Helena City Commissioners approved the transfer of $1.6 million from the city's general fund reserves to its streets fund, avoiding a delay of a partially completed upgrade of Rodney Street.
A group of Helena residents filed a lawsuit against the city in District Court in January, alleging its street maintenance district and street assessments are illegal. The city used those street assessments to back the loan initially sought for the Rodney Street Project, and the lawsuit rendered the city unable to secure the loan.
The inter-fund loan approved during the city commission meeting Monday will be repaid once the city can re-secure the debt.
Helena Finance Director Sheila Danielson said the loan is at the current Montana Board of Investments rate of 1.55% for a five-year term.
Former City Attorney Thomas Jodoin previously stated the litigation could stretch out for years.
People are also reading…
"It could be several years," Jodoin said. "I am hopeful we'll be able to get some of the counts dismissed early on in the process, but that could be several months away."
The city attorney's office has contracted with Helena-based law firm Jackson Murdo & Grant, who Jodoin said is "preparing a vigorous defense."
A bid award for the project is contingent upon availability of funds.
The first phase of the overhaul, which has been completed, included the installation of new asphalt, curb, gutters, sidewalks, sewer mains and water mains on Rodney Street from Broadway Street to Ninth Avenue for a total cost of $2,616,696.
Phase II of the project covers Rodney Street from Ninth Avenue to Helena Avenue, and phase III covers Rodney Street from Helena Avenue to Lyndale Avenue and Broadway Street to Division Street.
Each phase includes reconstruction of the roadway within the right-of-way, encompassing street, boulevards, drainage, water and sewer.
"I think this project has already shown why it's important, and the neighborhood has benefited from it," City Commissioner Emily Dean said. "The city as a whole has benefited from it, and I'm excited to get this next phase completed."
The petition for declaratory judgment and refund was filed Jan. 25 in Montana's 1st District Court by RGB Investments LLC, which owns property at 2823 Airport Road; 80 Proof LLC, which owns the Loose Caboose parcel at 11 E. Lyndale Ave. and the 4-Js parcel at 1827 Prospect Ave.; CAS Holdings LLC, which owns property at 908 Euclid Ave. and 1151 Partridge Place; and the Blatter Family Trust as represented by Trustee Maureen Blatter, which owns property at 2500 N. Cook St.