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Council finalizes game plan for new ward boundaries

| November 24, 2021 12:00 AM

The Kalispell City Council moved forward with plans to redraw the boundaries for its four wards after a work session Monday evening.

Based on Census 2020 data, Kalispell’s wards no longer comply with Montana Code Annotated, which requires wards to be “as nearly equal as possible.”

The City Development Services Department used Census 2020 population figures and GIS software to analyze the data and modify the ward maps, so that the new boundaries are intended to be adjusted “as little as possible to correct the population differences between the wards.”

Under the proposed map, large portions of Ward 1 in North Kalispell would be transferred to Ward 2, and a few small portions of Ward 1 would become Ward 3.

The portion of Ward 2 that currently extends south of the Kalispell Parkline Trail would become Ward 3, while the adjoining portions of Ward 3 along the trail would become Ward 2.

Finally, two small sections of Ward 3 on the border with Ward 4 would become Ward 4.

The redistricting proposal reflects population changes over the past 10 years.

The current wards are based on 2010 Census data, when Ward 1 had a population of 4,754 people, Ward 2 had a population of 5,030 people, Ward 3 had a population of 5,140 people and Ward 4 had a population of 5,078 people.

Under the new ward boundaries, Ward 1 would have 6,277 people, Ward 2 would have 6,170 people, Ward 3 would have 6,208 people and Ward 4 would have 6,178 people.

During the work session, Mayor Mark Johnson proposed redesigning the map to make it align in neater geographic sections. Wards 1 and 2 are particularly disjointed in the proposed map.

However, after some discussion, most of the council gave its lukewarm approval to move forward with the map as it is currently drawn.

The new wards will be voted on at the Dec. 6 council meeting.

During the work session, the council also discussed moving away from Zoom meetings and switching to all in-person meetings.

Council member Tim Kluesner proposed the change because he noticed a drop-off in public comments during recent meetings.

However, council members Ryan Hunter and Kari Gabriel, along with Mayor Mark Johnson, pushed for the continuation of a virtual option.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at 406-758-4459 or bserbin@dailyinterlake.com.