By Ross Markman
Kevin Olson has no qualms about enforcing the city ordinance that prohibits parking for more than two hours in Havre's business district.
But he can't. There's no signage in the city to support it.
"There's nothing in the ordinance that says it can't be enforced. If they want it done, then post the signs and we'll enforce it," said Olson, Havre's police chief.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice said he receives several phone calls a week from area business owners claiming that people are exceeding the two-hour limit.
"They want to know what we're going to do about people camping out in front of their stores, and why something can't be done about the parking situation," Rice said.
The city ordinance committee will meet on May 20 at 7 p.m. to discuss what can be done to resolve the dilemma.
"It's really one of those situations where I don't know how we're going to rectify it," Rice said. "I'd like to think it would be a community effort, both on the business side and community side."
Murray Barkus, owner of Barkus Home Center on Second Street, agreed that something must be done. Vehicles, he said, are routinely parked outside his store and sometimes stay there all day.
"They could be out there more than one day or up to a week parking on the street in the same location," he said. "It's an important issue. I'd like to see two-hour parking enforced."
The parking crunch, Barkus said, is due to a combination of employees of other businesses, movie theater patrons and Second Street apartment renters all parking in front of his and other stores.
"We do have quite a problem with it here on this street. We have apartments that there's probably six to eight people living up there," he said. "It's also very bad during the day with the movie theater. Our parking is pretty limited when the movie is on."
Barkus said he's made efforts to alleviate the problem by asking people to move their cars during the day.
"It doesn't seem to have much effect," he said.
Gary Myskewitz acknowledged that the lack of customer parking is a predicament in the business district, but, he said, nothing can be done to stop it.
"What I run into is employees down the street taking customer parking during the day. We try to talking to them. It worked for a week or two," said Myskewitz, owner of Quality Appliances Inc. on Second Street. "I've also been here long enough to know that when they did have the signs, the (police) didn't enforce it."
Havre's two-hour parking signs, according to Havre public works director Dave Peterson, were eliminated at least eight years ago. They were removed under an agreement between the city and the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce.
"That's one ordinance that's tough to patrol. We can't go driving by and marking tires all day," Olson said. "We just act on complaints as they come in."
Issuing citations, Rice added, is not the solution.
"You write a guy a ticket and put it in his window, and you try to sell him a hammer, you think he's going to buy it from you?" he said. "Giving people tickets is not the answer."
At least one business owner, Frank Kops of Bing N' Bobs Sport Shop on Third Street, said there is not a problem with people exceeding the two-hour parking limit. The signs, Kops said, should not be reinstalled.
"It's so rare that it isn't worth it," he said. "If I find something, I try to locate the person and ask them to move their vehicle. But it's really uncommon."
"We have some cars out here that are very bad at it. I know it's a hardship when you live in the downtown area that you would like to park near your apartment," he said. "But it's also a hardship to me."