Butte works to get aging, derelict buildings up to code


BUTTE, Mont. - A collapsed Butte building is highlighting the need to tackle the city's aging and sometimes derelict properties. The building is located at 750 S. Wyoming Street, west of the Berkeley Pit. A worker at a neighboring business noticed that the roof, a wall and several floors had caved in sometime during the night of June 27 or the morning of June 28. The county had condemned the building and ordered its owner to tear it down. We spoke to the building's owner today to find out what's next. He told us he is working with Butte-Silver Bow's Community Enrichment Department to clean up the debris. Owner Neil Lynch wants to salvage a portion of the building and recycle all the bricks he can. He said he believes a 2009 water main break caused caused the building to deteriorate. He told NBC Montana he hasn't decided what to do with the property yet, but may put up another building or a parking lot. "I think, you know, being part of a National Historic District, it's not only our duty but our obligation," said Lynch. "We have that street sign out on the interstate saying that's what we have here, so we have to live up to it." Last year, Silver Bow County officials identified more than 220 buildings that needed immediate attention. For a city that prides itself on its rich history, condemned and derelict buildings can present a challenge. The collapse of a building nearly a century old has sped up Butte-Silver Bow's process to meet with owners about buildings in poor conditions. "It was very, very unfortunate, like I've said many times that that occurred, we don't ever want to demolish a building unless we have to and we surely don't want them to collapse," said Community Enrichment Director Ed Randall. Butte-Silver Bow gave the owner 40 days to clean up the wreckage -- that's the same amount of time it gave about 150 other property owners in Butte to get their buildings up to code. "People have been pretty responsive," said Randall. Randall said they sent letters to the property owners, asking them to get in contact with the city about how they can fix their buildings. "We've received about 30 or 40 phone calls back, which is a good response after about a week, week and a half," said Randall. We found out he's meeting with five property owners daily. By the end of this week, he will have met with 60. And for those who don't respond to the letters, we learned leaders will serve them with papers. "And they'll have to respond one way or another, but what we're not going to do is allow anyone to slip through the cracks," said Randall. Turns out he's getting tips about problem properties from neighbors. The city is adding about two or three properties to the list of owners to meet with daily. "The public has been very responsive," said Randall. "They've been very positive about what we're doing. I've had people call us saying it's about time." All of this stems from a county-wide inspection last year that identified 230 properties in so-called poor shape -- garbage, missing shingles, holes in fences -- but now, the push is on to fix things up after the building collapsed. "If I have anything to do with it or any control over it, that'll be the last building that collapses on my watch," said Chief Executive Matt Vincent. Randall said Butte-Silver bow is willing to help owners any way they can. "Butte deserves better," he said. "Whether you live out of town, whether you rent the property or live in it, we want it to be better. We want the neighborhoods to be better." Butte-Silver Bow has received $10,000 to have experts come into the Mining City to help better enforce and improve ordinances.