Rescue mission

Update: B-SB Manager: Rescue Mission Thrift Store Buildings ‘At Risk of Collapse’ | Local

A Butte-Silver Bow official has officially declared two Uptown buildings that served as a thrift store for the Butte Rescue Mission unsafe, a move that could expedite their proposed demolition.

Building official Rusty Christensen invoked a “public safety exclusion” on the buildings at 123-125 E. Park St., nullifying any potential review or action in the matter by the Historic Preservation Commission, or HPC.

The commissioners have yet to approve the demolition and could do so on Wednesday evening, but the HPC will have no say. Kate McCourt, who became the county’s new historic preservation officer in March, acknowledged this at a county meeting last week.

This did not prevent the HPC from bringing up and discussing the proposed demolition during its meeting on Tuesday evening. A few members expressed concerns or objections to this and one said that the HPC should have been consulted anyway.

“It feels like it should have come before us,” said member Bobbi Stauffer.

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But Christensen had already determined that the buildings were at risk of collapse and that demolition was necessary to ensure public safety.

The overall plan also includes the demolition of a vacant and crumbling building at 135 E. Park St. Commissioners cleared it, but demonstration work was halted after starting in February 2021 due to a shared wall potential.

Upon further analysis, officials said it would have cost $150,000 just to stabilize a shared wall between the now county-owned building at 135 E. Park Street and the thrift store so that the demolition of the vacant structure can continue.

But a structural engineer also inspected the thrift store buildings and determined they were also unstable and unsafe, and the necessary repairs would cost well over $200,000.

Under a new plan, the county would pay the mission $38,572 for the thrift store property and up to $12,000 in relocation costs, then demolish the three buildings.

In an April 1 letter to the commissioners, Christensen essentially said it was the only safe path to take.

“The engineering report indicates that the building at 123-125 East Park Street is at risk of collapse in its current condition and would still be at risk of collapse even if a new west wall is constructed,” he wrote. .

He pointed to a section of the municipal code that ‘allows demolition to reduce unsafe or hazardous conditions’ and said engineering reports ‘indicate it is an appropriate measure to ensure public safety’ .

In early 2021, shortly after JP Gallagher became chief executive, the Historic Preservation Commission temporarily blocked a plan to demolish the so-called Blue Range prostitution nurseries on East Mercury Street, claiming they were a iconic part of Butte’s red light district history.

The owners disagreed and even though the county building official at the time cited an engineering analysis saying they were unsafe, the HPC was allowed to intervene. They issued a temporary demolition reprieve which resulted in weeks of controversy.

This ended when the building manager invoked the safety exclusion and the cribs were eventually demolished. Looking back, Gallagher said the county should have declared the safety exclusion early on and avoided further delays and disputes.

Christensen’s statement, per the county’s order, should prevent any HPC delays in this matter.

“Last time we went against what we should have done once we had the engineering report that identified the building (cradles) as unsafe,” Gallagher said. “It was a lesson learned about respecting the language of the prescription.”

The proposed demolition was not specifically mentioned on the agenda for the HPC meeting on Tuesday evening, but Member John Riordan, who is also a commissioner, raised it under the category of “staff/member reports and suggested that the HPC had been scorned on the issue.

“I’ve heard a few people who think buildings can be fixed,” he said.

Stauffer said the demolition decision looked like “urgent work” and would be an expensive job to complete. Member Mitzi Rossillon said a new procedure was needed to deal with these issues.

Council meets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on the third floor of the courthouse at 155 W. Granite St. The meetings are also livestreamed on the county’s website at