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Kalispell City Council to vote on public safety levy

Daily Inter Lake | November 20, 2023 12:00 AM

Kalispell City Council is expected to decide Monday whether to put a public safety levy before voters in March.

The proposed levy comes on the heels of audits of the city police and fire departments that found staffing and equipment shortfalls, among other concerns. Council weighed three options for a levy during an October work session, signaling its preference for a proposal that would raise an estimated $4.6 million in its first year. 

City Manager Doug Russell will present Council on Nov. 20 with a resolution for a mail-in election asking voters to authorize the municipality to raise 60.9 extra mills. If the resolution is approved, the election would occur on March 19.

Revenue from the levy would fund 11 new Police Department positions, a third fire station and 27 positions in the Fire Department. It also would cover the cost of new equipment. 

Council will meet at City Hall, 201 First Ave. E., at 7 p.m. For more information on how to attend or participate, including remotely, visit:

The expected impact on a home valued at $100,000 would be about $82.22 per year, according to Russell’s memo to Council. That works out to $6.85 per month, city documents said.

For a home valued at $200,000, the change would be about $164.43 a year, coming in at roughly $13.70 a month. For a $450,000 home, the levy would add $369.97 to the annual property tax bill. That works out to $30.83 a month, according to city documents. 

Russell outlined the three options before Council in an October memo, noting that the 60.9 mill proposal would help the city meet the recommendations made by the Center for Public Safety Management, the Washington, D.C.-based organization that conducted the audit, earlier this year. But he warned that going with the costliest option came with risks. 

“There is a concern the amount of the levy would be challenging,” Russell wrote. 

He cautioned Council again during its Oct. 9 meeting. Several city councilors, though, argued that public safety was a necessity. 

“This is what we need in black and white,” Mayor Mark Johnson said.

COUNCIL is also expected to take on several development-related issues, including a second reading of a zoning ordinance amendment addressing Riverside North. Silverbrook Properties is proposing building 97 single family homes on roughly 81 acres near Church Drive as part of the project and is seeking an amended Planned Unit Development overlay. 

“The original approval had 113 single family lots and a fire station pad, now reduced to 95 single family lots, the fire station pad, with the public works facility area,” said PJ Sorensen, senior city planner, during a Nov. 6 work session. “The primary change is the addition of storage units for the residents of Silverbrook and some adjustments in the layout of the subdivision itself.”

Councilor Ryan Hunter at the time worried that wetlands would be affected by the additional expanse. If creating housing was the goal, smaller homes would accommodate more people, he said. 

“Storage units are all over the valley. We need to be focused on housing people, and not people’s things,” Hunter said.

Council is expected to vote on giving Bridgeland Development a two-year extension for phase five of its Northland Subdivision project. The request stems from ongoing talks between the developer and Montana Department of Transportation over incorporating the state agency’s adjoining property to the project, according to a memo by Sorensen.

Sorensen wrote that allowing those talks to continue could allow for better connectivity if the nearby state-owned land was eventually developed. 

Approved in 2017, the preliminary plat is set to expire Dec. 20, city documents said.

If granted, Bridgeland Development will be able to appeal for one final extension not to exceed two years.

Reporter Carl Foster can be reached at 758-4407 or