By Moira Blazi
The high voter turnouts in the Nov. 6 elections last week signal a renewed interest in both national and local political issues, and nothing reflects this more than the heated, passionate, controversy surrounding the question of how Town Pump will expand its Troy store.
On the ballot in Troy on last Tuesday, was a measure asking the citizens of this small town whether or not Town Pump should expand their Troy location across adjoining Second Street. Of the 411 votes cast by Troy city residents, 207 were against the closing of second street, and 204 were in favor, effectively splitting the small town right down the middle. Although it may seem like a small number of votes, this was actually a high turnout, up more than 100 voters from the last city referendum vote in 2015 in which 301 town residents cast their ballots.
Now, two weeks after the election, the proponents of the Second Street closure/Town Pump expansion plan are considering a recount, but acknowledge that it is unlikely, still, recount or not, almost all folks on both sides of this issue agree that the present location needs to be expanded.
“Town Pump does need new infrastructure and updates to its present location, and most folks do not have a problem with the business expanding, but just disagree whether or not Second Street should be closed to accomplish it,” former Troy mayor, Rod Johnson, told The Montanian.
Troy city council member, Shawna Kelsey, agrees, “Most of the input we heard on both sides of the issue told us (city council) that Troy residents are not afraid of progress. Everyone is supportive of Town Pump expanding, but they just have different ideas of how it should be done.”
Troy resident, Sherrie Garcia, feels strongly that blocking Second Street would be bad for Troy. “Second street is a main arterial in Troy,” she said, “People can’t go down First Street because it is too narrow, and closing off any access to downtown would hurt our Troy small town charm.”
Former mayor Johnson agreed, “Troy has a small and limited economy, and, by closing off Second Street, I feel the city fathers would effectively be supporting one business over another,” he said. Garcia believes that so many town residents voted for the closure because of false promises made by its proponents which included possible funds for demolition and removal of the burned Pine Tree Plaza one block away, which she says, would not be legally feasible.
Not everyone agrees, “All the concerns of the local residents were answered by Town Pump at the community informational meeting they held last month,” said Troy resident and Town Pump next-door neighbor, Fran McCulley. “People were concerned with issues like glaring lights and 18 Wheelers using the site for an overnight truck stop, among others, and town pump answered all their questions many times over.”
On the issue of restricted access, McCully pointed out that cars would still be able to drive through the parking lot to Second Street, and that town Pump offered to create and install signs one block down on Third Street, directing Hwy. 2 travelers into the core downtown area, even mentioning by name local Second Street businesses Gambles Hardware and Cutting Crew hair salon. “It’s only one block out of their way,” McCully’s husband, Sam, pointed out. Options for expansion west to a lot presently occupied by a lube shop were scuttled, according to McCully, because, “folks see a big corporation like Town Pump and think deep pockets, but still, there is a limit to what they were willing to pay,” she told The Montanian with a smile.
Now that it seems likely that Second Street will remain open to Hwy. 2, most residents are expecting Town Pump to go ahead with its much needed expansion anyway, since the company has already purchased the property. This will require fuel customers to cross the street to access the convivence store, creating a potential safety hazard. “Town Pump has been very upfront about not wanting to leave this site,” Johnson said, “but they want the city to address and mitigate any safety issues.”
Whatever happens with the intersection of Second Street in Troy and Hwy. 2, it is almost certain that Town Pump will be making much needed expansions to its Troy location. Safety issues will be worked out, and the resilient, practical folks of Troy will adjust and embrace the changes. Like council member Kelsey said,” We (the city council) were really impressed by the passion of our citizens. It’s not easy to stand up in front of a public meeting and speak.”
Photo of Town Pump in Troy with Second Street and the empty lot on the right by Tracy McNew, The Montanian.