Black Friday is a week away, signalling the return of the holiday shopping season and with it the return of concerns of downtown merchants about the parking situation.
After last year’s holiday shopping seasons, some of those merchants asked City Council to do something about parking spots downtown being taken up for days at a time, which led to the passing of a new ordinance that rearranged the downtown parking area to be held to a two-hour limit.
Thoughts are mixed on how effective those changes were.
“It’s been going quite well, ” said Gabe Matosich, acting Havre police chief. “When there seems to be a problem, the merchants have let us know so we can take care of it. ”
Matosich said that he could only recall maybe two or three incidents that needed police intervention.
One of the businesses that helped get the ordinance passed in the spring begs to differ.
The co-owner of Bing ‘N’ Bob’s Sport Shop, Bill Evans, told the city that employees of the mental health center next door to his shop frequently took up his parking spaces for the entire day, so he put up signs claiming spaces.
The city said Evans couldn’t have those signs, but passed the new law and promised to put up their own signs to keep the spaces clear.
Dave Peterson, director of Havre’s Public Works Department, said his staff started putting the posts in for those signs a few weeks ago. They ran into some problems with some sidewalk-cutting equipment, but should be done placing posts in another few weeks. Then the signs will go up.
“Within the next couple weeks, we’ve got to go in and concrete them, ” Peterson said. “Most of them are done and set. They just need to be finished up. ”
Jim Evans, Bill’s brother and fellow co-owner of Bing ‘N’ Bob’s and Evans Optical, said he didn’t think anything had really changed.
He thought it was interesting that the city was sure to remove the signs Bing ‘N’ Bob’s had put up quite quickly, but seemed to be taking their time in getting their own up.
The downtown parking area, defined by the Havre City Council last April, should be populated with signs warning would-be errant parkers by Christmas.
I parked my car in one of the most complained about areas, in front of Bing ‘N’ Bob’s Sport Shop, in line with one of the city’s naked posts, on Thursday around 3:30 p. m. to test the enforcement of the two-hour parking limit.
By deadline this morning, nearly 20 hours — five of those business hours — later, no action had been taken.
— Zach White, Havre Daily News