Bill Van Horn

I read Friday’s Missoula Current article about the proposed renovation of the post hospital at Fort Missoula with a mixture of amusement and irritation. Amusement at the almost boosterish tone of the article itself and irritation at the content.

First, an aside: I have come to loathe the term “workforce housing.” It conjures up images of tenements, and is an insulting throwaway term to describe affordable housing (usually rental, which is another issue) for people who were considered essential workers and even lauded as heroes not less than two years ago. How time flies. And when one does the math, 25% of 15 proposed housing units in the renovation works out to 3.75. I feel sorry for the workforce member crammed into that .75 unit.

The current hospital is a replacement structure for an earlier hospital…no Frontier Army post existed that didn’t have a post hospital. And in addition to treating members of the infantry regiments that garrisoned the post at various times (including possibly members of the 25th Infantry…and if they weren’t treated in this hospital they would have been treated in the one it replaced), it would have served members of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression (along with their military cadre members).

The article also failed to mention that many of the detainees treated by the facility would have been Italians (who were held from 1941 until 1944). There’s history here…history that needs to be preserved.

As for those 15 or so housing units, the article says nothing about exactly where they would go or what they would look like (aside from mentioning their being “tucked quietly away” on the property). Missoula doesn’t need more millionaire getaway properties. Missoula needs housing people who work for the city, the county, the University of Montana, and the two hospitals in town can actually afford.

Sorry, but those 3.75 “workforce housing” bits won’t cut it. We also don’t need more rental. Some people want to put down roots in a community, and rental doesn’t do that. It just leaches your money and traps you somewhere with no real options.

I’m also concerned by the argument that “if we don’t do this, the whole thing will fall in.” I understand historical renovation is both expensive and challenging (I’ve been involved with it in two different states). I get people want to make money. But this seems like yet another way to destroy Montana’s history under the guise of preserving it. And we seem to keep falling for it.