Bozeman Businesses Seek Loans to Begin Cleanup After Blast

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN – Businesses damaged or destroyed by a natural gas explosion in downtown Bozeman have asked the city to set up a loan fund so they can begin cleanup work while they await insurance payments.

The Bozeman City Commission is expected to decide Monday whether to set up a $250,000 loan fund. The businesses had sought $400,000.

“Cleaning up the blast site as quickly as possible is important to the economic recovery of the area,” said City Manager Chris Kukulski. “We would view this as something we would get paid back on and we would have some level of security. These are public funds and they should ultimately come back.”

Under the plan, businesses would repay the loan when they receive insurance money as well as any money they might receive from liability claims.

The loan fund would come from the city’s reserves.

The businesses and property owners had hoped the city could tap federal stimulus money to help with the costs, but a bill moving through the Montana Legislature that had $621,000 in stimulus money for “debris removal” for disasters in Bozeman, Whitehall and Miles City was changed so that the cleanup no longer qualified for the money.

The U.S. Small business Administration might be an option for cleanup money, but SBA officials would have to inspect the site, which would take time.

An economic development revolving loan fund has only $67,000 available to lend and the cleanup wouldn’t create the jobs required to get those loans, said city Finance Director Anna Rosenberry.

The loan fund was requested by: Rocking R Bar, Montana Trails Gallery, Pickle Barrel, Nishkian Monks, Kern & Associates, LillyLu Inc., Tolstedt Architects, Boodles, attorneys Mike Cok and Ann Bates and the American Legion.

The March 5 natural gas explosion leveled half a city block and killed a woman. It was determined to have been caused by a leak in a natural gas supply line.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.