County increasing contribution to historic preservation officer position, search continues for staffer

The search continues for a new city-county historic preservation officer, but this time officials are hoping a higher pay rate will help recruit a good candidate.

The county will be funding an additional $6,200, bringing the county’s total contribution to the position to $25,000, according to County Commissioner Jane Weber.

With $5,000 from the state and the city’s contribution, that will bring the pay to $45,115, including full city benefits.

That also bumps the position from entry-level to a second tier position in the city planning department, which officials are hoping will be an additional attraction to potential candidates.

Last year, the city and county came together to fund, for the first time, a full-time staffer to lead historic preservation efforts in Cascade County.

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

But it’s been difficult to find qualified candidates willing to make the move to Great Falls. Some were good candidates, but since the Great Falls position had been entry-level, it would have meant lateral career moves for those candidates, which isn’t always ideal professionally, City Deputy Planning Director Tom Micuda told the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission this week. Micuda has been acting as the HPO until a new staffer is hired.

Micuda said the city will readvertise the position nationally in the coming weeks.

The position has traditionally been a part-time position since 2001 and was mentioned as a priority during the 2016 budget cycle but wasn’t funded at the full-time level.

Both the city and county are in the midst of budget planning and those hearings will start later this month.

The historic preservation officer does the research 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, according Weber.

Belt Theater, Cascade County Courthouse among historic preservation honerees

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.

Efforts to create National Heritage Area in Great Falls region continuing

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.