By Jerome Tharaud
Changes may be in store for parking after the Havre City Council discussed an ordinance already on the books that limits downtown parking to two hours.
The council voted Monday night to send the issue to its Streets and Sidewalks Committee for discussion after a local businessman urged the council to post signs and begin enforcing two-hour parking in front of the Hill County Courthouse.
The committee meeting, which is open to the public, will begin at 7:30 p.m. on April 7 at City Hall.
LeRoy Wenz, owner of Havre Montana Realty, requested that the two-hour ordinance be enforced to alleviate parking problems around the courthouse.
"Those who wish to do business in the courthouse cannot get anyplace to park unless they park down in the residential areas to the south or to the west," Wenz said. "I think it's something that would be very worthwhile."
Wenz said several business owners around the courthouse and in the downtown area have called him to support the idea.
A few council members and others expressed reservations about enforcing parking limits.
Council chair Rick Pierson told Wenz that the issue was brought up several months ago, and that only two business owners showed up to discuss it with the council.
Pierson said today that the city will consider putting up signs if that's what Havre business owners want.
"As far as I can tell from the previous meeting with downtown business owners, it's really going to be up to them," he said.
Pierson added that the ordinance will be difficult to enforce. "To enforce two-hour parking, it takes manpower and time," he said. "Like the mayor said, it's an issue of courtesy."
Havre Police Chief Kevin Olson said that if the council decides the parking limit should be enforced, the city would probably have to post signs in the entire area covered by the ordinance. That would mean two-hour parking in every street parking space between Main and Fourth streets, and First and Fifth avenues.
Mayor Bob Rice said that two-hour parking signs had been up at one time, but that business people in the downtown area asked to have them removed.
Rice said the two-hour limit didn't work because people with longer obligations like doctor's and legal appointments often took longer than two hours. He also said the police don't have enough people to enforce the limit.
But Wenz was unswayed, and asked that the council revisit the issue.
"I just feel it's a problem and now it's a problem in our area," he said. "That is the largest problem we're faced with right now."
"Well Mr. Wenz, I think we should honor this request," Pierson said, and the council unanimously agreed to send the matter to the Streets and Sidewalks Committee.
Olson said he would attend the meeting.
Later, Rice reiterated his feeling that the city should not get involved.
"I think it goes back to what I said before. It's a courtesy issue," he said.
At the March 3 meeting, Rice had saidthat while the city cannot prevent county employees from parking next to the courthouse in the morning, it would be courteous of them to park in the surrounding residential areas so parking would be available for courthouse patrons, particularly the elderly, during the day.
Earlier this month Wenz wrote a letter to the mayor requesting that parking on Fourth Street south of the courthouse be restricted to 30 minutes. In the letter Wenz said people were using the Havre Montana Realty parking lot while conducting business in the courthouse because parking was not available on the street.
On March 3, the Streets and Sidewalks Committee unanimously decided that Wenz would have to post and enforce parking in his own parking lot.
In other business Monday night:
The Water and Sewer Committee unanimously agreed to advertise for proposals from engineers to conduct an ammonia discharge study at the wastewater treatment plant. State regulations require that the study be carried out by 2005.
Two new police officers were sworn in by Rice and a third was promoted. Nicholas Ost and Scott Riggin were appointed probationary police officers. Sgt. Stan Martin was promoted to a lieutenant.
There will be a meeting of the Finance Committee with Wells Fargo Management Group Wednesday at 5 p.m. at City Hall to discuss the city's investments. The meeting is open to the public.
A meeting to discuss the future of the Heritage Center will take place at 7 p.m. on March 27 on the second floor of the Heritage Center. The meeting is