Courthouse considered for National Register of Historic Places

Mikaela Koski
Monday, February 4, 2019
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The following business was conducted at this week’s regularly scheduled Stillwater County Commissioners’ agenda meeting:



The process to include the Stillwater County courthouse on the National Register of Historic Places is set to begin after being given the green light.

Commissioner Dennis Shupak initially urged the board to further discuss the decision to go forward with the National Register, as previous discussions raised questions about whether or not the building could be updated or changed if given the historic recognition.

Museum of the Beartooths Director Penny Redli explained that a building listed on the National Register continues to be the property of the owner and can be changed in any way the owner sees fit.  It is only if federal funds are utilized that any restrictions would be placed on how the building could be updated.

Commission Chair Mark Crago said he would rather postpone a decision to wait for the Facilities Capital Improvement Plan committee to meet and to allow Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde to review the details.

Crago added that historical preservation is important to each commissioner, and noted that Shupak paid for the historical plaque for the Norton House personally.

Commissioner Ty Hamilton’s suggestion, which received unanimous approval when voted on, was to allow the research and writing phases of the National Register application to begin now; the final application will have to be approved by the commissioners before it is submitted to the state.

Joan Brownell, a Fishtail citizen who has completed National Register applications for other sites in Stillwater County, said that if the application process goes smoothly, the courthouse could be listed on the National Register by next September.  The process includes review and approval by a board in Montana as well as by a board in Washington, D.C.

Brownell will be volunteering her time to conduct the research and complete the National Register application.  Redli said that if the county were to pay for such work, it would be worth up to $7,000.

In Stillwater County, there are currently 12 properties on the National Register.  Five are in Columbus, and one is in Dean.  There are two properties each in Absarokee, Fishtail, and Park City.  The most recently added property on the list is the Charles and Gladys Pelton House in Fishtail, which was officially listed in April 2017.



Three citizen members were appointed to serve on the newly created Facilities Capital Improvement Plan (FCIP) advisory committee: Bill Pelton, Burt Williams, and Jim Movius.

Hamilton thanked all those who applied for the board and reminded citizens that while there are only three positions on the board, everyone is welcome to meet with the commissioners to discuss ideas, and all feedback will be taken under consideration during the decision-making process.

The first FCIP committee meeting was held on Wednesday.  Meetings are open to the public, and the date and time will be posted on the commissioners’ weekly agenda.



Several additional board appointments were approved.  Three people were selected to fill vacancies on the County Planning Board – Gary Enstrom, Carolyn Hutson, and Karen Heyneman.

Lindsey Cross, a counselor at Columbus Middle School, and Shane Warehime, a Montana Highway Patrol trooper, were both named to serve on the DUI Task Force.  Both Cross and Warehime were recommended by Undersheriff Randy Smith.

There is currently still one vacancy on each of the following boards: County Planning Board, Library Board, City-County Planning Board, Airport Board, Compensation Board, Tax Appeal Board, Weed District Board, and Economic Development Committee Board.  Descriptions of each vacancy, as well as a downloadable application, can be found on the county website ( under the “public notices” tab.



The Welcome Rock project has been approved about a year after it was first brought to the commissioners.

Since last January, Stillwater County Economic Development Coordinator Marissa Hauge has held public meetings in each of the county’s eight towns to discuss the possibility of creating a display welcoming visitors to each town using large rocks donated by Sibanye-Stillwater.

Hamilton, who attended a majority of the meetings, said each community showed public support and excitement for the project.

Through a partnership with the local extension office, Hauge said maintenance of the welcome rocks will be provided by members of each town’s local 4-H and FFA chapters.  Crago noted he liked the idea of using the 4-H kids to ensure ongoing maintenance is a possibility across the county.

Approximately $30,000 from the Economic Development budget is to be used on the project, according to Hauge.  She said the next step will be to obtain Montana Department of Transportation permitting.



Approval was given to the local Historical Preservation Society for a Certified Local Government (CLG) grant application.  The grant is for a total of $5,500.

Redli said Columbus/Stillwater County has been recognized as a CLG and been receiving the grant since 2012.  There are only 16 CLG communities across the state.

According to the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, the CLG program “is based upon an appreciation of the community’s historic patterns, architectural styles, influential architects and builders, significant people and events, and historic and prehistoric archeology.”

The grant money is to be used to help with the CLG’s preservation projects.  Redli mentioned the local Historical Preservation Society has used the money to conduct cemetery preservation and hold workshops in the past.



Two county employees were recognized for their service.  Commissioner Dennis Shupak has put in 10 years with Stillwater County, and Pamela Cunningham has been working with the solid waste department for five years.



A payment for the Columbus airport’s airside pavement and electrical rehabilitation project was given approval.  The county’s portion of the payment (five percent of the total) comes to approximately $766.



A lease agreement for the 22nd Judicial District Court judge’s office was given approval.