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Ronan Council delves into MREC property again

by BERL TISKUS
Reporter | May 2, 2024 12:00 AM

In the ongoing effort to decide the future of the Mission Recreation Event Center (MREC) property in Ronan, the Ronan City Council discussed a recent proposal from the Lake County Commissioners during their regular meeting last Wednesday. 

The commissioners sent a letter to the council dated April 18, regarding the sale or trade of the city’s portion of the MREC property to Lake County, with a 10-year lease of 10 acres to Pioneer Days.  

Mayor Chris Adler asked Pioneer Days representatives Mike Bartel and Kim Aipperspach to recap the meeting with the commissioners, held April 15.

Bartel told the council that Commissioners Gale Decker and Bill Barron wanted the county to retain ownership of the MREC property, while Commissioner Steve Stanley wanted to sell the county's portion but retain seven acres of the MREC parcel “to do something about an animal shelter” in conjunction with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

All of the commissioners agreed that if they bought out the City of Ronan’s one-third interest, they wanted to ensure Pioneer Days received a 10-year lease with an option for another 10 years to help the organization "get out there ASAP,” according to Bartel.

He added that the city would be asked to annex MREC property and remove the agricultural restriction “so things can be done,” including hooking up to city water and sewer, accessing electricity, and preparing to host the Pioneer Days Rodeo there this summer.

Although Bartel felt the April meeting was “extremely favorable,” he said the commissioners’ letter to the city council “now states multiple options. It didn’t just stick to us getting the land.”

Adler noted the commissioners’ letter said the MREC land could be leased to Pioneer Days, and also mentioned a potential elder-care facility or low-income housing, all of which would be good for the community.

Council member Lindsay Myers asked if Pioneer Days had anything in writing regarding the lease, and if the Pioneer Days board had voted on the lease proposition.  

While there is no formal agreement in place, Aipperspach said the Pioneer Days board had voted 5 to 1 in favor of the lease, with one abstention.

Reiterating his belief that Pioneer Days did not get much input into decision making when the arena was put up 12 years ago at the Ronan Fairgrounds, Bartel said his organization did not want that to happen again. 

Discussion ensued about a trade for part of the county-owned property on Highway 93, that was previously home to George’s Conoco, for a firehall, although Adler is also in talks with Glacier Bank. 

The city council decided to hold a special meeting Wednesday, May 1, at 6 p.m. with city attorney Ben Anciaux to sort out the options.   

In housekeeping business, city council approved:

• An Honor Guard request for street closure on May 27 from noon to 1 p.m. for the Memorial Day parade.

• An application for an open container permit and street closure for May 3 from 4-9 p.m. on Fourth Ave. from the street to the alley for a barbecue and to meet the Ronan Volunteer Fire Department.

• An application for a three-month open container permit for April 26 through July 25, from 4-8 p.m. in front of the Ronan Cooperative Brewery on Fourth Ave.

Chuck Holman, local businessman and co-founder of the High Line Company, spoke to the council regarding a Neighborhood Watch program for the City of Ronan. He plans to organize the program and to have an open house in May or June. 

Prior to the regular meeting, Ronan City engineer Shari Johnson and Rika Lashley, a water/wastewater engineer with Morrison Maierle, presented the city’s wastewater planning documents. 

The council's next regular meeting is May 8 at 6 p.m.