STATEMENT OF COLLEEN FINE, URBAN REVITALIZATION AGENCY, BUTTE, MT

I am Colleen Fine, the Director of the Urban Revitalization Agency in Butte-Silver Bow. The Urban Revitalization Agency is a tax-increment district designed specifically to assist economic development activities, which lead to continued promotion and development of the URA. The URA is included in the Butte National Historic Landmark District. The following summarizes our local government's involvement relative to the GSA process for leasing a site for the MEPS' facility in Butte, Montana.

It is my understanding that this process began in September, 1996; although, I was not aware of the project until January, 1997. My first knowledge of the MEPS' project was in relation to a visit GSA-Denver conducted in Butte. At that time, GSA was already visiting prospective developers to secure a site for the MEPS' facility.

Mark Reavis, the Butte-Silver Bow Historic Preservation Officer/ Staff Architect, was asked to provide a tour of a Butte-Silver Bow owned building that a private developer had suggested as a potential facility for the lease. The building was made available and GSA was given a tour. That is the extent of our contact with GSA in the initial process. During the time frame from September 1996 to September 1997, there was no contact between Butte-Silver Bow and GSA other than that tour. In fact, I did not meet anyone from GSA until September of last year.

On September 25, 1997, I was introduced to GSA officials at a meeting in the Federal Courthouse in Butte. The meeting was convened, at our request, to discuss Butte-Silver Bow's concerns relative to the leasing process. During the meeting, I expressed Butte- Silver Bow's displeasure at not being involved in the process to that point, at the lack of adherence to the National Historic Preservation Act and Executive Order and at the process in general.

After a lengthy meeting with GSA and MEPS personnel, Butte-Silver Bow, State Historic Preservation Office, and National Trust for Historic Preservation officials left the meeting with the following understanding:

-- GSA would work closely with local government officials in the process;

-- GSA would reopen and readvertise the MEPS' leasing in the National Historic Landmark District providing clear indication that buildings in the National Historic Landmark District would have a preference and detailing what that preference was;

-- GSA would allow local comment on the SFO;

-- GSA would request that MEPCOM reconsider criteria considered detrimental to historic structures; and

-- GSA would provide a detailed explanation when a historic structure was excluded from consideration.

The meeting concluded with the agreement that the next step taken would be a written review of the SFO. Butte-Silver Bow officials received the SFO and written comments.

Following the September meeting GSA actions were completely contrary to the promises they made.

GSA would work closely with local government officials in the process.

GSA officials kept Butte-Silver Bow staff completely in the dark. Butte-Silver Bow initiated all communication regarding the leasing process. Phone calls to GSA were not returned, requests for information were completely ignored.

By early November, Butte-Silver Bow had not heard anything from GSA either by phone or in writing regarding our comments on the SFO or what the next step in the process would be. I sent a letter expressing my concern that local officials had not heard from GSA. Since the letter was not acknowledged and the phone calls were not returned, I sought the assistance of Senator Baucus' field office. It was only through their intervention that Butte-Silver Bow learned what was going on. Again, we were promised better communication from GSA staff.

For nearly a month we heard nothing from GSA then on Tuesday, December 16, 1997, I learned GSA was conducting a Market Survey tour the following week. This news took me very much by surprise. I had no idea what GSA was doing or what their process would be but quite obviously Butte-Silver Bow staff were not asked to participate. I contacted GSA immediately but the Leasing Agent was not available and did not return my call.

On Wednesday, December 17, 1997, I again attempted to contact GSA regarding the schedule while in Butte. The Leasing Agent was out and I left a message expressing my concern on voice mail. I attempted to contact the Leasing Agent's superviors but was not successful. I then contacted the supervisors supervisor. His secretary took a message and said he would call me back later. When I left work that evening, I had not heard from anyone at GSA.

When I called the next morning the same secretary I had spoken to asked for my name, I stated that it was Colleen Fine from Butte, Montana. She told me the Leasing Agent would be calling me back. Her tone response indicated to me that my name was marked and I would not be allowed to speak with higher level GSA personnel.

When the Leasing Agent finally called she stated it did not occur to her to include me in the Market Survey since I knew the buildings so well. I reminded her of GSA's promise to work with the local government. I felt she was specifically excluding me. The Market Survey was scheduled for December 23rd; she stated she would not change it. After considerable juggling on our part, Butte-Silver Bow was able to have a staff member attend the Market Survey. However, GSA's treatment of that staff member was incredible.

Mark Reavis, the Historic Preservation Officer and Staff Architect was not allowed to communicate with MEPCOM officials. The Leasing Agent specified a time and place for Mr. Reavis to meet the tour. His offers of a Butte-Silver Bow van and chauffeur services were refused. During the tour Mr. Reavis would be prevented from having any personal contact with MEPCOM officials. He was kept physically separate from others on the tour. He was not allowed to have a cup of coffee or go to lunch with Federal officials. He was not allowed to know what sites were being reviewed until just before the scheduled time. The irony of the situation is we both knew every single location independent of GSA information.

As the designated representative of the hosting local government, his treatment by GSA staff was rude and demeaning. The contempt GSA obviously felt for our continued involvement was palpable in that Market Survey tour.

These activities illustrate GSA's commitment to working with the local government.

