Kalispell City Council set a public hearing for August 4 to consider creating a parks maintenance district at its meeting Monday night, by a vote of 5-3. The district could help to raise money to maintain city parks, but some council members, including Councilman Bob Hafferman, are clearly not enthusiastic about the idea.
The proposed district, according to Hafferman, is nothing more than a new tax collected from neighborhoods surrounding city parks for their upkeep. Annually the city allots about $527,000 (based on the current population) in its general fund for park maintenance, but because money is tight this year and few funds exist for park maintenance, city officials have suggested the new district.
Councilman Tim Kluesner said people like himself with fixed incomes wouldn’t be able to afford the almost $40 a year tax. Hafferman called it “smoke and mirrors” and a “ruse” to circumvent raising property taxes.
“This council needs to start exercising fiscal responsibility or resign and get someone who can,” Hafferman said.
Hafferman and Kluesner thought the best idea would be for voters to decide through the general election or through a mail in ballot, but at next month’s public hearing, citizens will only be allowed to speak on the issue. Information about the proposed district will be mailed out by the city before the hearing.
Hafferman, though, doesn’t think the city’s letter will generate enough response to block the proposal.
The council also voted on a number of other issues Monday night:
A request to approve a conditional use permit to locate a women’s recovery facility within a single-family home on Northern Lights Boulevard, passed 7-1. Hafferman abstained from voting.
Michael Cummins, executive director of Flathead Valley Chemical Dependency, said the home offered women a conduit toward personal independence because often women coming out of substance abuse also have financial dependency issues. Cummins said three other recovery facilities in Miles City, Great Falls and Bozeman have all been successful and in the Kalispell house, like in the other locations, women would be required to pay rent, buy and prepare their own meals, as well as find a job.
Hafferman said the recovery center, a voluntary home for women who have completed rehabilitation and are substance free, needed to be supervised at night, but Mayor Pam Kennedy and councilwoman Kari Gabriel said the women would police themselves. Randy Keynon pointed out the clean track record of the three other Montana women’s recovery facilities in Miles City, Great Falls, and Bozeman.
The item, however, was amended to ensure parking spots be provided on sight or arranged off sight in case of overflow. Currently, the home has four parking spots in the driveway and the potential for another in the rear of the home. The home will be able to house eight women at a time, but councilors agreed the chances of all the women having cars was slim.
A recommendation to increase building fees to meet the cost of services passed unanimously. The city council voted for the estimated cost of a square foot of construction go from $70-$100, increase the plumbing and mechanic reviews, and adopt a $50 residential inspection fee.
A recommendation from the city staff to keep 15 percent cash reserves failed, but will be taken up again in a work session at the next city council meeting July 21.
After the meeting, during a work session at which no votes were allowed, CenturyTel general manager Jeremy Ferkin gave a WiFi presentation outlining CenturyTel’s desire to install WiFi at Depot Park, Woodland Park and the Kidsports Complex. CenturyTel customers would be able to access the WiFi locations for free from 500-700 feet away while visitors would have to pay a fee. CenturyTel would foot the upkeep and installation costs and split money with the city.
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