Bozeman Businesses Don’t Need City Cleanup Fund

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN – Owners of businesses and properties in downtown Bozeman that were damaged by a natural gas explosion in March have been able to cover cleanup costs without tapping a $300,000 city loan fund.

The Bozeman City Commission created the loan fund in April. The explosion destroyed several historic buildings and killed one woman.

Bozeman City Manager Chris Kukulski said the money in the cleanup fund will go back to its original sources.

“We wanted to be there as a stopgap to help,” Kukulski said. “The fact that they didn’t need our help is good news.”

The fund included $200,000 in Housing and Economic Development Loan Fund money, $50,000 in city general fund reserves and $50,000 from NorthWestern Energy.

Mike Hope is vice president of operations for the Rocking R Bar, one of the four buildings destroyed by the blast.

Hope said the site cleanup, completed in July, cost about $150,000. He said costs were originally estimated at about $300,000. Property and business owners covered the cleanup costs with a combination of their own money and insurance proceeds.

Although the city loan fund wasn’t needed, Hope said that without it the cleanup probably would have taken longer.

“Even though we didn’t use the (city’s loan) money, it still helped us make the decision to go forward, so it was very helpful,” Hope said.

In addition to the bar, the explosion destroyed buildings that housed the American Legion Hall, Boodles, Montana Trails Gallery and Lily Lu children’s boutique. The blast also killed Tara Bowman, the director of the Montana Trails Gallery.

The American Legion has submitted plans to rebuild on the site. Hope said preliminary plans are being developed for several of the other spaces.

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