PILTZVILLE — In many small towns, there is often a facet of the community that emphasizes its identity. For Piltzville, Montana, it's the fire station.
Located just a mile east of Milltown, with 395 residents, Piltzville doesn’t have much when it comes to landmarks. The Missoula Rural Fire District’s station #4 happens to be the only structure in town that even says “Piltzville.”
After living next door to the fire station for 45 years, Bruce Hall feels that the station fills that role of landmark for the people of Piltzville, but the future of said landmark does not look promising.
“We’ve recognized infrastructure needs throughout our entire fire district,” said fire chief Chris Newman, “The main one that came up on our radar was our Piltzville station.”
Replacing the Pilzville fire station is a new facility up the road in Bonner. The new station will be bigger, better, and more capable of responding to the ever-growing emergency calls of this area.
Missoula Rural Fire sees opportunity in this new station -- but residents of Piltzville can’t see past the focal point they’ll soon lose.
“We realized that there's no zoning out here and that these guys have the ability to sell this place, and it could go to anybody,” said resident Mike Jarnevic.
“We are bound by state statute as far as how we have to go about the sale, and that is a public auction, believe it or not, and at that public auction it has to sell for 100% of the appraised value,” Newman told MTN News.
The appraised value of the property is $510,000, and 100% of the proceeds will offset the cost of the new fire station in Bonner.
“We have no means, no vehicle, no statute that allows us to pick and choose who that next buyer is,” said Newman.
“I think the loss comes from the fact that’s associated with the uncertainty of what happens,” said Hall. “When you have a feature of your community that's over 50 years old and then it’s going on to the market, not knowing what its future use might be is a little disconcerting.”
The sign on the current fire station #4 won’t say “Piltzville” for much longer. What it’ll say next will be up to the highest bidder.
“We just don't want something going in here that's going to be noisy and unattractive, and not in keeping with the character of a small community like this,” said Jarnevic.
The public auction for the Piltzville station is scheduled for January 15, 2022.