Ennis commissioners review Riverside project

ENNIS—The Ennis town commission reviewed a plan for an extensive project at the east end of Ennis’s Main Street at its monthly meeting on Thursday, January 11.

The plan, presented to the commissioners by Michael Casey, included a schematic from Bozeman-based Faure Halvorsen Architects. The project would be an expansion of the Riverside Motel property, which includes four lots  abutting the Ennis Lions’ Park.

The project is proposed to involve an addition to one of the buildings on East Main Street that will be transitioned into a steakhouse, as well as the transformation of another building into a creamery—a site for continental breakfast, coffee drinking and newspaper reading, Casey said.

There are also plans to build a small bathhouse for guests of the Riverside RV Park, which Casey would like to expand with additional RV sites. Casey said the multifaceted project is out for bid, but that nothing has been started yet. 

Commissioner Lisa Roberts noted a state statute that required additional RV spots to undergo the subdivision process, and an irregular lot line was also pointed out between two of the projects parcels: something that may have to be adjusted later in order to avoid creating a problem for future landowners, as the addition to the steakhouse building may cross over that lot line. 

“I like the overall plan; it’s great,” said commissioner Brian Vincent. “It fits well with what’s there.” Other commission members, along with Mayor Blake Leavitt, agreed.

To address the questions of the lot line and the subdivision process, the commission recommended that Casey present the project to the Madison County planning board before giving the official sign-off to the plan. Once the planning board has reviewed the proposal and offered its recommendations, the project will come back before the town commission for approval.

Vincent then presented to the commission a request from Great Falls-based nonprofit NeighborWorks Montana asking for a letter of support from the commission.

NeighborWorks administrates a housing program around the state of Montana using funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the state Department of Commerce. It provides up to $25,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance to applicants who are first-time home buyers and who meet a certain income threshold.

The letter of support requested by the nonprofit would allow them to add Ennis to their network of considered towns. So, if someone from Ennis wanted to apply for NeighborWorks assistance, they could do so.

Once the letter of support is given, the commission is required to certify that the home in question is not in a floodplain, an airport zone or another unsuitable or high-risk area. Vincent said the role of the town is minimal beyond that assurance, and the decision to write a support letter for NeighborWorks was approved unanimously by the commission.

The meeting ended with reports from various departments, including the library and Leavitt’s mayor’s report.

Karen Ketchu, director of the Madison Valley Public Library, offered some great news and some less-than-great news, the latter concerning a small fire in the library.

“It was a very small fire,” Ketchu said. “It barely even qualified as a fire.”

Ketchu said that during an inspection of the library furnace system, a loose wire was found that had emitted some sparks. There were no live flames, and the wire was immediately fixed before the rest of the system was examined and deemed safe and secure.

On a much happier note, Ketchu reported that for the second year in a row, Madison Valley Public Library was recognized as the second busiest library in the nation for its budget category. Events like Ennis’s Christmas Stroll showed just how many people visit the library—around 500 that evening alone.

“In a town this size, that’s a lot of people,” Ketchu said. “It’s very impressive.”

Leavitt wrapped up the meeting with his mayor’s report, which focused on the Main Street Montana grant that Ennis received for funding toward its master plan.

The Main Street grant will provide $10,000 in funding, with the town matching $6,000 of that. The Ennis Chamber of Commerce also contributed $500 and the town hopes to piggyback on a Madison County grant that could provide up to $18,000 in additional funding.

Leavitt also reported that he met with new sheriff Phil Fortner and Madison County dispatch regarding ambulance services, communications and radio. He was hopeful that progress can continue to be made to ensure that communication and ambulance services occur as quickly as possible in emergency responses.

The Ennis commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 14.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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