Full-time historic preservation officer expected in city, county budgets

The city and county have come together to fund, for the first time, a full-time staffer to lead historic preservation efforts in Cascade County.

The position has traditionally been a part-time position since 2001 and was mentioned as a priority during the last budget cycle but wasn’t funded at the full-time level. Since then, City Commissioner Bill Bronson and County Commissioner Jane Weber continued discussions and pursued a full-time position.

This year, the city included $33,750 in their budget, which was approved earlier this month. The state provides $5,500 toward the position, as it requires at least a part-time historic preservation officer for the certified local government program.

The county has pledged to up their contribution to $18,750 as long as it’s for a full-time position that focuses completely on historic preservation and doesn’t split time with other city planning functions.

Cascade County commissioners are starting their budget hearing this week, and Weber said the county intends to fund their share of the position, which is housed in the city planning office.

“We have a lot of sites in Cascade County that are historically significant,” Weber said.

That includes more than buildings, but also sites, Weber said. The historic preservation officer does the research, Weber said, to know the history of buildings and sites in the city and county to ensure both governments are complying with state and federal laws related to historic preservation.

One of the newest members of the city planning office wanted to remain in a planner position rather than take on the historic preservation position, so the position details are being finalized and should be advertised locally and nationally soon, according to Tom Micuda, deputy city planning director.

The funding will create an entry-level position with benefits at an annual salary of about $38,000, Micuda said.

In 2001, a part-time historic preservation officer was hired to administer the preservation program and serve as staff to the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission, according to the city. Before that, the Cascade County Historical Society director acted as the historic preservation officer.

The 9-member HPAC advises local governments on matters of preservation and to ensure that historic preservation is considered at all levels of city and county decision-making and is incorporated in projects throughout the area, according to the city website.

Once hired, the new historic preservation will continue to maintain an inventory of identified National Register listed districts, sites, buildings and/or structures within Cascade County. According to the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, there are 47 sites in Cascade County that are on the National Register.

The city-county preservation office also offers information on preservation tax incentives for historic buildings; historic preservation easement and tax abatement information; and maintains a list of some grants for preservation.