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City Desk

Butte-Silver Bow Commissioner Jim Fisher is about as Butte as you can be.

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Jim Fisher, photo by Jim Larson

Born and raised in Butte and a Butte business owner, he is serving his third four-year term on the council of commissioners.

 

“Born in 1955, lived on the boulevard down there between the Interstate and  Montana Pole,” Fisher notes proudly.

 

When asked if any particular issues stood out to him, the commissioner noted that the superfund consent decree was probably the most important thing in a long time to come before the council.

 

Only Fisher and Commissioner Bill Anderson voted against the decree. Fisher said that he wanted someone “with a little more environmental knowledge” to review the 1300-page document. He noted that reading a document that size is hard to fit into a commissioner’s life which also includes family life and work.

 

He would have preferred to have had some input from a legal expert rather than simply relying on the EPA, Montana DEQ, and ARCO BP, entities whose work was done “behind closed doors,” Fisher explained.

 

The decree is a subject “that’s pretty much behind us,” Fisher said. He added that he and some other locals such as Fritz Daily would still like to see a creek flow through Butte. They also have some concerns about contamination underneath the civic center and possibly contamination beneath Columbus Plaza.

 

Coming issues, the commissioner said, were Butte’s growing economy and robust housing market.

 

He pointed to the TIFID in the Ramsay-Buxton area. He noted that a lot of new business had moved into the area and said that “if you went out there now, and you hadn’t been there in five years, and you took the exit and went in there and drove around, you would be shocked and amazed about what’s happened there in recent years.”

 

The commissioner then turned to the TEDD district on South Harrison Ave. Like a TIFID, but with a different name, Fisher observed that the new district had a lot of money and that “people were moving in there.”

 

“Butte’s just one of these places that’s just waiting to blossom, I just hope we don’t grow too fast,” the commissioner said.

 

He noted that traffic backs up now in the section of Harrison Ave that lies between Amherst and Dewey, something not seen for many years in Butte.

On the topic of interacting with his constituents, Fisher said that he’s been told that being proactive is better than being reactive, but he feels that as long as things are going well, “there’s no reason to stir the pot.” He adds that when the council has an issue before it, constituents show up. If there isn’t an issue of interest, public attendance of the meetings is minimal.

 

The recent fireworks controversy drew attendance to council meetings, he observed.

Commissioner Fisher said that some issues before the council “ should be set out with a little more public input.” Some of the decisions made by the Council of Commissioners are “knee jerk reactions,” that should have been made with more public input, Fisher said.

 

Turning to the Master Plan for Uptown Butte, the commissioner said it was a good idea. He took issue with its expense and use of an out-of-state firm. He commended the ideas that came out of the plan, but said that they may not have taken into account the severity of Butte winters.

 

On the topic of historical preservation, Fisher said that “historical preservation’s a great idea, but we’ve got to find a medium point somewhere, in Butte-Silver Bow, where we get a medium point between economic development and historical preservation.” He said he’s always been known as a “wrecking ball,” but that he’s really not. He’s for preservation, but some buildings will have to go. “We can’t save them all,” he said. He noted that some of the buildings are collapsing and others are so thick with iron, rebar, and concrete that it is hard to install internet in them.

 

Fisher said that one of his goals was to update the Butte-Silver Bow courthouse. He recently was able to have funds set aside to update and evaluate the restrooms in the courthouse. He said that when members of the public go into the courthouse restrooms, “They don’t look good.”

The courthouse was a “gem,” he said, and he argued that it should take priority over other preservation projects.

 

Returning to the theme of constituent interaction, Fisher said that currently his time as a commissioner has been taken up with the Legion Oasis controversy. Legion Oasis is a housing project for medium and low income tenants that is undergoing a management change that was opposed by many of its renters.

 

“I’m hoping for the best for the people who live in the Legion, many elderly, many disabled, many are on fixed incomes and really have a nice facility to live in for a reasonable amount of money. I’m just hoping with the new management team that doesn’t change.”

 

Look for the full interview to appear at buttenews.net and the ButteNews YouTube channel.

 


 

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