Municipal Matters: Kidsports, Revitalization Plan, Cellphone Ban

By Beacon Staff

Recent news from Kalispell City Hall:

At a 7 p.m. work session on Dec. 10, Kalispell’s City Council will reexamine possibly purchasing a permanent easement for Kidsports Complex and will review an extensive redevelopment project for the city’s core area.

While showing overwhelming support for keeping Kidsports intact, councilors are still split over using tax increment finance (TIF) funds that would guarantee that permanence. See “Kidsports’ Conundrum.”

The Kalispell Core Area Revitalization plan will be unveiled as a possible amendment to the city’s growth policy.

Members of the city’s planning department and CTA Architects Engineers will present a draft version of the project, which the city’s planning board unanimously approved recently.

A public hearing on the proposed amendment is scheduled for the Dec. 17 council meeting. See “What’s Next For Kalispell?”

According to the city’s senior planner Sean Conrad, the plan “provides a vision, integrates community ideas and priorities, identifies resources and includes specific strategies to make a revitalization of the Core Area a reality.”

A feasibility study related to this plan is underway and expected to be completed within a few months. The possible fiscal effects are positive if the project is approved, Conrad said in a memo.

The core area is identified as a 364-acre section of town spanning the west and east city limits and north to Washington Street and south to First Street. It contains roughly 450 property owners and 1,100 separate parcels of land.

The drafted plan proposes nine future goals: relocation of the railroad tracks from the core area; establish a pedestrian trail from Woodland Park to Meridian Road; create a circulation system that encourages increases north and south connections; connect neighborhoods and include sidewalks and trails; create a functional and architectural connection between the downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods; focus on improving public venues like city hall, the county fairgrounds and event centers; facilitate a mix of commercial retail, neighborhood services, residential and public space within the core area that drive local development and meet the needs of everyone as well as encourage non-vehicular traffic; spur new development and redevelopment projects that incorporate landscaped boulevards and open spaces for casual public interaction; and improve entrance features like signs and streetscapes.

In its review of the redevelopment plan, the planning board also discussed historic preservation and off-street parking opportunities.

  • • At a council meeting on Dec. 3, Lori Adams was named the new municipal court judge to replace Heidi Ulbricht. Ulbricht was elected to district court in November. Adams, a Flathead County deputy attorney, was the lone applicant to replace Ulbricht. Adams will serve until next November, at which point she will have to run for election.

    Kalispell City Attorney Charles Harball said the selection committee that recommended Adams was “very pleased” with her statement of qualifications. Council approved the appointment, which will take effect Jan. 2.

  • • At a work session on Nov. 26, councilors expressed wariness over a possible ordinance that would ban the use of hand-held devices while driving in the city of Kalispell. Police Chief Roger Nasset presented a draft after reviewing similar laws in Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Missoula.

    Currently police officers cannot pull over a driver who is talking or texting on his or her cellphone, not until “reckless or careless driving” occurs. This ban would enact a primary offense, allowing officers to pull over anyone seen driving while operating a cellphone. The ticket would be a civil offense and not affect drivers’ insurances, Nasset said. After surveying his staff, Nasset said it was “pretty overwhelming” that officers were comfortable with a new cellphone ban.

    “It certainty seems from their perspective that it’s an issue in the community,” Nasset said.

    However, council balked at jumping on board Nasset’s proposal outright.

    “How fair is this?” City Councilor Jeff Zauner said. “I get we need safer streets and safer drivers. How far do we go?”

    Zauner added, “This whole conversation is based off saving lives but yet the city of Kalispell doesn’t have an ordinance for motorcycle helmets.”

    Councilor Phil Guiffrida III raised several concerns with a cellphone ban. He said the devices are only one of the many sources for distracted driving, and adding a new law would tie up officers and not solve the greater problem. He said future technology would adapt to the dangers of driving while operating devices.

    “I’m not saying I’m against this whole plan,” Guiffrida said. “I can’t find a way to write this ordinance … I just don’t want to spot zone. I want something that is going to address” all of these issues.

    Councilor Kari Gabriel agreed.

    “I don’t think the ordinance is written as well as it should be. I don’t think we’re ready to enact it,” she said.

    Gabriel added that she opposed “enacting it because everyone else is doing it.”

    Guiffrida joined councilors Bob Hafferman and Tim Kluesner and Mayor Tammi Fisher in agreeing there needed to be more education and spreading awareness of the dangers associated with driving while using cellphones.

    Councilor Jim Atkinson went further, saying he supported the ordinance because “it’s a good idea for this community to go on record for saying we value your safety and our safety by putting this law into effect for your well being.”

    Despite the lack of clear support for the law, councilor Randy Kenyon urged city staff to include the ordinance on an upcoming agenda to be voted on.

