Havre City Council will hear a proposal tonight that might bring the latest five-year chapter in a 30-year story to a close — a possible agreement to resolve a lawsuit the city filed against Hill County over funding for the community swimming pool.
Havre Mayor Tim Solomon confirmed this morning that the county has made a proposal about resolving the lawsuit, and he is working on a counter-proposal, and he will present both to the council tonight.
The lawsuit was filed in 2008 after two years of unsuccessful discussions on how much the county should pay to operate the pool.
County Commission Chair Mike Wendland said he did not have any details on the proposal that will be presented tonight.
“We’re, at least, coming closer to having an agreement on it,” he said.
While officials were planning the construction of the community swimming pool, right next to Havre City Hall, the county commission chair signed an agreement in 1974 stating the county would pay one-third of the operating expenses of the pool.
After the pool opened in 1976, the county began paying a dollar amount, set in the agreement for the first year at $10,000, which ended up more than the required one-third. Most years after that, the dollar amounts paid were less than one-third, although in one year it again was more.
From 1991 through 2000, the city and county entered an agreement that the county providing dispatching services for the city would serve as its payment for the pool operation.
In 2001, the city left that agreement and began its own dispatching once again. The county began providing $19,000 a year, considerably less than one-third of net expense by 2006 — by $50,000 or more.
Bob Rice, mayor of Havre at that time, presented a bill to the county in 2006 requesting the one-third payment from that point onward and a payment of the past-due bills since 1976 — more than $280,000.
Then-Hill County Attorney Cyndee Peterson wrote an opinion stating the contract was not valid because it did not have parts required by state law, including having an expiration date and a method to legally leave the contract. She said the past due amount request was not valid for reasons including a violation of the statute of limitations and the legal principal of offer and acceptance of the county’s payments.
Havre City Attorney Jim Kaze wrote in an opinion on May 9, 2007, that “we respectfully disagree with (Peterson’s) opinion,” and that the agreement is valid and effective.
After lengthy negotiations on the issue, Rice filed the lawsuit asking a judge to require the county to make the payments.
The proposals resolving the issue are on the agenda for the City Council meeting that starts tonight at 7 p.m.
Havre Community Pool timeline
1974 — County agrees to pay one-third of net expenses;
1976 — Pool opens;
1976-1990 — County pays fixed dollar amount, never equaling one-third of net expense;
1991-2000 — County enters agreement to exchange dispatching services in lieu of cash payment;
2001 — City leaves dispatching agreement, county begins paying $19,000 a year;
2006 — City demands one-third of expenses plus $280,000 in past-due bills;
2008 — City files lawsuit asking judge to force county to pay one-third plus past due;
2013 — Havre City Council to hear proposal on agreement.