The Swan River Community Hall, at the intersection where Echo Lake and Swan River roads meet Highway 83, has been a cultural centerpiece for the surrounding communities since 1933, hosting dances, weddings, plays, memorial services, parties and socials of all kinds, school events, weekly church services and more.
“Really everybody uses it,” said Gary Wilson, a board member of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that operates the community hall.
But after significant floor problems were discovered over the winter, the nonprofit quit taking reservations for the historic community landmark at the beginning of March to focus on repairs and raising funds to pay for work not covered by reserves.
“The floor was sagging and getting worse and worse, so we decided for safety’s sake, if nothing else, to close it down,” Wilson said.
The nonprofit hired a professional engineer, who determined that the joists are rotten. The board of trustees then removed portions of the main hall floor to ascertain the extent of the damage and discovered that “85% of the floor joist ends along both outer walls were either completely rotten or had some extent of rot in them.”
The inspection process also revealed that the walls weren’t insulated. The nonprofit has enough money in its septic system reserve to replace the floor joists and subfloor, as well as insulate the walls, but needs to raise roughly $26,000 for replenishing the septic reserve ($15,000), replacing and resealing the hardwood flooring ($7,000), and replacing the wall paneling ($2,500) and aging furnace ($1,700).
“We decided it makes sense to do it all at the same time,” Wilson said.
The biggest expense, replenishing the septic reserve fund after it’s drained to pay for the immediate joist and insulation work, is critical because the septic system will be next in line to be replaced.
“We just don’t know when that septic system is going to go out,” Wilson said. “It’s been there forever.”
Bill Stewart, another board member, said not only do locals from the immediate area and Bigfork use the community hall, people from towns such as Whitefish and Columbia Falls rent it out for events.
“One of our main things is we try to keep the rental costs down so everybody can afford it,” Stewart said.
Wilson acknowledges that raising money during the pandemic is less than ideal, but he said the hall is vital to the community.
“We just need to make this happen,” he said.
Donations can be made by check, payable to Swan River Community Hall and mailed to First Interstate Bank, P.O. Box 308, Bigfork, MT 59911, Attention: Nancy Fratt.
For donation questions, contact Gary Wilson at (406) 837-2674, and for questions about the renovation projects, contact Bill Stewart at (406) 837-5091.
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