Downtown shoppers are encouraged to keep it snappy.
The Havre Police Department issued a press release on Monday regarding a few downtown parking issues, including the enforcement of the two-hour on-street parking limit between 1st and 5th avenues and 1st and 4th streets and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, that’s been city law since 1981.
“There’s been an ordinance on the books, but it‘s been kind of lax,” Mayor Tim Solomon said. “We’ve received some complaints.”
These complaints have had two consequences.
First, the mayor said that there is going to be a meeting some time next month to discuss the downtown parking situation. He has been talking with the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce to connect with local businesses on their thoughts.
“We’re looking for a way to work with the downtown business owners to find a solution,” Solomon said, “to see if we need to rewrite the ordinance.”
Second, until that meeting can be held, the mayor has directed police to enforce the ordinance the way it is now.
Officers will continue to respond to violations when they receive complaints, because there is no dedicated parking officer.
“I just don’t have the manpower to patrol for a two-hour parking limit in the downtown business area,” Police Chief Jerry Nystrom said.
The policy is to issue a warning to a vehicle when it is first reported as having been in a spot for more than the two-hour limit.
If the vehicle is parked there when an officer returns two hours after the warning was issued, a ticket will be given.
Nystrom said city code allows for penalties of between $10 and $300. The city judge has not come up with a regular fine, but is looking at the issue, and would probably be closer to the $10 side, according to Nystrom.
If the vehicle is still parked there six hours after the initial warning or four hours after the ticketing, police will make every effort to contact the owner to remove the vehicle. If that doesn’t work, police can tow the vehicle at the owner’s expense.
There have been some businesses downtown that have put up signs claiming parking spaces for their own customers. The city has also been enforcing city regulations that forbid these signs.
The Public Works Department has been sending out letters, letting business owners know that the signs are illegal and must be removed. So far, Assistant Public Works Director Jeff Jensen has seen it work.
“None of them are up that I’ve seen this morning,” Jensen said. “They’re cooperating, which is good.”
Many of the business owners put the signs up in the first place because of the lack of enforcement of the time limit.
Bill Evans, owner of Bing ‘N Bob’s on 3rd Street, complained at an Ordinance Committee meeting last month that employees of or people going to the Hill County Health Department or the Salvation Army Services Center, took up his spaces for more than two hours.
According to Nystrom and Solomon, these are all just parts of one issue, downtown parking.
“There’s not many places to park anymore,” Nystrom said. “It’s a problem. I hope they do something about it.”
“Downtown parking is a problem area,” Solomon said. “And we’re trying to correct it so there is enough parking downtown for customers.”