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Stevensville chips in to save Bitterroot rail line

Stevensville Mayor Gene Mim Mack says use of tax increment funds will allow money to be paid back over time(STEVENSVILLE)- The Stevensville Town Council will dig into tax increment funds to come up with the money to help keep freight rail service running up the Bitterroot Valley.

Local governments in Ravalli County have been working to assemble funding to help make up the difference of what shippers are able to spend using the Montana Rail Link line this year. MRL is agreeing to keep the line in place if it has the combination of business and government commitments.

Ravalli County and Hamilton already agreed to fund the shortfall, putting all the attention on the Stevensville Town Council.

Wednesday night the council initially discussed contributing 15-thousand dollars, which is half what county commissioners had been hoping for. But after hearing expressions of support for the plan, and the importance of rail service to the town’s economy, the council voted to up the contribution to 20-thousand dollars.

“But basically those funds are going to come from our tax increment finance district, which will benefit directly from the use of the rail line," explains Mayor Gene Mim Mack. "So it’s basically the users of the district paying back these funds, over a probably 10-year period out of their tax revenues that they pay. So it’s a really good way to allow the funds to be spent. But the direct beneficiaries of those will pay them back.”  

Ravalli County commissioners will meet Thursday morning to discuss Stevensville’s contribution and whether they can finalize the county’s share of the 62-thousand dollar package. 

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