    “I support this. I think we need to do something for public safety and this is a simple straightforward way to do it,” Kenyon said. “Let’s vote on it … If we’re not going to deal with public safety in this way, let’s vote on it for the public to see.”

    The ordinance could appear on the Dec. 17 agenda.

  • • The City of Kalispell has openings on the Board of Adjustment and the Planning Board. Both boards require members to be Kalispell residents. All letters of interest need to be submitted by Dec. 28 to the City Clerk, P.O Box 1997, Kalispell, MT 59903. For more information concerning the Board of Adjustment, click here. For more information on the Planning Board, click here.
  • • The Kalispell Fire Department is encouraging residents to exercise caution this holiday season and prevent fires related to Christmas trees. Here are a few reminders from Chief Dave Dedman: A small fire that spreads to a Christmas tree can grow large very quickly; Get rid of trees after Christmas or when they dry; dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home; bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer; make sure the tree is at least 3 feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.

    From Kalispell City Manager Doug Russell’s Desk, Information Memo, Nov. 30:

  • • The Forestry Division assisted the fairground maintenance staff in the removal of seven American Elm trees along Wyoming Street on the north end of the fairgrounds. These trees have succumbed to Dutch Elm disease. Forestry crews are pruning and removing several problem trees near the Hockaday Museum.
  • • The area near the Woodland Park pool has recently been the target of graffiti and break-ins to storage sheds. The parks and police departments are working together on this concern.
  • • We have had inquiries of the status of the ice at Woodland Park Pond. At this time the lack of cold weather has not built a solid layer of ice suitable for skating.
  • • The job posting for Kalispell Police Officer testing closed Nov. 19 and resulted in approximately 75 applications. The next phase of the testing process will be written and physical tests. If the applicant passes the written test they then proceed to the Montana Physical Abilities Test (MPAT), which is a job-specific obstacle course that must be completed within six minutes and 30 seconds.
  • • The Kalispell Police Department has been using a new tool to assist in the investigation and recovery of stolen items. “Leads on Line” is a web-based company that serves as a data base for pawn shop transactions. This company allows pawn shops to download all daily transactions to Leads on Line at no cost to the pawn shop. The transactions are searchable by law enforcement. The police department has been using Leads on Line for the last 30 days and has been able to solve two cases so far. One of those
    cases involved the theft of a gun from 2008, and the other case led to the recovery of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry.

  • • The Impact Fee Committee completed its review of water impact fees in November and will meet in January to begin the review of waste water impact fees.
  • • Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) performed a six-hour Waste Water Treatment Plant Compliance Inspection on Nov. 27. Inspectors reviewed the plant laboratory records, operations and maintenance, standard operations procedures, and review of the daily rounds and records keeping. A split effluent sample was also collected and analysis results will be compared to city laboratory results for a quality assured laboratory check. The inspection was very positive and no compliance issues were identified.
  • • Pieces of equipment are currently open for bidding. They include two used tandem axel dump trucks, an aerial platform lift truck, and a valve maintenance trailer are being advertised and copies are available at the Public Works front office.
  • • The rotating beacon is considered a necessary navigational aid on any airport that has lighted runways and a lighted windsock for night operations. It eliminates the requirement for transient aircraft to circle an area at night looking for the airport. The beacon at the Kalispell City Airport is a “navigation beacon” used for many years for night navigation purposes. It was given to the City Airport by Glacier Park International Airport when the beacon became obsolete for commercial use. The City has been able to keep it operational by borrowing parts from Montana State Aeronautics. When the main drive bushing broke two weeks ago we contacted the manufacturer in Michigan requesting a replacement. We were told that the beacon has not been maintained for several years and our only option was to buy a new beacon at a cost of approximately $6,000 including shipping. Our old beacon weights about 450 pounds and would require a crane to remove it and hoist the new beacon into place. The electrical contract to wire up the new beacon would cost about $500. We estimated the new beacon final cost would be around $7,500. We asked the Montana State Aeronautics to send us a photo of a main drive bushing that was in good shape. We took that picture to a local machinist who was able build it at a reduced cost. At a repair cost of less than $600.00, the beacon is up and running.
  • • The City of Kalispell will again host a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Public Needs Assessment Hearing. The purpose of this public hearing is to provide an objective and neutral forum for considering overall community needs and potentially competing or alternative proposals for CDBG projects to deal with those needs, within each local government’s jurisdiction. The hearing is intended to give citizens an opportunity to identify and discuss their community’s overall community development and housing needs, including the needs of low and moderate income persons, and to propose possible community improvement projects to meet those needs, before the local governments make a decision on what project(s), if any, it will seek CDBG assistance. The meeting will be held in City Hall, 201 First Avenue East, Kalispell, Montana, at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 18.

Source: City Manager’s Memo

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