photo by Merv Coleman
Tracy Timmons explained the terms of the grant application at a meeting on the CDBG grant application for Old Roosevelt School in Red Lodge.

A meeting was called at Roosevelt School in Red Lodge on Thursday evening, March 28, to allow proponents and opponents to clear the air regarding the proposed plan for funding improvements to Old Roosevelt School. Arguments were presented by both sides. A determination was exhibited to make it an open and welcoming forum.  The City has partnered with Red Lodge Area Community Foundation to apply for a Community Development Block Grant funded by the feds through the state. There were strong arguments on both sides and some passion shown at times. About 80 people attended. 

Dan Clark moderated. He threw out an initial question the project presented for the community: “Who are you? Who are you as Red Lodge and what kind of community do you want it to become?” he asked. He noted each new generation must plan, “You are living out today a previous generation’s visions.”

There were several speakers followed by a question (submitted in writing) and answer session.  

Local resident Tom Kuntz told of “a love I have for our Main Street.” He spoke of some of the history of the project and decried the loss of other beautiful buildings in Red Lodge. He ended making a plea to “not lose another one” and to find a use for the former school. 

Two notable speakers were Mike Booth who spoke for local business owners and Tracy Timmons, Executive Director of the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation, and a partner on the CDBG application.

Mike Booth spoke first against the grant saying that there were reasons, as set forth in his handout, that the project should not go forward and was not good for Red Lodge. 

Booth said, “Local business people have objected to leasing commercial space in the Old Roosevelt since the School Board began the practice in 1990’s and have ever since. Just because the school board did it, doesn’t make it acceptable to the business community then or now.” 

He wanted the grant to be awarded to those who have the profit making ability such as local businesses downtown, not the nonprofit efforts of Old Roosevelt. He spoke against the competition the school provided with cheaper rental space and the presence of other large meeting spaces already available. He listed Rock Creek Resort, the Golf Course, Bull and Bear, Civic Center, Sam’s Tap Room and others as sufficient for meetings that the school was said to accommodate. He noted the property tax rate is much lower for the school depriving the city of more revenue.  

Property values were declining and loss of revenue would not help the City. 

Booth preferred that the city set up an Economic Development Committee composed of private business owners representing the “hospitality, recreation, retail, real estate, events, property investment, and service industries, with a representative from the Chamber and a representative from RLACF. He said, “This board would educate, communicate, to review applications such as these making recommendations to the City of Red Lodge as to what would have the greatest impact on the Red Lodge economy.”

Tracy Timmons, Executive Director of Red Lodge Area Community Foundation which is overseeing the project, came back strongly.  

Timmons informed attendees that “We partnered with the City because we needed a government partner.” They had numerous public meetings every step of the way. The Roosevelt project has ranked number one in the public meetings consistently for the community.


She stressed that the project is meant to serve the underserved in this community, being the arts and low/medium income businesses, not to make the most profit. Sustainability is its goal.

Timmons believes the Roosevelt Center will develop the community naturally as the businesses it supports grow, bringing more people through the meetings, the arts, its access to downtown. Visitors will use the resources of the city (restaurants, motels, etc.)

One reason the grant is not simply able to be shared citywide is the grant is very specific:

“It must meet low/medium income applicants for 51 percent, we are projecting 71 percent, dollar for dollar,  matches, requires 17 retained or created jobs, to bring in $368,000 from the grant,” said Timmons. 

Timmons reminded the community there was outreach to the community before they applied for this grant. “We got input…from businesses, the school district, the government and the Institute of Rural Design.” When it came time to apply she said, “No one else submitted an application.”

Timmons said, “For a tourist town to prosper there must be a variety of attractions and events to keep them returning.” She said a “city needs new.” She noted, “To say that the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation is in competition with businesses is a misunderstanding of the role and legal function of a nonprofit.” A nonprofit’s mission is public interest and in this case offers grant opportunities for which the city might not otherwise qualify.

Roosevelt meets needs that are not necessarily available downtown, said Timmons. One artist tenant already has a downtown gallery but sought a place that was secluded for creating and didn’t mind the rough surroundings. A musician tenant enjoyed the ability to have choices in this town for rentals and said competition should never be an issue-just concentrate on being the best.

Guynema Terry of Red Lodge theater said, “We needed a space that was dedicated for live performances with rehearsals, meaning lights, sound and sets that could be left up for at least two weeks.”

Timmons concluded she wanted the project to be a “Win-win” for the town and Old Roosevelt.  She felt it “a huge win to have it all downtown and walkable.” 

If there is more capacity on the part of the city to accommodate all people’s different needs she said, more will come to Red Lodge, more will be filling Main St.

If the grant is approved, the details of its administration must then be worked out. Timmons  would invite community involvement. She said, “I love the idea of bringing more people in” for the later planning.

The Carbon County News

Street Address:

11 N. Broadway, Red Lodge, MT 59068

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