On The Agenda: Budget Vote, KGEZ Tower Relocation

By Beacon Staff

Kalispell City Council meets tonight at 7 p.m. to vote on a plan to move the KGEZ radio station’s towers away from the city airport’s airspace, and to approve a revised budget for the current fiscal year that cuts nearly $100,000 out of the general fund.

The city has been grappling for weeks to balance the city budget as predicted revenues from growth have dropped off with the economic and construction slowdown. City officials have been struggling to find some way to trim costs without laying off police officers or firefighters, departments that make up the biggest portion of the general fund. At the same time, the city’s cash reserve has grown dangerously low for a city of Kalispell’s size, and if spending continued at current levels, there would be no money left in the reserve by the middle of next summer.

The budget up for a vote tonight contains no reductions in staffing, salaries or hours for city employees, and manages to leave a projected cash reserve of $258,788 at the end of the fiscal year. The current budget proposal cuts $99,886 out of the general fund, reducing the total general fund appropriation to $10,555,788.

Another controversial issue up for vote tonight concerns the relocation of KGEZ’s towers, which currently violate airspace for planes to take off and land, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Relocating the towers is currently the key impediment to the city’s intention to expand the Kalispell airport, and “mitigating” the towers should free up federal funds to help pay for the airport expansion and renovation.

Tonight the city council will vote to authorize Interim City Manager Myrt Webb to make an offer to KGEZ owner John Stokes to tear down his existing towers and construct new towers in a location farther from the city airport at no cost to KGEZ, and in such a way that his broadcasting is not disrupted. If Stokes rejects the offer, the city will then decide whether or not to condemn the towers. Financing for the new towers would come from Airport Enterprise Funds, Airport Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, and state and federal grants.

Also on the agenda, council will voter on whether to enter into a construction agreement with the state Department of Transportation to repave and improve U.S. Highway 2 from Seventh Street East to a distance of about 1.5 miles.

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