GSA promised it would reopen and readvertise the MEPS' leasing in the Landmark District while providing clear indication that buildings in the National Historic Landmark District would have a preference and detailing what that preference was;

I left the September meeting with the clear understanding that GSA would work with Butte-Silver Bow in this process. Butte-Silver Bow would provide mailing labels from our database and GSA would produce a mailing to reopen the process for buildings in the National Historic Landmark District. This was agreed to because GSA, at its own admission, did not provide adequate notification of preference for the Historic District. I requested the opportunity to do a joint mailing with GSA. I wanted documentation of the URA's financial commitment to the project to be included with the document GSA was preparing. My agency had committed nearly $400,000 to the project.

When I wrote about the joint mailing, a GSA official called me and told me GSA would not be doing a mailing. GSA stated that any mailing would be done by Butte-Silver Bow but GSA would provide a flyer for us to mail. This caught me completely by surprise because at no time was this ever discussed with or agreed to by local officials. Given the extremely short turn around time in this process as well as the upcoming holiday, I felt the best thing to do was to continue in an attempt to try to work with GSA.

The flyer was received in the form of a fax and, as such, was not suitable for distribution. It was retyped verbatim. The flyer was duplicated and sent to property owners in the District. Additionally, the Agency, at its own expense, placed an ad in the local paper indicating that lease space was available and for individuals to contact the Agency for further details. The deadline for submission was set; the flyer was mailed; and the ad ran. This process provided developers with less than 12 days for response inclusive of the Thanksgiving holiday and weekend.

GSA promised to reopen and readvertise the MEPS' leasing. GSA may have allowed new proposals from the Historic District however; they also allowed buildings outside of the district to submit as well. My understanding from the meeting in September was that only sites in the National Historic Landmark District would be considered since this area was not given adequate notice of the preference for historic sites and that was the very reason for allowing new proposals.

Every time this has been pointed out to GSA the result has been more detrimental to the Historic District.

GSA did not produce a mailing, prepare flyers or advertise in local papers. Butte-Silver Bow performed these activities.

GSA pledged it would allow local comment on the SFO.

Butte-Silver Bow was allowed to comment but those comments fell on deaf ears at GSA. The comments were acknowledged by GSA and dismissed out of hand. We have no documentation that our comments were passed on to MEPCOM and if they were, we do not know how our comments were portrayed.

GSA stated it would request that MEPCOM reconsider criteria considered detrimental to historic structures.

Butte-Silver Bow does not have first hand knowledge that our concerns were passed on to MEPCOM. GSA's summary of MEPCOM's response was that MEPCOM believed they offered adequate concessions and would not consider any additional modifications. We have no documentation of GSA's request or MEPCOM's response.

GSA said it would provide a detailed explanation when a historic structure was excluded from consideration.

To date this has not happened though I do understand from several developers that their buildings have been excluded from the process.

My main concern regarding this process is the lack of trust local officials now have regarding GSA. This is a direct result of the tactics employed by GSA staff. Montana has one of the most liberal open government philosophies in the country. This ideal is an overriding tenant of our State's constitution. Those who operate in government in Montana are used to open, honest and critical review of our work. Both the Montana Open Meeting Law and Montana Open Records Law indicate that citizens of this state want to be well informed regarding the operation of government at all levels. This does not work well with the type of operation conducted by GSA in this instance. Local officials and citizens as well, have been kept in the dark, treated in a less than respectful manner and have literally had to beg to be included in the process. I was even asked to sign a confidentiality agreement after I had already worked with every single the proposers in the process prior to GSA involvement. That is my job.

When Butte-Silver Bow first became aware of this project, all local officials wanted was to ensure all regulations were followed and that the National Historic Landmark District was given a fair opportunity to compete on a level playing field, that very opportunity is provided for by Executive Order. It may very well be that this is an above board process, unfortunately it is very difficult to believe given the prejudicial treatment of local officials, of the National Historic Landmark District and of the community as a whole. The more Butte-Silver Bow has asked for involvement, openness and honesty, the more secretive and hostile the response has been. At this point in the process it is clear the GSA has completely lost all objectivity and sense of fairness.

One of the major goals of Butte-Silver Bow's recently revised and adopted Community Master Plan is the continued redevelopment of Uptown Butte. As an economic development objective it serves several vital purposes. The strength of any local economy is mirrored in the treatment of its older urban areas. How we treat these areas reflects a community's values and hopes. Butte-Silver Bow values its Uptown and desperately wants its revitalization. Uptown is a living, breathing vital place indicative of the spirit and heart of this community. Ensuring its strength is the first step in maintaining a strong, local economy. The Federal government has a unique opportunity to create a mutually beneficial partnership along with local government and private developers. This partnership would allow the federal government to significantly address goals of the community. The opposite consideration is equally dramatic in its statement. If the Federal Government chooses to leave the Uptown, contrary to the desires of the community, the perception left would be one of abandonment. I think this is exactly the wrong kind of message the federal government should be sending about the very heart of our community.

As Director of the Urban Revitalization Agency, the economic development office for the Butte National Historic Landmark District I am not now nor have I ever asked for special consideration. I am asking GSA to honor the promises made to my community. I am asking for a fair process utilizing objective, quantifiable and justifiable criteria available to all parties beforehand in a written format. For this project in our community and for future projects throughout the country, my sincerest hope is that the federal government seeks to secure space in a fair, open and honest manner allowing for all parties concerned to meet their respective goals.