Commission approves parking fee increase; training requirement for elected, appointed officials

City Commissioners voted 4-1 to increase monthly rates for the city’s two parking garages to $51.

They also officially established a pedlet program within city code and granted the city manager the authority to negotiate and authorize special incentive rates for bulk parking leases in the garage and surface lots for customers who either lease numerous garage spaces and/or pre-pay leases for a period of one year or more. All fees for leases are non-refundable.

Meter rates and fines for parking violations remain unchanged for the time being.

Increased parking fees proposed for downtown Great Falls

Two people spoke in opposition of the rate increase during Tuesday’s meeting, one of whom goes by Johnny Angry and is opposed to most rate increases of any kind.

The other was Jeff Patterson, head of Schoolhouse IT. He said his company purchases parking passes in the garages for their employees and the rate increases might make them consider relocating to a place with free parking.

Commissioner Bob Jones said he was disappointed in the lack of public comment on this latest parking proposal.

“I assure you there is no free parking anywhere in the city of Great Falls,” Jones said, pointing out that someone pays for striping, maintenance, sweeping and snow removal costs and it’s often factored into prices customers pay.

Jones said the recommended changes from the city planning office are pieces that the commission chose not to adopt when originally proposed in 2014.

“We’ve danced with this one since 2014,” he said.

Commissioner Bill Bronson voted against the parking changes and said he thought it was a piecemeal approach.

He said he too would have liked to see more public participation but that would have likely been the case if the proposal had been to raise meter rates or fines.

Bronson said he’d prefer to make changes after the city’s parking contractor completes its analysis of the parking program. That analysis was included in this year’s budget and is not to exceed $20,000.

Commissioner Fred Burow said parking is not a revenue generator for the city and is a “tough balancing act. I think we need to move forward on this.”

The garage rate increase is projected to generate about $50,000 for the parking fund, which receives no general fund support.

Commissioners also approved a resolution requiring all elected and appointed city board members to participate in training during their terms of appointment or at least every two years, whichever is less.

Commissioners have set a public hearing for Oct. 3 on proposed changes to Title II of the city code dealing with administration and personnel.

City staff propose changes to ethics policies, creation of ethics board in response to conflict of interest issues

The proposed changes would require that Great Falls city residency is required for eligibility for appointment to city boards, councils and commissions, with the exception of the golf board since it includes a Malmstrom representative.

Owen Robinson, a commission candidate, asked if that would affect the Airport Authority Board since some members are appointed by the city and some by the county.

Sara Sexe, city attorney, said that because it’s an independent board the residency requirement would only apply to city appointees.

Burow asked if the change was approved, would that immediately force out any city appointees who were not city residents.

Sexe said no, they would finish their terms, but the residency requirement would kick in for any re-appointments or new applications.

The proposed Title II changes also include the creation of an ethics committee to address any perceived or actual ethical issues among elected or appointed city officials. The committee would be appointed by the commission, work in conjunction with the city attorney’s office and be subject to open meeting and public records laws.

The proposed code changes would also repeal the Youth Council that was established in 2009, but has not been an active functioning council.